ROME (AFP) - Women's tennis world No. 1 Naomi Osaka eased into the third round of the WTA Italian Open on Thursday (May 16) 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 Japanese was first up after wintry 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 triumphed 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.
Osaka reaches the third round in Rome for the first time before breaking through by winning the US Open and Australian Open titles.
Next up for her on the red clay of the Foro Italico is either Germany's Julia Gorges or Romania's Mihaela Buzarnescu later on Thursday for a place in the quarter-finals.
Former world No. 1 Roger Federer marked his return to the Rome Masters for the first time since 2016 with a 6-4, 6-3 second-round win over Portugal's Joao Sousa.
He 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.
The Swiss legend had criticised organisers for doubling ticket prices after he confirmed his participation last weekend but the fans who had made their way into Foro Italico have been rewarded with a Federer double bill.
Federer, along with champion Rafael Nadal and top seed Novak Djokovic, all face playing back-to-back matches on Thursday if they want to reach the quarter-finals.
Djokovic booked his ticket to the third round with a straight-sets win over Canadian Denis Shapovalov.
The Serbian world No. 1 – the Madrid Open winner last weekend – won 6-1, 6-3 in 66 minutes.
The 31-year-old four-time Rome winner next plays either German Philipp Kohlschreiber or Italy’s Marco Cecchinato for a place in the last eight.
Earlier, Nadal had treated fans on the secondary Grandstand Court to a 6-0, 6-1 demolition of Frenchman Jeremy Chardy and the Spaniard will be back on action on the main stage against Georgia’s Nikoloz Basilashvili.
But it is the end of the road for world No. 4 and last year’s French Open finalist Dominic Thiem, who was dumped out by Spanish veteran Fernando Verdasco.
The Austrian blasted tournament organisers for keeping competitors hanging around all day when play was washed out.
Thiem, who had received a first-round bye as the fifth seed, lost 4-6, 6-4, 7-5, in the final warm-up tournament before the start of Roland Garros on May 26.
Verdasco will play Russian Karen Khachanov, the 13th seed, later in the day for a place in the quarter-finals.
“I really dislike how we players get treated at this tournament because yesterday was, in my opinion, not acceptable,” said Thiem. “They knew that not one ball of tennis was going to be played, and they hold us here until 7.30pm.”
He said players were then caught up in clashes between fans before the Coppa Italia football final in the nearby Stadio Olimpico.
“They also know since, I don’t know how long, that there’s going to be the football match last night,” continued the 25-year-old. “The ride back from here to the hotel took like one and a half hours.
“If everybody knows that it’s going to rain all day, then let the players leave at 2pm or 3pm when there’s no traffic, when there are no guys beating each other up on the street.
“It’s no problem if it’s raining. It’s also no problem if we have two or three matches a day.
“It happens from time to time. But then the tournament should also help us a little bit."