Naomi Osaka stormed into the third round of AO 2022 with a mostly-commanding 6-0 6-4 win over American Madison Brengle on Wednesday evening.
The defending champion extended her Australian Open winning streak to nine matches after crunching 35 winners to four against the 54th-ranked Brengle, winning in a rapid-fire 65 minutes.
Osaka's victory sets up a third-round meeting with Amanda Anisimova, who earlier in the day upset Tokyo Olympics gold medallist Belinda Bencic.
Bencic owns a 3-1 head-to-head record over Osaka, winning their last three meetings, all in 2019.
Instead, Osaka finds herself up against a player she has never before faced.
Making that match-up even more intriguing? Both Osaka and Anisimova are unbeaten so far in 2022.
"I know she has a really great return and she has a great backhand and I'm expecting it to be a little bit different from the match today," Osaka said of Anisimova, who won the Melbourne Summer Set 2 title to open the season.
"I think we're both gonna take our chances. So it's gonna be really exciting.
"For me it's very interesting to play against the younger players, because I remember being a younger player myself and feeling like I have nothing to lose."
Anisimova – or any player, for that matter – will have trouble living with Osaka if she replicates the level she attained against Brengle in the opening set.
The Japanese superstar broke serve with a winner in the second game, and with her serve reaching speeds in the mid-190km/h bracket, held comfortably for 3-0.
She then torched an incredible forehand return winner down the line to break for 4-0, and, after just 17 minutes, earned her first set point.
While she did not convert that one, she made sure to seal her second, striking another return winner to finish the set with 13 winners to Brengle's zero.
Admirably, Brengle began to adjust to Osaka's pace of shot and became more competitive in the baseline exchanges.
She held for 1-1 in the second set – much to the crowd's and her own delight – and made inroads on Osaka's serve, creating a total of 10 break points in Osaka's three subsequent service games.
It was on her 10th that Brengle finally broke to lead 4-3, with Osaka looking increasingly brittle in her shot-making and sending frustrated looks towards her team.
Yet this momentum swing was temporary.
With discernible purpose and urgency in her game, Osaka won 12 of the final 14 points to bring a rapid conclusion to proceedings at Rod Laver Arena.
"I returned pretty well. That's not my usual stat but I've been really working on it during the off-season, so I'm really glad it came in handy today," Osaka said.
Osaka is now 5-0 in 2022 after progressing to the semifinals of Melbourne Summer Set 1, where she ultimately withdrew ahead of that match citing injury.
It is an impressive return to competition after four months away from the game.
"I'm a bit of a perfectionist, so I feel like if I compare myself to the past then I'll never be satisfied," she said when asked to rate her form in her return.
"I'm just trying to take it one day at a time."