(Reuters) – Naomi Osaka stepped up her preparations for the Australian Open by powering past Alize Cornet 6-2 6-2 to reach the last 16 of the Gippsland Trophy warm-up tournament in Melbourne on Tuesday.
In her first competitive match since winning the U.S. Open in September, the 23-year-old Japanese player sent down six aces and converted all four of her breakpoints to seal victory in 71 minutes.
“I always feel nice here in Australia, I feel like everyone welcomes me,” said Osaka, who won the Australian Open in 2019.
“I’m really glad that you guys opened your arms and we’re able to play here.”
Osaka next faces Briton Katie Boulter, who battled back to knock out American teenager Coco Gauff 3-6 7-5 6-2.
World No.7 Aryna Sabalenka’s 15-match winning streak came to an end when she lost 6-1 2-6 6-1 to Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi.
“When I play well and aggressive, I think it’s tough for anybody to beat me,” Kanepi, who faces Daria Kasatkina in the next round, said.
“I got some rhythm after my first match and today, I found it much better to play.”
Kasatkina beat Polona Hercog 6-4 6-3 to reach the round of 16. Joining her was Caroline Garcia, who downed Timea Babos 6-4 6-4, and fifth seed Johanna Konta, who eased past Bernarda Pera 6-2 6-3.
The Australian Open will begin on Feb. 8.
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)