Naomi Osaka avoids upset as she starts U.S. Open title defense
Naomi Osaka's U.S. Open title defense is off to a shaky start.
Back in Arthur Ashe Stadium, where she beat Serena Williams in last year's chaotic final, the No. 1-seeded Osaka trailed 3-0 at the outset against 84th-ranked Anna Blinkova, couldn't close things out in the second set, then eventually came through for a 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-2 victory in the first round.
Osaka wore a black sleeve over her left knee, which has been an issue lately for her. But it wasn't so much her movement as her erratic strokes that presented problems for Osaka, who finished with 50 unforced errors, more than double that of Blinkova.
Osaka wasted a match point with a bad forehand while trying to serve it out at 6-5 in the second set, before gathering herself in the third.
Only two U.S. Open women’s champions have lost in the first round the following year during the professional era: It happened in 2017, when Angelique Kerber was beaten by none other than Osaka.