Sat, Jun 22, 2019 - Page 16 News List

Osaka’s top spot slipping away, as Hsieh progresses

AP, BIRMINGHAM, England

Venus Williams returns to Wang Qiang in their second-round match at the Nature Valley Classic in Birmingham, England, on Thursday.

Photo: Reuters

Naomi Osaka on Thursday lost in straight sets at the Nature Valley Classic grass-court tournament — and could also soon lose her No. 1 ranking.

The two-time Grand Slam champion from Japan never looked comfortable in a 6-2, 6-3 loss to Yulia Putintseva in the second round, choosing to sit on the court instead of her chair at changes of ends.

Osaka would have guaranteed holding onto the top spot in the rankings heading into Wimbledon, which starts on July 1, by reaching the final in Birmingham, England, but she could now be ousted by No. 2 Ashleigh Barty.

The newly crowned French Open champion beat Jennifer Brady 6-3, 6-1 in a match interrupted by rain to advance to the quarter-finals.

Barty has made a strong transition from clay to grass as she seeks a title win that would lift her to No. 1 status.

“The stars have aligned a little bit for me and I think when you get those opportunities, you have to do your best to take them with both hands,” Barty said.

“That’s what we have been able to do over the last month in particular, but I feel like I’m comfortable in my own skin,” she added. “I feel like I know exactly how I want to play in most matches, and it’s just about going out there trying to execute as best I can.”

Putintseva is next to face Julia Goerges after last year’s Wimbledon semi-finalist defeated Russia’s Evgeniya Rodina 6-4, 6-3.

Meanwhile, Osaka has slumped to a second straight early exit from a tournament, after losing in the third round of the French Open to unseeded Katerina Siniakova from the Czech Republic.

Venus Williams, a five-time Wimbledon champion, joined Barty in the quarter-finals with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Wang Qiang.

In the quarter-finals of the doubles, Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova advanced to the semi-finals when their opponents, Raquel Atawo of the US and Lyudmyla Kichenok of Ukraine, retired with the second seeds leading 4-1 in the first set.

The Taiwanese-Czech duo face Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia and Galina Voskoboeva of Kazakhstan in the semi-finals.

Additional reporting by staff writer

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