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Australian Open: Naomi Osaka beaten on Grand Slam comeback as Coco Gauff storms through in Melbourne

Caroline Garcia got the better of Naomi Osaka in one of the most eagerly-anticipated first-round matches at the Australian Open; we will bring you live scores, reports, analysis and features from Melbourne over the next fortnight

Naomi Osaka
Image: Naomi Osaka suffered defeat in the first round

Naomi Osaka was beaten in straight sets by Caroline Garcia in her first Grand Slam appearance since 2022 at the Australian Open.

Osaka missed last season as she gave birth to her daughter Shai in July and returned to tennis at the start of this year.

However, she could not make the dream return to Grand Slam action as 16th seed Garcia defeated the four-time major winner 6-4 7-6 (7-2).

"I have a lot of respect for Naomi as a person and player. We all know she's had an amazing career and she's been through a lot," said Garcia, who added she felt unlucky to draw Osaka in the first round.

"I'm glad to see her back and I hope she can enjoy her tennis now and have fun out there. She's done so much for tennis and to play six months after giving birth, she's playing quite amazing already so we have to watch out!"

Both players struck the ball well but played loose shots throughout the match and in the fifth game of the opening set, Garcia capitalised on unforced errors from Osaka to break.

Osaka did not get a look at breaking back and dug deep in the second set, which went to 5-5 as both players held serve. A tie-break beckoned as neither player could find the decisive break and Garcia got the first mini break to lead 5-2.

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Another mini break followed to set up four match points and a backhand into the net from Osaka gave Garcia victory to book a place in the second round where she will face Poland's Magdalena Frech.

Naomi Osaka of Japan plays a backhand return to Caroline Garcia of France during their first round match at the Australian Open tennis championships at Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia, Monday, Jan. 15, 2024. (AP Photo/Asanka Brendon Ratnayake)
Image: Naomi Osaka returned to competitive tennis two weeks ago after over a year out to give birth to her daughter

Gauff breezes into second round

Reigning US Open champion Coco Gauff secured a comfortable 6-3 6-0 win over Anna Karolina Schmiedlova to secure a spot in the second round of the Australian Open.

Gauff opened proceedings on Rod Laver Arena on the second day of the tournament for her first Grand Slam match since she lifted the title in New York in September.

She brushed aside Slovakia's Anna Karolina Schmiedlova 6-3 6-0 in exactly an hour, winning nine games in a row to set up a second-round clash with compatriot Caroline Dolehide.

"I felt good," said the 19-year-old, who was been working on her serve with former world No 1 Andy Roddick.

"I was a little bit nervous coming in today. Probably you could tell. I was able to just calm down and then play, not my best, but good tennis from that point."

Coco Gauff of the U.S. celebrates after defeating Anna Karolina Schmiedlova of Slovakia during their first round match at the Australian Open tennis championships at Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia, Monday, Jan. 15, 2024. (AP Photo/Asanka Brendon Ratnayake)
Image: Gauff has been working on her serve with former world No 1 Andy Roddick

Gauff dropped just one point on her serve in the second set and said that Roddick had recently given her some serving tips.

"It was really cool," she said. "He's a really chill guy. I met him before but never to that level. I went to Charlotte [North Carolina] for two days. It was a really good two days. I think that my serve has improved. He's probably one of the best servers in history."

Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova was stunned 6-1 6-2 by Ukrainian qualifier Dayana Yastremska and became the biggest name to fall so far in the women's draw.

Vondrousova reached the quarter-finals of the US Open but has otherwise struggled since defeating Ons Jabeur in the Wimbledon final.

She made 19 unforced errors while the big-hitting Yastremska racked up 26 winners.

The 23-year-old spoke afterwards about the inspiration she takes from the bravery of people in her war-torn homeland, saying: "I'm very proud of Ukraine, proud of the people, proud of the warriors and just the civilians.

"When I was in Brisbane, before my match the rocket arrived on my grandmother's house so it was pretty hard to play, but I think we just need to remember about it and give as much support as possible to Ukraine. I'm proud to be Ukrainian."

There was more success for Ukraine on the 1573 Arena, where 19th seed Elina Svitolina, who missed last year's tournament following the birth of daughter Skai, saw off Australian wild card Taylah Preston 6-2 6-2.

Two-time major runner-up Ons Jabeur beat Yulia Starodubtseva 6-3 6-1 and Germany's Laura Siegemund held off Russian 17th seed Ekaterina Alexandrova to win 6-2 3-6 7-6 (11-9) and reach the second round, where she will face Australian Storm Hunter.

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