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Osaka wins in U.S. Open debut; Olympic champ Puig falls

Kyodo, AP

Naomi Osaka won her U.S. Open debut on Monday, when the 18-year-old defeated 28th seed Coco Vandeweghe of the United States in the first round.

While Osaka was able to come back from a set down to complete a 6-7 (4-7), 6-3, 6-4 victory, 30th seed Misaki Doi lost in straight sets, 6-4, 6-1, to Germany’s Carina Witthoeft.

In the men’s draw, Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka fell 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 to South African 23rd seed Kevin Anderson.

Men’s top seed and defending champion Novak Djokovic overcame a sore right arm to emerge with a 6-3, 5-7, 6-2, 6-1 victory over Jerzy Janowicz of Poland, there were plenty of signs of trouble, starting with a visit from a trainer who massaged Djokovic’s bothersome arm after only five games.

Asked about his health during an on-court interview, Djokovic deflected the question, saying, “I don’t think it’s necessary to talk about this now. I’m through. I’m taking it day by day.”

When the subject arose at his news conference, Djokovic again avoided addressing the topic, saying the trainer’s visit “was just prevention; it’s all good.”

Also Monday, Rafael Nadal won 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 against Denis Istomin in his first Grand Slam match in three months, the result of an injured wrist.

With the mercury touching 35 C, Osaka, who was born in Osaka and raised in the United States, fought back after dropping the first set tiebreak and settled down, while Vandeweghe threw her chances away with unforced errors.

“I had moments in the tiebreaker and hit some very bad shots,” Osaka told reporters. “(After the first set) I looked relaxed and I started singing Beyonce in my head.”

Although the 180-cm Osaka tends to overpower opponents with her serve, Vandeweghe was able to at least stay in the match for a while with her service game.

“I didn’t want to overpower her,” Osaka said. “Because what if she defends and then she hits more rallies? I don’t want that. I thought that it was basically a serve competition. She had a really good serve. Either that or I had a bad service return.”

Osaka brought it all out in the third set, however, when at three games apiece, she was losing her service game 40-0.

“I pictured Serena (Williams) serving,” said Osaka.

Women’s Rio Olympic gold medalist Monica Puig, seeded 32nd, was upset by 61st-ranked Zheng Saisai of China, 6-4, 6-2.

“These are new waters for me, new territory,” Puig said. “I’m going to have to start getting used to it.”

She upset Angelique Kerber, Garbine Muguruza and a third major champ, Petra Kvitova, on her stunning run to gold in Rio. Less than a week ago, Puig was in Puerto Rico, riding in a parade with other Olympians through streets packed with admirers — her victory a joyous respite from the island’s economic crisis.

Then it was back to the grind of tennis. When she took the court Monday, with plenty of Puerto Rican fans cheering her on, she knew she wouldn’t be viewed as the player who has never made it past the fourth round at a major or the second round at the U.S. Open.

“A lot of pressure, a lot of expectation,” Puig said.

“Once it starts becoming a little bit more of a habit,” she added, “then I’ll feel comfortable.”