Tennis

Naomi Osaka, Kei Nishikori given easy openers at U.S. Open

Kyodo

Top seed and world No. 1 Naomi Osaka will begin her title defense at the U.S. Open with a first-round clash against 93rd-ranked Anna Blinkova of Russia, while seventh seed Kei Nishikori faces a yet-unknown qualifier in his opening match.

On Thursday, when the U.S. Open draw was made, eighth-seeded Serena Williams and unseeded Maria Sharapova, both past U.S. Open champions, learned that they will play each other in the first round, their 21st meeting on tour.

Osaka beat Williams in last year’s women’s singles final to become the first major winner from Japan, but the match was marred by controversy when the chair umpire handed the 23-time Grand Slam champion three code penalties — including a rare game penalty — leading the American to spectacularly lose her composure.

At the tournament’s draw ceremony, Osaka wore a brace on her left knee, but earlier in the day she was seen jogging, skipping rope and hitting on court.

Her physical condition is of particular interest because she retired from her quarterfinal at the Western & Southern Open last week.

In the men’s draw, Nishikori will again bid for his first Grand Slam title in the event that opens on Monday at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. The New York complex is the site of his career-best Grand Slam result, a loss in the 2014 singles final.

Third seed Roger Federer, who will open his campaign for a 21st Grand Slam title also against a qualifier, could meet Nishikori in the quarterfinals, Novak Djokovic in the semifinals and Rafael Nadal in the final.

Among other Japanese, Yoshihito Nishioka will play American wild card Marcos Giron in the first round, while Misaki Doi faces a tough task against 10th seed Madison Keys of the United States.

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