Top-ranked Naomi Osaka was on the verge of crashing out of the first round at Roland Garros, but found a way to stay alive for a 0-6, 7-6 (4), 6-1 victory over Anna Karolina Schmiedlova Tuesday evening in Paris.
"I think this is the most nervous I have ever been my entire life during a match. I think you could see that in the first set. I was literally not hitting any balls in the court," Osaka said. "Today was weird because usually the nerves go away, but it kind of stayed the entire match. Then I just felt like it was a fight of willpower."
On three occasions, Osaka was two points away from defeat when Schmiedlova served for the match a second time up 6-5 in the second set. Twice at deuce, Osaka stepped up to finish points with winners; in the final case, Schmiedlova double faulted to end any hopes of reaching match point.
Osaka, the winner of the past two Grand Slam titles, increased her major win streak to 15 matches. Throughout the unbeaten run, the Japanese star is 6-0 in three-set encounters, rallying from a set down in half of those matches.
The No. 1 seed will battle Victoria Azarenka for a spot in the third round. Azarenka knocked out 2017 champion Jelena Ostapenko 6-4, 7-6 (4). Osaka won their most recent meeting in Rome a year ago, routing the Belarusian 6-0, 6-3 to claim the first-round clash.
"She's been playing really well recently and there is no way that it's going to be a similar match to the one I played with her in Rome last year," said Osaka. "So I'm expecting one of the hardest matches of the year."