Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Belgian partner Kirsten Flipkens on Wednesday advanced to the Rogers Cup women’s doubles quarter-finals, although the Chan sisters were not so fortunate, while Serena Williams looked solid in her first match since losing the Wimbledon final and defending champion Rafael Nadal began his title defense with a win.
Fourth-seeded Hsieh and Flipkens, paired for the first time, started the tournament strong, toppling the Japanese pair of Eri Hozumi and Makoto Ninomiya 6-3, 7-6 (7/0) in a match that lasted 90 minutes to move into the quarter-finals.
The duo broke serve in their Japanese opponents’ first two service games, giving them an edge they would not relinquish.
Photo: AP / The Canadian Press
They faced a much sterner test in the second set, but exploited the Japanese players’ lack of stamina to clinch the match in the tiebreak.
Meanwhile, fifth-seeded Latisha Chan and Chan Hao-ching entered their match against Ukrainian Nadiia Kichenok and American veteran Abigail Spears in bad form and lost 1-6, 4-6.
In the women’s singles, Williams defeated 20th-ranked Elise Mertens of Belgium 6-3, 6-3.
The 37-year-old American, one crown shy of a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title, advanced in 75 minutes at her first US Open hard-court tune-up event.
“I feel like my movement is great — been working on my fitness, so I felt like it really was able to shine through today,” Williams said. “I’m loving going out there and I’m loving kind of running. So it’s a good thing.”
Also moving into the third round was Japan’s Naomi Osaka, the reigning US Open and Australian Open champion.
She won after taking the first set 6-2 when Germany’s Tatjana Maria retired with a left abdominal injury.
With Osaka’s triumph, Australian Ashleigh Barty was ensured of being dethroned next week as world No. 1, although it could be Czech Karolina Pliskova instead of Osaka who swipes the top spot.
Williams, ranked 10th, is seeking her fourth WTA Canada crown after titles in 2001, 2011 and 2013, and improved her match record at the event to 31-4, winning half the 10 break points she earned against Mertens.
“Now that I’m just injury-free, I’m just enjoying being able to train, and I haven’t been able to do it since January, really,” Williams said. “So I just think that the fact that I can train and practice and get in the gym is really going to be helpful for me.”
Mertens broke for a 2-1 lead, but Williams answered in the sixth game to pull level at 3-3.
“I know when I got down one break I got real negative,” Williams said. “I don’t know what happened on the first time I got down. [She] just played really well. She’s obviously a really good player. I just needed to just double down and get more focused.”
Next in the path of the former world No. 1 is Russian qualifier Ekaterina Alexandrova, who eliminated China’s Zhang Shuai 6-4, 6-3.
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 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,” she said. “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 the new rankings on Monday next week.
Pliskova could overtake Barty, the French Open champion who lost in Toronto on Tuesday, and Osaka after beating 37th-ranked American Alison Riske 6-4, 6-7 (4/7), 6-2.
The 27-year-old Czech must reach the semi-finals for any chance at taking the top ranking, but if Osaka makes the last eight, Pliskova must reach the final to have a hope at being No. 1 next week.
Pliskova is next to 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.
Romanian fourth seed Simona Halep outlasted American Jennifer Brady 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (7/5).
Ukrainian teen Dayana Yastremska beat two-time major winner and former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka 7-5, 7-5.
In the men’s singles, top seed Nadal beat 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 then 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, is to 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.
Coming off a victory at the Generali Open in his native Austria, Theim is next to face 14th-seeded Marin Cilic of Croatia, who topped Australia’s John Millman 6-3, 6-4.
Felix Auger-Aliassime won an all-Canadian match when Milos Raonic retired because of a back injury. Auger-Aliassime won the first set 6-3 and Raonic took the second 6-3 before stopping play.
Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz upset fourth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece 6-4, 3-6, 6-3; France’s Richard Gasquet beat fifth-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan 6-7 (6/8), 6-2, 7-6 (7/4); France’s Adrian Mannarino topped 11th-seeded Borna Coric of Croatia 6-2, 6-1; and Cristian Garin of Chile knocked off 12th-seeded American John Isner 6-3, 6-4.
Sixth-seeded Karen Khachanov of Russia edged Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland 6-4, 6-7 (3/8), 6-2; seventh-seeded Fabio Fognini beat American qualifier Tommy Paul 7-6 (8/3), 6-3; eighth-seeded Daniil Medvedev of Russia topped Kyle Edmund of Britain 6-3, 6-0; and 10th-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain edged Diego Schwartzman of Argentina 6-2, 7-5.
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