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Frustrated Osaka battles past Pegula in Beijing opener

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(Reuters) – Japan’s two-time Grand Slam winner Naomi Osaka produced scowls rather than smiles at the China Open in Beijing on Sunday despite reaching the second round with a straight-sets win.

Fourth seed Osaka, fresh off her title triumph at the Pan Pacific Open, struck 26 winners win a 6-3 7-6(5) win over American Jessica Pegula, only to complain about the way she had played.

“During tournaments, the first match is always the worst for me,” Osaka said. “But I was kind of expecting it to be better because I just played really well in Tokyo (Osaka).

“I don’t know, I thought it would carry on. I was a little bit frustrated that I felt my game wasn’t really where I left it. I just felt like today I was really riled up, not really sure why.”

After committing only seven unforced errors in the opening set, Osaka’s game began to leak mistakes as Pegula forced break points early in the second.

In the second set tiebreak, Osaka was unable to serve out of win, and let a 4-1 led slip to fall 4-5 behind.

But in the clutch moments of the match, Osaka displayed her nimbleness around the court to force consecutive errors from Pegula and seal victory in an hour and 31 minutes.

Reigning Wimbledon champion Simona Halep showed no signs of the lower back injury that forced her out of Wuhan Open last week as she raced past qualifier Rebecca Peterson 6-1 6-1.

Third seed Elina Svitolina recovered from a sloppy start to beat last year’s Beijing runner-up, Latvian Anastasija Sevastova, 6-7(4) 6-1 6-2.

Former world number one Venus Williams came back from a break down in the final set to overcome Barbora Strycova 6-3 4-6 7-5, extending her winning record against the Czech to five matches.

(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; editing by Tony Lawrence)

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