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Tokyo Tennis • Women’s Olympic Wrap: Number One Barty Out, Japan’s Naomi Osaka Returns to Court With Win

By Thomas Cluck

As the weather heated up in Tokyo at these 2020 Olympic Games in 2021, the tennis action kept sizzling at the Ariake Coliseum with Japan’s home hope and Olympic cauldron-lighter Naomi Osaka beginning her Gold Medal campaign.

The biggest story of the day though came first on Centre Court as newly-minted Wimbledon champion and world number one Ashleigh Barty of Australia crashed out first round to a tricky Spanish opponent Sara Sorribes Tormo in straight sets. Barty lost 6-4, 6-3 and looked flat and listless throughout, understandably mentally fatigued following her exploits at the All England Club. With her footwork off and game lacking, Barty did the unthinkable for anyone knowing her game, hitting a staggering 55 unforced errors, sealing her opening round exit in Tokyo.

Following the upset of the top seed, the number two seed Osaka made her much-discussed return to the court following her controversial French Open exit and ensuing Wimbledon withdrawal, showing no signs of rust but of rejuvenation in an impressive 6-1, 6-4 win over China’s Saisai Zheng. The Japanese star was dominant with her powerful game, with her big serve and hard groundstrokes especially showing off on these fast hard courts of Tokyo.
The seeds continued to advance as Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka cruised past Poland’s Madga Linette 6-2, 6-1 while recent Wimbledon runner-up Karolina Pliskova kept up her hot form as well over a tricky veteran in Frenchwoman Alize Cornet, also moving on easily 6-1, 6-3. 

Two upsets saw another one of Team USA’s top women’s hopes Jennifer Brady join countrywoman Jessica Pegula out of the Olympics, falling to the unpredictable, big power of Italy’s Camila Giorgi in straight sets 6-3, 6-2. Another seed didn’t move on as Belgium’s Elise Mertens, the 12th seed, fell to another big hitter in Russia’s Ekaterina Alexandrova in a tight three setter 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.
Ukrainian Elina Svitolina survived her opener against pesky German Laura Siegemund 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 in the heat of the day while 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko wasn’t so lucky, falling to Russia’s Elena Vesnina, a multiple-time Grand Slam doubles champion and 2017 Indian Wells winner, 6-4, 6-7, 6-4. 
Rio 2016 Olympic Games bronze medalist Petra Kvitova of her beloved Czech Republic moved on to round two with a straightforward win over Italy’s Jasmine Paolini 6-4, 6-3, while Spaniard Garbine Muguruza, a two-time major champion, advanced past Veronika Kuderemtova of Russia, one of the form players of 2021 so far, 7-5, 7-5. The battle of the day went the way of Croatia’s Donna Vekic over Caroline Garcia of France, beating her opponent and the scorching afternoon heat and humidity 6-2, 6-7, 6-3. 

Some notable women’s doubles results saw a mixed bag for Team USA as Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Jessica Pegula move on over Poland’s Magda Linette and Alicija Rosolska 6-1, 6-3 while Nicole Melichar and Alison Riske fell to Italy’s Sara Errani and Jasmine Paolini 6-3, 5-7, 10-2. 

Day three will see Osaka take to the court once again first on against tricky Swiss player Viktorija Golubic, who’s been in fine form of late, before Sabalenka faces Vekic in one of the matches of the day. Pliskova takes on Spaniard Carla Suarez-Navarro, coming back after beating cancer, while another host Japanese hope Misaki Doi plays Belinda Bencic of Switzerland. Svitolina faces Australian Ajla Tomljanovic, recent Wimbledon quarterfinalist, while Poland’s Iga Swiatek gets the challenge of Spain’s Paula Badosa Gibert.