Defending champion Naomi Osaka got her US Open campaign up and running smoothly with a straight-sets win over Marie Bouzkova.
She was made to work hard for the opening set, saving three break points at 1-1 before eventually forcing the break to clinch it in game 10.
Defending champion Naomi Osaka got her US Open campaign up and running smoothly
The third seed sealed a straight-sets win over Marie Bouzkova in the first round on Tuesday
Osaka allayed any fears about a lack of matches during what has been a turbulent year
But Osaka, a two-time champion in New York, promptly raced away in the second set to register a 6-4, 6-1 victory.
‘It feels kind of crazy to play in front of everyone again,’ she said on court afterwards.
‘Last year when we didn’t have a crowd it felt quite lonely for me. The energy here is unmatched.
‘I’ve played a lot of matches on this court, maybe the most in my career and I definitely feel comfortable here.’
Earlier this month Osaka admitted to feeling ‘ungrateful’ for being unable to enjoy her success.
She was speaking just days after leaving a press conference in tears over a question about her relationship with the media.
Osaka promptly raced away in the second set to register a 6-4, 6-1 victory over Marie Bouzkova
Osaka pulled out of Roland Garros after being punished for refusing to do media conferences, saying her mental health was adversely impacted by certain questions.
The four-time Grand Slam champion’s first press conference since withdrawing from the French Open ended in tears after a reporter questioned her about how she has benefited greatly from media attention, while avoiding speaking to the press.
She told the reporter, who was identified as Paul Daugherty, a sports columnist for the Cincinnati Enquirer, that she was proud of her decision to refuse the media briefings.
The 23-year-old began sobbing moments later after the next question about her decision to donate prize money from this week’s tournament to victims of the Haiti earthquake.
Osaka’s first press conference since pulling out of the Roland Garros ended in tears this month
Ahead of the US Open Osaka opened up about how her ‘extremely self-deprecating’ personality has affected her over the years while vowing to celebrate herself and her many accomplishments.
She took to Instagram on the eve of the tournament to share an emotional statement about changing her mindset after a three-year battle with anxiety and depression that followed her 2018 US Open win over Serena Williams.
Osaka recently suffered a disappointing third-round loss at the Tokyo Olympics, her first international competition since she dropped out of both the French Open and Wimbledon earlier this year to focus on her mental health.
‘I’ve been reflecting over this past year. So grateful for the people around me because the support I feel is completely unparalleled,’ she wrote.
‘Recently I’ve asked myself why do I feel the way I do, and I realise one of the reasons is because internally I think I’m never good enough.’
Osaka took to Instagram on the eve of the tournament to share an emotional statement about changing her mindset after a three-year battle with anxiety and depression
Meanwhile, Aryna Sabalenka, the second seed from Belarus, needed three sets to get past Nina Stojanovic of Serbia.
Sabalenka, who recently overtook Osaka in the rankings, dropped the second set on a tie-break but went through 6-4 6-7 (4) 6-0.
Simona Halep and Garbine Muguruza, a pair of two-time grand slam champions, came through tough draws with battling two-set victories.
Halep held off Montreal champion Camila Giorgi 6-4, 7-6 (3). The Romanian, who did not play in last year’s behind-closed-doors event, missed the French Open, Wimbledon and the Olympics with a calf injury.
‘For me it was normal to have the people in the stands and the noise that is always in the US Open,’ Halep said.
‘I started to like it. I start to embrace these things. I had fun on court, and I liked some people that were screaming in Romanian also and in English.’
Osaka announced in a tweet that she would not speak to the media during the French Open
Muguruza, the ninth seed, also came through a tricky opening-round, advancing with a 7-6 (4) 7-6 (5) victory over Donna Vekic.
Sloane Stephens needed two hours and 10 minutes to edge out Madison Keys 6-3 1-6 7-6 (7) in a rematch of her victory in the 2017 final.
Stephens will face another American, teenager Coco Gauff, who came from a set down to beat Poland’s Magda Linette.
Former champion Angelique Kerber bounced back from the brink of defeat to beat Dayana Yastremska 3-6 6-4 7-6 (3), and fifth seed Elina Svitolina sank Rebecca Marino 6-2 6-3.