Top-ranked defending champion Naomi Osaka advanced to the third round of the US Open on Thursday by defeating Poland’s 53rd-ranked Magda Linette 6-2, 6-4.
The 21-year-old Japanese star, also the reigning Australian Open champion, will next face either US 15-year-old Coco Gauff, the world number 140 who reached the fourth round in July at Wimbledon, or 112th-ranked Hungarian qualifier Timea Babos.
Linette broke Osaka in the second game of the second set and leaped ahead 3-0 before the top seed rallied to capture six of the last seven games and close out the match in 71 minutes.
“I’m really happy to not have to play a three-set match,” Osaka said.
Among the celebrities watching her match at Louis Armstrong Stadium were retired NBA star Kobe Bryant and former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, whose kneeling protest became a national symbol for objecting to racial inequality and social injustice.
“I’m really grateful they came out,” Osaka said. “It’s really cool. I honestly just wanted to finish as fast as possible because I didn’t want them to be out in the sun too long.”
Osaka thanked the supportive crowd, saying, “You guys were really nice to me. It gives me a lot of energy and makes it so much more fun.”