Birmingham Premier: Naomi Osaka comes through difficult opener to beat Sakkari

Naomi Osaka comes through a high-quality opening battle on the grass of Birmingham to beat Maria Sakkari

Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka (Photo: Getty Images for Nature Valley Classic)

World No1 Naomi Osaka came through a high-quality opening battle on the grass of Birmingham to beat Maria Sakkari, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3, at the Nature Valley Classic.

Osaka withstood a second set fightback from the talented Greek, despite admitting afterwards that she is still adjusting to playing on grass. The 21-year-old US and Australian Open champion said:

“I feel every day that I play on grass of course I’m going to learn how to play better, but for now I’m just really happy I was able to win that match. I think it’s really important for me. I’m only playing this tournament before Wimbledon, so I would love to get a lot of matches in and sort of build my confidence up.”

Osaka is facing a challenge to her No1 ranking from Ashleigh Barty this week. Barty’s first round match against Donna Vekic was postponed when afternoon rain curtailed the day’s play.

Osaka added:

“For me, now, I’m just kind of having fun. I’m enjoying it. And I know that if I play well, then I’ll be No1. But you kind of have to deserve the spot that you’re in and if I lose in the first round, I don’t deserve to be No1.”

No8 seed Julia Goerges, in-form Croatian Petra Martic, and former Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko were also among the winners on Tuesday. Harriet Dart, from London, lost her opening match in Birmingham, beaten 6-1, 6-4 by the experienced Yulia Putintseva.

Venus Williams’ much-awaited debut at the Edgbaston Priory Club was delayed, making for a bumper day of action for Wednesday ticket-holders. Barty and Vekic start the day on the Ann Jones Centre Court, before Williams takes on Aliaksandra Sasnovich.

British No1 Johanna Konta plays her second-round match against Ostapenko before twin sisters No3 Karolina Pliskova and qualifier Krystina face each other for the ninth time in their careers.

The twins, who often play doubles together, have earned four wins apiece so Wednesday’s match will give one of them bragging rights:

“It’s very strange to play her,” said Krystina. “We stay in a room this tournament, so we share the bed. It’s family, so you don’t want like something bad [to happen to her], but still I want to win as well. So yeah, not really happy about it.”

Wednesday schedule, Ann Jones Centre Court, 11:30 am

Vekic vs Barty
Williams vs Sasnovich
Ostapenko vs Konta
Kr Pliskova vs Ka Pliskova

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