Naomi Osaka begins US Open title defense with straight-set win as third seed admits feeling ‘comfortable’ at Flushing Meadows, after missing French Open and Wimbledon for mental health reasons
- Defending champion Naomi Osaka has kicked off her US Open campaign
- She took away all concerns about a lack of competitions during this turbulent year
- Third seed promptly raced away in the second set and recorded a 6-4, 6-1 victory
Defending champion Naomi Osaka got her US Open campaign off to a smooth start with a straight-set win over Marie Bouzkova.
The third seed allayed fears of a lack of games during what has been a turbulent year following her withdrawal from the French Open and the decision to skip Wimbledon.
She had to work hard for the opening set, saving three break points at 1-1 before finally forcing the break to take it in game 10.
Defending champion Naomi Osaka has made her US Open campaign run smoothly
The third seed sealed a straight-set win over Marie Bouzkova in the first round on Tuesday
Osaka has allayed concerns about a lack of games during a turbulent year
But Osaka, a two-time champion in New York, promptly raced away in the second set to take a 6-4, 6-1 win.
“It feels a bit crazy to play in front of everyone again,” she said on court afterwards.
‘When we didn’t have an audience last year, it felt quite lonely for me. The energy here is unparalleled.
“I’ve played a lot of games on this pitch, maybe the most in my career and I definitely feel comfortable here.”
Earlier this month, Osaka admitted to feeling “ungrateful” for not enjoying her success.
She spoke just days after the four-time Grand Slam champion left a press conference in tears over a question about her relationship with the media.
Osaka promptly raced away in the second set to take a 6-4, 6-1 win over Marie Bouzkova
Aryna Sabalenka, the second seed from Belarus, needed three sets to get past Nina Stojanovic from Serbia.
Sabalenka, who recently overtook Osaka in the standings, dropped the second set on a tie-break but went on to continue 6-4 6-7 (4) 6-0.
Two-time Grand Slam champions Simona Halep and Garbine Muguruza endured heavy draws with two sets of victories.
Halep held off Montreal champion Camila Giorgi 6-4, 7-6(3). The Romanian, who did not participate in the event behind closed doors last year, missed the French Open, Wimbledon and the Olympics with a calf injury.
Osaka’s first press conference since its departure from Roland Garros ended this month in tears
“For me it was normal to have the people in the stands and the noise that is always at the US Open,” Halep said.
‘I started to like it. I’m starting to embrace these things. I had fun on the track, and I liked a few people who also shouted in Romanian and English.’
Muguruza, the ninth seed, also came through a tricky opening round, moving on with a 7-6(4) 7-6(5) win over Donna Vekic.
It took Sloane Stephens two hours and 10 minutes to beat Madison Keys 6-3 1-6 7-6 (7) in a rematch of her 2017 Finals victory.
Stephens will face another American, teenage Coco Gauff, who came off a set to defeat Polish Magda Linette.
Former champion Angelique Kerber bounced back from the brink of defeat, beating Dayana Yastremska 3-6 6-4 7-6 (3), and fifth-seeded Elina Svitolina sank Rebecca Marino 6-2 6-3.
Osaka announced in a tweet that she would not speak to the media during the French Open