Naomi Osaka began her third U.S. Open run with an impressive victory over Laura Siegemund on Tuesday, the start of what could be something really big this year.
After all, she is a player who Serena Williams has labeled as “dangerous.”
The 6-3, 6-2 win on the Grandstand is another step in the burgeoning career of the 20-year-old who holds U.S. and Japanese passports, and plays under the Japanese flag while living in Boca Raton, Florida. She lived in Elmont as a child, for about six years in her estimation.
Osaka popped up at the Open in 2016, taking out CoCo Vandeweghe in the first round and reaching the third round where she gave Madison Keys a real tussle before losing. Last year she took out defending champion Angelique Kerber in the first round, losing in the third round to Kaia Kanepi.
This season she finally won her first WTA Tour level tournament, and it was a big one at Indian Wells, beating Daria Kasatkina in the final after upsetting Simona Halep in the semis.
She’s now seeded 20th here, and the women’s draw is pretty wide open. The expectations for her are rising, something she says she is dealing with.
“I feel like I had this whole thing right after Indian Wells,” Osaka said regarding the subsequent buzz about her at the French Open and Wimbledon. “But I feel like now I’m over it, and I sort of went back into my old mindset that I have been at during the beginning of the year. So I don’t really feel pressure or anything.”
But it’s the U.S. Open.
“I have sort of already accepted the fact that I probably play better during the big stages,” Osaka said. “I think that’s just something that I grew up watching, like, people on the bigger stages. And I have always wanted to play on Arthur Ashe, so when the chance comes, of course I’m going to play my best.”
Kerber won her opening match on Tuesday, defeating Margarita Gasparyan, 7-6 (5), 6-3. Caroline Wozniacki, Petra Kvitova Caroline Garcia, Maria Sharapova and Keys also advanced.