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It's very fascinating watching her game. I've rarely seen a player with less nuances to their game who has been so incredibly successful. Osaka rarely hits a drop shot or lob or even a slice. She rarely goes to the net despite her firepower from the baseline which should naturally bring her more to the net, and doesn't have much of a transition game to get herself up in the forecourt and put away points. Considering the grief that someone like Sabalenka gets for her relentless style of pulverizing the ball (even though I swear Sabalenka mixes up patterns and shots more than Osaka does), I'm surprised Osaka rarely does for her style. Or does the criticism apply less if the style is successful?

One thing I've been very impressed by is her speed and footwork. Early in her career, I used to see her as a less powerful version of a young Keys. But she's clearly put in the work and looks really slick covering the baseline and she strikes the ball in good position because she's got neater footwork than she's been given credit for. Less impressive is her 2nd serve. She averaged 78mph on 2nd serve today which is far too low and Brady didn't take advantage. Against Serena, she averaged just 80mph while throwing in a lot of DFs. Considering her first serve percentage was less than 50% in both matches, I don't know whether to be impressed that she protected her serve so well despite serving poorly or be more critical of opponents who were spraying too many errors to take advantage.

Looking forward to seeing how she does in the clay and grass season.
 

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She is, that's why she had very limited success outside hardcourts, when the bounce isn't that regular and other skills like dropshots and slices are very useful.
Still, she's no more one-dimensional than someone like Sabalenka - even if she's even more reluctant to change the pace of the rally or go to the net, Osaka is quite an underrated counterpuncher, as she can be really good at absorbing the pace of powerful opponents, while Sabalenka is just all-out brainless aggression most of the time.
 

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I would say yes, because of the issues you mentioned like lack of variety or net play. But she's working on that, I'm sure, it's already miles better than what it was a few years ago when she couldn't hit a volley at all.

But on the other hand, no, also because while she's your typical baseline ballstriker, her groundstrokes are varied in the sense that she mixes up the pace very well, depending on defense/aggression/counterpunching etc. She really knows when and how to play a shot or when to inject pace, and I think that alone is a form of "dimension" in itself that separates her from the other baseline ballstrikers like Sabalenka, Keys, etc.

Of course she does need to add to her forecourt game if she wants to be successful off HC though..
 

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In a certain way I'd say she's in the extreme opposite side of the Halep spectrum: both of them play a quite pure drive baseline game, without much of a transitional or mixed-up game, but (Osaka as a power player that moves quite well and can counterpunch; Halep as a counterpuncher that can generate pace on her own against fellow counterpunchers) know how to vary the pace and weight of the ball and can adapt the bases of their game to the opponent.

Sabalenka has a transitional game; Keys has plenty of touch… yet neither of them have the on-court instincts to change their game according to the opponent. It's one dimensional because they play the same against anyone.
 

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In a certain way I'd say she's in the extreme opposite side of the Halep spectrum: both of them play a quite pure drive baseline game, without much of a transitional or mixed-up game, but (Osaka as a power player that moves quite well and can counterpunch; Halep as a counterpuncher that can generate pace on her own against fellow counterpunchers) know how to vary the pace and weight of the ball and can adapt the bases of their game to the opponent.

Sabalenka has a transitional game; Keys has plenty of touch… yet neither of them have the on-court instincts to change their game according to the opponent. It's one dimensional because they play the same against anyone.
Halep has more variety and slightly more brains . But I get what you mean .
 

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Osaka is quite one-dimensional. And up until a couple of years ago, she lacked any kind of point building skills. Now she's become a bit better on that regard, not that she needed to anyway. Still plays without much purpose from the baseline, and is about as passive as someone with a game that big can be; doesn't move the ball around much, typically waits for her opponent to make the mistake of putting the ball inside her optimal FH hitting zone.
 

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In a certain way I'd say she's in the extreme opposite side of the Halep spectrum: both of them play a quite pure drive baseline game, without much of a transitional or mixed-up game, but (Osaka as a power player that moves quite well and can counterpunch; Halep as a counterpuncher that can generate pace on her own against fellow counterpunchers) know how to vary the pace and weight of the ball and can adapt the bases of their game to the opponent.

Sabalenka has a transitional game; Keys has plenty of touch… yet neither of them have the on-court instincts to change their game according to the opponent. It's one dimensional because they play the same against anyone.
I thought the comparison to Halep was great. The way she uses the angles, she's very similar to Halep but with pace and worse defense. And more often than not she uses her angles at the right time.

Sabalenka/Keys hit hard but don't open up the court with cross-court angles like Naomi does. That's also what most reminds me about Serena when it comes to Naomi.
 

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while she's your typical baseline ballstriker, her groundstrokes are varied in the sense that she mixes up the pace very well, depending on defense/aggression/counterpunching etc. She really knows when and how to play a shot or when to inject pace, and I think that alone is a form of "dimension" in itself that separates her from the other baseline ballstrikers like Sabalenka, Keys, etc.

