• AFP-JIJI

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Naomi Osaka reached the fourth round of the Miami Open without lifting a racquet Sunday, advancing by walkover when Nina Stojanovic withdrew with a right thigh injury.

Second-ranked Osaka, the reigning U.S. and Australian Open champion, is in the last 16 of the prestigious ATP Masters and WTA event at Hard Rock Stadium for the first time in five appearances.

The Japanese star will face 16th-seeded Belgian Elise Mertens, who defeated Anett Kontaveit of Estonia 6-2, 0-6, 6-2, in the next round.

Osaka looked a little rusty in her second-round opener, her first match since winning her fourth Grand Slam title in February in Melbourne.

An efficient serve and the ability to control her nerves helped Osaka beat Croatian Ajla Tomljanovic 7-6 (7-3), 6-4.

With a victory in Miami, Osaka could overtake Ash Barty — who won the most recent edition of the tournament in 2019 — atop the world rankings, provided the Australian doesn’t reach the final.

In other early women’s action, 29th-seeded American Jessica Pegula ousted sixth-seeded Czech Karolina Pliskova, the runner-up in 2019, 6-1, 4-6, 6-4.

On the men’s side, No. 1 seed Daniil Medvedev hobbled into the fourth round, defying crippling leg cramps to beat Australian Alexei Popyrin 7-6 (7-3), 6-7 (7-9), 6-4.

World No. 2 Medvedev, increasingly hampered as the third set wore on in the heat and humidity of South Florida, nevertheless mustered the only service break of the third set on the way to a dramatic victory over 86th-ranked Popyrin.

“It’s probably one of the sweetest victories in my career, because I was cramping like hell in the third set,” Medvedev said.

“It was really painful. A few moments during rallies, I felt like my legs were not following me any more. The only thing I was thinking about was not to fall down, because if I fell down, I don’t think I’d be able to get up.

“There were moments where I just wanted to lie down and say, ‘OK, it’s over,’ but I couldn’t accept that.”

American John Isner, the men’s champion in 2018 and runner-up in 2019, booked a fourth-round spot with a 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-5) victory over 11th-seeded Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime.

The match was a near-carbon copy of Isner’s two-tiebreak win over Auger-Aliassime in the 2019 semifinals.

Neither player faced a break point, Isner commanding the slight edge needed in the tiebreakers with the aid of 16 total aces to the Canadian’s 11.

The 35-year-old U.S. veteran will face another familiar foe in the next round when he meets Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut.

The seventh seed beat Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 to book a chance to avenge his 2019 quarterfinal Miami loss to Isner.

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