Naomi Osaka reached the fourth round of the Miami Open without lifting a racquet, advancing by walkover when scheduled opponent Nina Stojanovic withdrew with a right thigh injury.
Second-ranked Osaka, the reigning US and Australian Open champion, is in the last 16 of the prestigious ATP Masters and WTA event at the Hard Rock Stadium for the first time in five appearances.
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The Japanese star next faces 16th-seeded Belgian Elise Mertens, who defeated Anett Kontaveit of Estonia 6-2 0-6 6-2.
Osaka had looked a little rusty in her second-round opener, her first match since she lifted her fourth grand slam title at Melbourne in February.
An efficient serve and her ability to control the jitters saw her beat Croatian Ajla Tomljanovic 7-6 (7-3) 6-4.
With a victory in Miami, Osaka could overtake Ash Barty — who won the most recent edition of the tournament in 2019 — atop the world rankings, provided the Australian doesn’t reach the final.
If Barty loses before the semi-finals, then Osaka can become No. 1 by reaching the final.
Barty beat Jelena Ostapenko on Sunday to cruise into the last 16, after toppling Kristina Kucova in her opening match.
However, while Osaka is chasing top spot, her mind is on important matters off the court, too, speaking out against anti-Asian/American sentiment that flared up during the coronavirus pandemic and was reignited when eight people were shot dead at three different spas in Atlanta.
On Sunday she tweeted: “If people loved Asian people as much as they love bubble tea, anime, mochi, sushi, matcha etc … Imagine profiting/enjoying things that come from a culture and then attacking/diminishing the ethnic group that created it.”
On Instagram, Osaka added: “#stopasianhate. It’s really sad that this even has to be a hashtag/slogan. It should be common sense but it seems like common sense is uncommon in this world now.”
Osaka is hunting the No. 1 ranking.Source:AFP
Barty wants to retain top spot.Source:AFP
In other early women’s action, 29th-seeded American Jessica Pegula ousted sixth-seeded Czech Karolina Pliskova, Miami runner-up in 2019, 6-1 4-6 6-4.
Sunday’s men’s action was highlighted by top-seeded Daniil Medvedev of Russia, who battled for a place in the last 16 against 86th-ranked Australian Alexei Popyrin.
Medvedev owns a 2-0 career record against the 21-year-old Aussie, who captured his first ATP title in Singapore last month.
“He’s a great player,” Medvedev said of his sometime practice partner Popyrin. “Great strokes, great serve. Solid baseline player, but he can go to the net, hit winners from all corners of the court.
“It’s going to be a tough match,” added Medvedev, who followed a runner-up finish to Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open in February with his 10th ATP title at Marseille to rise to No. 2 in the world behind the Serbian star.
American John Isner, the Miami champion in 2018 and runner-up in 2019, booked a fourth-round spot with a 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (7-5) victory over 11th-seeded Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime.
The match was a near-carbon copy of Isner’s two-tiebreak win over Auger-Aliassime in the 2019 semi-finals.
Neither player faced a break point, Isner commanding the slight edge needed in the tiebreakers with the aid of 16 total aces to the Canadian’s 11.
The 35-year-old US veteran next faces another familiar foe in Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut.
The seventh seed beat Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff 4-6 6-3 6-2 to book a chance to avenge his 2019 quarter-final Miami loss to Isner.
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