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Australian Open 2024 results: Osaka beaten on Grand Slam return as Gauff wins

By primenewsghana
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Naomi Osaka's highly anticipated Grand Slam return at the Australian Open ended in a narrow first-round defeat by France's Caroline Garcia.

Two-time champion Osaka, at her first major since the US Open in September 2022 after giving birth last year, lost 6-4 7-6 (7-2) to the 16th seed.

"I felt like I did the best that I could possibly do. I was a little bit overthinking in my head," Osaka said.

Meanwhile, US Open champion Coco Gauff cruised through thanks to a pep talk.

The 19-year-old American, who won her maiden Grand Slam title at the US Open in September, won 6-3 6-0 against Slovakia's Anna Karolina Schmiedlova.

"I told myself: 'I feel good, I look good so just have fun.' I was able to relax," the fourth seed said.

However, Wimbledon champion and seventh seed Marketa Vondrousova suffered a shock exit on day two at Melbourne Park.

Osaka 'frustrated' not to 'do better' on return

It has been just six months since Osaka gave birth to daughter Shai and the Japanese four-time Grand Slam champion said before the Australian Open that she has returned to the sport with a more positive outlook and fresh perspective.

She made her return in Brisbane a fortnight ago, beating Tamara Korpatsch before a narrow loss to Karolina Pliskova.

Based on her performance against Garcia, in front of a Rod Laver Arena crowd eagerly waiting to see just what kind of form she would be in, it may not be long before the 26-year-old is back to her title-winning best.

"I have to tell myself 'hey, six months ago you were pregnant'. Of course there's a voice in my head that is saying 'who are you to think you can come back and immediately start winning matches?'" Osaka said after the loss.

"I kind of always expect myself to stand a chance anyways. So I guess just being nicer to myself is a key thing that I learned in my time away."

Although this is the first time Osaka has lost an opening-round match in Melbourne, it was against an in-form Garcia, whose magnificent serving neutralised Osaka's own crisp hitting and the Frenchwoman did not face a break point all match.

Garcia punished Osaka's errors to break in the fifth game of the opening set and then, after an evenly contested second set, showed composure in the tie-break to seal a deserved victory.

Osaka said it has been difficult being away from daughter but that she is "grateful" to have "learned a lot" during her trip.

"I got a video of someone saying, 'Shai says good luck' - it was really cute," said Osaka. "It made me happy and motivated, but at the same time a little frustrated because I felt like I should do better with the time I had away from her."

'Proud' Ukrainian Yastremska stuns Vondrousova

Six months after lifting the Wimbledon trophy, world number seven Vondrousova became the highest seed to fall so far in round one of the opening major of the year.

The Czech, who pulled out of a warm-up event with a hip injury, was beaten 6-1 6-2 by Ukrainian qualifier Dayana Yastremska.

Yastremska said afterwards that her grandmother's house was recently hit by a rocket in the ongoing war in her home country.

The 23-year-old said the resistance showed by her country against the Russian invasion is what motivates her on court.

"To talk about what is going on in Ukraine in a couple of seconds is not enough," she said in her on-court interview.

"I'm proud of Ukraine, proud of the people, the warriors and the people.

"When I was in Brisbane, before the match I was told a rocket arrived on my grandmother's house. It was hard to play.

"We need to remember about [the war] and give as much support to Ukraine as possible."

Elina Svitolina, another Ukrainian who has spoken at length about the impact of the war, is also through.

The 19th seed needed 59 minutes to complete a 6-2 6-2 win over Australian wildcard Taylah Preston.

Tunisian sixth seed Ons Jabeur took just 67 minutes to beat Ukrainian qualifier Yuliia Starodubtseva 6-3 6-1. The two-time Wimbledon runner-up will face 16-year-old Mirra Andreeva next after the Russian beat American Bernarda Pera 7-5 6-2.

But Croatian 21st seed Donna Vekic lost 6-4 6-4 to Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, while Czech 31st seed Marie Bouzkova had an early exit against 19-year-old compatriot Linda Noskova, losing 6-1 7-5.

Spain's former world number two Paula Badosa, who missed the second part of 2023 with a stress fracture in her back, returned to Grand Slam tennis with a 6-1 6-3 win over American Taylor Townsend and will face 2021 French Open runner-up Pavlyuchenkova next.