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U.S. Open champion Osaka eases into second round in Australia

Australian Open Tennis

Japan’s Naomi Osaka smiles during her first round match against Poland’s Magda Linette at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)


MELBOURNE, Australia -- The only bug in the system was of the genuine flying variety when Naomi Osaka secured her first win at a major as a Grand Slam champion.

The U.S. Open champion beat Magda Linette 6-4, 6-2 to end play at Rod Laver Arena on Tuesday at the Australian Open. The only delay in the 58-minute match came just before Osaka was serving for the match, when a ballboy tried to catch a bug that was fluttering on the court.

Osaka, who beat Serena Williams in last year’s U.S. Open final, smiled as she waited for the ballboy to get back into position.

She finished off with an ace on her second match point to move into a second-round match against Tamara Zidansek, who beat Daria Gavrilova 7-5, 6-3.

“I felt really nervous walking onto the court ... (but) after I started playing, I was just really happy,” the fourth-seeded Osaka told the crowd, as Japanese flags waved around the stadium.

Of the bugs, she said wasn’t good at catching them and was happy to leave it to the ballkids, otherwise, “I would probably squish it.”

“I’m not very good at, like, being gentle,” she said. “I feel like all of the ball kids are kind of experienced in catching bugs now, so ...”

Now that she’s playing on the biggest show courts, post-match TV interviews are part of the deal.

She was asked, as a conversation starter, what she liked about Australia.

“You guys are always friendly, and I don’t talk much, so it’s really easy to have a conversation,” she said.

It could be slightly one-sided - just like her first-round match.