Naomi Osaka’s highly anticipated Grand Slam return at the Australian Open ended in a narrow first-round defeat by France’s Caroline Garcia.
Two-time champion Osaka, at her first major since the US Open in September 2022 after giving birth last year, lost 6-4 7-6 (7-2) to the 16th seed.
While Osaka failed to create a break point, it was was an encouraging performance against a quality opponent.
Meanwhile, US Open champion Coco Gauff cruised through thanks to a pep talk.
The 19-year-old American, who won her maiden Grand Slam title at the US Open in September, won 6-3 6-0 against Slovakia’s Anna Karolina Schmiedlova.
“I told myself: ‘I feel good, I look good so just have fun.’ I was able to relax,” the fourth seed said.
But Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova suffered a shock exit on day two.
Vondrousova, ranked seventh in the world, became the highest seed to fall so far in round one, suffering a 6-1 6-2 defeat by Ukrainian qualifier Dayana Yastremska.
Afterwards, Yastremska said her grandmother’s house was recently hit by a rocket in the ongoing war in her home country.
The 23-year-old said the resistance showed by her country against the Russian invasion is what motivates her on court.
“To talk about what is going on in Ukraine in a couple of seconds is not enough,” she said in her on-court interview.
“I’m proud of Ukraine, proud of the people, the warriors and the people.
“When I was in Brisbane, before the match I was told a rocket arrived on my grandmother’s house. It was hard to play.
“We need to remember about [the war] and give as much support to Ukraine as possible.”
Elina Svitolina, another Ukrainian who has spoken at length about the impact of the war, is also through.
The 19th seed needed 59 minutes to complete a 6-2 6-2 win over Australian wildcard Taylah Preston.
Tunisian sixth seed Ons Jabeur took just 67 minutes to beat Ukrainian qualifier Yulia Starodubtsewa 6-3 6-1.
But Croatian 21st seed Donna Vekic lost 6-4 6-4 to Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, while Czech 31st seed Marie Bouzkova had an early exit against 19-year-old compatriot Linda Noskova, losing 6-1 7-5.