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Osaka wins first match after Saville retires in Tokyo

TOKYO (AP) – Naomi Osaka, playing her first match since the US Open, advanced to the second round of the Toray Pan Pacific Open when Australia’s Daria Saville retired with a knee injury in the second game of their evening encounter yesterday.

The unseeded Osaka is the defending champion having won in her birthplace Osaka in 2019 before COVID-19 shut down the tournament for two years.

“I feel really bad right now because of how it ended,” the Japanese player told fans at Ariake Coliseum.

“I have been injured for most of the year so I just want people to clap for her because she’s a really amazing player.”

Osaka, who was 1-0 up when Saville withdrew, had lost the first match in her previous three tournaments, including the US Open last month, although she reached the final of the Miami Open in April.

Naomi Osaka hits a return. PHOTO: AFP

In other games, sixth-seeded Karolina Pliskova cruised past hard-hitting Bulgarian Isabella Shinikova 6-2, 6-1, Mexican qualifier Fernanda Contreras Gomez overcame 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin 7-6 (9-7), 6-4, fifth-seeded Brazilian Beatriz Haddad Maia defeated Japan’s Yuki Naito 6-4, 6-2, and China’s Zhang Shuai beat Japanese wild card Mai Hontama 6-0, 6-3.

Former world number one Pliskova, the champion in Tokyo four years ago, had little trouble against 214th-ranked Shinikova.

The Czech player dominated her Bulgarian opponent, who had to qualify to make it into the main draw, and said she was back on form after being injured at the start of the year.

“I missed the beginning of the season because I broke my arm, so I had a slower start to the season, but I feel like in the summer in America I was playing really good matches,” Pliskova said.

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