Naomi Osaka overcame a slew of mistakes to win in her return to the French Open and then did something no one knew whether she would: She spoke briefly to the crowd.
The No. 2-ranked Osaka has said she won’t participate in news conferences at Roland Garros — and she did not do a pre-tournament session with the media.
After beating Patricia Maria Tig 6-4, 7-6 (4) despite 35 unforced errors at Court Philippe Chatrier, Osaka spoke into a microphone and briefly exchanged pleasantries with Fabrice Santoro, a former pro tennis player who conducts post-match interviews at the French Open so fans can hear something from the athletes.
Osaka has won four Grand Slam titles, all on hard courts, including the Australian Open this February.
She has never been past the third round at Roland Garros and skipped the clay-court major last year shortly after winning the US Open.
As for her game on clay, she told the sparse crowd at the tournament’s first match in its main stadium this year: “I would say it’s a work in progress. Hopefully the more I play, the better I get.”
Another Grand Slam champion didn’t fare as well on Sunday morning.
Former No. 1 Angelique Kerber already is gone from the French Open with a third consecutive first-round loss.
The 26th-seeded Kerber was beaten 6-2, 6-4 to Anhelina Kalinina, a qualifier from Ukraine ranked 139th making her tournament debut.
A three-time Grand Slam champ, Roland Garros is the only major that Kerber hasn’t won, and she’s frequently struggled on its red clay.
Her defeat on Court 14 on the opening Sunday was the eighth time in 14 appearances in Paris that she has exited in the first round.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.