ROME – World number one Naomi Osaka eased into the third round of the WTA and ATP Italian Open on Thursday with a straight sets win over Dominika Cibulkova under the sunshine in Rome after the previous day’s play was washed out.
The 21-year-old Osaka was first up after wintery conditions in the Italian capital wiped out an entire day’s play with competitors now having to play two matches on Thursday.
The two-time Grand Slam winner won through 6-3, 6-3 in 1hr 42min for her fourth win in as many games against the 33rd-ranked Slovak who she also beat last week in Madrid.
The Japanese star fought back after losing her serve early in the first set, saving four break points in the second, hitting 44 winners and 12 aces, despite 25 unforced errors.
Osaka, who broke through by winning the US Open and Australian Open titles last year, reaches the third round in Rome for the first time in three appearances.
But she needs to make the quarter-finals at least if she wants to hold her world number one ranking.
Next up for the Japanese player on the red clay of the Foro Italico is either Germany’s Julia Goerges or Romania’s Mihaela Buzarnescu later on Thursday for a place in the quarter-finals.
Former French Open winner Garbine Muguruza needed three sets to get past American Danielle Collins 6-4, 4-6, 6-2.
The Spanish former world number one, now ranked 19th, next plays Belarus Victoria Azarenka who ousted two-time defending champion Elina Svitolina in the second round.
Sixth seed Kiki Bertens also needed three sets to get past American Amanda Anisimova 6-2, 4-6, 7-5, with France’s Kristina Mladenovic seeing off Swiss Belinda Bencic 6-2, 2-6, 6-1 to set up a meeting with eighth-seed Ashleigh Barty of Australia.
Roger Federer took to the Central Court just after Osaka to make his return to the Italian Open in a second round match against Portugal’s Joao Sousa.
The winner will then play Croatian 13th seed Borna Coric later in the day.
Federer, a four-time finalist in Rome, returns to Italy after skipping the clay season for the last two years as he concentrated on his grass game.
Last week’s winner in Madrid Novak Djokovic and reigning Rome champion Rafael Nadal also have to be crammed into a packed programme with 55 singles and doubles matches scheduled Thursday.