Japan's Naomi Osaka reacts after a point against Czech Republic's Marie Bouzkova during their women's singles match on day one of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 20, 2020.
William West/AFP
Osaka makes net-busting start to Australian Open title defense
(Agence France-Presse) - January 20, 2020 - 10:08am

MELBOURNE – Naomi Osaka began her Australian Open title defense in emphatic fashion, breaking the net with a serve as she dismantled unseeded Czech Marie Bouzkova on Monday.

The 22-year-old Japanese, the world's second highest-paid female athlete after Serena Williams, powered through 6-2, 6-4 in 80 minutes.

The two-time Grand Slam champion, one of the prime threats to Williams's bid to win a record-equaling 24th Major, plays China's Zheng Saisai in round two.

Osaka, the third seed, saw her victory march held up for a few minutes early in the second set after a blockbuster serve broke a fitting in the net at the 15,000-capacity Rod Laver Arena.

"It was really tough for me trying to control my nerves," said Osaka. "It's tough to play someone you've never played before in the first round of a Grand Slam.

"I hope I'm still standing here at the end of this week."

The first Grand Slam of the year went ahead as scheduled on Monday after air pollution eased in Melbourne.

Last week's build-up to the Australian Open was plagued by choking haze from widespread bushfires, forcing organizers to temporarily delay qualifying matches.

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