Naomi Osaka began off sloppy, however ended up stellar.
After profitable final 12 months’s U.S. Open championship with no followers within the stands, Osaka could have had some early jitters Monday in an electrical, packed home. And she or he discovered her rhythm in cruising to a 6-4, 6-1 first-round rout of Czech Marie Bouzkova at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“It feels actually good to be enjoying in entrance of followers. I simply need to say thanks for popping out right here,” Osaka mentioned in an on-court TV interview. “Final 12 months after we didn’t have a crowd, I do know it felt lonely for me. I’m simply glad to see little youngsters out within the crowd — and grown-ups, too. I’m simply actually completely happy to be enjoying in Arthur Ashe once more.”
No matter early nerves Osaka had within the first set, she acquired on a roll within the second. She hit 34 winners, misplaced solely six factors on her dominant first serve and by the tip began to look extra like her championship-level self.
Osaka regarded like she was having enjoyable, having fun with her tennis. And in the precise headspace, her dominant expertise took over. She had a lot tempo and firepower, this was a fait accompli.
“For me, I’ve performed quite a lot of matches on this court docket. It may be the court docket I’ve performed probably the most on in my profession,” Osaka mentioned. “Taking part in an evening match is a extremely huge honor. Taking part in the primary night time match will not be one thing I’ve performed. I’m simply glad I gained.”
Osaka got here into Flushing Meadows with not solely a goal on her again, however a figurative highlight on her head. She’d not solely misplaced within the fourth spherical in Cincinnati and the Olympics, however extra notably pulled out of the French Open and skipped Wimbledon, citing psychological well being points.
The shy 23-year-old has predictably had her each transfer coming into the U.S. Open psychoanalyzed, and Monday’s first-round match was much more of the identical. However after a considerably sloppy, tight opening, she progressively turned extra assured and comfy. After which the facility took over.
Osaka wasn’t closing out her serves early on, Bouzkova standing on — and in some circumstances inside — the baseline, returning probably the greatest serves within the recreation. It was knotted at 4-all, Osaka spraying balls extensive, when she held with an ace.
A pleasant rally shot down the road gave Osaka set level, and her first break of the night time gave her the primary set. It additionally gave her the momentum.
Bouzkova lived as much as her status as a studious competitor, preventing to the tip. She scraped to get break level after break level; she simply couldn’t convert them.
Osaka reeled off seven video games in a row to take full command.
Up 1-0 within the second set, a fluttering bug disrupted play till it will definitely acquired squashed. It was symbolic of the way in which the remainder of the second set went. Osaka ripped one down the road to interrupt and go up 2-0.
Serving with the benefit, she took a protracted stroll, taking the complete 25 second clock and icing her foe. Then she got here again and served out the sport to go up 3-0.
The run reached seven in a row, as Osaka led 5-0. The remaining was a foregone conclusion.