Naomi Osaka Talks About Playing For Crowds After 'Important' Opening Win At US Open - UBITENNIS
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Naomi Osaka Talks About Playing For Crowds After ‘Important’ Opening Win At US Open

Naomi Osaka spoke about her mindset and crowds after winning her opening match in New York.

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Naomi Osaka (@usopen - Twitter)

Naomi Osaka described playing for crowds as ‘surreal’ after winning her opening match at the US Open.

 

The third seed began her title defence with a 6-4 6-1 victory over Marie Bouzkova in front of the Arthur Ashe stadium.

After a tentative start Osaka found her rhythm and broke on three occasions as she sealed a place in the second round.

In her post-match press conference the four-time grand slam champion spoke about the ‘surreal’ feeling of performing in front of crowds again, “Yeah, definitely nervous, of course. I’m always nervous during the first round in a slam,” Osaka admitted.

“But it felt kind of surreal to walk onto the court and to hear an actual audience this time. To see people and to hear their energy, because last year the automated crowd noise was kind of the same all the time. But here, people are reacting in real-time, so it was cool.

“I’m the type of player that wants to entertain a crowd as well. I think last
year I was just really business. Like I wouldn’t try to hit a crazy serve or anything like that. Of course, I’m only one match in here and I don’t think I’ve gotten that distracted yet.”

Osaka also spoke about her serving performance and how important the first round win was as she searches for a third US Open title, “My serve’s definitely one of my biggest weapons,” Osaka said.

“It’s able to come in when it’s really necessary. But hopefully it won’t be that needed in the future. I thought today’s match was really tough. I haven’t played her in a while. I guess just to be able to be the first night match and to win in two sets was really important to me.”

On Wednesday Osaka will face Olga Danilovic where she will be expected to back up her win today as she looks to be the one to challenge the in-form Ash Barty in New York.

However the Japanese star believes she has a clearer mindset now as the stakes continue to rise in her career, “Honestly I didn’t feel pressure today. I don’t really knowhow to describe it. It may have to do with, like, my mindset change,” Osaka explained.

“So I didn’t feel pressure today. But I think I felt nerves because I wanted to perform well. I think in my mind I told myself that if I performed well, then the outcome, even if I win or lose, should be okay.

“I definitely had a much clearer mindset. I feel like, you know, I’m trying to really focus on every point and every game. I know that getting broken is definitely something that’s really difficult to come back from. So I just really wanted to focus on my serve and tell myself to do everything that I could.”

After yesterday’s result, Osaka will not face a seed until the second week after Yulia Putintseva’s exit.

A fourth round match with Coco Gauff could still happen though a match that Osaka just about won in Cincinnati.

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Andy Murray wins his first match of the 2024 season in Doha

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Andy Murray beat Alexandre Muller 6-1 7-5 to clinch his first win of the 2024 season at the Exxon Mobil Open in Doha. Murray won two Doha titles in 2008 and 2009 and reached three finals in 2007, 2017 and 2023.

 

Murray converted three of his five break points he earned. 

Murray came back from 0-40 down to break serve on Muller’s first service game. The British player held serve to open up a 3-0 lead, but he asked for a medical time-out due to a knee issue. The double Olympic spoke to the physiotherapist on court, explaining that he had been feeling pain in the area for a few days and had received for a cyst on his meniscus the day before Tuesday’s match. 

Nevertheless, Murray returned on court and did not convert two break points. The Scotsman earned his second break and held serve to seal the opening set in 46 minutes. 

Murray did not convert break points in the fourth game of the second set. Both players held on their service games before Murray earned a break with another winner to take a 4-3 lead. Muller broke straight back to draw level to 4-4. Both players on serve in the next four games en route to the tie-break. 

Muller earned the first mini-break with a drop-shot to take a 4-2 lead in the tie-break, but Murray pulled back on serve to draw level to 5-5. Murray won the next two points and sealed the win with a backhand return. 

“Obviously the past few months have been really tough on the court for me. I have not won many matches and lost a lot of close ones as well and it was getting tight at the end there as well, so obviously I am delighted to get through”, said Murray. 

Murray set up a second round match against Jakub Mensik, who upset Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 7-6 (7-3) 6-4 in just his eighth tour-level match to clinch his first win against a top 30 player. 

Mensik came back from a break down twice en route to winning the tie-break of the first set 7-3 with four mini-breaks. The 18-year-old Czech player earned a decisive break in the first game of the second set before sealing the win after 93 minutes on his first match point. Mensik won 70% of his first service points. 

Mensik, who is the youngest player in the top 200 in the ATP Ranking, reached the third round at last year’s US Open and beat Denis Shapovalov as a qualifier on his Australian Open debut last January. 

Mensik will face either Andy Murray or Alexandre Muller. 

