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THE CIRCUIT FOLLOWING A BREAK | WTA Tour: Naomi Osaka beats first Top 20 opponent on clay in Italian Open

IANS | Updated on Friday, May 10, 2024 09:36 AM IST
WTA Tour: Naomi Osaka beats first Top 20 opponent on clay in Italian Open

ROME: Four-time Grand Slam winner Naomi Osaka notched the first Top 20 victory on clay after returning to the circuit following a break, beating Marta Kostyuk in straight sets in a Round of 32 match in the Italian Open WTA Tour event on Thursday.

Osaka defeated World No.20, Marta Kostyuk 6-3, 6-2 in the second round of the event on Thursday. Coming a day after her straight-set win over France's Clara Burel, this is the first time Osaka has posted back-to-back wins on clay since 2019.

Osaka, who took a break for the birth of her first child, will face 10th-seed Daria Kasatkina in the third round. It will be the first meeting between the two since the 2018 Indian Wells final, which Osaka won 6-3, 6-2 to capture her first Hologic WTA Tour title. Osaka, who won the Australian Open in 2019 and 2021 and the US Open in 2016 and 2020, blitzed through the 36-minute opening set with a remarkably clean set of tennis. She struck six winners to eight unforced errors and took advantage of Kostyuk's errors.

The Ukrainian has been in consistently good form this season, having made two WTA 500 finals including the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix three weeks ago. But Kostyuk struggled to find her range throughout the match. She served at just 40 per cent in the opening set and hit five winners to 15 unforced errors, including five double faults.

Rain suspended play with Osaka eyeing a break point opportunity with Kostyuk serving down 3-1 in the second set. When play resumed, the four-time major champion showed no signs of slowing down.

She broke serve with a laser-like inside-out forehand to lead 4-1 and closed out the 71-minute with a barrage of heavy, precision baseline hitting. Osaka finished the match with 19 winners to 12 unforced errors.