Serena, Osaka book US Open rematch in Toronto quarter-final
Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka advanced to the Rogers Cup quarter-finals on Thursday to set up their first meeting since the American's infamous row with an umpire overshadowed last year's US Open final.
Osaka won her first career Grand Slam at Flushing Meadows but the title match will be remembered for Williams' feud with Carlos Ramos, who warned her for a coaching violation before deducting a point and then a game for her behaviour.
Williams, a three-times Rogers Cup champion, overcame a sluggish start on Thursday to earn a 7-5, 6-4 win over Russian qualifier Ekaterina Alexandrova.
Japanese second seed Osaka then closed out the day's action with a 7-6(4), 6-4 win over Polish qualifier Iga Swiatek.
"I've been actually looking forward to playing her for a while," Williams said of the Osaka matchup.
Williams, who is eager to get more hard-court matches under her belt before seeking a record-tying 24th career Grand Slam at the US Open, came back from an early double-break down, helped in part by eight double-faults by Alexandrova in the first set.
The American eighth seed, in her first career meeting with Alexandrova, went down a break again and trailed 3-1 in the second but her serve suddenly started to click as she stormed back to 3-3 and from there raced home.
"She played really well. She didn't really give me any rhythm," Williams said. "I wasn't sure what would come, if it was going to be hard or soft or a winner or what so it was definitely a challenge for me."
Osaka also had her hands full and needed to save a pair of set points before grabbing the opener against Swiatek.
The Japanese made a quick start to the second set and seemed in control until Swiatek made a comeback, the 18-year-old winning over the crowd with her versatile play as the match wore on.
Osaka, 21, said she was excited about the chance to play Williams, someone she grew up watching and has beaten in their two previous meetings.
"Whenever I get the opportunity to play her it's something that I feel is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity." said Osaka.
"It feels more like I am showcasing my skills to her like 'look what I can do.' So I will go into the match with that mentality."
Defending champion Simona Halep, in her first event since winning last month's Wimbledon, needed 67 minutes to secure a 6-2, 6-1 win over Russian wildcard Svetlana Kuznetsova.
Halep took a medical timeout in her previous match to have her left Achilles tended to and she said she still felt pain in the area against Kuznetsova but that it was feeling much better.
"The fact that I'm back in the quarter-finals here means a lot to me," said Halep. "It feels like I'm getting back the rhythm which I had in Wimbledon."
Up next for Halep will be in-form Czech qualifier Marie Bouzkova, who breezed by former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko 6-2, 6-2 and has yet to drop a set.
Earlier on Thursday, Czech third seed Karolina Pliskova beat Estonian Anett Kontaveit 6-3, 7-5 to set up a last eight meeting with Canadian Bianca Andreescu, who upset Dutch fifth seed Kiki Bertens 6-1, 6-7(7), 6-4.
Also securing passage to the last eight were American Sofia Kenin and 2017 champion Elina Svitolina of Ukraine.
Nadal tames wind and Pella to cruise to Rogers Cup quarters
Defending champion Rafa Nadal maintained his momentum in Canada and cruised to a 6-3, 6-4 win over Argentinean Guido Pella to advance to the Rogers Cup quarter-finals on Thursday.
Nadal, who won this event for the fourth time last year, battled through the wind and broke Pella's service four times in the triumph. Playing in his first action since losing to Roger Federer at Wimbledon last month, the 33-year-old Spaniard enjoyed an easier outing than his opening match against England’s Daniel Evans on Wednesday when he rallied from a tiebreak deficit.
Nadal will now face seventh seed Fabio Fognini after the Italian beat France's Adrian Mannarino 6-2, 7-5.
"He's playing great," Nadal said of Fognini after pulling ahead of Federer with his 379th ATP Masters 1000 win.
"I saw him a little bit yesterday. He played a great match. He's having a great season, one of the best of his career, if not the best.
“We are in quarterfinals of a Masters 1000. All opponents are tough. For me, tomorrow is an opportunity to go on court against one of the best players, try to play a good match. So let's see if I am able to.”
In earlier action, Austrian second seed Dominic Thiem beat Croatian Marin Cilic 7-6(7), 6-4 to reach the Rogers Cup quarter-finals.
Thiem, who before this week had never won a match in five attempts in Canada, had his hands full against 14th-seeded Cilic but did well to save all nine break points he faced while relying on a steady stream of groundstroke winners.
The Austrian, who arrived in Montreal fresh off a claycourt title in Kitzbuhel where he was the top seed, said his triumph on home soil helped ease the transition to hardcourt tennis.
"The last three, four years I didn't play worse than this year, but I just came with low confidence and I came little bit sad to Canada because I didn't play good in my own home tournament," said Thiem.
"This year everything is different. I won this title at home. I made one of my biggest dreams come true. Of course, I'm so confident coming here. That's the difference. That's also made the transition pretty easy."
Up next for Thiem will be Russian eighth seed Daniil Medvedev, a 6-3, 6-3 winner over Chile's Cristian Garin.
In other action, sixth-seeded Russian Karen Khachanov rallied to beat 19-year-old Canadian birthday boy Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-7(7), 7-5, 6-3 to reach the quarter-finals.
Third seed Alexander Zverev of Germany will face Khachanov in the quarters after a 7-5, 5-7, 7-6(5) win over Georgia's Nikoloz Basilashvili.
Spain’s Roberto Bautista advanced past Frenchman Richard Gasquet 7-5, 7-5 while France’s Gael Monfils defeated Hubert Hurkacz 6-4, 6-0.