• AFP-JIJI, Kyodo


Defending champion Naomi Osaka threw her racket, tossed a ball and kicked the racket again for good measure, before sitting for a while with a towel over her head. She sensed the crowd was looking for drama, and she gave them a little bit.

She pulled it together quickly in a swirling breeze on Margaret Court Arena, though, and beat China’s Zheng Saisai 6-2, 6-4 to advance at the Australian Open on Wednesday.

The win set up a third-round clash with 15-year-old prodigy Coco Gauff, who beat Sorena Cirstea 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 in her second-round match.

Osaka was unimpressed with her performance.

“I hope you guys like the tennis that’s coming after my match,” the third-seeded Osaka told the crowd in an on-court interview, “because it wasn’t that pretty.”

She had her service broken three times, including the one in the second set that caused a minor tantrum.

“I got really fired up when she was up . . . and people started clapping more,” Osaka said. Asked what the crowd was clapping for, she said: “For the drama. I was complaining here, I was almost throwing my racket over there.”

Osaka won back-to-back majors at the U.S. Open in 2018 and Australia last year. She was unable to successfully defend her U.S. title, and is using that as a learning experience here to counteract any nerves.

“I got that all out during the U.S Open. Coming here, I think about it as a new tournament,” she said. “The only thing that has changed is maybe people want to beat me more.”

Osaka started the match in good form, claiming four straight games in the first set after allowing Zheng to level at 2-2. However, the following set provided a test for the two-time Grand Slam champion, who showed a flash of temper when Zheng broke early.

Osaka threw her racket to the court, then gave it a kick for good measure.

“I just wanted to fight, I’ve been in this position before on this court (a break down in the second set) and I was thinking that I really don’t want to play a third set this time,” Osaka said.

The hard-hitting Osaka broke Zheng in her first service game, only for the Chinese competitor to strike back immediately.

But Zheng struggled with her serve in the Melbourne breeze and conjured up two double faults to go down 4-2.

Osaka wrapped up a dominant first set in 34 minutes with a stinging forehand.

After the blip of dropping her serve at the start of the second set, Osaka wrestled two breaks back, sealing victory when Zheng again double-faulted.

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