World No 2 Naomi Osaka let her racquet do the talking at the French Open on Sunday, maintaining her media boycott but briefly telling a TV interviewer that her clay court game is “a work in progress”.
Osaka opened the first day of action at Roland Garros with a 6-4, 7-6 (7/4) victory over Romanian world number 63 Patricia Maria Tig.
Three-time major winner Angelique Kerber, the German 26th seed, fell at the first hurdle, losing to Ukrainian qualifier Anhelina Kalinina 6-2, 6-4. The win was a 14th successive win for the world number 139 Kalinina across all tournaments.
The 23-year-old Japanese star, a four-time Grand Slam title winner, has refused to carry out media obligations at the tournament, claiming news conferences are detrimental to her mental health. She believes traditional post-match inquests are akin to “kicking people when they’re down”.
French Tennis Federation president Gilles Moretton, however, described Osaka’s move as a “phenomenal error”.
On Sunday, Osaka only agreed to take part in a cursory on-court television interview but still faces a fine of up to $20,000 for skipping mandatory news conferences.
“For me, playing on clay is a work in progress,” said the reigning US and Australian Open champion on a sun-kissed Court Philippe Chatrier.
“Hopefully the more I play, the better I will become. It’s a beautiful court. I’ve only played two matches here, one before the roof and one now so hopefully I’ll keep it going.”
And that was that.
Osaka, who has never got past the third round in Paris, fired 39 winners but committed 35 unforced errors against Tig to set up a second round duel against another Romanian player, Ana Bogdan.
In later matches, fresh from her first career clay court title in Madrid, Belarusian third seed Aryna Sabalenka faces Croatian qualifier Ana Konjuh.
The 144th-ranked Konjuh was runner-up in Belgrade last week when she was forced to retire with an injury against Spain’s Paula Badosa.
Former top 20 player Konjuh has undergone four surgeries on her right elbow in recent years, even falling out of the top 1,000 in 2019.
Badosa was amongst early winners Sunday, defeating Lauren Davis of the United States 6-2, 7-6 (7/3).
In a battle of former Grand Slam title winners, Victoria Azarenka, seeded 15, faces Russia’s Svetlana Kuznetsova, the 2009 champion in Paris.
Danielle Collins (USA) bt Wang Xiyu (CHN) 6-2, 4-6, 6-4
Anhelina Kalinina (UKR) bt Angelique Kerber (GER x26) 6-2, 6-4
Elena Rybakina (KAZ x21) bt Elsa Jacquemot (FRA) 6-4, 6-1
Nao Hibino (JPN) bt Nina Stojanovic (SRB) 7-6 (7/4), 6-2
Elena Vesnina (RUS) bt Olga Govortsova (BLR) 6-1, 6-0
Petra Kvitova (CZE x11) bt Greet Minnen (BEL) 6-7 (3/7), 7-6 (7/5), 6-1
Victoria Azarenka (BLR x15) bt Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) 6-4, 2-6, 6-3
Clara Tauson (DEN) bt Ekaterine Gorgodze (GEO) 6-4, 6-2
Leylah Fernandez (CAN) bt Anastasia Potapova (RUS) 6-2, 6-1
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS x31) bt Christina McHale (USA) 6-4, 6-0
Ajla Tomljanovic (AUS) bt Kateryna Kozlova (UKR) 6-2, 6-4
Aliaksandra Sasnovich (BLR) bt Diane Parry (FRA) 6-3, 3-6, 6-3
Aryna Sabalenka (BLR x3) bt Ana Konjuh (CRO) 6-4, 6-3
Katerina Siniakova (CZE) bt Marie Bouzkova (CZE) 6-0, 4-6, 6-2
Veronika Kudermetova (RUS x29) bt Amanda Anisimova (USA) 7-6 (7/5), 6-1
Paula Badosa (ESP x33) bt Lauren Davis (USA) 6-2, 7-6 (7/3)
Danka Kovinic (MNE) bt Clara Burel (FRA) 6-3, 7-6 (10/8)
Ana Bogdan (ROM) bt Elisabetta Cocciaretto (ITA) 6-1, 6-3
Naomi Osaka (JPN x2) bt Patricia Maria Tig (ROM) 6-4, 7-6 (7/4)
With AFP Inputs