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Rediff.com  » Sports » Tennis Roundup: Osaka eases past Azarenka; Djokovic, Nishikori advance

Tennis Roundup: Osaka eases past Azarenka; Djokovic, Nishikori advance

May 15, 2018 09:18 IST

Osaka advances in Rome as Vinci calls time on career

Naomi Osaka

IMAGE: Naomi Osaka of Japan serves during the women's singles first round match against Victoria Azarenka of Belarus. Photograph: Julian Finney/Getty Images

Rising Japanese sensation Naomi Osaka eased into the second round of the Italian Open on Monday with a 6-0, 6-3 victory over former world number one Victoria Azarenka, on a day in which local favourite Roberta Vinci called time on her career.

 

Osaka, whose current form could see her mount a strong challenge at the French Open next month, stormed out of the gates, riding her powerful forehand as she pummelled her Belarusian opponent into submission in an hour and 13 minutes.

The 20-year-old Japanese was dumped out of last week's Madrid Open in the first round, but showed she could compete on clay, hitting winners at will as Azarenka crumbled in the face of her relentless pressure.

"It didn't really feel like it was as easy as I think people think it was," Osaka said after the match. "I'm just really glad I was able to play an opponent like her. Just to even have a chance I think is really great, and I think it was fun."

Next up for Osaka is a second-round clash with world number one Simona Halep.

Roberta Vinci was beaten 2-6, 6-0, 6-3 by Serbia's Aleksandra Krunic in an emotionally charged encounter in front of a packed crowd on Court Pietrangeli.

The 35-year-old had announced her intention to retire from tennis after the tournament, and her exit brings down the curtain on her 20-year career in the sport.

"I tried to say, 'Okay, this is probably the last day, so try to enjoy, and try to smile," she told reporters after the match.

"I was happy about the crowd, and my parents, my team and all my friends were there. I lost, I know, but I was happy - and this is what I wanted."

American Coco Vandeweghe, the 12th seed, suffered a shock 6-1, 6-1 opening round defeat by Estonia's Anett Kontaveit, but Vandeweghe's compatriot, Madison Keys eased past Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-4, 6-1.

Britain's Johanna Konta battled back from a break down in either set to see off the challenge of Magdalena Rybarikova 6-4, 6-3 and improve her head-to-head record against the Slovak to four victories without a single defeat.

US Open champion Sloane Stephens takes on Czech Barbora Strycova in the day's last match.

Djokovic, Nishikori advance to second round in Rome

Former world number one Novak Djokovic strolled into the second round of the Italian Open on Monday with a morale-boosting 6-1, 6-3 victory over Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov.

Djokovic has struggled to rediscover his best form since returning from a troublesome elbow injury and has not reached the quarter-finals of a tournament since last year's Wimbledon.

The Serb was beaten by Briton Kyle Edmund in the second round of the Madrid Open last week, but turned in a convincing display to see off Dolgopolov in under an hour in Rome, returning deep and controlling play from the baseline.

Djokovic plunged to 18th in the latest world rankings released on Monday, but is optimistic he can go deep in this year's tournament, where he finished runner-up last year.

"Today's match encourages me to move forward and hopefully I can get a few more matches in Rome than I have in the last couple months," said the four-times Italian Open champion.

Japan's Kei Nishikori, who like Djokovic is making his way back from injury, also got off to a solid start, striking 18 winners en route to beating Spaniard Feliciano Lopez 7-6(5), 6-4.

Nishikori will face third seed Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria in the second round.

Lopez refused to go down without a fight, forcing a first-set tiebreak that Nishikori edged.

The Japanese got an early break in the second, but Lopez clawed his way back to at 3-3 before Nishikori broke again and held his nerve with a flawless service game to seal victory.

"Luckily I (won the) first set and after that I was more confident," Nishikori said.

Spain's Pablo Carreno Busta, the 10th seed, was pushed to three sets by hard-hitting American Jared Donaldson, but held on before flattening his opponent in the decider to win 6-4, 3-6, 6-0.

Carreno Busta will face Donaldson's compatriot Steve Johnson in the second round.

Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber was forced to play two tiebreaks before edging out Russia's Karen Khachanov 7-5, 6-7(7), 7-6(6) in an encounter that stretched over three hours.

Kohlschreiber came from behind to win the first set, but passed up on an opportunity to serve out the match in the second, allowing the Russian to force the decider.

The two went toe-to-toe in the third set, with neither able to gain a decisive advantage until Kohlschreiber got his nose in front in the tiebreak and converted his third match point.

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