Naomi Osaka shakes off rust to win Miami opener


MIAMI – Naomi Osaka returned to action for the first time since winning the Australian Open with a 7-6 (7/3), 6-4 victory over Ajla Tomljanovic in her match at the Miami Open.

The Japanese star, ranked second in the world and seeded second in the ATP and WTA hardcourt event behind top-ranked Ashleigh Barty, looked a little rusty in her first match since lifting her fourth Grand Slam title in Melbourne.

Gusting wind on Grandstand Court at the Hard Rock Stadium made things even more difficult against the 77th-ranked Tomljanovic, who pushed Osaka throughout.

Thirteen aces helped Osaka overcome a slew of unforced errors and set up a third-round meeting with either Yulia Putintseva, the 26th seed from Kazakhstan, or Serbian qualifier Nina Stojanovic.

After a nervy exchange of breaks in the first two games, Tomljanovic broke in the fifth game of the first set to gain the edge and saved a break point in the eighth to give herself a 5-3 lead.

After a strong service game, Osaka played a flawless return game to breaking Tomljanovic at love and level the set at five games apiece.

She saved another break point with an ace in the next game as they proceeded to the tiebreaker, Osaka giving herself a set point with an ace and converting on her first opportunity.

Tomljanovic had Osaka on the defensive again early in the second set, but the second seed battled back from 0-40 down to hold her first service game.

Osaka broke for a 5-4 lead – aided by Tomljanovic’s double-fault on break point – but had to save a break point herself in the next game before sealing the match on her first match point when Tomljanovic netted a service return.

“It’s my first match since Australia and I was feeling a bit nervous so I just wanted to play well,” Osaka said.

“I’m happy I was able to get it done in two. I’m not sure if it was nerves or just I’m a bit rusty but my decision making on some shots was kind of questionable.

“But I think overall I learned as the match was going on.”

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