Ash Barty’s rivals fall by the wayside in Italian Open boilovers

Ash Barty’s Italian Open campaign just got blown wide open with fearsome rivals Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams sensationally eliminated on Wednesday night.

Williams, playing the 1000th WTA match of her career, crashed out in Rome, weeks before her bid to make history at Roland Garros.

Second-seed Naomi Osaka of Japan also fell in the second round — after receiving a bye in the first round – while defending champion Simona Halep of Romania, the third seed, retired with a calf injury.

But world number one Barty got off to a winning start, the Australian advancing to the third round in the warm-up tournament before the French Open starts on May 30.

The red-hot Aussie defeated Kazakhstan’s Yaroslava Shvedova in straight sets on Wednesday and will play her third round match against Veronika Kudermetova on Thursday night.

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Australia’s Ashleigh Barty in action in Rome.Source:AFP

The Australian has now won 10 of her 11 matches on clay this season – a record that includes her victory at last month’s Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart – in preparation for the French Open, which gets underway from May 30.

Osaka spectacularly crashed out of the Italian Open, suffering a straight sets defeat to America’s Jessica Pegula on Wednesday night.

Osaka was tipped to face American superstar Williams in the quarter-finals later this week, but has instead been knocked out in the second round by the world No. 31.

Williams, a four-time Rome winner and 23-time Grand Slam champion, had not played since her semi-final defeat to Osaka in the Australian Open this year.

That’s Naomi Osaka under there.Source:Getty Images

“You know, it’s tough to have a first match on clay,” said Williams, who has won 73 WTA titles over the past two decades.

“It was definitely kind of good to go the distance and to try to be out there, but clearly I can do legions better.

“Maybe I do need a few more matches, so I’m going to try to figure that out with my coach and my team and see what we would like to do.”

For Williams it was her 149th defeat, with 851 wins over the course of a WTA career spanning 1000 matches.

Serena Williams’ milestone didn’t go to plan.Source:AFP

Barty is still on a collision course with new rival Aryna Sabalenka, but the rest of the draw has been blown wide open.

She was stunned by a red-hot Sabalenka in the final of the Madrid Open on Sunday morning (AEST). It was sweet revenge for the Belarusian after she was beaten by Barty in the final in Stuttgart two weeks ago. The pair have been the two standouts to start the clay season and have a head to head rivalry of 4-4.

World number three Halep, the 2018 French Open champion, earlier limped off in tears with a left calf issue while leading Germany’s Angelique Kerber 6-1, 3-3 in their second round tie.

“I’m so disappointed to end my tournament in Rome like this…but I will do everything I can to take care of the injury and be back as soon as possible,” she posted on Twitter.

Former Rome champion Karolina Pliskova, seeded ninth, also advanced along with fifth seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine.

— with AFP

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