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Osaka survives stiff test to make last 16 in Madrid

Reuters

Naomi Osaka returns a shot to Sara Sorribes Tormo during their second-round match at the Madrid Open on Tuesday.

Reuters MADRID (Reuters) — World No. 1 Naomi Osaka withstood a stiff test from unseeded Spaniard Sara Sorribes Tormo to reach the last 16 of the Madrid Open on Tuesday, while Simona Halep also advanced and Angelique Kerber’s tournament was ended by an ankle injury.

The Japanese was taken to a tiebreak in the first set by Sorribes Tormo, ranked 73 in the world, and then lost the second before overpowering her opponent for a 7-6 (7-5), 3-6, 6-0 victory.

The Australian and U.S. Open champion, playing in her first tournament since being forced to withdraw from the Stuttgart semifinals last month due to injury, struggled for consistency, frequently following impressive winners with unforced errors.

After dropping the second set, Osaka came roaring back in the decider to set up a last-16 meeting with Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus.

“This match was on my racket because she [Sorribes Tormo] doesn’t really have the game. She wasn’t going for winners and I felt either the point was ended by me making an unforced error, or me making a winner,” Osaka told a news conference.

“I feel like in the first set, I got a bit lucky there. In the second set, I got a little bit unfocused and then in the third set I went zombie-mode and then just thought of everything that I had to do to win.”

Romania’s two-time Madrid winner Halep beat Britain’s Johanna Konta 7-5, 6-1 and will play Viktoria Kuzmova in the next round.

Wimbledon champion Kerber had to return home to Germany for medical treatment after hurting her ankle in a practice session ahead of her match with Petra Martic, who got a walkover into the round of 16.

Federer has solid return to clay

Meanwhile, Roger Federer made an impressive return to clay by easing past Richard Gasquet to reach the last 16 of the men's tournament, while Novak Djokovic also breezed through with a straight-sets win over American Taylor Fritz.

Twenty-time Grand Slam winner Federer took just 52 minutes to see off Frenchman Gasquet 6-2, 6-3 in what was his first match on clay in three years, after skipping the 2017 and 2018 seasons on the surface to manage a knee injury.

“I would have always felt regrets not being on the clay in 2019 because my knee problem is far enough away now. I grew up on this surface, so I feel comfortable on it,” the 37-year-old Federer said.

“It feels good to be back on the clay now and I enjoy it. Some of these rallies where you get pushed to the side, you slide, you hit the ball, you slide, you hit the ball, you come back into it, then you can defend in a different manner than you do on the hard courts, or on the grass.”

World No. 1 and Australian Open champion Djokovic needed only 1 hour 5 minutes to win 6-4, 6-2 against 21-year-old qualifier Fritz, whom he also beat in straight sets at the Monte Carlo Masters last month.

Last year’s runner-up Dominic Thiem reached the round of 16 without having to finish his match with American Reilly Opelka, who withdrew due to injury one game into the third set.Speech

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