After Naomi Osaka made a surprise appearance at the opening ceremony as the lighter of the cauldron, the tributes poured in.
“Naomi Osaka is the best thing to happen to our sport in terms of getting international visibility,” tweeted Stefanos Tsitsipas. “She’s a total superstar and is doing wonders for tennis.”
Iga Swiatek said, “I think she deserves it with all the great results that she had. She’s dealing with a lot of stuff, so it’s good that she had the honor and opportunity to do that.
“It’s a pretty special moment so I hope she’s going to remember that.”
Originally, Japan’s Osaka was scheduled as the first match on Centre Court but was pushed to Day 2 when she received the torch assignment.
Naomi Osaka wins her first match back in straight sets ✨— On Her Turf (@OnHerTurf) July 25, 2021
She talks about how it feels to be on the court again & having the honor of lighting the Olympic cauldron.#OlympicHERstory | #TokyoOlympics pic.twitter.com/nJMw7lvwut
Back on court for the first time in nearly two months, Osaka handled Zheng Saisai 6-1, 6-4 on Sunday in Tokyo. Meanwhile, Viktorija Golubic defeated Maria Camila Osorio Serrano 6-4, 6-1 in a first-round match on Saturday.
Now Osaka meets Golubic in the second round Monday (Sunday, 10 p.m. ET), the first match on Centre Court. It’s their first meeting.
All 16 second-round singles matches, plus some enticing doubles, are in play. Here's a breakdown:
No.3 Aryna Sabalenka vs. Donna Vekic
Sabalenka continues the best season of her career after reaching the semifinals at Wimbledon. The 23-year-old from Belarus breezed past Magda Linette 6-2, 6-1.
Vekic, the 25-year-old Croatian, defeated Caroline Garcia 6-2, 6-7 (2), 6-3.
Head-to-head: Vekic, 3-1 (but Sabalenka won the most recent, in the 2019 San Jose semifinals).
No.4 Elina Svitolina vs. Ajla Tomljanovic
In the wake of her marriage to French star Gael Monfils, Svitolina was understandably up and down in a 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 victory over Laura Siegemund.
Meanwhile, Tomljanovic defeated Yaroslava Shvedova 7-5, 3-2 (retired). The 28-year-old Australian could be a handful for Svitolina as she’s coming off her first career major quarterfinal at Wimbledon.
Head-to-head: Svitolina 3-0 (most recently at the 2018 French Open).
No.5 Karolina Pliskova vs. Carla Suarez Navarro
Spain seems to be making most of the big tennis headlines early in this Olympiad.
On the same day Sara Sorribes Tormo stunned top seed Ashleigh Barty, Suarez Navarro upset No. 23-ranked Ons Jabeur 6-4, 6-1.
Pliskova, the Wimbledon finalist, handled Alize Cornet 6-1, 6-3.
Head-to-head: Pliskova, 4-3 (but they haven’t played in three years).
No.6 Iga Swiatek vs. Paula Badosa
Iga Swiatek knew it was going to be hot and humid in Tokyo, with forecasts calling for 90-degree days that feel like something closer to 100.
Maybe that’s why the 20-year-old carried such a sense of urgency into Saturday’s first-round match against Mona Barthel. Twenty-six minutes in, she was leading 5-0 and won 6-2, 6-2 in only 67 minutes.
Swiatek says her ideal weather is Wimbledon or Roland Garros in the fall, where she won her first major singles title in 2020. She and her team arrived early and trained in nearby Takasaki to acclimate for the Olympics.
“It is humid,” Swiatek told the International Tennis Federation. “I’m not used to it. Right now, it’s much, much easier.
“But still, when the stress comes and all the different factors that you have on that match, it’s different. I’m happy I’m in the second round and I can just get the experience.”
When Osaka got the call to light the Olympic cauldron, Swiatek happily took her opening day, first-on Centre Court berth.
“I wasn’t expecting that,” Swiatek said. “I know that they changed the schedule yesterday, but it was a special moment for me. I know that right now I really feel the Olympic vibe.”
She’ll need to channel more of the same against Badosa, who is ranked No.29 and enjoying a breakthrough season.
Badosa defeated Kristina Mladenovic 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-0 to reach the second round. The 23-year-old Spaniard has won 27 matches this season – one fewer than Swiatek – and is coming off a fourth-round effort at Wimbledon and the quarterfinals at Roland Garros. In May, she won her first career title, the Serbia Ladies Open.
Swiatek is only the third Polish woman to win an Olympic singles match, following Agnieszka and Urszula Radwanska.
No.7 Garbiñe Muguruza vs. Wang Qiang
Muguruza, a two-time major champion, looked sharp, prevailing in a difficult first-round match over Veronika Kudermetova, 7-5, 7-5. Muguruza is 28-10 for the season, with a title in Dubai.
Wang defeated Veronica Cepede Royg 6-4, 6-3.
