Naomi Osaka makes winning return in Melbourne in first match in four months

Andy Murray was beaten by Facundo Bagnis after error-strewn display in Melbourne

Naomi Osaka beat Alize Cornet 6-4 3-6 6-3.
Naomi Osaka beat Alize Cornet 6-4 3-6 6-3.
Image: Alamy Stock Photo

NAOMI OSAKA STRUGGLED to victory over Alize Cornet in the first round of the Melbourne Summer Set as the reigning Australian Open champion played her first match in four months.

The warm-up tournament’s top seed, who is back on tour for the first time since the US Open following mental health struggles, will face either Petra Martic or Maryna Zanevska after defeating Cornet 6-4 3-6 6-3 over two hours and two minutes.

“I really love playing here,” Osaka said in comments shared on the WTA after the match.

“I love New York, but this might be my favourite slam so it feels really good to always come back here.”

The Japanese player committed 57 unforced errors, including eight double faults, as she struggled with her accuracy at Melbourne Park.

Osaka took the opening set and took an early break in the second before Cornet fought back to win four straight games and the set.

The former world number one, now ranked 13th, claimed the first three games of the final set then served out the win from a 0-30 deficit.

Meanwhile, Andy Murray endured a frustrating start to the new year as he was beaten by world number 76 Facundo Bagnis.

The 34-year-old produced an error-strewn display as he fell 6-3 5-7 6-3 to Bagnis, leaving him with plenty of work to do ahead of the Australian Open.

Murray had harboured hopes of making a competitive start to 2022 after reaching the final of an exhibition event in Abu Dhabi in December, where he was beaten by Andrey Rublev.

But those hopes largely evaporated in a disappointing display which left the Scot slamming his racket into his bench in frustration midway through the deciding set.

Bagnis, who has never gone beyond the third round of a grand slam tournament, took the first set but Murray responded well with a dominant second to level matters.

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However, Murray was afflicted by a poor ball toss and dreadful second-serve percentage, enabling Bagnis to grab the crucial break in the fifth game of the final set before serving out to take the match.

Murray has accepted a wild-card into the Australian Open, two years after indicating his appearance in Melbourne was likely to be his last due to impending hip surgery.


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