World No.1 Naomi Osaka was so afraid of losing in the first round of her first ever title defense at Grand Slam level that she hit 50 unforced errors and wasted a match point in the second set against Russian world No.84 Anna Blinkova on Day 2 of the US Open.
Honored with a custom Nike x Sacai outfit, the 21-year-old Osaka was overwhelmed by a burden of expectations on her return to Arthur Ashe Stadium where she beat Serena Williams in last year’s final:
I don’t think I’ve ever been this nervous in my life. For me, I just came off really slow and I never really found my rhythm.
Osaka won five games in a row from 1-4 to take the first set, then fought off a trio of set points and held a match point before losing a tiebreak, while in the third set she fought off all three break points she faced to survive 6-4 6-7(5) 6-2.
The shaky victory stretches Osaka’s winning streak in hardcourt Grand Slams to 15, as it includes title runs at the 2018 US Open and 2019 Australian Open.
The top seed will next face world number 53 Magda Linette, the Pole who came to the US Open right after winning the inaugural NYJTL Bronx Open for first career title.
In other first-round matches early on Tuesday, American Alison Riske registered her first match win at Flushing Meadows since 2013, beating two-time major champion and seed No.24 Garbine Muguruza 2-6 6-1 6-3, while two-time Wimbledon champion and sixth seed Petra Kvitova advanced by beating fellow Czech Denisa Allertova 6-2 6-4. (photo via Jimmie48)
Get women's tennis updates to your inbox.