Friday, September 29, 2023

US Open 2021: Naomi Osaka beats Marie Bouzkova, Advances to second round

Osaka 1
Naomi Osaka of Japan returns a shot to Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic during the first round of the US Open in New York. Photo: AP

NEW YORK, August 31: Four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka of Japan says she is building self-confidence and belief while trying to be less of a perfectionist on and off the tennis court.

The defending US Open champion beat 87th-ranked Czech Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-1, in 93 minutes on Monday to reach a second-round matchup with Serbian qualifier Olga Danilovic.
Osaka said she didn’t feel pressure but was nervous nonetheless as she tries to make life changes.
“I tell people I’m a perfectionist. For me, something that’s less than perfection, even though it might be something great, is a disappointment,” Osaka said. “I don’t really think that’s a healthy way of thinking, so something that I really want to change.
“In this tournament I just want to be happy knowing I did my best and even though I didn’t play perfect I was able to win a match in two sets, or if I have to battle, play a match in three sets — know that I made a couple mistakes, but it’s OK at the end of the day because I’ll learn.
“It’s not really a tournament thing. It’s more like a life thing. I hope I can keep this mindset throughout my life going forward.”
Osaka withdrew from the French Open after one match over mental health issues, saying she didn’t want to talk with reporters after matches, and skipped Wimbledon as well.
This week, she has opened up about her feelings on social media and to journalists, saying she needs to respect herself more.
“It has been a gradual situation,” she said. “There were multiple events in my life that led me into thinking the way that I do.
“For me one of the biggest things is hearing a little kid telling me that I’m their favourite player or I’m a role model. Instinctively the first thought in my mind is ‘Why?’
“I feel like I have to sort of embrace more the feeling, the honour that they’re telling me that, and I should believe more in myself.
“I feel like if you don’t believe in yourself, then other people won’t believe in yourself. It’s more like a realization thing.”
Osaka said her nervous energy over the first round of a Grand Slam mingled with the excitement of having spectators back after no fans were allowed in 2020 due to Covid-19.
“It was definitely a bit weird feeling. But I think I was more excited than nervous in the end,” she said.
Simona Halep advances to second round at US Open

Simona Halep
Simona Halep of Romania returns against Camila Giorgi of Italy during their women’s singles first round match on Day One of the 2021 US Open at the Billie Jean King. Credit: AFP Photo

Two-time Grand Slam champion Simona Halep, battling back from injury, advanced to the second round of the US Open on Monday as the hardcourts showdown began before full-capacity crowds.
The 29-year-old Romanian 12th seed defeated Italy’s Camila Giorgi 6-4, 7-6 (7/3) to book a second-round match against Slovakian lucky loser Kristina Kucova, who ousted American Ann Li 7-5, 6-1.
Halep, the 2018 French Open and 2019 Wimbledon champion, tore a left calf muscle at the Italian Open, missed the French Open and Wimbledon, then suffered a right thigh injury at Cincinnati, but made a solid New York start.
Halep fired six aces and won 83% of her first serve points, hitting 14 winners against 16 unforced errors while taking advantage of 31 unforced errors by Giorgi.
Defending champion Naomi Osaka, seeking her third US Open crown in four years, was set for the feature night match at Arthur Ashe Stadium against 87th-ranked Czech Marie Bouzkova.
Osaka won their only prior meeting in the first round of this year’s Australian Open on the way to her fourth Grand Slam title.
The 23-year-old Japanese star could become the first back-to-back US Open women’s champion since Serena Williams won her third in a row in 2014.
Osaka enters on a 15-match Grand Slam win streak, having skipped the French Open last year and Wimbledon this year and withdrawn after a first-round win at this year’s French Open over mental health issues.
Also on the night schedule is second seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus against Serbia’s Nina Stojanovic.
Americans Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys meet in a first-round rematch of the 2017 US Open final won by Stephens.
On the men’s side, while top-ranked Novak Djokovic waits until Tuesday to begin his quest for a US Open crown to complete a calendar-year Grand Slam, his top-seeded rivals take the court.
Greek third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas will face three-time Grand Slam winner Andy Murray of Britain at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Murray, ranked 112th, won the 2012 US Open and 2013 and 2016 Wimbledon crowns. He would be the lowest-ranked player to ever beat a top-three foe at the US Open since the rankings began in 1973.
Two-time Olympic champion Murray is 14-0 in prior US Open first-round matches and the 34-year-old Scotsman seeks his biggest win since downing the-world number two Novak Djokovic in the 2016 ATP Finals.
Tsitsipas, the French Open runner-up, is Murray’s highest-ranked foe since he lost to third-ranked Stan Wawrinka in a 2017 French Open semi-final
Russian second seed Daniil Medvedev opens in the Ashe night finale against Frenchman Richard Gasquet.
Medvedev, the 2019 US Open and 2021 Australian Open runner-up, seeks his 200th career match win and his 160th on hardcourts.
Gasquet is 1-35 against top-two rivals, having dropped 35 in a row since beating then-number one Federer in 2005 at Monte Carlo.

Croatia’s 221st-ranked Ivo Karlovic, at 42 the oldest US Open qualifier in the Open Era (since 1968), would become the oldest player to defeat a top-10 foe if he can upset Russian fifth seed Andrey Rublev. (AFP)