French Open 2021: Naomi Osaka puts media issue to one side by beating Patricia Maria Tig

Naomi Osaka returns a ball at the French Open
Naomi Osaka has won four of the eight Grand Slams she has played, having claimed two US Open titles (2018 and 2020) and two Australian Open titles (2019 and 2021)

Japan’s Naomi Osaka put the controversy over her refusal to speak to the media to one side as she started the French Open with a straight-set win.

Second seed Osaka won 6-4 7-6 (7-4) against Romania’s Patricia Maria Tig when the Grand Slam began on Sunday.

Osaka, 23, hit 20 winners in a largely dominant first set, but had to work even harder in the second before her quality came through in the tie-break.

The four-time major champion plays another Romanian, Ana Bogdan, next.

Much of the build-up to the tournament was focused on Osaka’s decision to avoid news conferences. She said she wanted to protect her mental health and take a stand against the impact of interviews on the psychological welfare of all players.

However, following her win over Tig, Osaka did take part in the usual on-court interview with the victor.

“My movement on clay is a work in progress. If I keep playing more matches, hopefully it will get better,” she said.

As Osaka intended, it was her tennis that did the talking as she opened up the clay-court Grand Slam on Court Philippe Chatrier.

Osaka has not yet reached the same heights on the red dirt that she has on hard courts, having never progressed past the third round at Roland Garros and holding a win-loss record of 13-13 in the events leading up to the Grand Slam.

From the start, Osaka was tuned in against world number 63 Tig, although she had to navigate some tricky moments along the way.

Strong returning and good movement helped her break for a 2-0 lead, extending that advantage to 4-1 and 5-2 as the Romanian could not repel a barrage of clean hitting which brought plenty of winners.

Failure to take any of three set points in the eighth game, though, appeared to put some doubt in Osaka’s mind. She was broken in the next game and unable to serve out, only to quickly recover with a break to love which sealed the opener.

Both players were relatively comfortable on their service games in the second set, Tig saving break points at 2-1 and 6-5, as it led to an almost inevitable tie-break.

Osaka took control of the tie-break with a perfectly executed backhand down the line for a 4-2 lead, a passionate shout of ‘Come on!’ indicating the importance of the point to her.

A brief wobble gave hope to Tig, who played well and remained resolute, only for Osaka to again edge the decisive moments of the set and clinch victory.

Around the BBC iPlayer bannerAround the BBC iPlayer footer

BBC News