MELBOURNE, Australia — Defending champion Naomi Osaka has won the opening match in Rod Laver Arena, reeling off the last four games after dropping serve for the only time to beat Marie Bouzkova 6-2, 6-4.
Osaka is aiming to be only the ninth woman to successfully defend the Australian Open title. She wasn't able to do that at the US Open last year, when she lost in the fourth round a year after winning her first major title in New York, but says she learned some valuable lessons there.
“Definitely, it was really tough for me trying to control my nerves. I’m really glad I was able to finish it in two," Osaka said.
She was given the first match on the main court at Melbourne Park on a day when former champions Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer will also feature on Rod Laver.
“Thanks everyone. You probably didn’t come for me, but thanks for filling up the stadium,” she said.
Osaka hit 29 winners and 28 unforced errors, pushing No. 59-ranked Bouzkova around with some heavy ground strokes.
Other seeded players advancing included No. 13 Petra Martic and No. 14 Sofia Kenin.
Martic had a 6-3, 6-0 win over Christina McHale and Kenin beat Italian qualifier Martina Trevisan 6-2, 6-4.