On a hot day in Miami, two wild cards fought for a place in a first WTA main draw second round, as 15-year-old Whitney Osuigwe went up against a familiar rival in 17-year-old Claire Liu. Although both players are clearly still developing and learning their craft at such tender ages, this was not the first time these two had gone head-to-head on a tennis court as Osuigwe won their biggest match to date by taking home the Roland Garros juniors title, beating Liu in that particular final last year.
After a disappointing result in Indian Wells last week, Liu did well to rebound and salvage her first-ever WTA main draw victory by avenging the Roland Garros juniors final loss to Osuigwe and moving into the Miami Open second round. The match was extremely competitive in the first seven games before the older of the two Americans got better and better and was the much more solid off the ground for the remainder of the match. Liu showed her additional and invaluable experience at WTA level since she tried her hand at WTA events following her Wimbledon juniors title last year, becoming the first American girl to win that title for 25 long years. A great moment for American tennis.
Liu had gained experience, much more than Osuigwe at this level, since they last faced. The 17-year-old made that first WTA main draw appearance in Stanford–where she lost a tight one to Nicole Gibbs, which went to a 3rd set tiebreak–in a match that Liu really should have won, and she also played a first Grand Slam main draw match at Flushing Meadows in New York last year. So she was better quipped than the younger Osuigwe, who will most certainly have her time in the sun, also.
American tennis has been crying out for the next Serena Williams and the next Venus Williams, but the arrival of the likes of Liu and Osuigwe suggest that this is the truest indication that American women’s tennis is on the way up and that there is plenty of competition for places in the higher rankings of the WTA when these talented players gain the necessary experience, learn their own way of playing the game and compete against the very best players in the world.
The depth of Americans tennis is there for all to see. Four players inside the Top 20 and 14 WTA players in the Top 100, which shows that there is huge strength in depth. The problem for American tennis in particular is finding that true champion that can take the game to the next level, but the likes of Sloane Stephens–after winning the 2017 US Open title–Madison Keys, and CoCo Vandeweghe have been in the conversation for the last two years now and are more than capable of going the whole way at a Major.
So, how far will the likes of Osuigwe and Liu go in the women’s game at the highest level? The next few years are pivotal and crucial in the development of both players as they try to find their feet on the WTA tour. It is easy to forget that Osuigwe is just 15 years old so should be given the time to grow into the player she wants to become if she wants to make it to the top. Osuigwe seems to have a positive set up around her with the right people, being coached by her father Desmond since the age of six, so he will have his daughter’s best interests in his mind, which will help a lot in the next year or so as she learns her strengths and weaknesses in the big moments of the big matches.
Osuigwe already seems to possess perfect and easy power off the forehand side, which will win her a lot of matches but also glides across the baseline of a tennis court with unbelievable ease. Liu, understandably, seems to have the more solid game at the moment, but also could do more on her second serve and on the forehand side, which will surely improve in the years to come.
It is a rather exciting time for American women’s tennis as the kids show the tennis world what they are made of. Osuigwe vs Liu surely is a rivalry in the juniors that we could be seeing in the seniors game for the decades ahead.
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