Naomi Osaka and Maria Sakkari kicked off their campaigns at the 2022 Mutua Madrid Open with opening-round wins, as they advanced further in the loaded second quarter at the first WTA 1000 clay-court event of the season.
Former World No.1 Osaka, playing her first match since her run to the Miami Open final last month, dismissed qualifier Anastasia Potapova 6-3, 6-1 in a hair over an hour.
Earlier on Friday, No.4 seed Sakkari put her three-match losing skid to an end with a 6-7(8), 6-3, 6-4 comeback win over Madison Keys in two-and-a-half hours.
Osaka and Sakkari are in the same quarter of the draw as seeded players Danielle Collins and Jessica Pegula, as well as dangerous unseeded players such as Bianca Andreescu and Kaia Kanepi.
Outstanding Osaka: On Manolo Santana Stadium, Osaka looked in fine form in her first clay-court match of the season. Four-time Grand Slam champion Osaka won 86 percent of her first-service points and converted five of her nine break points to sweep to victory.
"I'm honestly trying to be more positive with myself," Osaka said afterward. "This year I came a week early to train on red clay, so just trying to give myself more chances to do better. ... To be able to do it in two sets, for me, it's a really good starting block.
"I think today for me it was really fun, just being able to be back on the clay and kind of not taking those moments for granted."
In their first meeting, Osaka garnered a solid win over former No.1-ranked junior Potapova, who was on a winning streak. Potapova claimed her first Hologic WTA Tour singles title as a qualifier in Istanbul on Sunday and returned to the Top 100 on Monday.
Potapova then came to Madrid and won two qualifying matches mere days later, upping her run to nine straight wins spanning qualifying and main-draw matches.
On Friday, though, Osaka fought back from an early break down in the opening set, leveling proceedings at 3-3. Deep returns put Osaka up a break for the first time at 5-3, and she closed out the set with one of her six aces.
Osaka, currently ranked World No.36, romped through the second set without facing a break point, ending Potapova's superb winning streak.
All told, Osaka won 10 of the last 11 games against Potapova to make it into the Madrid second round for the third time. Osaka's best Madrid showing is a quarterfinal run in 2019.
Sakkari surging: Earlier on Manolo Santana Stadium, Sakkari returned to the winner's circle after over a month without a victory.
Sakkari reached the biggest final of her career at Indian Wells in March, but after falling to Iga Swiatek in that match, she dropped her opening contests in Miami and Stuttgart (via retirement in the latter).
World No.5 Sakkari is back on track after improving to 3-0 against Keys, despite losing her first set to the American in their rivalry. 22nd-ranked Keys gritted out the opening frame, with no service breaks by either player, after a grueling 68 minutes.
Sakkari: “I think the conditions suit Madison well here. When I saw the draw I thought that’s a tough first round. I just trusted my game.— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) April 29, 2022
"Overall, it was a very positive match to get myself back in the winning feeling.”#MMOPEN pic.twitter.com/eIHOsxUhJj
Sakkari used a deft lob to earn the first break of the day and lead 4-2 in the second set, and the Greek held on from there. There were five service breaks in the third set, and Sakkari grabbed the decisive one to lead 5-4, closing out the victory in the next game with a forehand winner.
Sakkari will next face Daria Kasatkina in the second round, after Kasatkina overcame qualifier Anna Bondar from a set down. Kasatkina has won all three of her previous meetings with Sakkari, but they have not faced off since 2018.