“ Work in progress ” Osaka in the second round of Roland-Garros

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Osaka opened the first day of action at Roland Garros with a 6-4, 7-6 (7/4) victory over Romania’s world number 63 Patricia Maria Tig.

Japanese Naomi Osaka returns the ball to Romanian Patricia Maria Tig in their first round of women’s singles tennis on day one of the 2021 Roland Garros tennis tournament in Paris on May 30, 2021. Photo: Martin Bureau / AFP.

PARIS – World number two Naomi Osaka let her racquet do the talking at Roland Garros on Sunday, upholding her media boycott but briefly telling a television reporter that her clay court game is “a work in progress.”

Osaka opened the first day of action at Roland Garros with a 6-4, 7-6 (7/4) victory over Romania’s world number 63 Patricia Maria Tig.

The 23-year-old Japanese star, a four-time Grand Slam title winner, refused to fulfill his media obligations at the tournament, saying the press conferences were damaging to his mental health.

She thinks traditional post-game inquiries are akin to “kicking people when they’re down.”

The president of the French Tennis Federation, Gilles Moretton, however, called Osaka’s decision a “phenomenal mistake”.

On Sunday, Osaka only agreed to participate in a cursory television interview on the pitch, but still faces a fine of up to $ 20,000 for skipping mandatory press conferences.

“For me, playing on clay is a work in progress,” said the defending US Open and Australian Open champion on a sunny court from Philippe Chatrier.

“I hope the more I play, the better I will become. It’s a beautiful pitch. I’ve only played two games here, one in front of the rooftop and one now so I hope I will continue.”

And that was it.

Osaka, who never made it past the third round in Paris, sent back 39 winners but committed 35 unforced errors against Tig to organize a duel in the second round against another Romanian player, Ana Bogdan.

Three-time major winner Angelique Kerber, Germany’s 26th seed, fell at the first hurdle, losing to Ukrainian qualifier Anhelina Kalinina 6-2, 6-4.

The victory was a 14th consecutive victory for world number 139 Kalinina in all tournaments.

As Osaka refuses to speak, Greek men’s world number five Stefanos Tsitsipas had a lot to offer during his pre-tournament press conference, even citing Britain’s WWII leader at one point, Winston Churchill.

Tsitsipas, who will face local player Jeremy Chardy on Sunday, is widely seen as a potential champion if 13-time winner Rafael Nadal or world number one Novak Djokovic falters.

The 22-year-old took Djokovic to five sets in the 2020 semi-finals.

He has already won the Monte Carlo Masters and Lyon titles on clay this season.

CROWD LIMITS

He also had a match point to defeat Nadal in the Barcelona final before the Spaniard recovered.

Tsitsipas has the advantage of being in the opposite half of the draw against Nadal, Djokovic and Roger Federer and their 58 slams combined.

Also Sunday, Dominic Thiem, fourth seed, finalist in 2018 and 2019 ahead of Nadal.

Thiem faces Spanish veteran Pablo Andujar who beat Federer on clay in Geneva last week.

US Open champion Thiem has won all three of his meetings with Andujar, 35, and has never fallen in the first round in Paris in seven visits.

The sixth seed, Alexander Zverev, starts against his German compatriot Oscar Otte, qualified and ranked 152nd in the world.

Fresh off her first career clay title in Madrid, Belarusian third seed Aryna Sabalenka faces Croatian qualifier Ana Konjuh.

Konjuh, 144th, was a finalist in Belgrade last week when she was forced to retire due to injury against Spain’s Paula Badosa.

The former top 20 player Konjuh has had four surgeries on her right elbow in recent years, even falling from the top 1000 in 2019.

Badosa was among the early winners on Sunday, beating Lauren Davis of the United States, 6-2, 7-6 (7/3).

In a battle of former Grand Slam title winners, 15th seed Victoria Azarenka faces Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova, the 2009 champion in Paris.

This year’s French Open is played just seven months after the delayed 2020 tournament.

In total, just over 5,000 spectators per day will be admitted to the Roland Garros site until June 8.

This figure will then rise to more than 13,000 per day thanks to the government’s decision to increase the number of fans to a limit of 65% of capacity.

The main setback for the organizers, however, is that nine of their 10 scheduled evening sessions – an innovation for 2021 – will take place behind closed doors.

A 9 p.m. government curfew will not be lifted until June 9.

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