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MX News Update 2024

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Osaka wins in Rome after a three-year absence

Japan’s Naomi Osaka celebrates after winning her round of 128 match against France’s Clara Burel at the Italian Open at Foro Italico, Rome, Italy, May 8, 2024. (Photo/Agencies)

ROME – Naomi Osaka marked her return to the Rome Open for the first time since 2021 on Wednesday with a straight sets victory over Clara Burel in the first round.

Former world number one Osaka came through against her French opponent in 45th place 7-6 (7/2), 6-1.

It was the 26-year-old’s first victory against a top 50 opponent on clay since beating Victoria Azarenka at the 2019 French Open.

Osaka, now ranked 173rd in the world after taking a break from the tour to have her first child, will face 19th seed Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine for a place in the third round.

Kostyuk, second on clay in Stuttgart last month, lost to Osaka in their only previous meeting, in three sets at the 2020 US Open.

On Wednesday, the Japanese star claimed victory in 84 minutes, finishing with 27 winners, including eight aces, and breaking four times.

“I found the first set very tough. I am very happy that I was able to finish it in two,” Osaka said after only her second victory on European clay this spring.

“Overall, I think mentally I tried to stay as strong as possible, so I’m very happy with that.”

She added: “I was up 5-3, served for the set and lost (the match). But the fact that I was able to stick with it and finally end it on my terms is something I’m very proud of.

“I obviously played a lot better in the second set. I hope that when I play my match tomorrow, I want to learn from the mistakes I made today.”

AFP