Head-to-head: Wang, 2-0 (both in 2018).
No.8 Barbora Krejcikova vs. Leylah Fernandez
Krejcikova, the recent French Open champion, continues to string together a scintillating summer run.
She’s won 21 of her last 22 matches. Her latest came after Zarina Diyas, who was down 5-2 in the first set, retired from their first-round Olympics match.
The 18-year-old Fernandez defeated Dayana Yastremska 6-3, 3-6, 6-0. She’s ranked No.72 and recorded her first career title, back in March in Monterrey.
No.9 Belinda Bencic vs. Misaki Doi
Bencic is playing in her first Olympics after missing Rio de Janeiro with an injury. In a difficult first-round matchup, she eased past Jessica Pegula 6-3, 6-3, while Doi defeated Renata Zarazua 6-3, 6-2.
With the first-round loss of Nao Hibino, the host nation has just two players left in the women’s draw, Doi and Osaka.
Doi, 30, ranked No.94, will have to overcome what has become a one-sided matchup.
Head-to-head: Bencic, 3-0 (most recently 2021 Adelaide)
No.10 Petra Kvitova vs. Alison Van Uytvanck
Kvitova’s the only woman in the field who owns an Olympic singles medal (bronze, 2016 Rio), and looked comfortable, taking care of Jasmine Paolini 6-4, 6-3.
Van Uytvanck beat Ivana Jorovic 6-3, 6-2.
Head-to-head: Kvitova 1-0 (2020 St. Petersburg).
No. 14 Maria Sakkari vs. Nina Stojanovic
Six years ago, these two met in a $25,000 ITF event in Minsk, Belarus.
Sakkari – then 19, ranked No.210 in the world and the top seed – prevailed 6-3, 6-1. She ultimately lost in the semifinals, but cashed a check for $1,144.
Sunday, they meet on a slightly larger stage.
Sakkari, who represents Greece, the country that originated the Olympic Games, is comfortable in these steamy conditions. Down 5-2 to Anett Kontaveit, she rallied to win five straight games and came away with a 7-5, 6-2 victory.
Stojanovic, meanwhile, defeated Nao Hibino 6-3, 6-3,
“It was great to have a tough match in the beginning,” Sakkari told the ITF. “It’s the Olympics – it’s probably the best players in the world [here], especially in the women’s draw.
“It’s going to be a battle every match I play but I’m ready for it.”
Head-to-head: Sakkari, 1-0 (2015 Minsk).
No.13 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova vs. Anna-Lena Friedsam
The most dominant Day 1 performance belonged to Pavlyuchenkova, who defeated Sara Errani 6-0, 6-1. The 30-year-old Russian won the first nine games of the match, broke all seven of the Italian’s service games and won 60 of 90 points.
Friedsam defeated Heather Watson 7-6(5), 6-3.
Head-to-head: Pavlyuchenkova, 1-0 (2015 Linz final).
No. 15 Elena Rybakina vs. Rebecca Peterson
The highlight of Rybakina’s season so far was a straights-sets win over Serena Williams to advance to the quarterfinals of the French Open.
Her 6-4, 6-2 first-round victory over Samantha Stosur was her 20th match-win of the year. The 22-year-old from Kazakhstan is ranked No.20.
Peterson, a 25-year-old Swede, defeated Egypt’s Mayar Sherif 7-5, 7-6 (1).
Head-to-head: Peterson, 1-0 (2019 Nanchang final).
Marketa Vondrousova vs. Mihaela Buzarnescu
Vondrousova took down No.16 seed Kiki Bertens 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 in the first round, the only seeded player to fall on Day 1.
It was the last career singles match for the Netherlands’ Bertens, who is retiring at the age of 29. Vondrousova, 22, is one of four Czech Republic women in the draw and ranked No.41.
The No. 168-ranked Buzarnescu defeated Alison Riske 6-7 (0), 7-5, 6-4 in a match that ran nearly three hours.
Camila Giorgi vs. Elena Vesnina
The Italian Giorgi dispatched No.11 seed Jennifer Brady 6-3, 6-2 on Day 2.
Vesnina, for her part, outlasted Jelena Ostapenko 6-4, 6-7 (2), 6-4.
Head-to-head: Vesnina, 2-1 (but they haven’t met in four years).
Sara Sorribes Tormo vs. Fiona Ferro
Sorribes Tormo scored the upset of the tournament Sunday, stunning world No.1 Ashleigh Barty 6-4, 6-3.
Ferro was a 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 winner over Anastasija Sevastova.
Head-to-head: Ferro 2-0, (2019 Hobart and Palermo).
Nadia Podoroska vs. Ekaterina Alexandrova
Podoroska advanced when Yulia Putintseva retired after trailing 7-6 (4), 1-3.
Alexandrova upset No.12 seed Elise Mertens 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.
Head-to-head: 2-0, Alexandrova (2020 Linz, 2021 Miami).