Tennis: Osaka retains No. 1 spot by reaching Rome quarters, Federer saves match points to beat Coric

Japan's Naomi Osaka in action during her third round match against Romania's Mihaela Buzarnescu.
Japan's Naomi Osaka in action during her third round match against Romania's Mihaela Buzarnescu.PHOTO: REUTERS

ROME (AFP) - Japan's Naomi Osaka won twice on Thursday (May 16) to reach the Italian Open quarter-finals, retaining the world No. 1 ranking ahead of the start of the French Open next week.

She eased into the last eight in Rome with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Mihaela Buzarnescu.

Osaka beat the 29th-ranked Romanian in 78 minutes after earlier beating Slovak Dominika Cibulkova by the same scoreline in one hour and 42 minutes in the second round, as players doubled up after the previous day was washed out.

At the start of the day, the 21-year-old had needed to make the quarter-finals to ensure Romanian Simona Halep could not swipe the number one ranking and with it top seeding in the French Open.

But Osaka's top spot was guaranteed when reigning Roland Garros champion Halep fell to Czech Marketa Vondrousova 2-6, 7-5, 6-3 in the second round.

Osaka next meets Madrid champion and sixth seed Kiki Bertens for a place in the final four.

Osaka, who broke through by winning the US Open last year and Australian Open this year, did not survive the second round in her two previous appearances in Rome.

 

Before this year Osaka had never made the last eight of any clay tournament, but has also reached the semi-finals in Stuttgart and quarter-finals in Madrid as she warms up for the French Open start on May 26.

In the men's draw, world No. 3 Roger Federer saved two match points to advance past Croatian Borna Coric into the quarter-finals.

The Swiss legend came through 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (9-7) against the 13th seed after earlier beating Portugal's Joao Sousa 6-4, 6-3 in the second round to make up time after rain wiped out play on Wednesday.

Federer, a four-time finalist in Rome, next meets Greek eighth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, who beat 10th seed Italian Fabio Fognini 6-4, 6-3, for a place in the semi-finals.