The Journal Gazette
 
 
Thursday, January 20, 2022 1:00 am

Australian Open

Osaka makes quick work of 2nd-round foe

JOHN PYE | Associated Press

MELBOURNE, Australia – For the first set, Naomi Osaka's rediscovered love of the game meant it was anything but fun for Madison Brengle in the second round of the Australian Open.

The defending champion conceded only four points in the first four games Wednesday and rifled forehand winners seemingly at will as she breezed to 6-0 in a mere 20 minutes.

The second set started with Brengle celebrating a service hold like she'd finished a long-distance race, but gradually the No. 54-ranked American's keep-the-ball-in-play strategy ground down Osaka to a stage where she finally converted a break-point opportunity – after missing her first nine chances.

That triggered a change in the former No. 1-ranked Osaka, who responded by breaking back immediately and reeling off the last nine points to complete a 6-0, 6-4 victory. She finished with 37 winners and 32 unforced errors.

Osaka will next face Amanda Anisimova, a 20-year-old American who beat Olympic gold medalist Belinda Bencic 6-2, 7-5. The winner of that is likely to face top-ranked Ash Barty in the fourth round.

“The goal for me is just to have fun ... (and) I think we're accomplishing that,” Osaka said.

Barty was front and center when the tournament celebrated its inaugural First Nations Day, albeit only for 52 minutes as she beat 142nd-ranked qualifier Lucia Bronzetti 6-1, 6-1.

“It was nice for me to be a part of it in a way that I feel most comfortable,” Barty, who has Indigenous heritage, said of the day dedicated to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of Australia. “Out on the tennis court is how I express myself as an athlete, it's how I'm able to express myself as a person as well.”

Rafael Nadal didn't get it all his own way in the subsequent match on Rod Laver Arena, needing five match points before beating 126th-ranked German qualifier Yannick Hanfmann 6-2, 6-3, 6-4.

The sixth-seeded Nadal, aiming for a men's record 21st Grand Slam singles title, had two match points on Hanfmann's serve and two more on his own before finally clinching a spot in the third round when his rival sent a forehand long.

“I said here before the tournament started, things are not going to be perfect, but every day that I'm going to spend on court, the chances to play better are higher,” he said. “After two matches is the moment to make a step forward. I'm excited about it.”

In two marathon five-setters, No. 14 Denis Shapovalov held off Kwon Soon-woo 7-6 (6), 6-7 (3), 6-7 (6), 7-5, 6-2 in 4 hours, 25 minutes on Margaret Court Arena, and Sebastian Korda edged Corentin Moutet 3-6, 6-4, 6-7 (2), 7-5, 7-6 (6) in 4:47.

In the women's draw, French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova set up a third-round match against No. 26 Jelena Ostapenko, advancing along with No. 5 Maria Sakkari, No. 8 Paula Badosa and No. 15 Elina Svitolina, who next plays two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka.


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