Australian Open: Osaka and Serena cruise into second round

andrew hendrie:

Seeded to collide in the quarter-finals, both Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams registered dominant straight set victories to advance into the second round of the Australian Open on Monday.

Osaka launched her title defence in style, coming through the rising Marie Bouzkova by a 6-2 6-4 scoreline in the first match of the tournament on Rod Laver Arena.

Playing her first match in Melbourne since lifting the title in memorable style 12 months ago, Osaka won five straight games in the opening set and four consecutive games in the second to stamp her ticket into the second round.

“It was really tough for me, trying to control my nerves,” she said during her on-court interview. “I was really glad to finish it in two.”

Osaka, who hit 29 winners to 28 unforced errors, said in her press conference that despite already claiming two Grand Slam titles, she’s still learning how to navigate through a fortnight of tennis.

“I understand that I don’t have to play perfect in the first round. It’s more about building your level up and getting comfortable with yourself,” she said.

“That’s one of the biggest things I have learned. Also, just understanding that every match you play is probably going to be very difficult and being okay with that.”

Osaka next takes on China’s Zheng Saisai, who made headlines when she won her maiden WTA title in San Jose last year. Zheng overcame Russian qualifier Anna Kalinskaya in straight sets in her opening round.

Serena Williams shakes hands with Anastasia Potapova (AAP Image/Dave Hunt) 

Meanwhile, Serena was ruthless and out to make a statement in her first round duel with 18-year-old Anastasia Potapova, beginning her quest for a 24th major title in style as she powered her way to a 6-0 6-3 victory.

Serena needed just 19 minutes to drop a ‘bagel’ on Potapova in the opening set, and while the Russian was able to make it more competitive in the second – even leading by a break early – Serena was never in any real danger as she finished strongly and closed out the match with ease.

It was a dominant all-round display from Serena, with the legendary American firing 24 winners and claiming over 75 per cent of points on Potapova’s serve. The 38-year-old improves to 19-0 in Australian Open first round matches and achieved another personal milestone, winning her 350th Grand Slam match.

Elsewhere, Caroline Wozniacki isn’t ready to say farewell just yet, with the Dane – who will retire after the Australian Open – cruising to a 6-1 6-3 win over American Kristie Ahn.

Wozniacki, the 2018 Australian Open champion, was never troubled as she surged to victory in just 85 minutes.

The former World No. 1 will take on either rising star Dayana Yastremska or qualifier Kaja Juvan in the second round.