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Osaka cruises into second round at Australian Open

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    Agence France-Presse

Melbourne, Australia   /   Mon, February 8, 2021   /   09:14 am
 Osaka cruises into second round at Australian Open Japan's Naomi Osaka during the match against China's Saisai Zheng at the Australian Open in Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia, on January 22, 2020. (REUTERS/Hannah Mckay)

World number three Naomi Osaka started her Australian Open in style Monday with an easy straight-sets victory over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova as the delayed Grand Slam finally got under way.  

The Japanese star faced a potentially tricky first-round contest against the world number 39, but made light work of the Russian 6-1, 6-2 in 68 minutes.

"I was really nervous coming into this match. I just wanted to play well," Osaka, who hit 18 winners, told a smattering of spectators on Rod Laver Arena. 

The 23-year-old, seeded three in Melbourne Park, looked physically strong having withdrawn from the warm-up Gippsland Trophy in the semi-finals, blaming a long-standing shoulder problem. 

Osaka, whose flashy attire included leggings and pink shoes, skirt and wristbands, won the first four games and continued the momentum as she relentlessly worked Pavlyuchenkova around the court with powerful groundstrokes. 

The three-time Grand Slam winner stretched her streak to 15 matches unbeaten -- including the US Open final -- dating back 12 months.   

Osaka, who won the 2019 Australian Open, plays former top 10 player Caroline Garcia of France or Slovenia's Polona Hercog in the second round.