Osaka loses to Collins in first round at U.S. Open

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NEW YORK — Naomi Osaka walked off the court, headed toward the locker room and laid down, draping a towel over her face. Out-hit in Arthur Ashe Stadium by another big hitter, Danielle Collins, two-time U.S. Open champion Osaka was left to contemplate a second consecutive first-round loss at a Grand Slam tournament.

Collins reached her first major final at the Australian Open in January and displayed that same sort of hard-court talent with a 7-6 (5), 6-3 victory over Osaka in a shot-making showdown.

“I’m the type of person that thinks a lot, to the point where I overthink. Sometimes when I play matches, I have to tell myself to stop thinking, just go more on instinct,” said Osaka, who’s been bothered by a bad back lately. “I feel like I just have to chill a little bit, because there’s a lot of like random chaos in my head right now.”

Last season, Osaka took two extended mental health breaks, including after her third-round exit in New York. This season, Osaka lost in the third round in Australia, the first round at the French Open, then sat out Wimbledon.

“Lately, I felt really restrained. I’m not really sure why,” Osaka said. “I’m beginning to feel like I can’t hit the shots that I know I can, like especially on my forehand.”

She is now ranked 44th, which means she could have been drawn to face anyone in the first round

This was the sort of matchup Osaka used to dominate on this surface — and against this particular player. Osaka won the U.S. Open in 2018 and 2020, and the Australian Open in 2019 and 2021, and she entered the night 3-0 against Collins, taking every set they had contested with each other.

But Collins, a Floridian seeded 19th at the U.S. Open, took time off the tour starting in July for a training block after being hampered by a bad neck and that work clearly paid off.

“Felt like her plan was to immediately put me in defense, so she would have hit the ball no matter what type of ball I hit on her side of the court. I thought she did that pretty well,” Osaka said. “I think that’s kind of what she’s known for — to be extremely aggressive.”

Collins used her backhand to great effect, compiling 11 of her 23 winners that way.

During her on-court interview, she said she modeled that shot after Jimmy Connors, her father’s favorite player. Connors responded on Twitter, writing, “Hey Danielle Collins — way to go. A great win (at)USOpen. Thanks for the shout out. … Keep grinding.”

Croatia advances in Davis Cup as Coric beats Thiem

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Borna Coric beat 2020 U.S. Open champion Dominic Thiem 7-6 (3), 6-2 on Sunday to send Croatia into the group stage of the Davis Cup.

Coric helped the Croatians win their second Davis Cup title in 2018, but he was sidelined when they lost in the 2021 final while missing a year of action with a right shoulder injury.

He returned to the tour last March, winning a Masters 1000 title in August in Cincinnati, Ohio, and rejoined the Croatians when they reached the Davis Cup semifinals last year.

His victory over Thiem, who has also dealt with injuries in recent years, gave Croatia a 3-1 victory in Rijeka. The Austrians had taken the tie against the No. 1 team in the Davis Cup rankings to a fourth match when Alexander Erler and Lucas Miedler beat Ivan Dodig and Nikola Mektic 6-3, 7-6 (11) in the doubles match earlier Sunday.

Chile, Finland, the Netherlands, South Korea and the Czech Republic also completed victories Sunday to secure their places in the next round, which will be played in September.

On Saturday, the U.S. completed a sweep of Uzbekistan, while Serbia, France, Britain, Switzerland and Sweden also finished off victories. Those 12 countries will play in the group stage, along with reigning champion Canada, 2022 runner-up Australia and wild-card recipients Italy and Spain.

Eight teams will then advance to the closing matches of the Davis Cup Finals scheduled for Nov. 21-26 in Malaga, Spain.

In Sunday’s other matches:

– Finland 3, Argentina 1: On indoor hard courts in Espoo, Finland, Harri Heliovaara and Emil Ruusuvuori edged Maximo Gonzalez and Andres Molteni 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-4, before Ruusuvuori secured the winning point and a personal 3-0 weekend by beating Facundo Bagnis 7-5, 6-1.

– Netherlands 4, Slovakia 0: On indoor hard courts in Groningen, Matwe Middelkoop and Wesley Koolhof sent the hosts through with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Alex Molcan and Lukas Klein. Middelkoop then beat Jozef Kovalik 6-4, 6-4.

– South Korea 3, Belgium 2: On indoor hard courts in Seoul, the hosts rallied from a 2-0 deficit after the first day. Min-Kyu Song and Ji Sung Nam kept them alive with a 7-6 (3), 7-6 (5) victory over Joran Vliegen and Sander Gille. Soonwoo Kwon then beat David Goffin 3-6, 6-1, 6-3 before Seong Chan Hong completed the comeback with a 6-3, 7-6 (4) victory over Zizou Bergs.

– Czech Republic 3, Portugal 1: On an indoor clay court in Maia, Portugal, Jiri Lehecka wrapped up the victory by beating Joao Sousa 6-4, 6-1.

– Chile 3, Kazakhstan 1: On an outdoor clay court in La Serena, Chile, Cristian Garin beat Alexander Bublik 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 after the hosts had taken the lead with a victory by the doubles team of Alejandro Tabilo and Tomas Barrios Vera.

Unseeded Parks beats top-seeded Garcia for her 1st title

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LYON, France — Unseeded American Alycia Parks secured a stunning 7-6 (7), 7-5 upset win over WTA Finals champion Caroline Garcia in the Open Metropole de Lyon final to clinch her first career title.

“I think France has a special part in my heart right now,” Parks said. “I’ll be back next year.”

The 22-year-old Parks, who is ranked 79th, had 15 aces and saved all four break points against the top-seeded Garcia.

Parks secured the only break of a tight contest to win the match.

The fifth-ranked Garcia, a U.S. Open semifinalist last year, was seeking a 12th career title.

“Congrats on a great tournament,” Garcia told Parks in English. “If you keep playing like this for sure you’re going to keep going up (the rankings).”

Parks has a career-best ranking of 75th.

The 29-year-old Garcia, who grew up in Lyon, took time to thank her home crowd – this time in French.

“It means a lot to play here, thanks for being here,” Garcia said. “You supported me from the first point to the last. Thanks for all your encouragement.”