MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Defending champion Naomi Osaka fired back at a social media user who jeered her arrival on court before her 6-2 6-4 victory over Czech Republic’s Marie Bouzkova in the Australian Open first round on Monday.
The 22-year-old from Japan next faces China’s Zheng Saisai, who needed just 72 minutes to beat Russian qualifier Anna Kalinskaya 6-3 6-2.
Osaka, who admitted to some nerves entering the tournament as defending champion, was less than impressed with one social media user who wrote “Boooooooooooo” on the event’s official Twitter page as it announced the match was about to start.
Osaka responded after the match with a tweet of her own, asking, “are you big mad or little mad?”, then told reporters she could not understand why someone would attack her for no apparent reason.
“She was hating. What would her children think? You’re just going to come on the Internet and boo me for no reason? I didn’t do anything to you,” Osaka said when asked about the exchange.
“She was very upset. I also wonder, people like this, if they see you in person, I wonder what they would do?”
Having won her second Grand Slam title on Rod Laver Arena last year, Osaka was given the honor of opening the tournament in 2020 and looked nervous as she walked through the tunnel bearing the banners of previous champions, including her own.
She struggled at times early on but did what she had to by relying on a big serve and powerful forehand against the 21-year-old Bouzkova, who last year made the Toronto semi-finals.
Osaka’s most potent weapons helped her save five of six break points, but also broke a cord that anchors the net when the ball cannoned into it for a fault.
Play was held up for about five minutes as officials scrambled fixed it.
Osaka managed to stay on serve in the first set and while it took her five break-point opportunities in the fifth game, she finally got the advantage she needed before breaking again in the seventh.
She sealed the first set in 36 minutes with a forehand winner.
Swirling winds made life difficult for both players and with Osaka making errors after error, the Czech looked to have seized the momentum when she broke in the sixth game of the second set for a 4-2 lead.
Any thoughts of an upset quickly disappeared, however, when she served a double fault on break point in the next game and her angry swipe at the ball earned her a code violation when it sliced into the crowd.
Osaka wasted little time in clinching the next three games, with Bouzkova winning a total of just four points, and she sealed victory when the Czech sent a backhand wide after 80 minutes.
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Peter Rutherford)