'Extremely nervous' Osaka survives Blinkova scare in US Open first round
Defending champion Naomi Osaka of Japan plays a return to Anna Blinkova of Russia during their first round match. - AFP
New York - Rublev ousts Greek eighth seed Tsitsipas; Bautista Augut upset by Kukushkin
Reigning US Open champion Naomi Osaka survived a patchy start to her title defense on Tuesday to come through in three tough sets against Russia's Anna Blinkova, the world number 84.
Osaka suffered a first-round exit last month at Wimbledon and the Japanese star found a spirited Blinkova hard to put away in Arthur Ashe Stadium before she advanced 6-4, 6-7 (5/7), 6-2 in two hours and 28 minutes.
"I don't think I've ever been this nervous in my life and she played really amazing," top seed Osaka said after moving through to a second round meeting with Poland's Magda Linette.
"I just came off really slow and never found my rhythm but I fought as hard as I could and I managed to win.
"You want to do well after you did well last year," she added. "I definitely didn't want to lose in the third set."
Osaka, who was beaten by Kazakhstan's Yulia Putintseva in her Wimbledon opener, said the battling nature of her win here would serve her well moving forward.
"It helps me a lot. I learn from the tough matches and it helps me be prepared and try and adjust my game plan.
"I didn't smile that much playing this match but hopefully I'll change that in the next match."
In the men's section, Russia's Andrey Rublev upset Greek eighth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in four sets in a matchup of 21-year-old rising stars.
World number 43 Rublev, who ousted Roger Federer in Cincinnati in only 62 minutes, defeated a cramping Tsitsipas 6-4, 6-7 (5/7), 7-6 (9/7), 7-5 after three hours and 54 minutes to book a place in the second round against the winner of a later match between France's Gilles Simon and American Bjorn Fratangelo.
Spanish 10th seed Roberto Bautista Augut was upset 3-6 6-1 6-4 3-6 6-3 by Kazakhstan's Mikhail Kukushkin in a first round match.
Bautista Augut, who reached the semifinals at Wimbledon last month, was broken seven times by Kukushkin as he exited the year's final Grand Slam in the opening round for the second consecutive year.
It was Kukushkin's first victory over the Spaniard in four career meetings.
Up next for the Kazakh will be Australian Alexei Popyrin, who beat Argentine Federico Delbonis 6-1 7-5 7-6(5) earlier on Tuesday.