Naomi Osaka was cheered on to a 6-3, 6-4 first-round win over Australia’s Astra Sharma at the Miami Open on Wednesday, still stung by the heckling she received in a second round loss at Indian Wells.
Playing in what she calls her home tournament, Osaka was in complete command right from the moment she stepped onto the Hard Rock Stadium court, never allowing Sharma a single break opportunity while keeping her 96th-ranked opponent under constant pressure, converting two of 11 break points.
After the match Osaka soaked up the applause from the sparse crowd in what was a far different atmosphere from 11 days earlier in Indian Wells when she fought back tears after being heckled during a second round loss to Veronika Kudermetova.
“This is like my home tournament,” smiled Osaka, during her post-match on-court interview prompting a round of cheers.
“Honestly I just didn’t want to let anything bother me today no matter what happened like the last match I played was not the greatest memory for me. I just wanted to prove I could come back out here and compete and no matter if I won or lost just know I had the best attitude that I could.”
A four-time Grand Slam champion, the Japanese former world number one has seen her ranking fall to 77 coming into the tournament after she took a break from tennis following last year’s U.S. Open to prioritise her mental health.
She has eased into the current campaign, the Miami tournament being just her second event since a third-round exit at the Australian Open.