Osaka survives Azarenka scare
Serena Williams cruising into the third round of the French Open yesterday with a 6-3, 6-1 defeat of Japan’s Kurumi Nara.
Shortly after, the American tennis star opened up on a moment when she reached out to comfort a player 20 years her junior.
Amanda Anisimova, the 17-year-old American who joined Williams in the third round by upsetting No 11 seed Arnya Sabalenka, said after her match: “She’s a huge inspiration to me and I really look up to her.
“When I had a tough loss at Miami Open – it was a really long match and I was super upset in the locker room – Serena actually came up to me and we shared a little bit of a chat. That was really nice of her, and I’ll remember it forever.”
Alao yesterday, world number one Naomi Osaka survived another early scare to reach the third round of the French Open.
Japan’s Osaka, 21, overcame a poor start to beat two-time Grand Slam champion Victoria Azarenka 4-6 7-5 6-3.
Osaka is chasing her third successive Grand Slam title having won the 2018 US Open and the Australian Open earlier this year.
She will play the Czech Republic’s Katerina Siniakova in the next round after she beat Greece’s Maria Sakkari.
“I was lucky enough to play her (Azarenka) twice before this and I knew she was playing really well,” said Osaka.
“It was unfortunate that this was a second-round match but I am happy I won.”
Asked if she is as calm on the inside as she looks on court, she added: “No. I choked on this side (at 5-1) and almost choked on the other side (at 5-3). I am very emotional.”
Osaka struggled in the early stages against world number 43 Azarenka, of Belarus, just as she did in the first round against Anna Karolina Schmiedlova when she failed to register a game.
She hit 15 unforced errors in the opening set on Lenglen court as Azarenka, 29, dominated to go 5-1 up.
From there, Osaka – who reached the third round at Roland Garros 12 months ago – started to find her rhythm, breaking Azarenka’s serve to move within one game of her opponent but Azarenka coolly served out the first set.
The second set proved a much closer affair, taking until the fifth game for a serve to be broken as Azarenka went 3-2 up. That came after Osaka had scuppered three break points in the fourth game.
Azarenka went on to go 4-2 up but Osaka was able to claw the set back, taking it 7-5 on her fourth set point.
Former world number one Azarenka took an 11-minute break before the deciding set commenced, but it proved little help as Osaka raced into a 5-1 lead, her performance a far cry from that of the first set.
Azarenka mounted her own comeback, winning the next two games, but Osaka was able to capitalise on her second match point to seal victory.
In the men’s category, World number one Novak Djokovic claimed a routine win over ‘lucky loser’ Henri Laaksonen to move into the third round of the French Open at Roland Garros.
Djokovic who won the 2016 competition, secured a 6-1 6-4 6-3 victory on Court Suzanne Lenglen in Paris.
He is aiming for his second Grand Slam title of 2019 after winning the Australian Open in January.
All of the top 10 seeded players in the men’s singles are into the third round after wins for six of them on Thursday.