Naomi Osaka makes winning start to clay season in Madrid

Naomi Osaka

Naomi Osaka took just over an hour to cruise past qualifier Anastasia Potapova 6-3, 6-1 at the Madrid Open and make a winning start to her clay court season.

Osaka, playing for the first time since her run to the Miami Open final in March, looked in fine form to kick off her campaign.

In years past Osaka has suffered a slump when the tour moves over to Europe’s clay and grass swings, but she says she is trying to be more positive as she looks to improve on the surfaces.

“I’m honestly trying to be more positive with myself,” Osaka said afterward. “This year I came a week early to train on red clay, so just trying to give myself more chances to do better. … To be able to do it in two sets, for me, it’s a really good starting block.

“I think today for me it was really fun, just being able to be back on the clay and kind of not taking those moments for granted.”

Potapova may have been a qualifier but she was coming into Madrid off the back of WTA Tour title in Istanbul last week and has just moved back into the top 100.

Osaka put an end to a nine-match winning streak for the 21-year-old from Saratov.

The former World No 1 was made to fight back from an early break down in the opening set.

She levelled proceedings at 3-3 and then would see her deep returns put her up a break for the first time at 5-3, and Osaka closed out the set with one of the six aces she sent down.

Osaka, romped through the second set without facing a break point, to put an end to Potapova’s superb winning streak.

Osaka would win 10 of the last 11 games against Potapova to make burst into the Madrid second round for the third time in her career.

Her best Madrid showing is a quarterfinal run in 2019.

Other results on Friday saw Emma Raducanu keep up her good form on clay with another win on the surface against Tereza Martincova whom she also beat in Great Britain’s Billie Jean King Cup loss to the Czech Republic earlier this month.

Maria Sakkari put a three-match losing skid to an end with a 6-7(8), 6-3, 6-4 comeback win over Madison Keys.

Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo was inspired to an upset win over 13th seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenko.

Meanwhile Garbine Muguruza battled past Ajla Tomljanovic.