Osaka eases into Madrid second round

JAPANESE Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka made it through to the second round of the 2024 Madrid Open overnight with a dominant 79-minute win over Belgian lucky loser, Greet Minnen. The former world number one is still returning to the WTA Tour, but gained her first clay court win in two years at the WTA 1000 event.

It marked a special moment for the current world number 197, having last won on clay at the same event back in 2022 before taking time off Tour to give birth to her daughter, Shai. While she has had ups and downs since returning to Tour, her 6-4 6-1 win over Minnen was an impressive step forward, especially on a surface that was arguably her least favourite in the past.

“There’s definitely beauty to it, and I’m taking a lot of inspiration from people who do well on it,” she said post-match. “I’m not expecting to be like Iga (Swiatek), but I just want to do the best with what I have.”

Osaka will take on 15th seed Liudmila Samsonova in the second round, a player she beat less than two months ago in the Round of 64 at Indian Wells. The Japanese star – who helped lead her nation into the Billie Jean King Cup qualifiers recently – is looking to notch another Top 20 win since her return to Tour.

In her win over Minnen, Osaka hit eight aces and won 77 and 63 per cent of her first and second serves, while saving the only break point she faced during the match. At the same time, she broke Minnen three times and won 60 per cent of her second serve return points to get through the match convincingly.

“Overall, just really happy. I had a game plan with Wim and I was able to execute it. I do have a tendency to get down on myself, especially when I feel I should’ve converted [break points] or done better, so I was definitely telling myself to keep my head up and hopefully I’d have more opportunities.

“I slid a couple of times to my forehand pretty well, so I was excited about that. And she was hitting really good drop shots, but I think I got to a couple quite well. Movement-wise I’m feeling a lot more comfortable.”

There were a number of upsets on the day with Argentinian qualifier Maria Carle crushing US Open winner Emma Raducanu in straight sets 6-2 6-2, while Italian qualifier Sara Errani ousted former number one Caroline Wozniacki, and Spanish qualifier Jessica Bouzas Maneiro go the better of compatriot Paula Badosa in other first round results.

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