Naomi Osaka struggles, but top seed advances to second round at U.S. Open

Top seed Naomi Osaka needed three sets to oust Anna Blinkova during their first-round matchup at the U.S. Open. Photo Credit: EPA-EFE/Shutterstock/JUSTIN LANE

The 2018 women’s singles champion needed three sets to eliminate 84th-ranked Anna Blinkova on Tuesday in Flushing Meadows.

Top seed Naomi Osaka needed three sets to oust Anna Blinkova during their first-round matchup at the U.S. Open.
Top seed Naomi Osaka needed three sets to oust Anna Blinkova during their first-round matchup at the U.S. Open. Photo Credit: Chris Ware

Defending U.S. Open women’s singles champion Naomi Osaka shook off a slugglish 1-4 start Tuesday to defeat Russian Anna Blinkova, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-2, to advance to the second round on the grounds of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Tuesday afternoon.

“I felt nervous,” said the 21-year old top-seeded Osaka after the victory, with a nervous laugh. “For me, it’s definitely a new feeling. Never had to come into a tournament — well, a Grand Slam tournament — [as the defending champion]."

Osaka will try to advance to the third round in Queens on Thursday when she faces Magda Linette. She hopes to show more of the consistency that won her first two Grand Slam titles, including this year’s U.S. Open, going forward.

“I think as a whole, I just need to stay more consistent on the good side,” Osaka said.

Osaka had trouble with the world’s 84th-ranked player on Tuesday. She finished with 50 unforced errors, more than double the 22 from Blinkova.

“I think there were moments where I played really well, and then moments where, I mean, I didn’t play well,” Osaka said.

Osaka entered the U.S. Open less than two weeks after retiring from the quarterfinals of the Cincinnati Masters with a knee injury. When asked about the injury, she gave a very honest — and somewhat contradictory — response.

“I wouldn’t say it’s behind me, but I do say it’s behind me," she said with a smile. "What do I say to this? It’s in front of me, and it’s behind me. I don’t know. It’s something that I’m thinking about it, but I’m actually not trying to be funny when I say that, if that makes sense.”

Derrel Jazz Johnson