No. 2 seed Naomi Osaka wins Madrid opener

Mar 31, 2021; Miami, Florida, USA; Naomi Osaka of Japan hits a backhand against Maria Sakkari of Greece (not pictured) in a women’s singles quarterfinal in the Miami Open at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

No. 2 seed Naomi Osaka of Japan won her first appearance on clay since 2019 by holding off countrywoman Misaki Doi 7-5, 6-2 on Friday in the first round of the Mutua Madrid Open.

Osaka lost the first two games but broke Doi’s serve three times in the first set and twice more in the second set to defeat the qualifier in one hour and 28 minutes. The reigning U.S. Open and Australian Open champion struck six aces ands finished with 26 winners and 15 unforced errors.

It was Osaka’s first match on clay since the 2019 French Open. She missed the clay-court season last year because of a hamstring injury.

“When I was playing on clay that year (2019), I didn’t feel uncomfortable at all,” she said. “The matches that I lost, it was more mental than it was physical. Like, I didn’t feel uncomfortable sliding or I didn’t feel that tired. So I’m actually really excited to get that mindset back and to start feeling more comfortable on clay.”

The 23-year-old Osaka improved to 3-0 against Doi.

“You obviously want to play well against a player that’s from the same country,” Osaka said. “I never really know what to expect because I feel like she always plays better when I play against her, so it’s a bit tough to manage controlling my emotions. But I think I was able to do it pretty well.”

Osaka’s second-round opponent will be Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic, a 6-1, 6-3 winner against Wang Qiang of China.

Also Friday, No. 3 seed Simona Halep of Romania defeated Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo 6-0, 7-5.

“I knew that it’s gonna be tough because she likes the clay, and her spin is not easy to return,” said Halep, a two-time Madrid champion (2016, 2017). “But I knew also that I have my chance, so I’m happy with the win.”

No. 5 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus had 37 winners in a 6-1, 6-2 win over Vera Zvonareva of Russia, while No. 6 Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic rallied to beat American Coco Gauff 5-7, 6-3, 6-2.

No. 11 Jennifer Brady ousted fellow American Venus Williams 6-2, 6-4. No. 12 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus outlasted Russia’s Ekaterina Alexandrova 7-5, 3-6, 6-1. No. 13 Elise Mertens of Belgium won 6-3, 6-3 over China’s Shuai Zhang. No. 16 Maria Sakkari of Greece dropped the first seven games but rallied for an 0-6, 6-1, 6-4 win against American Amanda Anisimova.

Also advancing were Russia’s Daria Kasatkina and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit, American Jessica Pegula, China’s Saisai Zheng, Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko and Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina.

–Field Level Media