Naomi Osaka’s victory helps Japan take a 2-0 lead over Kazakhstan in the Billie Jean King Cup

LONDON (AP) — Naomi Osaka hit 15 aces and put Japan a step away from reaching the Billie Jean King Cup Finals with a 6-2, 7-6 (5) victory over Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva on Friday, the four-time Grand Slam champion’s first match in the team competition since February 2020.

Osaka, back on tour after becoming a mother last July, saved all three break points she faced and compiled a 31-16 edge in winners. Her win in Tokyo followed Nao Hibino’s 6-1, 6-0 victory over Anna Danilina and gave Japan a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five-match qualifying round.

Two other singles matches and one in doubles are scheduled for Saturday.

A total of 16 nations are involved in qualifiers Friday and Saturday, with the winners advancing to the 12-team Billie Jean King Cup Finals in Seville, Spain, in November. Those eight teams will join defending champion Canada, 2023 runner-up Italy, host Spain and wild-card selection Czech Republic in the Finals field.

In other early action Friday, host Australia took a 2-0 lead over Mexico.

The other matchups: Belgium at the United States in Orlando; Ukraine against Romania at Amelia Island, Florida; No. 1-ranked Iga Swiatek and Poland at Switzerland; 2021 U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu and Britain at France; Germany at Brazil; and Slovenia at Slovakia.

In Brisbane, where 2011 U.S. Open champion Sam Stosur is Australia’s captain for the first time, Arina Rodionova beat Mexico’s Giuliana Olmos 3-6, 6-3, 6-1, and Daria Saville defeated Marcela Zacarias 6-1, 6-0 for the hosts. Australia, the runner-up twice in the last five years, is seeking its first title since 1974.


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