Naomi Osaka makes winning return at Tokyo Olympics
Japan’s Naomi Osaka, the star of the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony, began her quest for gold Sunday with a 6-1, 6-4 win over China’s Zheng Saisai in her first match since taking a break for mental health reasons.
Osaka, the star of the opening ceremony, defeated China’s Zheng Saisai 6-1, 6-4 in her first match since taking an eight-week break for mental health reasons.
“I felt really nervous being in Japan and playing here for the first time in maybe two years, and for it to be my first Olympics,” said Osaka, chosen as the first tennis player to light the Olympic cauldron on Friday.
“It was definitely really nerve-wracking. But I am glad I was able to win, she is a very tough opponent.”
“I feel like more than anything I’m just focused on playing tennis. Playing the Olympics has been a dream of mine since I was a kid,” she added.
“I feel like the break that I took was very needed, but I feel definitely a little bit refreshed and happy again.”
— wta (@WTA) July 23, 2021
The Australian Open champion had not played since May, when she walked out of Roland Garros saying that media commitments were harming her mental health.
Osaka showed few signs of rust as she reeled off the opening five games on the Ariake Coliseum center court, which likely would have been packed to capacity if not for a spectator ban because of coronavirus restrictions.
The second seed broke the 52nd-ranked Zheng for a 2-1 lead in the second set and closed out an 87-minute victory on her third match point.
The 23-year-old Osaka is attempting to become Japan’s first Olympic tennis champion. She will play Switzerland’s Viktorija Golubic in the last 32.
Osaka is now the clear favorite for gold after Ashleigh Barty, the reigning Wimbledon champion, dropped serve twice in each set and made 55 unforced errors in a 6-4, 6-3 loss to Spain’s 48th-ranked Sara Sorribes Tormo.