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Australian Open: Osaka begins title defence in style; Sakkari too advances

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Melbourne, Jan 17 (IANS) Japan’s world No. 14 Naomi Osaka kicked off her Australian Open title defence with a straight-sets victory over Camila Osorio of Colombia, while Greece’s Maria Sakkari became the first top-10 seed to advance here beating Tatjana Maria of Germany at the Melbourne Park on Monday.

Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina, Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic, American Amanda Anisimova, and Italy’s Camila Giorgi also earned early first-round wins on Monday.

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Osaka, seeded No. 13 here, defeated Osorio 6-3, 6-3 on the Rod Laver Arena. The former world No.1, who also won the Australian Open in 2019, took 68 minutes to overcome the challenge of 20-year-old Osorio, ranked world No.50.

“I thought it was really amazing to play against (Osorio),” said Osaka. “She was loud, she was fighting. I think that’s something special. I really commended her for that. I thought she had a great return. She was really bold. She kind of stepped in really close to the line,” the 24-year-old Japanese player said.

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“I think I was pretty solid. I think I was up 5-0 and had a little dip, but I was fortunate enough to close it out. I think that’s something that I hope I’m not in that position in my next match. If I am, I already did it this time around, so I guess I’ll learn from it.”

Osorio was one of the top movers of last year, having won her first WTA singles title in 2021 on home soil in Bogota. But in their first meeting, Osaka powered her way to victory, as she improved to 17-1 in her last 18 matches at the year’s first Grand Slam event. Osaka is also now 19-2 in Grand Slam first-round matches throughout her career.

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World No.8, and No.5 seed here, Sakkari was the first top-10 player to move into the second round, with the 26-year-old Greek defeating Tatjana Maria of Germany 6-4, 7-6(2). Seeded in the top-10 at a Grand Slam for the first time in her career, Sakkari took one hour and 46 minutes to fend off Maria, a former top-50 player, who played the Australian Open on a protected ranking of No.100.

“I didn’t feel great out there, but I found a solution, found a way to win,” Sakkari said. “She (Maria) has a tricky game that sometimes it makes you feel uncomfortable inside the court. Yeah, it was a decent match. I kind of, like, survived.”

Sakkari will meet Chinese qualifier Zheng Qinwen in the second round after the 19-year-old defeated Melbourne Summer Set 2 runner-up Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus, 6-3, 1-6, 7-6(5).

No.15 seed Svitolina also advanced into the second round, besting Fiona Ferro of France, 6-1, 7-6(4) in an hour and 32 minutes. The Ukrainian, a two-time Australian Open quarterfinalist in 2018 and 2019, will play Frenchwoman Harmony Tan, who knocked out Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan 6-3, 6-3.

Tokyo Olympics gold medallist Bencic also won her opening-round clash with the No.22 seed defeating France’s Kristina Mladenovic 6-4, 6-3. Bencic will next face Anisimova of the US. Anisimova battled past Dutch qualifier Arianne Hartono 2-6, 6-4, 6-3.

Last year’s WTA 1000 champion in Canada, No.30-seed Camila Giorgi of Italy thrashed Anastasia Potapova of Russia 6-4, 6-0. “I think it was a great match because it was (my) first one of the year, so I think it’s very important to get the rhythm,” Giorgi said,

–IANS

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