After the heckling for tearful Naomi Osaka at Indian Wells, the cheers at Miami have come as music to her ears as she put paid to the challenge of Australia’s new No.2 Astra Sharma.
Osaka was given a warm ovation as she beat Sharma 6-3 6-4 in a first-round win in Florida — a far cry from the unhappy time the former world No.1 had suffered in California.
“This is like my home tournament,” smiled Osaka, during her post-match on-court interview prompting a round of cheers from an admittedly sparse crowd.
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“Honestly, I just didn’t want to let anything bother me today, no matter what happened.
“Like, the last match I played was not the greatest memory for me.
“I just wanted to prove I could come back out here and compete and no matter if I won or lost just know I had the best attitude that I could.”
It was 11 days ago at Indian Wells when the 24-year-old was left crying on court after being heckled by a moronic spectator, who shouted, ‘Naomi, you suck!’ during her defeat to Veronika Kudermetova.
But Sharma, who will take the Australian No.2 ranking after Ash Barty’s shock retirement, found no hint of vulnerability in Osaka nor her game as the Japanese, in just her second event since a third-round exit at the Australian Open, proved far too strong.
The four-time grand slam champion never allowed Sharma even the sniff of a break while keeping the world No.96 on the back foot as she converted two of her own 11 break point opportunities, sealing her victory in 80 minutes.
Less than 24 hours after Barty’s announcement to quit the game, Ajla Tomljanovic, who will now take over the Australian women’s No.1 spot, suffered a frustrating defeat to Italian Lucia Bronzetti, 4-6 7-6 (8-6) 6-2, having had a match point.
The 28-year-old Tomljanovic, who’s enjoying one of the best spells of her career as she’s risen to No.39 in the rankings, had her chance in the tiebreaker but Bronzetti, No.102 in the world, held her serve before taking the next two points.
Tomljanovic’s exit leaves Daria Saville, who will play former world No.1 Simona Halep in the second round, as the only remaining Australian in the WTA 1000 event.
Other winners on a busy day of first-round action in Miami were 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens, Shelby Rogers, Czech Karolina Muchova and 37-year-old qualifier Vera Zvonareva, the former world No.2.