World No.2 Naomi Osaka has started her French Open campaign with a 6-4 7-6 (7-4) win over Romanian Patricia Maria Tig on the opening day of the claycourt grand slam on Sunday.
The Japanese four-time major winner divided opinion ahead of the tournament with her decision to boycott press conferences citing mental health, but the debate made no impact on her performance on a sun-bathed Philippe Chatrier court.
The 23-year-old Osaka proved too powerful for the 63rd-ranked Tig and stamped her authority on the match early with a 5-2 lead but needed a second break of serve after the Romanian staged a fightback.
Tig saved a break point and a match point to take the second set into a tiebreaker before Osaka sealed it with a backhand winner to set up a second round meeting with another Romanian in Ana Bogdan, who beat Italian Elisabetta Cocciaretto 6-1 6-3.
Despite her media snub, Osaka did take part in a short and rather awkward on-court interview for the few hundred fans allowed into Court Philippe Chatrier.
“I’m very glad that I won,” said the 23-year-old, who skipped the tournament last year.
“It’s a very beautiful court. I’ve only played two matches here, one was before the roof and one is right now. Hopefully I’ll keep it going.”
Regarding her movement on clay, Osaka said: “I would say it’s a work in progress. Hopefully the more I play, the better I’ll get.”