Four-time Grand Slam winner Naomi Osaka has made her triumphant return to tennis with a resounding first-round victory at the 2021 U.S. Open, according to Yahoo.
Osaka clinched two straight sets 6-4, 6-1 over 87th-ranked Marie Bouzková of the Czech Republic.
The victory marks the first time that Osaka has competed since she left major play on May 30 when she decided not to participate in a mandatory press conference after her first-round match at the French Open. She drew a $15,000 fine and later pulled out of competition at that event followed by her withdrawal from Wimbledon, Ebony previously reported.
Osaka expressed her gratitude for being able to play in front of a crowd.
“It feels kind of crazy to play in front of everyone again. I just want to say thank you for coming out here. Last year, when we didn’t have a crowd, I know it felt quite lonely for me,” Osaka told Sports Illustrated. “I’m glad to see little kids in the audience — and, of course, grown-ups, too.”
Playing at the Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing Meadows, Queens, New York, the hallowed venue is a second home to Osaka, who once lived in the neighborhood before relocating to Florida. She even had the opportunity to visit some of the courts she refurbished in the area.
Leading up to the match, Osaka took to Twitter to share her thoughts about seizing the moment.
Every time a new opportunity arises,” she wrote, “my first thought is, ‘wow, why me?’ I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m gonna try to celebrate myself and my accomplishments more, I think we all should.”
“Your life is your own and you shouldn’t value yourself on other people’s standards,” she continued. “I know I give my heart to everything I can and if that’s not good enough for some then my apologies.”
Osaka will now face Olga Danilović in the U.S. Open action this Wednesday, Sept. 1.