Tennis

Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal reach Italian Open third round; Kei Nishikori, Naomi Osaka also advance

AFP-JIJI, Kyodo

World No. 3 Roger Federer eased into the third round of the Italian Open on Thursday with a straight-sets win over Portugal’s Joao Sousa.

Federer won 6-4, 6-3 against the 72nd-ranked Sousa and will play Croatian 13th seed Borna Coric later in the day for a place in the quarterfinals after rain delays wiped out play on Wednesday.

Federer, a four-time finalist in Rome, returns to Italy after skipping the clay season for the last two years as he concentrated on his grass game.

Also Thursday, defending champion Rafael Nadal lost just one game as he crushed France’s Jeremy Chardy in straight sets, 6-0, 6-1, to advance to the third round.

The eight-time Rome championnext meets Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili, the 14th seed.

Seventh-ranked Kei Nishikori, meanwhile, dismantled 52nd-ranked American Taylor Fritz 6-2, 6-4 in the second round.

Nishikori, who has never won a masters event, broke Fritz’s serve four times en route to his third straight-sets win over the American in three career meetings.

“It was a really good start,” said Nishikori, who had a first-round bye. “In both the first and second sets, I played a lot of very steady games.

“I haven’t had to play two matches in one day in a long time, so I’m glad I could win quickly.”

Nishikori plays 49th-ranked German Jan-Lennard Struff in the third round.

Women’s world No. 1 Naomi Osaka was also in action against Slovakian No. 32 Dominika Cibulkova. Osaka won 6-3, 6-3.

Osaka improved to 4-0 against Cibulkova, who has never taken a set off her. Osaka surrendered the match’s first service break, but broke back immediately. Osaka broke Cibulkova in a 10-point eighth game and brought up set point with her sixth ace and closed it out on the next point.

The second set went all Osaka’s way until Cibulkova held serve in a love game to stay just a break behind in the seventh game. Cibulkova came within a hair of evening the set with three break points against Osaka’s serve in the eighth game, but Osaka held on with the help of three aces and then served out to earn her spot in the third round.

Up next: Osaka will face 39th-ranked Romanian Mihaela Buzarnescu in the third round.