Naomi Osaka stepped back onto court for the first time in well over two months as the former No. 1 moved into a high-profile showdown at the WTA event in northern California on Tuesday.
The Japanese player who has gaping holes in her schedule over recent seasons due to injury and emotional fragility which forced her to avoid the stress of competition, beat China’s Zheng Quiwen 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 in the first round.
Osaka, whose last match came on May 23 when she lost to Amanda Anisimova in her Roland Garros opener, will next take on US sixth seed Coco Gauff.
The teenager dropped just one game in a rout of Anhelina Kalina which took a mere 55 minutes.
Osaka, ranked 41st, managed 11 aces in her victory over her Chinese opponent ranked 10 places below her.
The Japanese player stands 2-1 in her career series with Gauff.
“She’s been on the tour for a while and I think people don’t know that because of how young she is,” Osaka said of the 18-year-old.
“She’s improving every year, so I think there’s a lot that she’s learning and it’s only a matter of time before she wins a Slam.
“When I go on the court, I know who I am, so I just want to see what she’s going to bring.”
Gauff said four-time Grand Slam champion Osaka is “obviously going to be a tough opponent.
.”Win or lose, the match is going to be great. She’s such a champion, on and off the court; those are the type of people that you want to play.”