Naomi Osaka, winner of the last two Grand Slams, fought back from the brink of defeat in the French Open first round on Tuesday. The top-ranked woman in the world defeated Anna Karolina Schmiedlova 0-6, 7-6(4), 6-1 to avoid the opening round upset.
“I think this is the most nervous I have ever been my entire life during a match,” said Osaka. “I think you could see that in the first set. I was literally not hitting any balls in the court. For me, today was weird because usually the nerves go away, but it kind of stayed the entire match. Then I just felt like it was a fight of willpower.”
Osaka committed 13 unforced errors in a disastrous first set that saw her win no games. And while she found her form in the second set, Schmiedlova had a chance to serve for the match twice, both at 5-4 and at 6-5.
But Osaka mustered up two breaks of serve in both of those games to force a second-set tiebreaker, which she would win.
With momentum on her side, Osaka played a dominant third set as she hit 11 winners and just four unforced errors.
She meets Victoria Azarenka in the second round. The Belarusian beat former French champion Jelena Ostapenko 6-4, 7-6(4) in her match on Tuesday.
The defending champion, Simona Halep, outlasted Ajla Tomljanovic 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 to book her spot in the second round, and into a matchup with Poland’s Magda Linette.
Earlier in the day, young American Amanda Anisimova powered her way through the first round with a 6-3, 6-1 win over French wild card Harmony Yan. Anisimova takes on 11th seed Aryna Sabalenka next in an intriguing second round matchup. Sabalenka defeated Dominika Cibulkova 7-5, 6-1.
On the men’s side, American Taylor Fritz notched a straight-sets win over Bernard Tomic, while eighth-seed Juan Martin del Potro and ninth-seed Fabio Fognini both also advanced.