Tennis: Wham-bam, it's fun for Naomi Osaka on Tokyo return

US Open champion Naomi Osaka hitting a return against Slovakia's Dominika Cibulkova during her 6-2, 6-1 last-16 win at the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo yesterday. It was the first match for the Japanese player since she won her maiden Grand Slam and she prov
US Open champion Naomi Osaka hitting a return against Slovakia's Dominika Cibulkova during her 6-2, 6-1 last-16 win at the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo yesterday. It was the first match for the Japanese player since she won her maiden Grand Slam and she proved her worth by firing 10 aces in a dominant display.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

No pressure for US Open champion as she aims to improve on runner-up spot in 2016

TOKYO • Fun. That was how Naomi Osaka described her demolition of Dominika Cibulkova to reach the Pan Pacific Open quarter-finals yesterday.

In her first match since her historic US Open triumph, the first Japanese to win a Grand Slam singles title pulverised her Slovak opponent 6-2, 6-1, firing down 10 aces in a fearsome display of wham-bam tennis in Tokyo.

The 20-year-old has been on a media whirlwind since stunning Serena Williams in the final at Flushing Meadows and the momentum generated from her record-breaking feat showed no signs of slowing down, hitting Cibulkova like a ton of bricks.

The third seed came out with guns blazing in front of a raucous home crowd, and showed she was all business by ripping a forehand down the line on the first point.

She raced away to close out the first set with a pair of aces and a dazed Cibulkova had no answer to Osaka's firepower as the world No. 7 wrapped up a comfortable win after just 59 minutes.

"I didn't really feel any pressure," said Osaka, who is aiming to go one better after losing to top seed Caroline Wozniacki in the 2016 final.

"It was really difficult because she's such a great player but I just thought it was more fun. My serve was really good. I'm just grateful to be able to play here again."

Cibulkova admitted she had been thoroughly outplayed.

"It wasn't a match I was proud of," the world No. 30 said. "I couldn't find my rhythm. I felt I was in control of some rallies but it was too hectic."

Earlier, sixth seed Garbine Muguruza was upset by American qualifier Alison Riske 6-1, 6-2 in an abject display from Spain's former world No. 1, who looks a shadow of the player who captured the 2016 French Open title and lifted last year's Wimbledon trophy.

Riske advances to face fourth seed Karolina Pliskova, another player to have previously held the women's top ranking, tomorrow.

The Czech recovered from a set down to beat Australia's Daria Gavrilova 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.

But she made hard work of it, trashing a racquet in frustration after slipping behind 4-1 in the deciding set before fighting back.

"I tried to stay positive and even though I broke my racquet I tried to keep fighting, because you always have a chance," said Pliskova.

French second seed Caroline Garcia, meanwhile, overcame Russia's Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-4, 2-6, 7-5 to reach the last eight.

Wozniacki will get the defence of her Pan Pacific Open title under way against Camila Giorgi in a last-16 clash today.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 20, 2018, with the headline 'Wham-bam, it's 'fun' for Osaka'. Print Edition | Subscribe