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By Richard Pagliaro | Sunday, May 30, 2021


Naomi Osaka won 31 of 35 first-serve points topping Patricia Maria Tig 6-4, 7-6 for her 15th consecutive major victory.

Photo credit: Julian Finney/Getty

Naomi Osaka took a vow of silence before this Roland Garros, but her racquet made plenty of noise.

Osaka rode a screaming serve and booming baseline drives past Patricia Maria Tig 6-4, 7-6(4) into the Roland Garros second round.

Watch: Nadal and Swiatek Trade Groundies

Dictating play from the center of the court, Osaka won 31 of 35 first-serve points and dropped serve just once scoring her 15th consecutive major victory.

Combating the Romanian's slice backhand and skill playing off-pace shots into the corners, Osaka showed proactive footwork and powerful strikes. The reigning US Open and Australian Open champion cranked 35 winners and showed a commitment to finishing forward: Osaka won 13 of 16 trips to net raising her 2021 record to 14-3.

Questions swirled around Osaka, who announced she is opting out of all mandatory press conferences throughout this French Open due to mental health concerns prompting criticism from French Tennis Federation Gilles Moretton who called her stance "a mistake."

Supporters say Osaka is doing the right thing prioritizing her mental health above protocol. Skeptics say it's a convenient way to avoid answering questions about clay-court struggles—Osaka has yet to surpass the third round in four prior Roland Garros appearances—but Osaka asserts it's a bit more personal than that: "I'm just not going to subject myself to people who doubt me."

The 23-year-old Osaka let her racquet do the talking for much of this one hour, 47-minute win and took time to chat with on-court interviewer Fabrice Santoro afterward.

"It's a work in progress. Hopefully the more I play the better I play," Osaka told Santoro afterward. "I'm really glad that I won.

"It's a beautiful court. I've only played two matches here [on Chatrier], one before the roof and one now, so hopefully I'll keep it going."

Between the lines comes both more clarity and more questions and a major one is: Can Osaka translate her explosive baseline game to the slower red clay courts where she's yet to reach a final and can sometimes struggle with her footing coming out of the corners.

Given the fact she carried one clay-court win this season into Paris and took a controversial silent stand, Osaka should be satisfied with her performance today against an opponent who edged Genie Bouchard in the Istanbul final last September to win her maiden WTA title on red clay.

Playing before a sparse morning crowd on Court Philippe Chatrier, Osaka dodged a break point in the opening game then delivered her familiar brand of declarative baseline aggression.

Working with coach Wim Fissette on stepping into the court and cutting off angles, Osaka ripped a forehand winner—her 10th in the first two games—breaking in the second game before throwing down a smash for 3-0. Commanding on serve at the outset, Osaka powered through successive love holds for 5-2.

Facing a Top 10 player for the first time, Tig hung tough saving three set points scraping through a tight hold in the eighth game.

When Osaka over-hit a short forehand sitter beyond the baseline, Tig had her first break and was back in the set at 4-5. Shrugging off that lapse, Osaka answered with a flurry of forehands, including a crackling 82 mph strike for three more set points.

The Australian Open champion needed only one banging a backhand winner to close the set in 47 minutes.

Osaka crushed 24 winners in the 10 game opening set, including firing 17 forehand winners from all angles.

Tennis Express

The sharp edge on Osaka's game dulled a bit in the second set as more errors began to creep in, while Tig stabilized her service games.

The world No. 2 slid her first ace out wide holding for 5-4. Tig stamped her third straight hold at 15 to level after 10 games.

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The inside-out forehand is an Osaka weapon and she wielded it jumping all over a slice backhand for deuce. A deep Osaka return drew an error for match point in the 12th game. Tig flashed a forehand winner down the line to save it.

The Romanian fended off a match point in the 12th game. Tig caught the baseline with a drive and threw down a smash for game point. Digging out a backhand lob winner, Tig held with a clenched fist and a shout to force the second-set tie breaker.

Banging a backhand down the line and drawing an error, Osaka stretched her lead to 5-2 in the tie breaker. Stinging the baseline with a drive gave Osaka a match point about 14 minutes after her first match point. Crunching a forehand return down the line, Osaka hammered her two-hander down the opposite sideline to close in one hour, 47 minutes.

Shinobu Asagoe is the last Japanese woman to reach the Roland Garros round of 16 back in 2004. Osaka will play for a third-round spot against another Romanian, Ana Bogdan, next. Earlier, Bogdan beat Italian lucky loser Elisabetta Cocciaretto 6-1, 6-3. 


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