MELBOURNE, Australia, Jan 15 – Japanese fourth seed Naomi Osaka overcame a nervous start and distraction from flying bugs to ease into the Australian Open second round Tuesday.
The US Open champion downed Magda Linette of Poland 6-4, 6-2 in just under an hour to set up a meeting with Tamara Zidansek of Slovakia in the next round.
“I felt really nervous walking onto the court but then when I started playing I just felt really happy and grateful that I’m able to play in front of such a great crowd,” she said.
The 21-year-old said she enjoyed the warm Australian conditions but had to call for a ballboy’s help when a bug was fluttering on court as she prepared to serve for the match.
“I’m not really that great at catching them, I’d accidentally squish it maybe, so it’s probably not a good idea” she said.
Osaka quickly put aside her brush with Australian wildlife and sealed the match with an ace.
Bookies have installed her as second favourite to lift the Australian title after Serena Williams, who she beat in last year’s US Open final, sparking the American’s infamous meltdown at the umpire.
While the controversy overshadowed Osaka’s breakthrough moment, she has appeared comfortable in the spotlight and says she is feeling no extra pressure at Melbourne as a Grand Slam champion.