WTA No 1 Simona Halep handed Japan’s Naomi Osaka a tough defeat at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, finishing her second round match 6-1, 6-0 in just under one hour.
Except from having to fend off a few break points, the Romanian was not challenged by her younger opponent. Both the scoreboard and the script are very different though from the last time the two players met. In March Osaka ousted the top seed in the Indian Wells semifinals and lost only three games in doing so, before marching to her first WTA title.
In the previous round, Osaka overpowered former No 1 and multiple Grand Slam winner Viktoria Azarenka to earn a 6-0, 6-3 victory.
The tournament in Rome is the first major event before the French Open, where Halep is seen as a major favourite. In order to preserve her ranking and seeding at Roland Garros, the Romanian player needs to reach at least the quarterfinals at the Foro Italico. Otherwise, she risks losing the top spot to Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki.
Halep has yet to win a title in Rome. Last year, she reached the finals but rolled her ankle and lost the lead and the match to Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina.