Naomi Osaka overcame nerves to survive a tense 3-set match against 84th ranked Anna Blinkova as she starts the defense of her US Open championship.
Osaka, 21, defeated Serena Williams last year to win the title, but opened this year’s tournament struggling with Blinkova en route to a 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-2 victory.
“I felt nervous; for me, it’s definitely a new feeling,” Osaka said (h/t ESPN).
“It was consistent throughout the entire match, which was very strange for me. … It never really went away.”
“You kind of want to do well after you did well last year,” Osaka said, when asked why she felt so many jitters while trailing 3-0 and 4-1 at the outset. “I just definitely didn’t want to lose in the first round.”
“I really didn’t expect myself to play amazing today.”
Only two US Open women’s champions have lost in the first round the following year during the professional era, and Osaka avoided becoming the third by inching out the first round victory.
“It helps me a lot, because I learn from the tougher matches,” Osaka said. “It helps me be prepared and try to learn and adjust my game plan.”