“I just tried to play my best. It’s a crazy opportunity to play an ATP 250 here in Doha, so I reached the second round and I will do my best to show this performance in the second round”, said Mensik. 

Christopher O’Connell beat Jan-Lennard Struff 6-4 6-4 to improve his head-to-head lead to 2-0. O’Connell broke twice in the second and seventh game to take a 5-2 lead. Struff pulled one break back in the eighth game from 3-5 but O’Connell closed out the first set 6-4 on his first set point. O’Connell broke serve in the fifth game to take a 3-2 and sealed the win on his third match point. 

O’Connell set up a second round match against world number 46 Emil Ruusuvuori, who beat Italian qualifier Giulio Zeppieri 7-6 (7-2) 7-5 in one hour and 47 minutes. Both players went on serve with no break points en route to tie-break. Ruusuvuori, who reached the quarter final in Rotterdam last week, earned two mini-breaks to win the tie-break 7-2. Ruusuvuori earned his first break of the match in the opening game and saved four break points to hold serve at deuce in the second game. Zeppieri broke back in the fourth game to draw level to 2-2. Ruusuovori converted his second break point in the 11th game and sealed the second set 7-5 on his first match point. 

Gael Monfils beat Botic Van de Zandschulp 6-1 7-6 (11-9). Monfils broke twice in the second and fourth games to win the first set 6-1. Van de Zandschulp broke serve in the sixth game to take a 4-2 lead. Monfils broke back in the ninth game. Both players held on serve in the next games en route to a tie-break. Monfils earned three match points at 6-3 in the tie-break, but Van de Zandschulp  won three consecutive points to draw level to 6-6. Both players traded mini-breaks to draw level to 8-8. Monfils won two consecutive points to win the tie-break 11-9 on his fourth match point. 

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Jasmine Paolini beats Leylah Fernandez to reach the round of 16 in Dubai

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Jasmine Paolini beat 2021 US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez 6-3 6-4 in on 1 hour and 37 minutes at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. 

 

Fernandez earned an early break at love in the first game of the opening set. Paolini broke straight back in the second game, but Fernandez broke again at love in the third game and held her first service game to take a 3-1 lead. Paolini pulled back on serve in the sixth game to draw level to 3-3 before saving four break points to go up 4-3. The Italian player converted her third break point in the eighth game with a forehand passing shot and served out the first set with a hold at love. 

Fernandez won 12 of the first 15 points and broke serve in the second game to race out to a 3-0 lead in the second set. The Canadian player earned a double break point in the sixth game, but Paolini saved it to hold serve after two deuces. Paolini won five consecutive games from 1-4 down with two breaks of serve to seal the second set 6-4 on her second match point. 

Paolini set up a Round of 16 match against Maria Sakkari, who beat Emma Navarro 6-2 6-4. The Italian player, who reached the fourth round at this year’s Australian Open, has won consecutive matches against former Grand Slam finalists (Angelique Keber at the United Cup and and Fernandez in Dubai).                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

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Donna Vekic comes back from one set down to beat Aryna Sabalenka in Dubai

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Donna Vekic came back from a set and a break down to beat two-time Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 6-0 after 2 hours and 22 minutes in the second round at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. 

 

Vekic has scored her sixth win in eight head-to-head matches against Sabalenka dating back to 2016. The Croatian player beat her Belarusian rival at the 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo and in the 2022 San Diego quarter finals. 

Vekic has scored her eighth win against a top 5 opponent and the first since she beat Elena Rybakina in the 2023 Berlin second round. 

Vekic earned the first break in the third game to take a 2-1 lead. Sabalenka broke straight back in the fourth game to draw level to 2-2. Sabalenka broke for the second time in the eighth game to open up a 5-3 lead. Vekic broke straight back to draw level to 5-5 and saved three set points at 5-6. Sabalenka earned three mini-breaks to win the tie-break 7-5. Sabalenka earned an immediate break in the first game of the second set to open up a 2-0 lead. Vekic faced a break point in the third game, but she saved it with a backhand to hold serve at deuce.  

Vekic hit 25 winners to just nine unforced errors. The Croatian player broke for the second time in the third set to take a 3-0 lead, as Sabalenka made a double fault. Sabalenka made two more double faults to go down 5-0. Vekic served out the win on her first match point. 

“I know that I have a winning head-to-head, but she beat me in Australia last year in the quarter finals. That one hurt quite a lot. It was quite tough to serve out there today. It was windy. I think we were both breaking each other’s serves a lot. She played amazingly well in the tie-break. I had a great start in the second set. I think I got a bit lucky with that slice passing shot. That’s tennis, things can turn around in one point. At all times I did not give up. I did not stop believing that I could win. I just kept fighting”, said Vekic. 

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