MELBOURNE, Australia – The first test of Naomi Osaka's new approach to tennis might have been when she completely whiffed an overhead to give her opponent a break point on Day 1 of the no-Novak Djokovic Australian Open.
Osaka didn't throw her racket. She didn't roll her eyes. She smiled.
“There are situations where I previously would get upset. But at this point in my life, like, I'm here because I want to be here and because I find that it's fun for me,” Osaka said. “Might as well enjoy it while I still can.”
In Osaka's mind, the drama involving nine-time champion Djokovic's deportation on the eve of the Australian Open was something for the players in the men's draw to worry about. Her title defense began smoothly enough: She won the first five games on the way to a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Camila Osorio.
With so much attention on the 11-day saga of Djokovic's attempt to participate in the year's first Grand Slam tournament, the returns of Osaka and Rafael Nadal have been overshadowed.
Osaka wasn't bothered by that. Nadal didn't seem to be put off by it, either, renewing his bid for a record 21st Grand Slam singles title with a 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 win over Marcos Giron.
Nadal is tied with Djokovic and Roger Federer with 20 major singles titles each, the most in the history of men's tennis. With Djokovic unable to defend his crown in Melbourne because he didn't meet Australia's strict COVID-19 vaccination criteria, the door is slightly more ajar to Nadal.
Osaka's main concern, meanwhile, is winning a third Australian title in four years.
“To be completely honest, it didn't really affect me,” Osaka said of the Djokovic drama. “My goal, like even before this whole situation, is to just focus on myself more, what I need to do to become better.”
Finally, the focus was on tennis in Australia. It got started in a big way, with a combined 64 singles matches on opening day.
French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova, fifth-seeded Maria Sakkari, No. 15 Elina Svitolina and two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka all advanced.
Two young American contenders went out in the first round, with 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin losing 7-6 (2), 7-5 to Madison Keys and No. 18 Coco Gauff saving five match points before losing 6-4, 6-2 to Wang Qiang.
Men's Olympic champion Alexander Zverev wrapped up the Day 1 program on Rod Laver Arena with a 7-6 (3), 6-1, 7-6 (1) win over Daniel Altmaier and will next play John Millman.
Also advancing were No. 7 Matteo Berrettini, No. 10 Hubert Hurkacz, No. 14 Denis Shappovalov, No. 16 Cristian Garin, No. 17 Gael Monfils and No. 23 Reilly Opelka.
Nadal won the Australian Open in 2009 and is the only past champion in the men's bracket.