Sports

May 26, 2024

‘Excited’ Osaka would be ‘honoured’ to face Swiatek at French Open

‘Excited’ Osaka would be ‘honoured’ to face Swiatek at French Open

Naomi Osaka said she would be “honoured” to take on Iga Swiatek in the French Open second round after setting up a likely meeting with the world number one by battling past Italy’s Lucia Bronzetti on Sunday.

Osaka, who took a 16-month hiatus from tennis in September 2022 to start a family, was inconsistent in the first match on Court Philippe Chatrier of the tournament but secured a 6-1, 4-6, 7-5 opening-round win.

She will next face her fellow four-time Grand Slam champion Swiatek if the Pole sees off French qualifier Leolia Jeanjean on Monday.

The pair have only played each other twice before, with their last meeting a Swiatek victory in the 2022 Miami Open final.

“I’m honestly really excited,” said Osaka, who last made the second round at Roland Garros in 2021.

“I watched her a lot when I was pregnant. And honestly, I think it’s an honour to play her in the French Open, because she’s won more than once here. It’s a very big honour and challenge for me.”

Sunday was Osaka’s first match win at a Grand Slam event since the 2022 Australian Open, after losing in the French Open and US Open opening rounds that year and at Melbourne Park earlier this season.

The Japanese star has never reached the second week at Roland Garros, with all of her major titles coming on the hard courts of Melbourne and New York.

She also withdrew from the tournament in 2021 to protect her mental health after being fined for opting out of mandatory media commitments.

Swiatek has lifted the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen in three of the past four years and is bidding to become just the fourth woman to win four Roland Garros titles in the Open era — after Chris Evert, Steffi Graf and Justine Henin.

But Osaka, currently world number 134 as she steadily makes her way back up the rankings, refused to say she was expecting to lose against the 22-year-old Swiatek.

“I definitely do feel like it’s a test to see where I’m at, but I wouldn’t say I have low expectations of myself,” she said.

“I’m a person that kind of thinks that I can win every match that I play. That’s kind of gotten me this far.

“I would never play a match thinking lowly of myself.”

Osaka stumbles over winning line

Osaka was in fine form early against Bronzetti, wrapping up a dominant first set after just 26 minutes with an ace.

She did not face a break point until she dropped serve in the 10th game of the second set as the match went into a decider.

The former world number one quickly retook control, reeling off the first four games of the third set.

But Osaka missed a break point for a 5-0 lead and then fell apart as Bronzetti powered back, recovering the two breaks and moving 5-4 ahead.

The 26-year-old Osaka managed to gather herself, though, breaking again in the 11th game before taking her first match point when Bronzetti netted a forehand.

“I think I was paying too much attention to the score,” she said. “Because when I saw it was 6-1, I felt a lot of relaxation, and then obviously I didn’t play well after that.”

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