World number one Ash Barty managed to play through an injury problem and stave off an upset against American Bernarda Pera with a 6-4 3-6 6-2 win in her opening match of the French Open on Tuesday.
Returning to the Philippe Chatrier court after her maiden Grand Slam win in 2019, the 25-year-old Australian seemed to be cruising against the 70th-ranked Pera when she was up 5-2 in the opening set.
Barty, who skipped the claycourt Grand Slam last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, started moving sluggishly thereafter, clearly bothered by an injury, and then took a medical timeout at the end of the second set after Pera levelled the match.
The Australian, who started the match with a heavily-strapped left thigh, kept fighting and found a way to victory and a second-round meeting against either Magda Linette of Poland or French woman Chloe Paquet.
Support for Osaka
Leading figures in tennis and sport have rallied to support Naomi Osaka after the women’s world number two withdrew from the French Open in a row about post-match media duties, saying she had been suffering from “depression” and “anxiety”.
One of the biggest names in sport, Osaka stunned the tennis world when she pulled out of the Grand Slam after being fined and threatened with expulsion for refusing to show up at an obligatory news conference on Sunday.
The four-time Grand Slam champion had signalled her intentions to skip her media duties to protect her mental well-being on social media and returned to Twitter on Monday to announce her withdrawal.
“I think now the best thing for the tournament, the other players and my well-being is that I withdraw so that everyone can go back to focusing on the tennis going on in Paris,” she wrote.
While her original stance had earned little backing from her fellow professionals, most of whom saying that dealing with the media was part of the job, her withdrawal triggered a wave of support from around the sporting world.
“So proud of you,” multiple Grand Slam winner Venus Williams posted on Twitter. “Take care of yourself and see you back winning soon!”
Williams’s sister Serena and younger American players Coco Gauff and Sloane Stephens also chimed in with messages of support as the focus shifted from Osaka’s responsibilities to her wellbeing.
Billie Jean King echoed comments from fellow women’s tennis trailblazer Martina Navratilova about the importance of mental health.
“It’s incredibly brave that Naomi Osaka has revealed her truth about her struggle with depression,” King wrote on social media.
“Right now, the important thing is that we give her the space and time she needs. We wish her well.”