January 15, 2019 / 11:56 AM / 3 months ago

Osaka clubs her way into Australian Open second round

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Japan’s Naomi Osaka clubbed her way into the Australian Open second round by beating Poland’s Magda Linette 6-4 6-2 late on Tuesday.

Tennis - Australian Open - First Round - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia, January 15, 2019. Japan’s Naomi Osaka in action during the match against Poland’s Magda Linette. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

It was Osaka’s first Grand Slam match since her breakthrough U.S. Open triumph last year, which was partly overshadowed by a row between her final opponent Serena Williams and umpire Carlos Ramos.

Osaka’s heavy ball striking makes it very difficult for opponents to trade blows with her.

“For me, I’m aware of people saying anyone in the top 10 can be No. 1 right now - but for me, that’s not really my goal,” Osaka, the fourth seed, told reporters.

“I just want to play well in this tournament.”

Linette tried to mitigate her rival’s power by standing up near the baseline during rallies to avoid getting pushed too far back.

The tactic worked in part, until the Polish player’s error count rose too quickly, such is the risk-reward for such a valiant ploy.

“The balls were really heavy,” Linette told Reuters.

“I’m just like 59 kilos, so what can I do?”

Despite possessing more firepower in almost every facet of the game, Osaka’s modest-paced second serve allowed her 80th-ranked opponent a strong opening into baseline exchanges.

The two players’ average second serve speed was almost identical at around 125 kmh, which is significantly slower than the service speed of Williams, who is the standard bearer.

Osaka will play 21-year-old Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia in the second round.

Reporting by Jonathan Barrett; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Ed Osmond

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