Serena rolls past Osaka in Toronto, Halep retires

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Serena beats Naomi Osaka in Canada

Serena Williams moved into the Rogers Cup semi-finals on Friday with a maiden career victory over Naomi Osaka, in their first meeting since the last year’s U.S. Open final.

Williams who put up a rock-solid performance against Osaka, will now face qualifier Marie Bouzkova, who advanced when Wimbledon champion and holder Simona Halep retired from their match with a left Achilles problem after dropping the first set 6-4.

Williams, 37, is looking to shore up her hardcourt game for the Aug. 26-Sept.8 U.S. Open where she will chase a record-tying 24th career Grand Slam title.

Williams had slow starts in her previous two outings this week but came out much stronger for this one and delivered a serving masterclass that denied Osaka any break point opportunities.

“We haven’t played since New York which was a really good match for her and I just wanted to come out and try to win a set this time,” Williams said in an on-court interview.

“Because she’s beaten me twice so I just wanted to do the best I could today,”

There was a scary moment in the second set when the American ran into the net post while trying to chase down an Osaka drop shot but, despite nursing her right arm, Williams confirmed that no serious damage had been done.

“Tennis players don’t really get too dirty and ugly on the court. So that was one of a few moments where those kind of injuries can happen or whatever,” said Williams. “But it was fine. It hurt, but it wasn’t the end of the world.”

Czech 21-year-old Marie Bouzkova’s breakout run in Toronto will carry into the weekend after Halep, who had been complaining about her Achilles all week, retired from their match.

“Achilles problems. I felt since the first match here. And today I felt it more, so that’s why I decided to retire,” said Halep. “Tomorrow it would have been Serena and is not easy.”

In earlier quarter-final action Canadian teenager Bianca Andreescu played through leg pain to keep her dream run alive, with a 6-0 2-6 6-4 upset of Czech Karolina Pliskova.

Pliskova’s loss will ensure the U.S and Australian Open champion would replace Ash Barty as world number one next week.

Andreescu looked to be in trouble when she gingerly returned to the court from a medical timeout late in the second set with her right thigh heavily taped and her movement hampered.

Bianca Andreescu

But the 19-year-old, who shot to prominence with her Indian Wells triumph in March, went toe-to-toe with her more experienced opponent to win by serving out to love.

“When I step out on the court, I’m fearless. I show no mercy no matter who I play, and I think that’s showing a lot,” said Andreescu.

Up next for Andreescu will be unseeded American Sofia Kenin, who extended her impressive Toronto run with a 7-6(2) 6-4 win over Ukrainian former champion Elina Svitolina.

 

Chidi Nwoke.