Reigning US Open champion Naomi Osaka survived a patchy start to her title defense Tuesday to come through in three tough sets against Russia’s Anna Blinkova, the world number 84.
Osaka suffered a first-round exit last month at Wimbledon and the Japanese star found a spirited Blinkova hard to put away in Arthur Ashe Stadium before she advanced 6-4, 6-7 (5/7), 6-2 in two hours and 28 minutes.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been this nervous in my life and she played really amazing,” top seed Osaka said after moving through to a second round meeting with Poland’s Magda Linette.
“I just came off really slow and never found my rhythm but I fought as hard as I could and I managed to win.
“You want to do well after you did well last year,” she added. “I definitely didn’t want to lose in the third set.”
Osaka, who was beaten by Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva in her Wimbledon opener, said the battling nature of her win here would serve her well moving forward.
“It helps me a lot. I learn from the tough matches and it helps me be prepared and try and adjust my gameplan.
“I didn’t smile that much playing this match but hopefully I’ll change that in the next match.”