Of course she does need to add to her forecourt game if she wants to be successful off HC though..
Exactly.

Within those limitations (limited to basic shots) she tries to win her matches with shot selection rather than by hitting the same/one kind of return over and over like [fill in the blanks w/ your fave BB player]. Therefore I believe she can grow in this area — because she already has the ability to quickly adapt and out-think her opponents mid game.
 

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What I first noticed about Osaka was the quickness of her hands. She rarely looked awkward
I saw the IW final and thought both Osaka and Kasatkina are athletes
But Naomi is very strong mentally and has power. That combination in todays game puts her on top by a wide margin
Especially the mental part. Thats where she dominates right now
 

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Naomi is the first champion I have seen for some time who appears to have no transition game. She never comes to net put away a volley or drive volley or overhead. I don't know if you noticed but when Naomi was broken in the second set in today's final against Brady, she had two opportunities to come in on high floating balls to put away an easy volley but actually backed off, scurried back to the baseline, let the ball drop and ended up losing the point and her serve.

So, as others have pointed out, that's one part of her game I hope she is working on with Wim Fissette. If she can work on and improve that side of her game she will be even more difficult to beat and maybe do better on clay and grass.
 

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Naomi's game works for modern hard court tennis. Hits a big enough rally ball that takes care of 70% of the opposition by itself, strong enough as an athlete to keep herself in high-intensity rallies, strong angles and ability to redirect the ball, and powerful serves. Drop shots and slices don't do anything on hardcourts in 2021 (see: Barty, Ashleigh), so why bother adding them?
 

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Considering her first serve percentage was less than 50% in both matches, I don't know whether to be impressed that she protected her serve so well despite serving poorly

People keep getting this wrong. For a female player who goes all-out to serve bombs, 50 percent is a very good ratio first serve ratio. Think about it, Osaka is not 6'3 like an ATP player with long arms. You're not going to get 70 percent of your big serves in play, the geometry is just not there. The idea is that when she does get the first serve in, it's going to be a big enough serve to almost definitely win the point.

Osaka is a ballbasher. She's taken this style of play to a very high level, i would say, higher than those who came before her with the exception of Serena Williams back when Williams was at her peak. If you're doing something that obviously works, i don't see why you need to mix it up or add more variety. Until someone else on the tour steps up, Osaka is going to keep kicking people's asses.
 

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She certainly doesn't have all the shots in the book, but does many important things very well.

I'll have to disagree with some earlier posters - when she's feeling good her drive volley is quite decent and her overhead is better than most other WTA players (I can hardly recall her missing one). Her traditional volleys are poor (though still better than a few years ago) and her transitional game remains the biggest hole in her arsenal.

I feel like people are underestimating her sense of tactics and court position though. Everyone knows that she can strike the ball with good pace, but she will hardly ever retreat from the baseline these days and very frequently half-volley balls that land close to her baseline. Rather than being about all-out power like Keys or Sabalenka, her baseline game puts more emphasis on creating angles and openings and taking the ball early. For the vast majority of her rallies, she seems to hit at 2/3rds the pace she's capable of, and therefore has the ability to hit higher gears when she's really locking in and she needs to raise her level.
 

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One thing I've been very impressed by is her speed and footwork. Early in her career, I used to see her as a less powerful version of a young Keys. But she's clearly put in the work and looks really slick covering the baseline and she strikes the ball in good position because she's got neater footwork than she's been given credit for.
I actually think that her speed and footwork are the areas that need further improvement, issues that were not properly exploited by her opponents during the course of AO 2021... during her match with Serena, a lot of the rallies were hard hit balls to the center or neutral parts of the court, and only occasionally Serena was able to redirect the ball to unexpected corners to expose Naomi's relatively lack of speed... but Naomi did that to Serena several times, and the outcome of the rally was never in doubt after that... Naomi will never become a proficient volleyer, and that is not expected or needed for her success at this stage, but luckily for her, foot movement and speed is something that can be worked on and improved....

Naomi's greatest asset is no doubt her extreme confidence and mental fortitude during important parts of the game, something that also reminds one of an earlier Serena, and a strength that is enough to beat 95% of all of her other main opponents... but aside of that, she also has quick hands and anticipation, great court position and awareness and is able to generate great angles and redirection during rallies, something that she used with great effect during her match against Serena and that sets her apart of someone like Sabalenka or Keys, who also hit hard , but with extreme unidimensional and unidirectional shots... The Tour is sorely missing players who can hit reasonably hard but with variety and angled consistency, a la Henin and Mauresmo, so, at this time, Naomi seems to reign supreme on hard courts... Halep has consistency and defense, but rarely uses angles in an effective way and her performances and presence have an effect on the game more similar to Dementieva's than Henin's, (lack of Elena's Slam titles notwithstanding)... Andreescu could be her main rival, but the book is open on her physical struggles, endurance and playability...
 
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