These are the early days of the Tokyo Olympics, but Naomi Osaka is quickly emerging as the lead actor. Two days after lighting the kettle at the opening ceremony – what she described as “the greatest athletic achievement and honor” of her life – Osaka stepped onto the tennis court on Sunday for their first game in almost two months, defeating Chinese Saisai Zheng 61 64 on the center court of the Ariake Tennis Park.
Wimbledon champion Ashleigh Barty’s surprise loss to Sara Sorribes Tormo early Sunday means Osaka is now the top ranked player in the women as she seeks to become the first Japanese woman to win an Olympic tennis medal. The fourth Grand Slam winner had not played since her resignation from the French Open at the end of May, following her decision not to take on a press service for psychological reasons. She too decided not to play at Wimbledon, but arrived in Tokyo rejuvenated and ready to leave her mark.