Indian Wells: Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams kept apart in draw

Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka PA

Defending champion Naomi Osaka has avoided Serena Williams at Indian Wells after the 23-time Grand Slam champion was drawn in the other half of the draw.

It means that the pair, who famously had a controversial flare up at the US Open last year, could only meet in the final.

While that may be good news for Osaka, it’s not great for Simona Halep, Sloane Stephens, Elina Svitolina, and Kiki Bertens, who are in Serena’s half of the draw.

Meanwhile, Petra Kvitova, Karolina Pliskova, and Angelique Kerber are in Osaka’s half.

Although Osaka has won two Grand Slams since winning in California last year, the odds on a successful defence are stacked against her.

In fact, there has only ever been on successful title defence by a woman at Indian Wells, and that was 28 years ago when Martina Navratilova pulled it off.

Osaka is likely to face Kristina Mladenovic in the second round, but the Williams sisters perhaps have the most eye-catching potential second round draw.

Should Venus Williams come through her first round match against Andrea Petkovic, she will run into Petra Kvitova in round two. Serena Williams, meanwhile, faces a mouthwatering second round clash with Victoria Azarenka – if the Belarussian can overcome Vera Lapko first.

Simona Halep will meet either Barbora Strycova or Vickorija Golubic first.

The draw has been kind to Sloane Stephens, though, with either qualifier Stefanie Voegele or wildcard Sachia Vickery first up for her.

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