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Osaka 'refreshed and happy again'

China Daily | Updated: 2021-07-26 09:22
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Naomi Osaka of Japan in action during her first round match against Zheng Saisai of China in Tokyo on July 25, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

Naomi Osaka is back playing, still winning, and also talking to the media again.

The Japanese superstar who lit the Olympic cauldron defeated 52nd-ranked Zheng Saisai of China 6-1, 6-4 on Sunday in her first match in nearly two months.

Osaka hadn't played since she withdrew from the French Open in May to take a mental health break, revealing that she has dealt with depression. She then sat out Wimbledon.

Osaka stopped to talk with reporters afterward, having said in Paris that she experiences "huge waves of anxiety" before meeting with the media and that she would be skipping news conferences.

"More than anything else I'm just focused on playing tennis," Osaka said. "The Olympics has been a dream of mine since I was a kid so I feel like the break that I took was very needed. I feel definitely a little bit refreshed and I'm happy again."

She added that she was "happy "that reporters were asking her questions, then added: "I feel a little bit out of my body right now.

"There's nothing wrong with my body, I just felt really nervous," Osaka said. "I haven't played since France so there were definitely some things that I did a bit wrong but I think I can improve in the matches that I continue playing."

Wearing a bright red dress and a red visor and with her hair styled in red-and-white braids to match the colors of the Japanese flag stitched onto the left side of her chest, the second-ranked Osaka served six aces in all and produced 25 winners to Zheng's 10.

When it was over, Osaka bowed to Zheng and waved her racket to the mostly empty stadium, which contained about 100 people-nearly all of them support staff or media.

Osaka's match was originally scheduled to open the tournament on Saturday but then was pushed back a day before her starring role in Friday's opening ceremony.

"I feel very, very proud," Osaka said, revealing that Olympic organizers asked her to handle the cauldron honors back in March.

"When I lit the flame I was super honored," she added. "I think that's a position that you dream about and not anyone can do it.

"So for me when they asked me if I wanted to I was very surprised but very honored and I'm just very happy to be here and very happy to play-especially in Tokyo."

Wang wins

Chinese No 1 Wang Qiang got off to a solid start with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Veronica Cepede Royg of Paraguay. Wang, ranked 49th in the world, will next face two-time Grand Slam champion Garbine Muguruza of Spain.

For other top players, it wasn't so straightforward.

Top-ranked Ash Barty was upset by 48th-ranked Spanish opponent Sara Sorribes Tormo 6-4, 6-3 and two-time defending gold medalist Andy Murray withdrew from singles because of a right quad strain.


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