Naomi Osaka wins debut Olympic tennis match after skipping French Open, Wimbledon


Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka told reporters she felt a “little bit out of my body” after winning her Olympic debut match in Tokyo on Sunday – her first victory in more than two months. 

The athlete, 23, withdrew from the French Open in May to take a mental health break, revealing that she has dealt with depression. She then sat out from Wimbledon.

After leaving the French Open, Osaka said she would be avoiding news conferences because they give her severe anxiety.

But the time away didn’t seem to leave the superstar rusty. She defeated 52nd-ranked Zheng Saisai of China 6-1, 6-4 in the Sunday match. 

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“More than anything else I’m just focused on playing tennis,” the No. 2-ranked Osaka told reporters after the match. “The Olympics has been a dream of mine since I was a kid so I feel like the break that I took was very needed. I feel definitely a little bit refreshed and I’m happy again.”

Naomi Osaka, of Japan, serves to China's Zheng Saisai during the tennis competition at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Sunday, July 25, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (Associated Press)

Naomi Osaka, of Japan, serves to China’s Zheng Saisai during the tennis competition at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Sunday, July 25, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (Associated Press)

She was sharp from the start, serving an ace down the T on the opening point of the match and racing out to a 5-0 lead. She served six aces in all and produced 25 winners to Zheng’s 10.

She admitted to reporters she “did a bit wrong but I think I can improve in the matches that I continue playing.”

She added that she felt a “little bit out of my body right now” because she was “really nervous” because she hadn’t played since May. 

The tennis player also had the honor of lighting the Olympic cauldron in her home country on Friday during the Opening ceremony. 

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“When I lit the flame I was super honored,” she added. “I think that’s a position that you dream about and not anyone can do it so for me when they asked me if I wanted to I was very surprised but very honored and I’m just very happy to be here and very happy to play — especially in Tokyo.”

Osaka will next face 50th-ranked Viktorija Golubic of Switzerland.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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