TORONTO – Naomi Osaka advanced to the third round of the Rogers Cup on Wednesday, ensuring Australian Ashleigh Barty will be dethroned this week as world No. 1.
Serena Williams, the 37-year-old American star chasing a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title, won her opener in the U.S. Open tuneup, defeating 20th-ranked Elise Mertens of Belgium 6-3, 6-3 in 75 minutes.
Osaka, the reigning U.S. and Australian Open champion, won after taking the first set 6-2 when Germany’s Tatjana Maria retired with a left abdominal injury.
Osaka had not played a match since losing to Yulia Putintseva in the first round at Wimbledon.
“I thought I played really well despite the fact that we only played one set,” Osaka said. “I think that I was able to do what I wanted, which was go for the shots that I had the opportunity to.
“And, of course, there were a couple unforced errors, but I think that’s part of the process.
“For me, I’m just happy that it was my first match in a while and I was able to get in the groove of things quickly.”
The victory gives Osaka the inside track on taking the top spot in Monday’s new rankings.
Third-ranked Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic, however, could overtake Barty, the French Open champion who lost in Toronto on Tuesday, and Osaka to seize the No. 1 ranking as well.
Pliskova defeated 37th-ranked American Alison Riske 6-4, 6-7 (4-7), 6-2.
“It was tough in the second set,” Pliskova said. “But after just a little bit of energy, I went with good shots and good serves and it was much better in the third set.”
The 27-year-old Czech must reach the semifinals for any chance at taking world No. 1, but if Osaka makes the last eight, Pliskova must reach the final to have a hope at being No. 1 next week.
Pliskova will next play Estonia’s 19th-ranked Anett Kontaveit, who made the third round when Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro retired with an injury at 7-5, 3-1 down.
Fourth seed Simona Halep outlasted American Jennifer Brady 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (7-5).
Ukraine teen Dayana Yastremska beat two-time major winner and former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka 7-5, 7-5.
In Montreal, top-seeded Rafael Nadal opened his Rogers Cup title defense Wednesday, beating England’s Daniel Evans 7-6 (8-6), 6-4 in a second-round match delayed by rain three times.
After rain delays of six and 30 minutes, Nadal fought off two set points in the first-set tiebreaker. Play was stopped for 1 hour, 56 minutes with Nadal leading 2-0 in the second set.
“All the matches are difficult here,” Nadal said. “It was a tough first set. Then in the second, I was able to take advantage at the beginning, but then he broke me back.”
The 33-year-old Spanish star, a four-time Rogers Cup champion, will face Argentina’s Guido Pella in the third round. Pella beat Moldova’s Radu Albot 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (7-2).
Second-seeded Dominic Thiem beat Canada’s Denis Shapovalov 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. Thiem was coming off a victory on clay at the Generali Open in his native Austria.
France’s Richard Gasquet beat fifth-seeded Kei Nishikori 6-7 (6-8), 6-2, 7-6 (7-4); 10th-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain edged Diego Schwartzman of Argentina 6-2, 7-5; Cristian Garin of Chile knocked 12th-seeded American John Isner 6-3, 6-4; and 14th-seeded Marin Cilic of Croatia topped Australia’s John Millman 6-3, 6-4.
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5