Naomi Osaka shrugged off unlikely nerves to make an early statement with a crushing win over Alize Cornet as they prepare for next week’s Australian Open.
The world No.3 swept aside France’s Cornet 6-2 6-2 in their round-two clash in the WTA’s Gippsland Trophy.
The US Open holder, who won at Melbourne Park in 2019 and made the third round last year, looked in ominous form against Cornet, the world No.53.
Despite winning three grand-slam titles, she struggled with nerves throughout the 72-minute contest.
“It feels really good because I haven’t played a match since the finals in New York and I was definitely really nervous going into it, but I’m really happy with how positive I was throughout the match,” Osaka said.
“I was nervous the entire match … just walking on to the court and even until the very last point.
“The first match you come back, especially in a grand slam environment is very hard.”
The Japanese gun next faces Great Britain’s Katie Boulter, who is returning from a long layoff with injury and accounted for rising American teenager Coco Gauff 3-6 7-5 6-2.
Aryna Sabalenka’s red-hot run ended with Estonian veteran Kaia Kanepi stopping the world No.7 in their second round clash.
Belarusian Sabalenka started 2021 by winning the Abu Dhabi WTA Open, which was her third consecutive title and extended her winning streak to 15 matches.
But that came to a shuddering halt with 35-year-old Kanepi taking the win 6-1 2-6 6-1 to advance to the third round of the Gippsland Trophy.
Australian Open defending champion Sofia Kenin booked a third-round berth in the Yarra Valley Classic when her opponent, Italian Camilla Giorgi retired mid-match with a leg injury.
American Kenin, the world No.4, had won the first set 7-5.
Another Brit Johanna Konta had a comfortable straight sets victory against American Bernarda Pera.