Tennis

Osaka another step closer to retaining Indian Wells title

World No. 1 downs Collins 6-4, 6-2 for a fourth-round meeting with Bencic

World No. 1 and defending champion Naomi Osaka powered past American Danielle Collins 6-4, 6-2 yesterday morning (Singapore time) to book a fourth-round meeting with a resurgent Swiss Belinda Bencic at Indian Wells.

Japan's Osaka, whose second straight Grand Slam title at the Australian Open propelled her to the top of the rankings, traded breaks with Collins early in the first set.

But she got the decisive break in the ninth game, giving herself a break-point with a backhand winner before pouncing on a short ball and belting a forehand winner to give herself a chance to serve for the set.

An increasingly confident Osaka broke Collins at love for a 2-1 lead in the second.

She finished out the next game for a 3-1 lead and led 5-1 before Collins saved a match-point to hold and make Osaka serve out the match.

Collins, trying to build on a breakout run to the Australian Open semi-finals, failed in her bid to avenge her 6-1, 6-0 loss to Osaka in their only meeting in Beijing last year.

And Osaka, whose first career title came at this prestigious WTA premier mandatory event last year, advanced to a meeting with Bencic, the 23rd seed who defeated Russian Ekaterina Alexandrova 6-4, 6-2.

Bencic stunned two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in the final at Dubai last month to capture her first WTA title in four years.

She won the WTA title in Toronto in 2015 before a series of back and wrist injuries saw her slide down the rankings.

In other third-round action, three-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber came from a set down to beat Russian qualifier Natalia Vikhlyantseva 3-6, 6-1, 6-3.

Kerber will face Aryna Sabalenka, the ninth seed from Belarus who defeated Lesia Tsurenko 6-2, 7-5 yesterday.

Joining them in the fourth round is seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams, who defeated qualifier Christina McHale 6-2, 7-5.

The 38-year-old Williams, who showed her mettle in the second round where she upset world No. 3 Kvitova, will meet German Mona Barthel.

In the men's event, world No. 3 Alexander Zverev crashed out of the Indian Wells Masters, where Novak Djokovic's third-round match was suspended by rain with one game completed.

Jan-Lennard Struff, ranked 55th in the world, notched his first victory over Zverev in five tries, breaking him once in the first set and three times in the second for a 6-3, 6-1 victory.

"I've been sick for a week," said Zverev, who lost the Acapulco final to Nick Kyrgios the week before Indian Wells began.

"That hasn't changed, unfortunately."

World No. 1 Djokovic, playing his first tournament since grabbing a record seventh Australian Open title in January, completed just one game against German Philipp Kohlschreiber before rain swept across the California desert. - AFP

Tennis