World No. 2 Naomi Osaka began her Roland Garros 2021 campaign in the best possible fashion, beating Patricia Maria Tig 6-4, 7-6 in just under two hours.
Osaka was the talk of the town before the first ball was struck in Paris, having announced on Wednesday that she wouldn’t do any press conferences at the tournament. But the Japanese looked undeterred by the mixed reactions to her decision, as she overcame the tenacious efforts of Patricia Maria Tig to advance.
On that note, here are three talking points from Naomi Osaka’s straight-sets win:
#1 Naomi Osaka’s mental fortitude comes to the fore
It was expected that Naomi Osaka – winner of four Grand Slam singles titles and the highest-paid female athlete in the world – would be under the microscope after her big announcement prior to the tournament. Moreover, the 23-year-old is not known for her prowess on clay, and she was taking on a proven claycourt specialist in the form of Patricia Maria Tig.
Tig has two claycourt titles to her name, and many believed she would pose a threat to a nervous Osaka. However, the Japanese shook off all the doubts and gave a good account of herself.
She handled the occasion and the opponent with verve and composure. Perhaps one of the least-talked attributes of Osaka’s persona is her mental toughness, which was on full show on Sunday.
#2 Osaka’s serve can be a lethal weapon even on clay
Naomi Osaka’s numbers in the match were quite impressive. The scoreline, in fact, is a little closer than the match was; Osaka rarely looked in danger on her serve.
She won an impressive 89% of her first-serve points, and faced just two break points in the whole match. Her clutch serving dug her out of a hole in the opening game of the match (where she saved one of those break points), and that gave her the platform to race into a commanding 3-0 lead.
#3 Osaka’s unforced error count was higher than she would’ve liked
Naomi Osaka’s projected third-round opponent is the in-form Spaniard Paula Badosa. And it is pertinent to note here that Osaka hasn’t gone past past the third-round at Roland Garros in three previous attempts.
The Japanese looked very uncomfortable on the surface in the leadup to Roland Garros too. She was beaten in the second round at the two WTA 1000 events in Madrid and Rome, winning just one match in the process.
But while Osaka managed to fend off a determined challenge from Tig on Sunday, her winners to unforced error ratio would need significant improvement against higher-level competition. Osaka fired 39 winners but coughed up as many as 35 unforced errors in her first-round match.
If the World No. 2 were to meet Badosa in the third round, she simply cannot afford to be as profligate as that.
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