Sat, Aug 10, 2019 - Page 16 News List

Serena, Osaka set up rematch

THRICE IN A LIFETIME:Despite still nursing an Achilles injury, Simona Halep moved a step closer to defending her title after easily dispatching Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-2, 6-1

Reuters, TORONTO and MONTREAL

Naomi Osaka returns to Iga Swiatek in their Rogers Cup round-of-16 match in Toronto on Thursday.

Photo: AFP

Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka on Thursday advanced to the Rogers Cup quarter-finals to set up their first meeting since the American’s row with an umpire overshadowed last year’s US Open final.

Williams, a three-time Rogers Cup champion, overcame a sluggish start to earn a 7-5, 6-4 win over Russian qualifier Ekaterina Alexandrova in Toronto.

Japanese second seed Osaka then closed out the day’s action with a 7-6 (7/4), 6-4 win over Polish qualifier Iga Swiatek.

“I’ve been actually looking forward to playing her for a while,” Williams said of the Osaka matchup.

Williams came back from an early double-break down, helped in part by eight double faults by Alexandrova in the first set.

The American eighth seed went down a break again and trailed 3-1 in the second, but her serve suddenly started to click as she stormed back to 3-3 and raced home from there.

“She played really well. She didn’t really give me any rhythm,” Williams said. “I wasn’t sure what would come, if it was going to be hard or soft or a winner or what, so it was definitely a challenge for me.”

Osaka also had her hands full and needed to save a pair of set points before grabbing the opener against Swiatek.

The Japanese made a quick start to the second set and seemed in control until Swiatek made a comeback, the 18-year-old winning over the crowd with her versatile play as the match wore on.

Osaka, 21, said she was excited to play Williams, someone she grew up watching and has beaten in their two previous meetings.

“Whenever I get the opportunity to play her it’s something that I feel is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” Osaka said. “It feels more like I am showcasing my skills to her, like: ‘Look what I can do,’ so I will go into the match with that mentality.”

Defending champion Simona Halep, in her first event since winning Wimbledon last month, needed 67 minutes to secure a 6-2, 6-1 win over Russian wildcard Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Halep took a medical timeout in her previous match to have her left Achilles tended to. She said she still felt pain, but that it was feeling much better.

Up next for Halep is to be Czech qualifier Marie Bouzkova, who breezed by former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko 6-2, 6-2 and has yet to drop a set.

Earlier, Czech third seed Karolina Pliskova beat Estonian Anett Kontaveit 6-3, 7-5 to set up a last-eight meeting with Canadian Bianca Andreescu, who upset Dutch fifth seed Kiki Bertens 6-1, 6-7 (7/9), 6-4.

Also securing passage to the last eight were American Sofia Kenin and 2017 champion Elina Svitolina of Ukraine.

In the men’s singles in Montreal, defending champion Rafa Nadal maintained his momentum and cruised to a 6-3, 6-4 win over Argentine Guido Pella to advance to the quarter-finals.

Nadal, who won this event for the fourth time last year, battled through the wind and broke Pella’s service four times in the triumph.

Playing in his first action since losing to Roger Federer at Wimbledon, the 33-year-old Spaniard enjoyed an easier outing than his opening match against England’s Daniel Evans on Wednesday, when he rallied from a tiebreak deficit.

Nadal is now to face seventh seed Fabio Fognini after the Italian beat France’s Adrian Mannarino 6-2, 7-5.

“He’s playing great,” Nadal said of Fognini after pulling ahead of Federer with his 379th ATP Masters 1000 win. “I saw him a little bit yesterday. He played a great match. He’s having a great season, one of the best of his career, if not the best.”

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