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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Saturday April 13, 2024

Naomi Osaka

In her first BJK Cup appearance since 2021, Naomi Osaka led Japan to a sweep of Kazakhstan on Day 1 in Tokyo.

Photo Source: ITF/ BJK Cup

Naomi Osaka made her return to the Billie Jean King Cup stage and took a big step in her comeback with a straight sets win over Yulia Putintseva to give Japan a 2-0 lead over Kazakhstan in Tokyo.

Update: Nao Hibino saved four match points to defeat Putintseva on Saturday and Japan completed a 3-1 win over Kazakhstan to reach the BJK Cup Finals for the first time.

Tennis Express

Osaka improved to 6-2 lifetime in BJK Cup matches and netted her second win from five tries against the ever feisty Putintseva, 6-2, 7-6(5).

Earlier on Friday Nao Hibino defeated Anna Danilina 6-1, 6-0 to stake Japan to the lead.

"I am happy at the outcome of today’s match but I know the steps it took and it was really tough," said Osaka, who was making her first BJK Cup experience since 2021, and had not won a match in the competition since 2018. "I was actually super nervous going into the match and throughout the match because I hadn’t played in Japan and I really wanted to do well. I think the atmosphere and the routine helped me a lot.”

Osaka rifled 15 aces and won 31 of 38 first-serve points in the contest, as she saved all three break points she faced. Ranked outside of the Top 800 at this year’s Australian Open, Osaka is now up to 193 in the world, and looking more and more like her old self with each passing week.

She improves to 8-6 in the 14 matches she has played since her comeback started in January.

"Ai [Sugiyama, captain] was very calm at the bench and we were able to discuss a lot and I am pretty sure that my serve helped me out a lot. I would definitely say that it was a special feeling to come out and to see the Japanese flags everywhere and I did feel a lot of extra motivation."


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