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Naomi Osaka hits a backhand against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the first round of the Australian Open on Monday. Rick Rycroft/Associated Press

MELBOURNE, Australia — Three-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka took the court on the first morning at the Australian Open and quickly moved into the second round Monday.

Osaka, who won the title in Melbourne two years ago, played the opening match in Rod Laver Arena and beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 6-1, 6-2.

The first tournament of this year’s Grand Slam season began after a three-week delay because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Physically I feel like everyone, their bodies are shocked, coming in and playing so suddenly after such a long break,” Osaka said. “I think we’re all getting used to it and everyone is just happy to be here.”

Osaka drew a potential tough opening opponent in Pavlyuchenkova, a Russian ranked 39th who reached the quarterfinals in Melbourne three of the past four years.

But Osaka breezed through the first set in 21 minutes and barely slowed after that. She finished with more winners than errors and lost only five points on her first serve.

Up to 30,000 fans – about 50% of capacity – will be allowed on the tournament site, but seats were mostly empty for the start of play on a cool morning.

“I’m just really happy to see people in the stands,” Osaka said.

Osaka is among five former Australian Open champions in the women’s draw. She has won 15 consecutive matches, including the U.S. Open final in September, since her most recent loss in a Fed Cup match a year ago.

Seven other women’s Grand Slam singles champions were also scheduled to play on the opening day, including Serena Williams, who is beginning her latest bid for a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title.

Venus Williams won a Grand Slam match for the first time since 2019.

Playing in her 21st Australian Open, Williams beat Kirsten Flipkens, 7-5, 6-2.

Williams went 0-2 at major tournaments last year. The victory came in her 88th Grand Slam match, a women’s record.

At 40, Williams is the oldest woman in this year’s draw and just the sixth player in her 40s to compete at the Australian Open.

 

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