Naomi Osaka hits straps in Melbourne win

Murray Wenzel |

Defending Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka has shifted up a gear in her tennis return, beating Maryna Zanevska 6-1 6-1 at the Melbourne Summer Set.

A two-time winner at Melbourne Park, the tournament is Osaka’s first since a third-round US Open loss in September.

Osaka had earlier withdrawn from the French Open after refusing to do any media and then missed Wimbledon.

The 24-year-old also admitted the pressure of being the face of the Tokyo Games might have been too much, falling short in her quest to win a medal after lighting the Olympic cauldron.

Hailing her Australian return as a “breath of fresh air”, Osaka ground through her first-round win but had it far easier against the world No.82 on Thursday night.

Osaka’s win saw her progress to the final eight, with former world No.1 Simona Halep lurking in the bottom half of the draw.