Tennis – Australian Open – Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia, February 8, 2021 Japan’s Naomi Osaka in action during her first round match against Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova REUTERS/Loren Elliott
February 8, 2021
By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Naomi Osaka gave the Australian Open’s electronic line judges her seal of approval after advancing to the second round with a machine-like 6-1 6-2 demolition of Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova on Monday.
Triple Grand Slam champion Osaka said it had taken time to get used to the system but would be happy for it to be adopted at other tournaments.
“I feel like for me, it saves me the trouble of attempting to challenge or thinking about, ‘Did they call it correctly or not?’” the Japanese third seed told reporters.
“It actually gets me really focused. I don’t mind it at all.”
The Australian Open is the first Grand Slam to dispense with human line judges as part of efforts to reduce personnel and stage a biosecure tournament amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ball-tracking cameras send decisions in real time, with recorded human voices calling: “out, “fault” and “foot fault”.
The recordings were provided by Australia’s health workers, firefighters and other emergency services personnel as a tribute. Close decisions are replayed on screens.
“For me, I feel like if they do want to continue this way, I actually have no complaints about it because I think that there’s a lot of arguments that aren’t going to happen because of this technology,” said Osaka, who is bidding for her second title at Melbourne Park after winning the 2019 tournament.
Osaka, who will meet Caroline Garcia in the second round, made a stunning start in the opening match at Rod Laver Arena.
Russian veteran Pavlyuchenkova, a three-time quarter-finalist at Melbourne Park, was seen as a potential banana skin for Osaka but was steamrolled by the 23-year-old in front of a smattering of fans.
Osaka had pulled out of the semi-final of the Gippsland Trophy warm-up event with a shoulder niggle over the weekend but showed no sign of injury as she wrapped up the match in just over an hour.
The favourite to win the year’s first Grand Slam, Osaka has now gone a year and a day without tasting defeat, with 15 successive wins in completed matches since a surprise Fed Cup loss to Spain’s Sara Soribes Tormo.
The pandemic shut down the global tennis tours soon after the Fed Cup loss, giving Osaka plenty of time to think about what motivates her.
“It really made me think a lot about my life and what is the reason — am I playing tennis to prove stuff to other people or am I playing to have fun because I enjoy it?” she said.
“From there I just took that attitude and tried to, I don’t know, move forward with it. It’s something that I was doing in New York. I think that I’m doing it here, too.”
(Editing by Richard Pullin/Peter Rutherford)