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Osaka knocks off former No. 1 Azarenka in Rome

The Associated Press

Noami Osaka hits a return to Victoria Azarenka during their first-round match at the Italian Open on Monday.

ReutersROME (Reuters) — Rising Japanese sensation Naomi Osaka eased into the second round of the Italian Open on Monday with a 6-0, 6-3 victory over former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka, on the day local favorite 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 pummeled her Belarusian opponent into submission in 1 hour 13 minutes.

The 20-year-old Japanese was dumped out of last week’s Madrid Open in the first round, but showed she could compete on clay, hitting winners at will as Azarenka crumbled in the face of her relentless pressure.

“It didn’t really feel like it was as easy as I think people think it was,” Osaka said after the match. “I’m just really glad I was able to play an opponent like her. Just to even have a chance I think is really great, and I think it was fun.”

Next up for Osaka 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.

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

“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.

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