TORONTO • Japan's Naomi Osaka will return to the top of the women's singles world ranking this week, despite losing 6-3, 6-4 to Serena Williams in the Rogers Cup quarter-finals on Friday.
The 21-year-old was assured of replacing the Australian Ashleigh Barty, who lost on Tuesday, as the world No. 1 after tournament third seed Karolina Pliskova lost 6-0, 2-6, 6-4 to Canada's Bianca Andreescu in the last eight.
The Czech Pliskova had a chance to overtake Barty and Osaka had she reached the final.
But the day turned sour for US and Australian Open champion Osaka, who lost in straight sets to American Williams in their first meeting since last year's US Open.
Williams fired 12 aces and did not face a break point as she beat Osaka for the first time in three meetings. She avenged her shock loss in last year's controversial US Open final, in which the American was docked a point and a game after losing her temper when warned about coaching from the sidelines.
There was no such drama in Toronto, where Williams broke Osaka for a 5-3 lead and closed out the first set with a winner. She broke again for a 2-1 lead in the second and never looked like surrendering the advantage.
"It hurt, but it wasn't the end of the world... We haven't played since New York, which was a really good match for her," said Williams as she builds up to the US Open in two weeks.
"I'm getting there. It's definitely not where I want to be, but I'm getting there."
Osaka said she played too defensively, something she said was hard to avoid when Williams was hitting 31 winners. She added: "But there were chances where she hit shorter balls, but I wasn't expecting her to, so I didn't move up in time."
In the semi-finals yesterday, Williams faced Czech qualifier Marie Bouzkova, who advanced when Wimbledon champion Simona Halep retired with Achilles tendon trouble having dropped her first set 6-4, while American Sofia Kenin played home favourite Bianca Andreescu.
Men's top seed Rafael Nadal rallied to reach the semi-finals on Friday, beating No. 7 Fabio Fognini 2-6, 6-1, 6-2, while second and third seeds Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev exited at the last eight.
Nadal, who claimed his fourth Toronto title last year, won his 380th Masters 1000 match, a day after breaking a tie with Roger Federer for the ATP tour record. Nadal has 82 singles victories, with his French Open triumph in June his second title of the year.
He lost to the Italian Fognini in their last meeting in the Monte Carlo Masters semi-finals.
"I lost things on the road, so I just tried to add other things," Nadal said. "One of the things I'm most satisfied with is I've been able to always find a solution to keep being competitive at the highest level."
Germany's Zverev made eight double faults as he was beaten 6-3, 6-3 by Russia's Karen Khachanov.
Thiem was stunned 6-3, 6-1 in 56 minutes by Khachanov's compatriot Daniil Medvedev.
This will be the first all-Russian semi-final at Masters 1000 level.
ASSOCIATED PRESS, AGENCE-FRANCE PRESSE, DPA
ATP ROGERS CUP
Finals: StarHub Ch201, tomorrow, 4am