Melbourne: Defending women’s champion Naomi Osaka breezed into the second round as the Australian Open finally began today after a chaotic build-up dominated by the visa saga engulfing world number one Novak Djokovic.
The unvaccinated Serbian landed in Dubai early on Monday after his sensational deportation from Australia, his dreams of becoming the first man to win 21 majors over, at least for now.
But it was business as usual for Japan’s Osaka, who registered her 23rd win in her last 24 matches at Melbourne Park with a 6-3, 6-3 win against Colombia’s Camila Osorio.
Seeded 13 after a disrupted 2021 season in which she said she had suffered “long bouts of depression”, Osaka raced to a 5-0 lead before cruising through in 68 minutes.
“I played pretty well, I didn’t have much info on my opponent,” said the 2019 and 2021 champion.
“She played amazingly and fought for every point. I’m just happy to be here. It definitely always feels special to come back here.”
Germany’s Tatjana Maria had the honour of striking the first serve on the showpiece Rod Laver Arena before falling to Greece’s Maria Sakkari, the fifth seed, 6-4, 7-6 (7/2).
“We all know how hard first rounds can be and that wasn’t easy,” said the athletic Sakkari.
Olympic gold medallist Belinda Bencic said she was still feeling the effects of Covid-19 a month after falling ill, as she moved into round two by overcoming Kristina Mladenovic 6-4, 6-3.
“I mean, my pulse was getting very up in the practices. I think it’s getting better day by day,” she said.