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Osaka Leads Crowd of Young Stars into Thrilling Thursday
By: Nick McCarvel

The Volvo Car Open has a history of being a harbinger of big things for future WTA stars. 2018 is proving to be no different.

Twenty-year-old Naomi Osaka, champion in Indian Wells just three weeks ago, has not dropped a set on her way into the round of 16, and meets No. 5 seed Julia Goerges in the opening match Thursday inside Volvo Car Stadium. And she’s not the only young gun with a shot at the quarterfinals in Thursday’s eight singles matches.

MORE: Thursday's Order of Play | Singles Draw | Doubles Draw

Six of the remaining 16 players are 24 years old or under, including Osaka, defending champion Daria Kasatkina (20), top seed Caroline Garcia (24), American Bernarda Pera (23), qualifier Fanny Stollar (19) and No. 9 seed Ashleigh Barty (21). It’s Barty that will play an opening-day match like Osaka, as she goes up against 8th-seeded Anastasija Sevastova to start things off on Althea Gibson Club Court.

Kasatkina – who survived a three-set second round match Tuesday night – will face Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu in the second Stadium match of the day. Begu has made the quarterfinals in all three of her previous Charleston appearances. The two players have never met.

Former French Open finalist Sara Errani has a 1-0 record against the American Pera, a 23-year-old who has had a breakthrough 2018 season so far.

The hardest-hitting match of the day will be third on Stadium, when Madison Keys, the 2015 finalist here, meets Italian Camila Giorgi in the third match on. Keys won in three sets Wednesday night over Lara Arruabarrena. She and Giorgi strike some of the biggest groundstrokes in the game.

Other daytime battles to keep an eye out on: Former singles finalist (and doubles champion) here Elena Vesnina taking on Kristyna Pliskova (who upset No. 2 seed Petra Kvitova on Wednesday), and then No. 12 seed Kiki Bertens meeting Stollar, who took out Johanna Konta in round two.

The evening promises to be a blockbuster.

It’s an all-French battle between No. 1 seed Garcia and her countrywoman, Alize Cornet, the 14th seed. They’ve met four times before, Garcia winning the first three before having to retire during their most recent match in January.

American doubles star Bethanie Mattek-Sands is due on court after the singles Thursday night with new partner Andrea Sestini Hlavackova following an emotional win on Tuesday. The victory marked Bethanie’s first since her return from a horrific knee injury at Wimbledon last July. They meet Alla Kudryavtseva and Katarina Srebotnik for a shot in the semifinals.

Thrilling Thursday? You bet. For both the new stars we’re just meeting and the others we know so well.

Tags: Volvo Car Open, Charleston, Naomi Osaka, Daria Kasatkina, Madison Keys, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Ashleigh Barty
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