TOKYO, Japan - There was no letdown from US Open champion Naomi Osaka, who thrilled her home crowd with a 6-2, 6-1 win over former World No.4 Dominika Cibulkova at the Toray Pan Pacific Open.
"It was really difficult and she's such a great player. I'm just grateful I could play in front of you guys," Osaka insisted while addressing the crowd in her on-court interview.
Osaka was playing her first match since capturing her maiden major title in Flushing Meadows, and showed no signs of stopping that momentum on Wednesday night, easing past the Slovak veteran after just 59 minutes on the Main Arena.
"I think my serve definitely worked well today. I think it got me out of trouble quite a lot, so I'm really happy with the progress," she added in press.
In front of a sold-out stadium, the 20-year-old was similarly emphartic against Cibulkova when they played at this very tournament two years ago - when Osaka made it all the way to her first WTA final - and breezed through the opening four games before the 2014 Australian Open runner-up got on the board.
"For me, I think Indian Wells really prepared me for the US Open. In a way, I feel used to it. The scale of the US Open is way bigger, but I'm glad I'm playing Tokyo right after the US Open because this is where my mindset was anyway. It kept me from thinking too much about how I won the US Open.
"I don't know what will happen during the off-season when things calm down, but right now, I'm just thinking about my next round here."
Cibulkova has been in the midst of a career resurgence since reaching the quarterfinals of Wimbledon, upsetting former No.1 Angelique Kerber en route to the second week of the US Open, but couldn't make a dent on the Osaka serve as the No.3 seed made it through without facing a single break point.
"I can say that I played at maybe 80%, but I never know the limit of what I can go to, so I can't say I was at 100%. Still, I was at a pretty high level just based on my serve. I don't know how many unforced errors I hit, but I don't think it was that many."
Even more efficient in the second set, the youngster broke serve three more times to clinch a quarterfinal clash with either No.8 seed Barbora Strycova or Estonian Anett Kontaveit.
Osaka earned an ethusiastic ovation after the match, hitting 25 (including nine aces) winners to just nine unforced errors as she converted five of nine break point opportunities.