Naomi Osaka’s homecoming couldn’t have gone much better. Playing in her first tournament since winning the US Open, third-seeded Osaka impressed her Japanese fans with a powerful 6-2, 6-1 win over Dominika Cibulkova to reach the quarter-finals of the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo.
Osaka was in control of the second-round match from the outset, breaking Cibulkova’s serve in the first game at a sold-out Tachikawa Arena.
“My first match [since the US Open] in Tokyo felt really special,” Osaka said. “I didn’t really feel pressure, I felt more excitement because I knew that a lot of people were watching this match. I felt really grateful.
“I’m just grateful I could play in front of you guys and want to thank everyone for their support.”
The local favourite raced in to a 4-0 lead before Cibulkova finally held serve to win her first game. Osaka hit three aces to close out the first set.
She broke her opponent three more times in the second set to win in just over an hour, hitting 25 winners to just nine unforced errors.
Osaka, 20, became the first Japanese player to win a Grand Slam singles title when she upset 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams in New York.
Two years ago Osaka lost in the Pan Pacific final to Caroline Wozniacki, who is the top-seeded player this year.
Osaka was born in Japan to a Haitian father and Japanese mother. They both saw her beat Cibulkova.
Osaka, who has spent most of her life in the United States and lives in Florida, has been in the spotlight both on and off the court since returning to Japan last Thursday.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took to Instagram to praise Osaka’s accomplishments and the rising star also appeared at a sumo match.
Osaka signed a three-year contract last week with Japanese carmaker Nissan – no financial details were released – and she is reportedly close to landing a large deal with Adidas, perhaps in the range of $10 million (£7.6m). The US Open victory was worth $3.8m (£2.9m) in prize money.
Osaka also has endorsement agreements with Japanese sporting goods company Yonex, noodle maker Nissin Foods, Citizen Watch and satellite broadcaster Wowow.