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By Richard Pagliaro | @Tennis_Now | Sunday, May 26, 2024
Proud mom Naomi Osaka is celebrating daughter Shai's first baby steps.

Osaka is excited about an impending major leap: the prospect of playing world No.1 Iga Swiatek in the Roland Garros second round.

Roland Garros Men's Draw: Top 5 Takeaways

World No. 134 Osaka tamed spiking nerve and a biting breeze, recovering from losing five games in a row, to beat Lucia Bronzetti 6-1, 4-6, 7-5 in today's French Open opener and earn her first major match win since the 2022 Australian Open.

It is Osaka's first major match win since becoming a mom—she gave birth to baby Shai on July 7th—
and sets up a potential blockbuster clash of four-time Grand Slam champions in the second round.

If reigning champion Swiatek defeats 148th-ranked French qualifier Leolia Jeanjean in her opener, then we'll see the current and former world No. 1 champions square off in round today.

Osaka said it will be "a very big honor and challenge" to face clay queen Swiatek on her best surface.

"I'm honestly really excited," Osaka said when asked about the prospect of playing Swiatek. "I watched her a lot when I was pregnant. "And honestly, I think it's an honor to play her in the French Open, because she's won more than once here, for sure. I'm going to, it's like a very big honor and challenge for me."

The top-seeded Swiatek carries an imposing 77-10 career clay-court record into her Roland Garros title defense, including a superb 14-1 clay mark this season capturing back-to-back WTA 1000 championships in Madrid and Rome.

If the champions showdown comes off as expected, it will be their third career meeting.

In their last clash, Swiatek swept Osaka 6-4, 6-0 in the 2022 Miami Open final. 

Though Osaka has never contested a clay-court final, she said she won't be in awe of Swiatek's superb clay credentials if they face off.

"Um, in a weird way, I definitely do feel like it's a test to see where I'm at, but I wouldn't say I have low expectations of myself," Osaka said of a Swiatek showdown. "I'm a person that kind of thinks that I can win every match that I play. That's kind of gotten me this far."

The 26-year-old Osaka is a student of the sport who once dissuaded Swiatek from pursuing higher education.

After the second-seeded Swiatek streaked through seven straight games crushing Osaka 6-4, 6-0 in the 2022 Miami Open final, the four-time major champion recalled breaking bread with a teenage Swiatek and encouraging her to continue competing on the pro tour rather than go to college. 

"A couple years ago, I had a dinner with her in Australia, and she was telling me like she might go to college. I was telling her, Don't do that," Osaka told the media in Miami. "It's been really cool to watch her grow. For me, I think the most impressive thing is like being able to string together these two wins in a row.

"Not even back-to-back-to-back wins but going from Indian Wells and like even getting to the quarters of this tournament to me would be impressive, because I personally know, like, how tiring it was. I had to play Serena right after I won Indian Wells, and then I was completely dead after that. But she's like, it seems she keeps going. So that's really amazing to see. I think that she's like really amazing for the sport."

Though Swiatek is a strong favorite if they meet in the second round, it could be special for the sport and major step forward for Osaka a little more than eight months after giving birth.

Photo credit: Clive Brunskill/Getty