Wimbledon 2019 – women’s singles: Upset for Naomi Osaka as Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova made to work for victory

A round-up of the main action from the women’s singles on the opening day of the Wimbledon Championships

Samuel Lovett
Wimbledon
Monday 01 July 2019 18:42
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Wimbledon Championships in numbers

Having emerged as a global superstar in the wake of her US and Australian Open triumphs, Naomi Osaka was always going to head to Wimbledon with the weight of expectation hanging ominously over her head.

And on this occasion, it proved too much. Confronted with the consistency and versatility of Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva – an opponent she lost to at the Birmingham Classic a matter of weeks ago – the Japanese star crumbled here on Wimbledon’s Centre Court.

Despondent, frustrated and nervous, Osaka looked a shadow of her former self as she struggled to find her form and rhythm on the lush green courts of the All England Club.

Losing 7-6 6-2 in one hour and 36 minutes, the world No 2 made a total of 38 unforced errors compared to her opponent’s seven. It was this disparity which ultimately settled the tie in Putintseva’s favour.

Osaka led by an early break in the first set but couldn’t hold onto her advantage. Putintseva quickly broke back before pushing on to take the match to a tie-break, which she won 7-4.

By this stage Osaka’s emotions were beginning to get the better of her. She was seen kicking her racquet, crying out in anger and hanging her head back in frustration, looking skyward as if for an answer.

It never came. Putintseva moved up a gear in the second set, holding her consistency as Osaka appeared to unravel. With a double break under her belt at 5-2, Putintseva served out the game for victory in one hour and 36 minutes.

Osaka was close to tears during her post-match press conference as she struggled to explain a dip in form which has seen her go without a title since the Australian Open in January.

When asked if, at 21 years of age, she lacked the necessary composure, despite her rapid rise to the top of the game, Osaka said: “I wouldn’t blame my age on anything. I’ve done a lot of good things. I’ve done a lot of bad things. But I’m not the type of person that would say because I’m young I can get away with doing certain things.”

Osaka also denied that the decision to part ways with her coach earlier this year was behind her recent struggles. “I don’t think it’s related at all,” she said.

There was no such upset for Heather Watson who booked her place in the second round of the Championships with a straight-sets win over Caty McNally.

The British No 2 overcame a tricky start to win 7-6 (3) 6-2 against the 17-year-old qualifier on Court 12, claiming her first grand-slam victory since the French Open in 2018.

Elsewhere, seventh seed Simona Halep was given a tough battle by Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich before battling to a 6-4 7-5 victory.

Britain’s Watson made a winning start to Wimbledon

Halep, who has made the quarter-finals twice and the semi-finals once, trailed 5-2 in the second set and had to save a set point at 5-4 before sealing victory with a run of five games in a row.

Third seed Karolina Pliskova was similarly made to work in her first-round encounter against China’s Zhu Lin. The Czech, among the big favourites to win the title, had to save three set points in the second set before coming through 6-2 7-6 (4).

Madison Keys, seeded 17th, made short work of Thailand’s Luksika Kumkhum, winning 6-3 6-2, while Elina Svitolina handed Australia’s Daria Gavrilova a bagel en route to a 7-5 6-0 victory.

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