Osaka and Halep wobble but hit back to go through
World No1 Naomi Osaka is going for her third straight major title this fortnight, but you would not have known it from the way she squeaked through a nerve-racking first-round match 0-6, 7-6, 6-1.
Having played so poorly for the first hour that she might have been swinging a frying pan, Osaka enjoyed a let-off when Anna Karolina Schmiedlova botched two opportunities to serve for the match.
“I think this is the most nervous I have ever been my entire life during a match,” said Osaka, who won only nine points in losing the first set to love. “I was literally not hitting any balls in the court. I wasn’t sure what was going on when the ball went off my racket. Today was weird because usually the nerves go away, but it kind of stayed the entire match. Then I just felt like it was a fight of willpower.”
Once Osaka had completed her task, defending champion Simona Halep also moved through, though she too dropped a set in her 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 win over Ajla Tomljanovic.
Meanwhile, Croatia’s Ivo Karlovic became the oldest man to win a match at the French Open for 45 years as he beat Spain’s fellow veteran Feliciano Lopez in the first round. Karlovic, who turned 40 in February, won a match featuring players with a combined age of 77 – the oldest in a Grand Slam in the professional era.
The Croatian became the oldest male player to win a Grand Slam match since Ken Rosewall, aged 44, at the 1978 Australian Open.