Osaka overcomes nerves for winning start at French Open

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Naomi Osaka needed three sets to win her first-round match at the French Open.
Naomi Osaka needed three sets to win her first-round match at the French Open.

Naomi Osaka has overcome a bout of nerves to get off to a winning start at the French Open.

The former world No.1 from Japan needed a deciding set to beat Lucia Bronzetti in the opening match on Court Philippe Chatrier on Sunday, after what had looked likely to be a quick morning’s work when she breezed through the opening set.

But Bronzetti, ranked 67, took the second and came back from 4-0 down to level in the third, leaving the match on a knife-edge.

But when the Italian slashed a backhand into the net, Osaka got the crucial break in the ninth game of the decider and then served out for a 6-1 4-6 7-5 victory.

“There were moments I played pretty well, but I was nervous and got very tight in the third set. But I’m pretty happy,” she said.

Swiatek in action
Iga Swiatek could be Osaka’s next opponent in a battle of world No.1s past and present. (AP PHOTO)

Osaka famously avoids looking at her potential draw at tournaments, but it was difficult to avoid finding out she has a likely match-up with current world No.1 and three-time winner Iga Swiatek next.

“Honestly, I didn’t really know – but then I was, like, ‘why does everyone keep asking me about this draw?'” she smiled.

“Then I knew that I was in the top half, so I was, jokingly, I was, like, ‘well, it’s not like I’m playing Iga’. Then everyone got quiet. So I was like, ‘oh’…

“But, yeah, the next round is the only round I know, so that’s all I’m going to focus on.

“I think it’s an honour to play her in the French Open because she’s won here more than once.”

It proved a day of wildly differing fortunes for former champions Jelena Ostapenko and Barbora Krejcikova on day one.

Ostapenko, who stunned the tennis world with her title win in 2017, eased past Jaqueline Cristian 6-4 7-5.

But Krejcikova, the 2021 champion and 24th seed, was beaten 7-6 (7-3) 6-4 by Viktorija Golubic.

Former runner-up Sofia Kenin came from a set down to defeat Laura Siegmund 4-6 6-2 6-2.

PA