Defending Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka has shifted up a gear in her tennis return, beating Maryna Zanevska 6-1 6-1 at the Melbourne Summer Set.
A two-time winner at Melbourne Park, the Open lead-up tournament is Osaka’s first since a third-round US Open loss in September.
Osaka had earlier withdrawn from the French Open after refusing to do any media and then missed Wimbledon.
The 24-year-old also admitted the pressure of being the face of the Tokyo Games might have been too much, falling short in her quest to win a medal after lighting the Olympic cauldron.
Naomi Osaka wins quick, which allows for lots of time for autographs all around Rod Laver Arena, even on the far corner of the seats. Very cool treat for fans here. pic.twitter.com/BWlGkPHcfZ
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) January 6, 2022
Hailing her Australian return as a “breath of fresh air”, Osaka ground through her first-round win but had it far easier against the world No.82 on Thursday night.
“I learned a lot from my match before today, so I’m really glad that I was able to apply it,” she said of her improvement.
“It’s definitely nice to have that feeling of learning throughout the tournament.
“My opponent, I felt like she was a sweetheart.
“It was just nice to be able to share a moment. I think we both laughed when the person behind us coughed directly when she was about to serve.
“(The match) was fun.”
Osaka’s will play German veteran Andrea Petkovic in the quarter-final, with former world No.1 Simona Halep lurking in the bottom half of the draw.
“I respect them … I don’t think it’s anything to be taken lightly,” she said of Petkovic’s longevity.
“They’ve been here for a long time for a reason … there’s just something cool about playing someone that you’ve watched on TV multiple times.”
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