World No.1 Naomi Osaka came through a difficult start to her grass court campaign, battling past Maria Sakkari to win her first round match 6-1 4-6 6-3 on Tuesday at the Nature Valley Classic, an LTA summer grass court event.
Osaka withstood a second set fightback from the talented Greek, despite admitting afterwards that she is still adjusting to playing on grass.
“I feel, like, every day that I play on grass of course I’m going to, like, learn how to play better, but for now I’m just really happy I was able to win that match,” said the 21-year-old from Japan. “I think it’s really important for me. I’m only playing this tournament before Wimbledon, so I would love to get a lot of matches in and sort of build my confidence up.”
Osaka is facing a challenge to her No.1 ranking from Ashleigh Barty this week. Barty’s first round match against Donna Vekic was postponed when afternoon rain curtailed the day’s play.
“For me, now, I’m just kind of having fun. I’m enjoying it. And I know that if I play well, then I’ll be No. 1,” said Osaka. “But you kind of have to deserve the spot that you’re in and if I lose in the first round, I don’t deserve to be No. 1.”
Eight seed Julia Goerges, in-form Croatian Petra Martic and former Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko were also among the winners on Tuesday. Harriet Dart, from London, lost her opening match in Birmingham, beaten 6-1 6-4 by experienced Yulia Putintseva.
Venus Williams’ much-awaited debut at the Edgbaston Priory Club was delayed, making for a bumper day of action for Wednesday ticket-holders.
Barty and Vekic start the day on the Ann Jones Centre Court, before Williams takes on Aliaksandra Sasnovich. British No.1 Johanna Konta, from Eastbourne, plays her second round match against Ostapenko before twin sisters Karolina (seeded third) and Krystina Pliskova (who came through qualifying) face each other for the ninth time in their careers.
The twins, who often play doubles together, have earned four wins apiece so Wednesday’s match will give one bragging rights.
To purchase tickets or to access more information about the Nature Valley Classic, head to www.lta.org.uk/naturevalleyclassic. Centre court ticket prices start from just £12 for children under 16 and £30 for adults. Follow @LTA on Instagram, @LTA – Tennis For Britain on Facebook, or @the_LTA on Twitter to keep up to date with all the news surrounding the players’ journeys to the grass courts of Birmingham this summer.
The order of play for Wednesday 19th June may be found HERE.
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To purchase tickets using your exclusive member codes visit Nature Valley Classic website.