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Top guns have it easy in Rome

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Romania's Simona Halep hits a return to Japan's Naomi Osaka during Rome's WTA Tennis Open tournament at the Foro Italico, on May 16, 2018 in Rome. / AFP PHOTO / Filippo MONTEFORTE

Rome : Romania’s Simona Halep on Wednesday defeated Japan’s Naomi Osaka 6-1, 6-0 to advance to the third round of the Italian Open, an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 clay-court tournament.

It took the World No. 1 just 59 minutes to beat Osaka, World No. 21, moving one step closer to winning her first Italian Open title, after finishing runner-up in 2017.

Halep, 26, fired 15 winners compared to Osaka’s 10, and has won four out of five career matches against the Japanese player.


In the upcoming round, Halep is set to take on either the United States’ Madison Keys or Croatia’s Donna Vekic, who knocked out Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro in the tournament’s first round on Monday.

Rafael Nadal powered his way into the third round on Wednesday with a straight sets win over Bosnian Damir Dzumhur.

The Spaniard won through 6-1, 6-0 in an hour as he targets an eighth title at the Foro Italico and first since 2013.

Nadal lost his first match on clay in over a year last week in the Madrid quarter-finals to Austrian Dominic Thiem and as a result lost his world number one ranking to Roger Federer.

The 31-year-old, who claimed the 11th titles of his career at both Monte-Carlo and Barcelona, took the first set in 34 minutes coasting to victory in just one hour.

The 16-time Grand Slam winner next takes on either Canadian Denis Shapovalov, 19, or Robin Haase of the Netherlands.

But he will not be able to take revenge on sixth seed Thiem who lost his second round match 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 to Italian Fabio Fognini.

Spain’s Albert Ramos and Italy’s Fabio Fognini pulled off wins also to advance to the third round.

World No. 41 Ramos managed to beat world No. 9 John Isner of the United States 6-7(5), 7-6(2), 7-6(5).

The Spanish player needed two hours and 54 minutes to avenge his 2017 loss to Isner in the same tournament.

World No. 21 Fognini defeated World No. 8 Dominic Thiem of Austria 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 in over two hours and six minutes.

Defending champion Elina Svitolina also eased into the third round as three-time winner Maria Sharapova needed a marathon three sets to get past Australian Ashleigh Barty.

Svitolina, the fourth seed, received a first round bye and dropped just three games in a dominant 6-1, 6-2 victory over 35th-ranked Petra Martic.

The 23-year-old Ukrainian won the biggest clay court title of her career last year at the Foro Italico. And she continued where she left off despite the rainy conditions, needing just over an hour to peg back her Croatian rival.

By contrast, Sharapova needed two and a half hours to master 18th-ranked Barty 7-5, 3-6, 6-2 in their first round match.

Sharapova’s victory, her 34th on clay in the Italian capital, came in her first meeting with Barty, who was making her Rome debut.

Barty pushed the five-time Grand Slam winner to a third set as she did against Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki last week in Madrid.

Sharapova next meets Dominika Cibulkova in the second round. The pair have not played each other since the Slovak won in the fourth round of the 2014 Australian Open on her way to the final.

Fifth seed Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia advanced to the third round past China’s Zhang Shuai 6-2 7-5.

Svetlana Kuznetsova made light work of Slovenian Polona Hercog 6-2, 6-4 in her first round match as the Russian warms up for the French Open which she won in 2009.

But there were uncontrollable tears for France’s Kristina Mladenovic as dizziness forced her to call it a day while trailing Latvia’s Anastasija Sevastova 6-3, 3-0.