World number ten Naomi Osaka started her Western and Southern Open campaign with a tough three-set victory over Karolina Muchova, with the fourth seed rallying from a set down in this second round encounter.
Neither Osaka and Muchova had been in action since the WTA Tour restarted earlier this month following a five-month suspension due to coronavirus, though that mostly did not show as the two contested a high quality encounter out on Court 17 at Flushing Meadows. There were just three breaks of serve across the opening two sets as the two battled in windy and humid conditions in New York.
The conditions were so humid that a 10-minute break was allowed as per WTA rules after the second set and following the resumption of the match it was Osaka who eased to victory, sealing a 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-2 victory in two hours and 33 minutes against the world number 26.
It was a slow start from both, with a trade of breaks to start the match, though after that both women found rhythm on their serve and remained largely unchallenged in their own service games as the set progressed. After neither was able to generate any further break points it was the Czech who raced to a 3-0 lead in the ensuing tiebreak and, after twice losing a minibreak lead, took the opening set after almost an hour following a forehand error from the fourth seed.
Osaka responded to dropping the opening set brightly as she broke in the opening game of set two, consolidating for a quick 2-0 lead. The Japanese was unable to build on further pressure early on but was also untroubled on her own serve, with Muchova unable to create any opportunities when receiving. The Czech held despite being set point down at 3-5, though a love service game from the fourth seed sent the match to a decider.
Having looked so solid in the second set Osaka remained firm in the deciding set, breaking in the opening game and, after saving two break points herself, breaking in a lengthy game to help build a commanding 4-0 lead in the deciding set. Muchova had fought so hard throughout the encounter and was able to avoid being bagelled with holds down 0-4 and 1-5, though Osaka faced little trouble in closing the match out; an ace on her first match point sealed a hard-fought victory.