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Naomi Osaka had a strong start in her US Open title defense, posting a 6-4, 6-1 victory over Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic who was a little tighter than the suggested final score.

Osaka and Bouzkova were dead even in a hard-fought first set filled with close matches, long points and hard-hitting rallies. In Game 10, Osaka finally forced Bouzkova to make a backhand error on his third set point to take the lead with his first serve break and win the first set.

Osaka appeared to settle in from there, taking a 5-0 lead in the second set before Bouzkova could finally hold his serve. Osaka finished Bouzkova in the next match with a winning forehand across the line that caught the edge of the paint.

It was a much different atmosphere than anything Osaka experienced on their march to the championship last year, when no spectators were allowed at the tournament. She performed on Monday at Arthur Ashe Stadium in front of nearly 20,000 fans who made noise all night and started kissing her as one of their own. Osaka was born in Japan and represents that nation, but grew up largely in New York and Florida.

“It’s pretty amazing to play in front of everyone again,” Osaka said after the game. “The energy here is unmatched.”

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