CHARLESTON, SC, USA - No.10 seed Naomi Osaka made a strong transition from hardcourts to clay on Monday, dispatching big-hitting American Jennifer Brady, 6-4, 6-4, to reach the second round of the Volvo Car Open.
"It's hard knowing I can't hit winners that much, and the points are longer," she said during her on-court interview.
"Two years ago I would have said I had a good relationship with clay," she continued in her post-match press conference, "because I did ok at the French. But last year, I don't think I won any matches on clay except here. This year, I'm just trying to start anew and to enjoy it."
Back in 2016, she made it all the way to the third round in her Roland Garros debut, pushing former finalist Simona Halep to three sets on the terre battue.
"You have to change your game for clay, at least a little. When I first started hitting here this week, I was subconsiously hitting my forehand with more spin. People who have more spin do better on clay, so while I don't want to change my game drastically, some changes might be good."
Osaka rode an eight-match winning streak through the second round of the Miami Open, defeating the likes of Simona Halep and Serena Williams along the way, and appeared back to full health following a draining fortnight at the BNP Paribas Open, where she won her first career WTA title.
"It already seems like a while ago. People keep asking me how my life has changed, but I don't think it's changed too much. The people who surround me keep me in a bubble, so I'm not seeing too much outside that. I feel like I should just focus on tennis, and I don't want to dwell much on the past."
Playing her first clay court tournament of 2018, the Japanese youngster blasted 22 winners to just 19 unforced errors and broke serve three times to secure victory after 83 minutes on court.
"When she went up 2-0 in the first set, I did a good job of staying calm and not changing too much. I would say I was trying not to overhit, but other times I was letting her dictate too much, so I would change that."
Up next for Osaka is 2017 semifinalist Laura Siegemund, the German veteran making her return to tennis after nearly a year away due to a knee injury incurred ahead of last year's French Open. Winning her first WTA main draw match since May, she knocked out Natalia Vikhlyantseva, 7-5, 6-2.
A formidable clay courter, Siegemund took the momentum from Charleston into the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, where she captured the biggest title of her career.