After lighting the Olympic Cauldron on Friday to kick off Tokyo 2020, Naomi Osaka breezed through her first Olympic match on Sunday, defeating S. Zheng of China 6-1, 6-4.
Even though this was her first competitive match in nearly two months, the defending Australian and US Open champion rolled to a 5-0 lead and cruised to a 1-0, 27-minute triumph in her first competitive outing.
S. Zheng Olympic Games Tokyo 2020: Chinese Player
Osaka stepped onto Centre Court just after world No. 1 Ash Barty was stunned in her opening match by Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain, a timely reminder that ranking and reputation mean little on such a unique platform as the Olympic Games.
At Ariake Tennis Park, however, the 23-year-old, who is now the top-ranked player in the draw, started off strong with three aces on her first four serves and never looked back. She played with restraint and precision throughout the first set before turning up the intensity in the second.
S. Zheng Ranked 52 in the World
S. Zheng, ranked 52 in the world, missed Wimbledon like Osaka did so that the Chinese Olympic team could focus on Tokyo. Despite winning a series of back-and-forth rallies that occasionally earned her the applause of the world’s No. 2 player, Osaka was simply too quick and had too much firepower for the Chinese player.
After skipping Wimbledon, the 23-year-old finally committed to competing in the Olympics on home soil, where she would meet S. Zheng. Before the Olympics, the Japanese star enjoyed a 2-1 advantage in their all-time head-to-head matchup against their Chinese opponent.
They were supposed to kick off the tournament on Saturday, but due to weather concerns, the game was postponed until Sunday. Osaka eventually showed up at Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium on Friday night to light the torch, though she gave no explanation for her absence at the time.
Naomi Osaka had a great start to her home Oympics, beating S. Zheng of China 6-1, 6-4. Despite this being Osaka’s first match in over two months, she showed no rust as she easily dispatched S. Zheng. After Ash Barty was eliminated earlier on Saturday, Osaka was the highest remaining seed in the women’s singles event.
Since she withdrew from Roland Garros in May, citing the negative impact of media obligations on her mental health, the winner of the Australian Open had not competed in a tournament.
Osaka looked fresh as she won the first five games on the main court of the Ariake Coliseum, which would have been at capacity if not for a prohibition on spectators due to coronavirus restrictions.
The match lasted 87 minutes and ended when the second seed, who was rated 52nd, won on her third match point after breaking S. Zheng to take a 2-1 lead in the second set.
Osaka, who is 23 years old, is aiming to make history by being the first Japanese tennis player to win an Olympic gold medal. Next, in the round of 32, she’ll face Viktorija Golubic of Switzerland.
After Barty, the defending Wimbledon champion, lost in straight sets to the 48th-ranked Spanish player Sara Sorribes Tormo (6-4, 6-3), Osaka is the new favourite to win the tournament. Barty served twice in each set and made 55 unforced errors.