Sports

Osaka fends off Zheng in San Jose opener; Rogers ousts Andreescu

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Naomi Osaka made a winning return to the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic, defeating No.51 Zheng Qinwen 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 in the first round. Osaka will face Coco Gauff in the second round.

Three takeaways: Gauff sizzles in opener, to face Osaka in San Jose

Playing her first tournament since a first-round loss at Roland Garros, Osaka looked back at home on San Jose’s quick hard courts. In the face of Zheng’s powerful and deep groundstrokes, the match was a clinic in first-strike tennis, as the two exchanged power for power from the baseline. One break decided each of the first two sets before Osaka dialed in to run away with the final set.

Osaka’s win snapped a four-match losing streak at the Bay Area tournament. Her last win came in her Hologic WTA Tour debut when the tournament was held at Stanford University in 2014.

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Osaka’s serve was firing: Having picked up an achilles injury during the clay season, there were questions around Osaka’s fitness coming into the tournament. Osaka assured reporters that she felt fit and healthy and she proved it with her strong, physical performance. Behind clutch serving, Osaka saved all three break points she faced in the opening set. After breaking Zheng to 2-1, Osaka stayed perfect in her service games to take the opener after 45 minutes.

Turning point: The second set remained a tight affair due to Zheng’s continued commitment to her power game. The 19-year-old finally broke through the Osaka serve to lead 5-3. On break point, Zheng powered through a return that skid off the baseline, but Osaka opted to stop play and challenge the line call. The ball was shown in and Zheng coolly closed out the set with a love hold to force a decider.

Osaka quickly put the second set behind her and cleaned up her game. Having hit 16 unforced errors in the first two sets, Osaka struck just six in the final frame. In contrast, Zheng hit just six unforced errors to win the second set, but her consistency failed her in the third, hitting 13 unforced errors.

“I have a lot of confidence in myself in third sets,” Osaka said. “I’m not sure if it’s subconscious or not but I do remember thinking it’s going to be hard for her to break me. Because I learned a lot from challenging that last ball in that game that I did get broken.

“I think that’s one thing that I have above her is that I have a lot of experience. I’ve definitely played more matches than her, so it’s going to be interesting to watch her grow.”

Stat of the game: Osaka finished with 26 winners to 23 unforced errors, with 11 aces. Zheng hit 23 winners to 30 unforced errors and went 1 for 8 on her break point chances.

Day 2 Highlights: Rogers d. Andreescu | Kudermetova d. Giorgi

Earlier in the day, No.45 Shelby Rogers defeated Bianca Andreescu, 6-4, 6-2 to advance to the second round. The American will face top seed Maria Sakkari next.

Rogers played a clean and focused match to power past Andreescu, who struggled with a lower back issue.

In the longest match of the day, No.19 Veronika Kudermetova withstood the powerful barrage from Italy’s Camila Giorrgi to win 7-6(2), 4-6, 7-5 in 2 hours and 54 minutes.

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