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Osaka gets big fright at beginning of title defence

Tricky: Naomi Osaka starts her US Open title defence with victory against Anna Blinkova
Tricky: Naomi Osaka starts her US Open title defence with victory against Anna Blinkova

By Martin Wilson

Reigning US Open champion Naomi Osaka survived a patchy start to her title defence yesterday to come through in three tough sets against Russia's Anna Blinkova, the World No.84.

Osaka suffered a first-round exit last month at Wimbledon and the Japanese star found a spirited Blinkova hard to put away in Arthur Ashe Stadium before she advanced 6-4 6-7 (5/7) 6-2 in two hours and 28 minutes.

"I don't think I've ever been this nervous in my life and she played really amazing," top seed Osaka said after moving through to a second round meeting with Poland's Magda Linette.

"I just came off really slow and never found my rhythm, but I fought as hard as I could and I managed to win.

"You want to do well after you did well last year," she added. "I definitely didn't want to lose in the third set."

Osaka, who was beaten by Kazakhstan's Yulia Putintseva in her Wimbledon opener, said the battling nature of her win would serve her well moving forward.

"It helps me a lot. I learn from the tough matches and it helps me be prepared and try and adjust my gameplan," she said. "I didn't smile that much playing this match but hopefully I'll change that in the next match."

Serena Williams triumphed over Maria Sharapova in a US Open first-round contest as one-sided as their 15-year rivalry.

Williams, the 23-time Grand Slam champion, has now won 20 of their 22 meetings following a thumping 6-1 6-1 victory.

Williams offered a terse response when asked about the decision to not have Carlos Ramos as part of her matches, claiming she did not know who the umpire was.

Ramos will not umpire Williams during the US Open after the pair infamously clashed during last year's final, which the American lost to Osaka.

Williams was asked about the United States Tennis Association's decision not to have Ramos umpire her matches.

"Yeah, I don't know who that is," Williams responded.

Former World No.1 and 24th seed Garbine Muguruza crashed out in the first round, losing 2-6 6-1 6-3 to the USA's Alison Riske.

The Spaniard had also fallen at the first hurdle of Wimbledon, losing in straight sets to Beatriz Haddad Maia.

Sixth seed Petra Kvitova had a more straightforward time of it, beating Czech compatriot Denisa Allertova 6-2 6-4. Switzerland's Belinda Bencic, seeded 13th, also had a routine win, beating Mandy Minella of Luxembourg 6-3 6-2.

Former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko pulled off a win against the in-form Aleksandra Krunic, triumphing 6-3 7-6 (7).

Julia Goerges, the 26th seed, also required a tie-break to win against Natalia Vikhlyantseva - but theirs was in the final set, with the German coming through 1-6 6-1 7-6 (1).

Meanwhile, Roger Federer overcame a brief scare to beat Indian qualifier Sumit Nagal.

The 38-year-old Swiss, who is bidding for a record sixth title in New York, lost the first set before recovering to win 4-6 6-1 6-2 6-4.

Stefanos Tsitsipas tumbled out of the US Open against inspired Russian Andrey Rublev.

Tsitsipas, seeded eighth at Flushing Meadow, has now endured consecutive first-round exits at Grand Slams following his early departure from Wimbledon.

The 21-year-old was clearly struggling with cramp during a ding-dong encounter on Louis Armstrong.

Yet he put in a serious fight, breaking Rublev to love as he served for the match. But Rublev, also 21, was not to be denied and broke straight back before holding his nerve and his serve to wrap up a breathless 6-4 6-7 (5) 7-6 (9) 7-5 win.

World No.43 Rublev said: "It was tough conditions for both of us and we played an amazing match.

"He started to cramp, I know what it's like, I was cramping too and tried not to show it.

"But this is amazing, winning matches like this gives you confidence."

Belfast Telegraph


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