Osaka plays solidly in her opening match at the Italian Open. Darderi eliminates Shapovalov


ROME (AP) — Naomi Osaka looked comfortable in her opening match at the Italian Open, beating 45th-ranked Clara Burel 7-6 (2), 6-1 on Wednesday.

It was Osaka’s first victory over a top-50 player on clay since defeating Victoria Azarenka at the 2019 French Open.

It’s also the first time that Osaka is playing in Rome since 2019 — when she reached the quarterfinals.

Osaka, who was formerly ranked No. 1 but is now No. 173 after a maternity break, served eight aces and produced 27 winners to her opponent’s 10. She’ll next face 19th-seeded Marta Kostyuk, who reached the final of a clay event in Stuttgart, Germany, recently.

Also, qualifier Bernarda Pera beat fellow American Caroline Dolehide 7-6 (6), 6-3 and will next face top-ranked Iga Swiatek; Magda Linette beat Zhu Lin 6-3, 6-2; Brenda Fruhvirtova rallied past Taylor Townsend 3-6, 6-2, 6-0; and Lesia Tsurenko eliminated Donna Vekic 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (5).

In men’s action, Argentine-born Italian Luciano Darderi had strong crowd support in a 6-7 (4), 6-3, 7-6 (4) victory over Denis Shapovalov on Campo Centrale; Brazilian qualifier Thiago Monteiro eliminated Gael Monfils 6-2, 7-5; and Yoshihito Nishioka defeated Sebastian Ofner 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (4).

Rafael Nadal, the record 10-time Rome champion, opens against Belgian qualifier Zizou Bergs on Thursday.

Top-ranked Novak Djokovic, who is also back in Rome after a month out, is on the opposite half of the draw from Nadal. But second-ranked Jannik Sinner and third-ranked Carlos Alcaraz both withdrew because of injuries.

Former Wimbledon finalist Matteo Berrettini also withdrew, saying he wasn’t ready to compete following a series of physical issues.

And the Italian federation announced that Camila Giorgi, an Italian who was once ranked as high as No. 26 and won a WTA 1000 event in Montreal 2021, has retired.

Rome is the last big warmup tournament before the French Open, which starts May 26.


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