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Ruthless Osaka moves ahead at China Open

Updated October 02, 2018

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Belinda Bencic of Switzerland hits a return to Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki during their first-round match at the China Open on Monday. — AFP
Belinda Bencic of Switzerland hits a return to Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki during their first-round match at the China Open on Monday. — AFP

BEIJING: US Open champion Naomi Osaka needed just 68 minutes to power into round two of the China Open with a dominant performance over Kazakh qualifier Zarina Diyas on Monday.

Also safely through on Beijing’s outdoor hard courts is another reigning Grand Slam champion, Australian Open winner Caroline Wozniacki.

With world number one Simona Halep retiring from the tournament with a back injury and Serena Williams absent, Osaka and Wozniacki are among the favourites.

The Japanese Osaka, who is enjoying a breakthrough season after stunning Williams to win in New York, breezed past a bewildered Diyas 6-4, 6-3.

Osaka, a rising star of tennis at just 20, plays unseeded American Danielle Collins next.

Former world number one Wozniacki was similarly emphatic with a 6-2, 6-3 demolition of Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic.

The world number two Dane was never in serious trouble against 41st-ranked Bencic, although it has not always been like that down the years, Bencic winning four of their past six meetings.

Wozniacki will play Croatia’s unseeded Petra Martic in round two.

It was a case of seventh time lucky for another former number one, Garbine Muguruza, as the Spaniard set up a meeting with Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus.

Muguruza, who is now down in 15th in the world, made a fast start as she hammered Ekaterina Makarova 6-0, 6-4, making the seventh match point count against the Russian.

Elise Mertens, the 15th seed from Belgium, suffered a surprise defeat to home player Zhang Shuai, the Chinese winning 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.

On the men’s side Feliciano Lopez saved three match points before upsetting Croatia’s Borna Coric 7-5, 5-7, 7-5 to move into the second round.

Spain’s Lopez began slowly and trailed 5-2 but he recovered strongly to take the first set before Coric, seeded seventh, clawed his way back to force a decider.

The 21-year-old Coric switched gears to go 5-4 up in the third set but could not prevent a dogged Lopez from securing victory in two hours and 45 minutes.

World number 71 Lopez next takes on Germany’s Mischa Zverev or Filip Krajinovic of Serbia.

Briton Kyle Edmund also sealed his place in the next round with a 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 win over Germany’s Peter Gojowczyk. The fifth seed fired 13 aces to progress in one hour and 31 minutes.

Russia’s Karen Khachanov powered past American Sam Querrey 6-4, 6-4. Top seed Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina, bidding for his third title of the season, begins his campaign against Spain’s Albert Ramos-Vinolas on Tuesday.

Halep was forced to retire in the first round on Sunday after the Romanian injured herself in training at last week’s Wuhan Open where she crashed out in the second round after being beaten in straight sets by Slovak Dominika Cibulkova.

Halep lost the first set to Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur 6-1 on Sunday before deciding she could not continue and said she would have a scan to assess the full extent of the damage.

Meanwhile, Wimbledon champion and third seed Angelique Kerber crushed France’s Kristina Mladenovic 6-2, 6-2 to cruise into the second round.

Defending champion Caroline Garcia survived a marathon encounter against Chinese wildcard Wang Yafan that stretched over three hours to scrape into the second round with a 7-6 (12-10), 6-7 (4-7), 6-3 victory.

American Sloane Stephens bounced back after losing a first-set tiebreak to beat Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-7 (8-10), 6-4, 6-4 in Sunday’s late match.

Next up for the American is a meeting with China’s Zheng Saisai, who beat Ukrainian Dayana Yastremska 6-4, 6-3 earlier in the day.

Published in Dawn, October 2nd, 2018