Naomi Osaka begins the defence of her US Open title on Tuesday, taking on Anna Blinkova for a spot in the second round. Osaka is currently the World No.1 after taking the spot back from Ashleigh Barty but will have to defend her title to remain there.
It was here that Osaka finally announced herself as a true contender for slams to come with her dominant run through the draw, that was capped off with a win over Serena Williams in the final. She hasn’t hit those heights too often this year, making only the quarter finals in Toronto and Cincy. She retired in the latter while Serena gained some revenge with a straight sets win in the former.
Despite her relative issues the past few months, Osaka isn’t feeling too much pressure coming into New York. “I think going to Indian Wells and kind of learning how defending champion pressure feels, I think it definitely helped me out going into this tournament,” Osaka explained. “Because I just feel more loose and comfortable here. I’m not sure if it’s because the last couple of months have been kind of turbulent, but definitely I feel really comfortable and I know that, despite everything, I play well here every year. So I’m not too worried about that.”
Blinkova comes into the tournament a career high No. 84 in the rankings thanks to her quarter final in the recent Bronx tournament. She did lose in qualifying to eventual champion Magda Linette but made full use of her lucky loser placing in the draw. The Russian doesn’t have a great deal of main draw action to her name but picked up an impressive win back at Roland Garros, beating Caroline Garcia on her way to the third round.
Osaka will be keen to get off to a quick start in defending her title and will hope she has recovered from the injury that saw her pull out of Cincinnati. “It’s getting better,” she said of the injury. “Like, I have been playing more, like, longer every day. It’s feeling better. Luckily I’m a fast healer, so I think it’s looking good.”
Prediction – Naomi Osaka in straight sets