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PIX: Osaka advances to last 16; Barty makes winning return

February 02, 2021 22:28 IST
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Naomi Osaka

IMAGE: In her first competitive match since winning the US Open in September, Naomi Osaka sent down six aces and converted all four of her breakpoints to prevail in 71 minutes. Photograph: Jonathan DiMaggio/Getty Images

Naomi Osaka settled her nerves and stepped up her preparations for the Australian Open by beating Alize Cornet 6-2, 6-2 to reach the last 16 of the Gippsland Trophy warm-up tournament in Melbourne on Tuesday.

 

In her first competitive match since winning the US Open in September, the 23-year-old Japanese player sent down six aces and converted all four of her breakpoints to prevail in 71 minutes but said the victory did not come easy.

"I was nervous the entire match," Osaka, who won the 2019 Australian Open, told reporters.

"There were moments where it was less and there were moments where it was more, but I felt like I was really nervous just going, like walking onto the court.

"Even until the very last point, I think I was just thinking - I don't know, the first match you come back and especially in a Grand Slam environment, it's definitely very hard."

Osaka next faces Briton Katie Boulter, who battled back to knock out American teenager Coco Gauff 3-6, 7-5, 6-2.

Iga Swiatek

IMAGE: French Open champion Iga Swiatek. Photograph: Jack Thomas/Getty Images

French Open champion Iga Swiatek later recovered from a set down to beat Slovenia's Kaja Juvan 2-6, 6-2, 6-1.

World No. 7 Aryna Sabalenka's 15-match winning streak came to an end when she lost 6-1, 2-6, 6-1 to Estonia's Kaia Kanepi.

"When I play well and aggressive, I think it's tough for anybody to beat me," said Kanepi, who faces Daria Kasatkina in the next round.

"I got some rhythm after my first match and today I found it much better."

Kasatkina beat Polona Hercog 6-4, 6-3 to reach the round of 16. Joining her was Caroline Garcia, who overcame Timea Babos 6-4, 6-4, and fifth seed Johanna Konta, who eased past Bernarda Pera 6-2, 6-3.

The Australian Open begins on February 8.

Barty makes winning return in Melbourne

Ashleigh Barty

IMAGE: Ash Barty had not played a competitive match since last February due to the COVID-19 pandemic, opting to skip the US Open and not defend her title at the rescheduled French Open in September. Photograph: Jonathan DiMaggio/Getty Images

World number one Ash Barty marked her return to competitive tennis after almost a year out with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Romania's Ana Bogdan in the second round of Yarra Valley Classic on Tuesday.

The 24-year-old Australian had not played a competitive match since last February due to the COVID-19 pandemic, opting to skip the US Open and not defend her title at the rescheduled French Open in September.

Barty went down narrowly to world number two Simona Halep in last week's exhibition event in Adelaide but was back to winning ways on Tuesday, facing a single breakpoint on her serve in the match.

"I had so much fun out here today, and I think I missed you guys so much as well," Barty, who had a bye in the opening round, told the handful of fans present at Melbourne Park's Margaret Court Arena.

"This is one of my favourite places to play in the entire world, and for me to be able to come back after 11 or 12 months off now- it's been a while, but I miss this feeling, I miss coming out here and competing."

Top seed Barty hit her sixth ace of the match to convert her fourth match point and will next meet Czech Marie Bouzkova.

Petra Kvitova

IMAGE: Petra Kvitova in action during her match against Venus Williams. Photograph: Jonathan DiMaggio/Getty Images

Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin had won the opening set 7-5 when Italian Camila Giorgi retired from their second-round clash with a left thigh injury.

"This obviously is not the way I wanted to win. I hope she's going to feel better for the Aussie Open," American Kenin, who will next face compatriot Jessica Pegula, told reporters.

"It's unfortunate, but I feel like I played well. It's a win. I'm going to take it, of course."

Other Grand Slam champions also advanced at the WTA 500 event on Tuesday with two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova and Garbine Muguruza, who won the French Open in 2016 and Wimbledon the following year, picking up contrasting wins.

Kvitova found a way past seven-times major winner Venus Williams with a 7-6(6), 7-5 win while last year's Australian Open finalist Muguruza strolled past Alison Van Uytvanck 6-2, 6-0.

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