Osaka, Barty and Kyrgios make winning start in Oz Open tune-ups - GulfToday

Osaka, Barty and Kyrgios make winning start in Oz Open tune-ups

Naomi Osaka

Naomi Osaka returns against Alize Cornet during their Yarra Valley Classic match in Melbourne on Tuesday. Agence France-Presse

Ashleigh Barty and Naomi Osaka, along with showman Nick Kyrgios, made successful returns after long layoffs on Tuesday, fine-tuning their preparations ahead of the Australian Open.

In the night match, world number one Barty showed little rust to comfortably beat Ana Bogdan 6-3, 6-3 in the Yarra Valley Classic.

“I’ve missed coming out here competing but I felt great tonight,” she said.

The Australian played her first tournament in 11 months after opting to remain home in relatively COVID-19 free Queensland during the pandemic and even decided against defending her French Open crown.

Barty, hoping to break her country’s 43-year singles title drought at the Australian Open, was made to work early before pouncing on Bogdan’s tentative serve and she proved far too consistent for the Romanian.

The 24-year-old plays world number 52 Marie Bouzkova next.

Osaka made similarly light work of France’s Alize Cornet in the Japanese star’s first competitive match since winning the US Open for a second time.

The three-time Grand Slam champion hit 22 winners to move into the third round of the Gippsland Trophy with a 6-2, 6-2 victory in Melbourne.

“I haven’t played a match since the final in New York, I was definitely really nervous going into it,” said Osaka, who won the Australian Open in 2019.

“But I’m really happy with how positive I was throughout the match.”

It was an impressive performance from Osaka, who had few problems against Cornet in her first encounter with the French veteran.

Osaka plays Katie Boulter in the next round after the British woman knocked out teenage sensation Coco Gauff 3-6, 7-5, 6-2 in one hour and 43 minutes.

KENIN THROUGH: Earlier, defending Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin’s long-awaited return to Melbourne Park was brief after her Italian opponent Camila Giorgi retired injured after one set at the Yarra Valley Classic.

It was a short stay on Margaret Court Arena with the 76th-ranked Giorgi retiring because of a thigh injury after Kenin clinched a tight first set 7-5.

KYRGIOS MAKES WINNING RETURN: Showman Nick Kyrgios pulled victory “out of a hat” on Tuesday in his first match for a year, rallying from a set down to get his Australian Open preparations off to a winning start.

The enigmatic 25-year-old last performed in February 2020 at the Acapulco Open, before a wrist injury and then the coronavirus pandemic brought his season to a halt.

He opted not to travel for the US or French Opens, but said at the weekend he was mentally refreshed and excited to be back.

The Australian took time to get his groove back against 209th-ranked Frenchman Alexandre Muller, losing the first set, then needing left knee treatment before knuckling down to win 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/4) in the Murray River Open.

“It was a tricky one, I haven’t played a competitive match in about a year and I dealt with a couple of injuries when in quarantine,” he said.

“I was just excited to come out here, any opponent for me was going to be tricky, I just wanted to find my feet.

“I just somehow pulled it out of a hat, which seems to be the story of my career, so just happy to get through. The body feels ok.”

Now ranked 47, he will next play fellow Australian Harry Bourchier.

FEDEX EYES COMEBACK: Roger Federer is targeting the Doha Open in March for his comeback after over a year on the sidelines recovering from two knee operations, the 20-time Grand Slam champion said on Tuesday.

The 39-year-old Swiss has been out of action since February 2020 and shelved plans in December to compete in the Australian Open, which makes a delayed start next week.

It will be the first time Federer has missed the season-opening Grand Slam in Melbourne.

ANDREESCU WITHDRAWS: Former US Open champion Bianca Andreescu’s much-anticipated return from a year-plus injury lay-off has been delayed after she withdrew from her Australian Open warm-up event on Tuesday.

The world number eight, however, remains on track to end her 15-month absence from the circuit at the Australian Open starting on Feb.8.

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