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  17 Jan 2022, 10:25

Osaka overcomes stumble to make Australian Open second round

 MELBOURNE, Jan 17, 2022 (BSS/AFP) - A nervous Naomi Osaka opened the defence

of her Australian Open title with a hard-fought 6-3, 6-3 win against
Colombia's Camila Osorio, but stumbled mid-match after winning the first five
games.

  The Japanese former world number one pulled out of a warm-up event in
Melbourne before the tournament after three matches, saying her "body got a
shock" after playing for the first time in four months.

  She showed few ill-effects in beating her 50th-ranked opponent on Rod Laver
Arena, but it was far from clinical.

  "I played pretty well, I didn't have much info on my opponent," said Osaka,
who won the title at Melbourne Park in 2019 and 2021.

  "She played amazingly and fought for every point. I'm just happy to be
here. It definitely always feels special to come back here."

  Seeded 13 after taking a long break after a disrupted 2021 season in which
she said she had suffered "long bouts of depression", Osaka raced into a 5-0
lead and appeared to be in full control.

  But she then inexplicably lost focus as the feisty Osorio finally held
serve, then against the odds broke the four-time Grand Slam winner and held
again to haul herself back into the set at 3-5.

  Osaka had to dig deep to save two break points while serving for the set
but clung on to seal it in 31 minutes.

  Osorio's resurgence was short-lived with Osaka getting a decisive break in
the third game of the second set and from there made no mistake, breaking
again to book a second-round berth.

  She will next play either American Madison Brengle or Ukraine's Dayana
Yastremska.

  Osaka beat American Jennifer Brady in last year's final, but then withdrew
from the French Open and Wimbledon over mental health issues.

  She said her problems were exacerbated by speaking to the media after
matches, and she made a tearful early exit at the US Open in September.

  But in the build-up to the opening Grand Slam of the year, the 24-year-old
said she was now determined to put her issues behind her and have fun.

  "I just need to find a way to enjoy the game again because that's the
reason why I was playing in the first place," she said ahead of the
tournament.

 

 

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