Tennis-Osaka overcomes nerves to reach Gippsland Trophy last 16

·2-min read
Japan's Naomi Osaka practices at Melbourne Park in Melbourne

(Reuters) - Naomi Osaka settled her nerves and stepped up her preparations for the Australian Open by beating Alize Cornet 6-2 6-2 to reach the last 16 of the Gippsland Trophy warm-up tournament in Melbourne on Tuesday.

In her first competitive match since winning the U.S. Open in September, the 23-year-old Japanese player sent down six aces and converted all four of her breakpoints to prevail in 71 minutes but said the victory did not come easy.

"I was nervous the entire match," Osaka, who won the 2019 Australian Open, told reporters.

"There were moments where it was less and there were moments where it was more, but I felt like I was really nervous just going, like walking onto the court.

"Even until the very last point, I think I was just thinking - I don't know, the first match you come back and especially in a Grand Slam environment, it's definitely very hard."

Osaka next faces Briton Katie Boulter, who battled back to knock out American teenager Coco Gauff 3-6 7-5 6-2.

French Open champion Iga Swiatek later recovered from a set down to beat Slovenia's Kaja Juvan 2-6 6-2 6-1.

World No.7 Aryna Sabalenka's 15-match winning streak came to an end when she lost 6-1 2-6 6-1 to Estonia's Kaia Kanepi.

"When I play well and aggressive, I think it's tough for anybody to beat me," said Kanepi, who faces Daria Kasatkina in the next round.

"I got some rhythm after my first match and today I found it much better."

Kasatkina beat Polona Hercog 6-4 6-3 to reach the round of 16. Joining her was Caroline Garcia, who overcame Timea Babos 6-4 6-4, and fifth seed Johanna Konta, who eased past Bernarda Pera 6-2 6-3.

The Australian Open begins on Feb. 8.

(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford and David Goodman)