On what appeared to be a tough draw, Osaka said: “It’s always really hard to play someone that good in the first round. I feel like it might have also helped in a way because I calmed my nerves because I felt like I couldn’t afford to be that nervous.”
The victory extended Osaka’s winning run, stretching back a year, to 15 matches, and she cited last year’s defeat by Coco Gauff in Melbourne as a turning point in her mental approach.
The third seed, who won her third slam title at the US Open last summer, said: “I think just after losing here to Coco, because she is sort of the person that I never wanted to lose to in this situation, just being the defending champion, losing to her in such a high-profile match, I think it really shocked me.
“I actually played a match in Fed Cup in Spain that I don’t know if a lot of people knew about (losing 6-0 6-3 to Sara Sorribes Tormo).
“There’s just a lot of stuff that happened there, surrounding that time, that it really made me think a lot about my life and what is the reason – am I playing tennis to prove stuff to other people or am I playing to have fun because I enjoy it?”
French Open champion Iga Swiatek has been wrestling with the different pressures of being a grand slam winner but the Pole negotiated her first hurdle successfully, beating Arantxa Rus 6-1 6-3.
Three-time grand slam winner Angelique Kerber was a shock casualty though. The German, one of 72 players to endure a hard quarantine, lost the first nine games in a 6-0 6-4 defeat by Bernarda Pera.