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US Open 2019: Osaka concedes nerves blighted first-round display

Defending US Open champion Naomi Osaka believes the nerves of heading into a grand slam as the holder affected her first-round performance.

Top seed Naomi Osaka conceded the nerves of defending her US Open title marred her first-round tie against Anna Blinkova.

Osaka became the first defending US Open women’s champion to be taken to a third set in a first-round contest on Tuesday, but eventually triumphed 6-4 6-7 (5-7) 6-2.

The world number one starred at the 2018 US Open, dropping just one set on her way to the final, where she comfortably beat Serena Williams – whose meltdown overshadowed the achievement.

However, Osaka’s return to Flushing Meadows was not a smooth one, with Blinkova testing the 21-year-old’s resolve, and the Japanese star acknowledged she was delighted to have got the match over with.

“I felt nervous. For me it’s definitely a new feeling. I never had to come into a grand slam [as champion],” Osaka told a news conference. 

“I went to Indian Wells [as champion] once. So I did feel like that gave me a little bit of practice, but the amount of nerves that I felt today was completely different than in California.

“I’m really glad that’s over.”

“Oh, I didn’t,” Osaka replied when asked how she overcame her nerves during the match, which lasted just under two-and-a-half hours.

“It was consistent throughout the entire match, which was very strange for me because normally it would be the first couple of games or the first set. But it never really went away.”

Osaka added she must now use her experience against Blinkova to improve her performances for the rest of the competition, with Magda Linette awaiting in the second round.

“I feel like at this point everyone that I play is going to play really well, and I just need to learn how to cope with that and expect that going into the matches.

“I feel like I have been doing a better job of that recently. I think I need to factor in the fact that this is a grand slam, too, and that’s also going to raise everyone’s level, so I shouldn’t be taken by surprise as much as I was.”

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