It has been a more promising start to the clay court season for Osaka, making strides to get deeper into the tournaments this year, so could she get past the third round this time?
Osaka’s Path to the Final (Ranking/Seeding)
R1: Anna Karolina Schmiedlova | First meeting
R2: Jelena Ostapenko | Osaka leads H2H 1-0
R3: Maria Sakkari  | H2H Tied at 1-1
R4: Madison Keys  | Keys leads H2H 3-1
QF: Ashleigh Barty  | Barty leads H2H 2-1
SF: Simona Halep  | Halep leads H2H 4-1
F: Karolina Pliskova  | H2H Tied at 2-2
Surprisingly enough Osaka has beaten former Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko on clay before (2016) and with her form still a little shaky at the moment, Osaka could well advance once more to the third round, but Maria Sakkari is not to be sniffed at on the clay this year, and with losing head to heads until a potential final match-up with Karolina Pliskova, Osaka might be lucky to match her previous best performances.
Pliskova starts to find herself up against players with a winning record over the big-serving Czech as early as the third round, although certainly she ought to be looking at a run to the quarter-finals at least. While Angelique Kerber wryly jokes about the ‘clay one’ missing from her slam titles, Pliskova had the measure of her most recently on the dirt in Fed Cup, and surprisingly Pliskova has a win over the very solid Bertens on clay.
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On paper it looks very encouraging. She looks to have recovered well from the injury niggle she had in Rome, and she has a solid record over the players in her way. If anyone is likely to give her trouble in her predicted path, it would most likely be the two Czechs who have racked up quite a few clay court titles over the past few years.
The Madrid champion also comes into the tournament with some form, although she has a few challenges on paper.
Bertens’ Path to the Final (Ranking/Seeding)
R1: Pauline Parmentier | Parmentier leads H2H 3-0
R2: Viktoria Kuzmova | H2H Tied at 1-1
R3: Johanna Konta  | Konta leads H2H 3-2
R4: Belinda Bencic  | Bertens leads H2H 3-0
QF: Sloane Stephens  | Stephens leads H2H 2-1
SF: Karolina Pliskova  | Bertens leads H2H 3-2
F: Naomi Osaka  | H2H Tied at 1-1
Her third-round encounter with Britain’s Johanna Konta will be intriguing. Konta seemed to unlock the achievements on clay in the run up to Roland Garros this year, and it was a hard-fought win over the Dutchwoman who was on a nine-match winning streak.
She ought to feel comfortable about at least making it to the quarter-finals this time around, but we might just be lining up for a rematch of the Madrid final if the stars align.
Roland Garros takes place between 26 May to 9 June
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