Osaka powers past Azarenka in Rome first round

Published by AAP

Naomi Osaka in action against Victoria Azarenka in Rome; Getty Images
Naomi Osaka drops just three games in beating Victoria Azarenka, while Italy’s Roberta Vinci says goodbye to the Rome home crowd after her final match.

Japan’s Naomi Osaka eased into the second round at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia with a 6-0 6-3 victory over former world No.1 Victoria Azarenka, on a day in which local favourite Roberta Vinci called time on her career.

Osaka, whose current form could see her mount a strong challenge at the French Open next month, stormed out of the gates, riding her powerful forehand as she pummelled her Belarusian opponent into submission in an hour and 13 minutes.

Next up for Osaka in Rome is a second-round clash with world No.1 Simona Halep.

Roberta Vinci was beaten 2-6 6-0 6-3 by Serbia’s Aleksandra Krunic in an emotionally charged encounter in front of a packed crowd on Court Pietrangeli.

The 35-year-old had announced her intention to retire from tennis after the tournament, and her exit brings down the curtain on her 20-year career in the sport.

“I tried to say, ‘OK, this is probably the last day, so try to enjoy, and try to smile,'” she said after the match.

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“I was happy about the crowd, and my parents, my team and all my friends were there. I lost, I know, but I was happy – and this is what I wanted.”

American CoCo Vandeweghe, the 12th seed, suffered a shock 6-1 6-1 opening round defeat by Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit, but Vandeweghe’s compatriot, Madison Keys eased past Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-4 6-1.

Another American, Sloane Stephens, battled back to beat Czech Barbora Strycova 6-7(4) 6-3 6-1; the No. 9 seed has now won 10 of her last 12 matches and will next face qualifier Kaia Kanepi.

Britain’s Johanna Konta battled back from a break down in both sets to see off the challenge of Magdalena Rybarikova 6-4 6-3 and improve her head-to-head record against the Slovak to 4-0.

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