These are early days for the Tokyo Olympics, but Naomi Osaka is quickly emerging as the headline act.
Two days after lighting the cauldron at the Opening Ceremony — a moment she called “the greatest athletic achievement and honor” of her life — Osaka took to the tennis court for her first game in almost two months on Sunday, defeating China’s Saisai Zheng 6-1 6-4 on Ariake Tennis Park’s Centre Court.
Wimbledon champion Ashleigh Barty’s surprise loss against Sara Sorribes Tormo earlier on Sunday means Osaka is now the top-ranked player in the women’s draw in her bid to become the first Japanese woman to win an Olympic tennis medal.
The four-time grand slam champion hadn’t played since withdrawing from the French Open at the end of May, which followed her decision not to undertake media duties for mental health reasons.
She chose not to play in Wimbledon, too, but has arrived in Tokyo rejuvenated and ready to make her mark.”This, playing the Olympics, has been a dream of mine since I was a kid, so I feel like the break I took was very needed,” the 23-year-old Osaka told reporters. “I feel definitely a little bit refreshed and happy again.” Read more