Wild card Naomi Osaka defeated Japanese compatriot Misaki Doi in straight sets to claim local bragging rights and advance to the second round of the Pan Pacific Open on Monday.
The big-serving 18-year-old registered a 6-4, 6-4 win in 85 minutes under the closed roof at Ariake Colosseum to set up a meeting with either sixth-seeded Slovak Dominika Cibulkova or Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic in the next round.
“I think we both played really well but honestly I felt like all the pressure was on Misaki-chan so I didn’t have any pressure or anything and I wasn’t nervous at all,” Osaka said after winning her first career meeting with Doi, Japan’s highest-ranked player on the WTA Tour at No. 34.
“I thought it was really funny when I saw the draw but I also think it was long overdue because we have practiced (against each other) but never played an actual match. I was looking forward to playing her.”
Her near-200-kph serves drawing gasps from the crowd, Osaka, who reached the third round on her debut at the U.S. Open earlier this month, was solid on serve and broke in the fifth game of the first set to take a 3-2 lead after Doi dumped a return into the net.
She held serve in the next game and only a lucky shot from Doi that clipped the top of the net and dropped out of Osaka’s reach prevented her from breaking again to take a 5-2 lead.
Doi held on to win that game but Osaka, who moved to the United States at the age of three with her Haitian father and Japanese mother, made it 5-3 with her third ace of the match and enjoyed a piece of good fortune of her own with the aid of the net to close out the first set in 38 minutes.
A brutal forehand smash saw Osaka break to go 2-1 up in the second set and then 5-3 after Doi hit a return long. Osaka sealed victory when Doi returned into the net.
“I looked at the stats just now and about my serve I found it kind of interesting that even though my percentage was low I did win the majority of those parts so I think I just have to work on getting my first serve percentage up,” said Osaka, the world No. 66.
“I have played this tournament a lot, like the qualifying and the main draw and I had never actually won a round so to win a round this year is really special to me and it is going to be a big memory.”
Doi was upbeat despite checking out early.
“I thought I played well but Naomi’s serve and shots were really good and I never really had a good chance to break her. But overall I’d like to take positives from the match today.
“It was a pity that I lost and I should have done better on my first serve, but I think I was able to play my game. You are rated on your world rank and if you are higher ranked then you are supposed to win. I’d like to think that both of us can set a goal to be higher in the rankings.”
Puerto Rico’s Monica Puig secured her place in the second round, the world No. 33 cruising past American Varvara Lepchenko 6-0, 6-3 for her first win since capturing the gold medal at the Rio Olympics in August.
“A win is a win for me, just trying to finish up the season strong and play some good tennis,” said Puig, who was beaten 6-4, 6-2 by China’s Zheng Saisai in the first round of the U.S. Open.
“The whole ride from the Olympics is very crazy and very emotional so it feels good to again be settled down and playing some good tennis again.”
Elsewhere for Japan, Miyu Kato, Nao Hibino and Shuko Aoyama all failed to make the main draw after losing their final-round qualifying matches.
Kato lost 6-1, 6-4 to Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus, while Hibino was beaten 6-2, 6-4 by Poland’s Magda Linette. Aoyama lost 6-2, 6-0 to Thailand’s Varatchaya Wongteanchai in a match that was held up at the start of the second set due to rain at Ariake Tennis Forest Park and later moved to center court.
Two other scheduled first-round singles matches were postponed due to rain.