The Japanese star was playing for the second time in as many days after her first match was put back 24 hours, with Osaka given the honour of lighting the Olympic cauldron in Friday’s opening ceremony.
Osaka is the highest-ranked player left in the women’s draw following the shock exit of world number one and Wimbledon champion Ashleigh Barty in the first round.
“It definitely would mean a lot for me to win gold here, but I know it’s a process,” said Osaka, who plays 2019 French Open runner-up Marketa Vondrousova or Romania’s Mihaela Buzarnescu for a place in the quarter-finals.
She is attempting to become Japan’s first Olympic tennis champion. Kei Nishikori won bronze in the men’s singles in 2016, beating Rafael Nadal to earn his country’s first medal in the sport for 96 years.
“I know that these are the best players in the world, and I honestly haven’t played in a while so I’m trying to take it one match at a time. But all in all I’m just really happy to be here,” said Osaka.
She earned the first break of the match to take a 5-3 lead against Golubic, saving a break point with an emphatic smash in the following game as she served out to take the first set.
The second seed broke the 49th-ranked Golubic twice in a row at the start of the second set, pocketing seven straight games before clinching victory in 65 minutes.
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