Osaka or Pliskova to replace Barty as No. 1

Naomi Osaka of Japan hitting a return to Tatjana Maria during their Rogers Cup match in Toronto on Wednesday. The German retired with an injury in the second set. PHOTO: REUTERS
Naomi Osaka of Japan hitting a return to Tatjana Maria during their Rogers Cup match in Toronto on Wednesday. The German retired with an injury in the second set. PHOTO: REUTERS

TORONTO • There will be a new women's world No. 1 on Monday after Japan's Naomi Osaka and Czech Karolina Pliskova both advanced to the third round of the Rogers Cup.

Osaka, who became Asia's first top-ranked singles player after winning the Australian Open in January, had a helping hand. Tatjana Maria retired with an abdominal injury after losing the first set 6-2 on Wednesday evening.

But even if the German was fully fit, it would have been tough. The US Open champion was in tip-top shape despite her pre-tournament social media post that the last few months had been "the worst" of her life and she was seeking to "relearn that fun feeling".

Osaka had not played since she lost to Yulia Putintseva in the first round at Wimbledon last month.

"I thought I played really well despite the fact that we only played one set," the world No. 2 said.

"Of course, there were a couple of unforced errors, but that's part of the process. 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."

She will play Polish qualifier Iga Swiatek, who had 34 winners in her 1-6 6-3 6-4 win over former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki.

Osaka has the upper hand on taking the top spot from Australia's Ashleigh Barty, who lost in the second round. But world No. 3 Pliskova could yet have a say. She beat American Alison Riske 6-4, 6-7 (4-7), 6-2 and must reach the semi-finals to have a chance of overtaking Osaka. If the Japanese makes the last eight, then the Czech has to advance to the final.

However, standing in her way are several big-hitters left in the draw.

Wimbledon champion Simona Halep of Romania kept alive her hopes of defending her Toronto title after outlasting American Jennifer Brady 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (7-5).

Serena Williams is also gunning for her first WTA title since returning in February last year after giving birth. And the American married her trademark power with quick movement and a steady stream of booming serves to overpower Belgium's Elise Mertens 6-3, 6-3.

The American, who is aiming for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title at the US Open later this month, said of her return to playing on hard courts: "It feels good.

"Definitely feels different as I didn't play a tonne this year on hard courts, but it feels good to be back out here."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 09, 2019, with the headline 'Osaka or Pliskova to replace Barty as No. 1'. Print Edition | Subscribe