French Open: Osaka's clay game 'a work in progress' as Kerber suffers another first-round loss

By Sports Desk May 30, 2021

Naomi Osaka fended off Patricia Maria Tig at the French Open on Sunday, but the world number two admits she has plenty of room for improvement on clay.

Osaka has been at the centre of attention in the build-up to the tournament, with the 23-year-old refusing to attend mandatory news conferences and suggesting they were not beneficial to her mental health.

The second seed stood by her decision following a straight-sets win over Romanian Tig and was subsequently handed a $15,000 fine and warned repeat offences could see her thrown out of the competition.

However, Osaka did speak in an on-court interview after her 6-4 7-6 (7-4) victory on Court Philippe-Chatrier– just her second win of the season on clay.

"I'd say it’s a work on progress," four-time grand slam winner Osaka said when asked about her clay-court game.

"Hopefully, the more I play the better it'll get. I'm really glad that I won, it's a very beautiful court. I've only played two matches here – one before the roof [was installed] and one right now. Hopefully I'll keep it going."

Next up for reigning US and Australian Open champion Osaka is Ana Bogdan, who defeated Elisabetta Cocciaretto 6-1 6-3.

ANOTHER FRENCH OPEN DUCK FOR KERBER

While Osaka took a place in round two, former world number one Angelique Kerber had no such luck as she came unstuck in the first round at Roland Garros for a third year running.

Now ranked at 27th in the world by the WTA, Kerber lost 6-2 6-4 to qualifier Anhelina Kalinina.

The French Open title has so far eluded Kerber, who has won every other grand slam, and the 33-year-old German has not won a match in Paris since 2018, when she reached the quarter-finals, having also made the last eight in 2012.

Indeed, the 33-year-old's run to the quarters in 2018 was the only time in her last six appearances at Roland Garros that she has progressed beyond the first round.

"She started well and had nothing to lose, while it took me too long to get into the contest," Kerber said. "I will try to learn from the match now because I played good the last few weeks and I had good matches."

SABALENKA AND KVITOVA BATTLE THROUGH

Aryna Sabalenka was the other top seed in action on Sunday, though she was made to work for a 6-4 6-3 defeat of Ana Konjuh.

The third seed, who is in the hunt for a first grand slam title having already won the Madrid Open this month, made a sluggish start and two breaks of serve had her 4-2 down to world number 144 Konjuh.

But Sabalenka rallied herself and a streak of four straight games handed her the set, and a further three successive breaks to start the second put her in command.

Konjuh managed to save the first match point, only for the Croatian qualifier to hit the net as Sabalenka progressed at the second time of asking.

Petra Kvitova, the 11th seed, needed three sets to overcome Greet Minnen 6-7 (3-7) 7-6 (7-5) 6-1, and had to save a match point in the process.

Two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova was on the edge of a shock exit at 6-5 and a break down in the second set, but a backhand winner rescued her from the brink and forced another tie-break, which the Czech won before carrying the momentum into the decider.

"I would say that from my side it wasn't really good from the beginning," said Kvitova, a semi-finalist at Roland Garros last year.

"I was struggling, I was missing a lot, I was double-faulting a lot.

"I didn't really feel myself that well. I was pretty tight, it was really tough. I mean, I was fighting not only with her but with myself as well. I'm glad that in the end I beat myself as well and beat her, so that counts."

Kvitova will next face Elena Vesnina, who beat lucky loser Olga Govortsova 6-1 6-0 to seal a first singles win since she became a mother in 2018 and took a two-year break from tennis.

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