Tennis

Osaka advances to ensure Barty out as No. 1

AFP-JIJI

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.

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