Indian Wells: Naomi Osaka given massive opportunity to boost ranking with wildcard

Naomi Osaka

Naomi Osaka will compete at the BNP Paribas Open this year after being granted a wildcard for the prestigious tournament. 

Osaka is a former winner of the WTA 1000 event, having won her maiden singles title at Indian Wells in 2018 as a 20-year-old.  

Her route to victory included victories against top 10 players Karolina Pliskoa and Simona Halep, who was world number one at the time. 

It was this impressive triumph that catapulted Osaka up to a new career-high of 22nd in the rankings and sparked a run of form, which saw her win her maiden Grand Slam at the US Open later that year. 

But four years on, despite winning multiple major titles and becoming the number one player in the world, Osaka has now fallen to 82nd in the current rankings.

This is largely down to the Japanese star’s decision to take a break from the game last year. Osaka admitted to struggling with her mental health and missed the majority of the 2021 season. 

As a result, her ranking plummeted, meaning she is no longer in a position to qualify automatically for most events on the tour right now. 

Naomi Osaka has been included in the GiveMeSport Women power rankings for 2021

The 24-year-old will therefore have to rely on wildcards to compete at the big tournaments ahead of the French Open, though her previous success means she is almost certain to be awarded a spot in any event she so chooses. 

Osaka plans to play all the top line tournaments between now and Roland-Garros, which includes Indian Wells, the Miami Open, Madrid Open and the Italian Open. 

However, a strong showing at Indian Wells could boost Osaka straight back up into the world’s top 50, given she didn’t take part in the event last year. 

The BNP Paribas Open is considered one of the biggest events on the tennis calendar and a maximum of 1000 ranking points are on offer for winning the tournament. 

The Japanese sensation’s presence at Indian Wells further enhances an already stacked field that includes the top 40 players in the world. 

Australian Open champion Ashleigh Barty will compete at the tournament for the first time since 2019, after missing last year’s edition. 

Meanwhile, defending champion Paula Badosa has already won a title this year at the Sydney International and could find herself as one of the main contenders again. 

Britain’s Emma Raducanu is also scheduled to play. The US Open champion was knocked out in the second round to Belarus’ Aliaksandra Sasnovich last year, so will be hoping to put together a deeper run this time around.

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