A leg injury meant Osaka missed last season’s clay-court swing, and her last individual tournament on the surface was at Roland Garros in 2019.
Madrid: Second-seeded Naomi Osaka made a successful return to clay at the Madrid Open by beating Misaki Doi 7-5, 6-2 in the first round on Friday.
Osaka overcame Doi’s strong start by hitting six aces and breaking her serve five times.
A leg injury meant Osaka missed last season’s clay-court swing, and her last individual tournament on the surface was at Roland Garros in 2019. She played and lost for Japan against Spain’s Sara Sorribes in the Fed Cup in February 2020.
Osaka said she felt better on the surface.
“When I was playing on clay that year, I didn’t feel uncomfortable at all,” Osaka said. “The two matches that I lost, it was more mental than it was physical. Like, I didn’t feel uncomfortable sliding, or I didn’t feel that tired. So I’m actually really excited to get that mindset back and to start feeling more comfortable on clay.”
Osaka, the US Open and Australian Open champion, next plays Karolina Muchova after the Czech beat Qiang Wang 6-1, 6-3.
Third-seeded Simona Halep, who won the tournament in 2016 and ’17, beat Sorribes 6-0, 7-5.
Maria Sakkari roared back after losing the first seven games of her match against Amanda Anisimova to win 0-6, 6-1, 6-4.
Sixth-seeded Karolina Pliskova fought back to oust Cori Gauff 5-7, 6-3, 6-2, while Daria Kasatkina needed three match points to see off Irina-Camelia Begu 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (1).
Jennifer Brady beat Venus Williams 6-2, 6-4 after breaking her serve six times.
Fifth-seeded Aryna Sabalenka, Victoria Azarenka, Jennifer Brady, Elise Mertens, Saisai Zheng and Jessica Pegula also moved on.
Top-seeded Ashleigh Barty and three-time former winner Petra Kvitova advanced on Thursday.
The men will start their first round on Sunday.
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