Naomi Osaka has a big job ahead as the Miami Masters enters its concluding week with the treble Grand Slam champion aiming to replace Ash Barty on the WTA No. 1 ranking.
According to Tour calculations, Osaka needs to reach the weekend final and hope that her Australian rival stalls.
Should Osaka get into the title match and Barty manages at least the semi-finals, then the Aussie would need to win the title to retain the top spot in the table.
While Osaka has been training in Florida over recent weeks, Barty is working with a lot more stress after travelling for more than two days to get from Brisbane to Miami.
The top seed admitted that the trip had been brutal:
“You forget how much it can take out of you, but you also have to be accepting of the fact that that’s the way that it is.
“With jet lag, you’re always going to have nights where you don’t sleep as well but your body will naturally catch up on sleep.
“You just have to not focus on what you’re missing out on.”
Barty’s mind might not be completely at eae after admitting that staying away from locked-down Australia until the end of the tennis season in November remained a distinct possibility.
Early into the event, Osaka has already duplicated her career best at the tournament and will hope to blaze a new trail into the fourth round when she meets.95th-ranked Serb Nina Stojanovic.
The third seed remains optimistic about her overall chances to improve here.
“One year when I played here (2018) it was after I won Indian Wells and I was really like mentally fatigued.
“The next year I wasn’t doing so well on the hard courts, so it was like back-to-back losses. I don’t think there’s too much to read into them.
“But I always feel like there is always a reason why I haven’t done well here, and hopefully I’m able to do well this time.”
Barty and Osaka have swapped the top spot, starting in June, 2019, when the Australian took it over in the wake of a Roland Garros title followed by another on British grass.
Osaka seized the honour back in August before Barty re-emerged on top in September.
Despite not playing from last March to this February, Barty has held it for 62 weeks and counting and has remained atop the table due to some funky ranking calculations required due to the five-month COVID-19 lockdown for five months last season..
If defending champion Barty returns to the Miami final, she will remain No. 1 no matter what Osaka produces.
Main photo:- Naomi Osaka in Miami poised to challenge for WTA No. 1 sport by WTATennis.com