Naomi Osaka breezed through the first round of the Australian Open on Monday beating Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in just one hour and eight minutes, before saying she is just grateful she’s playing in front of fans again.
The Japanese third seed flew out of the traps at the Rod Laver Arena to take the first set 6-1 in 33 minutes, dominating on her serve in what was the first match of the tournament — and her first Grand Slam match since victory in the US Open in September 2020.
Pavlyuchenkova provided more resistance in the second set, however still couldn’t stop Osaka, who broke early to go 2-1 up and again at 4-2 before going on to clinch the match in straight sets.
Osaka’s performance was so emphatic that commentators described her win as an “annihilation.”
“I was really nervous coming into this match,” Osaka said after the match. “I know I played here before and it was really tough, so I don’t know, I just wanted to play well.
“Thank you everyone for coming. I’m just really happy to see people in the stands. It’s been a bit lonely in New York, so thank you guys.
On her hopes for the rest of the tournament, the 23-year-old added: “Hopefully I’ll do well, but I’m just here to have fun.”
Osaka will now face Caroline Garcia or Polona Hercog in the second round.
—Wta (@WTA) February 8, 2021
Elsewhere in Melbourne, 40-year-old Venus Williams, who is taking part in her 21st Australian Open, beat Belgium’s Kirsten Flipkins 7-5, 6-2 to book her place in the second round.
After, Williams told the crowd at the Margaret Court Arena that winning “never gets old.”
She faces either Wang Qiang or Sara Errani in the next round.