Rome Running Blog: Osaka, Nadal win twice on jam-packed, dramatic day

Rome Running Blog: Osaka, Nadal win twice on jam-packed, dramatic day

Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Naomi Osaka played—and won—twice on Thursday because of Wednesday's washout.

After Wednesday's washout, it's Teeming Thursday in Rome, with all ATP and WTA second and third-round singles matches scheduled to be completed. Stay tuned to this page throughout the day for updates and insight from our reporters, along with video highlights and images from Italy.


UPDATE: Novak Djokovic [1] d. Philipp Kohlschreiber, 6-3, 6-0 (round of 16)


Three-time Rome champion Djokovic finished his Thursday play with a comfortable win over Kohlschreiber. Like most of his peers, the Serb played two matches today, ousting Shapovalov in straight sets earlier. Djokovic plays Juan Martin del Potro next. —Ashley Ndebele


UPDATE: Victoria Azarenka & Karolina Pliskova set showdown

Azarenka and Pliskova will clash in a quarterfinal between former world No. 1s after both had the coveted fortune of focusing on one match Thursday. This Rome matchup is an opportunity for both players to add another important victory to their resume ahead of the season’s second major at Roland Garros. The two met just three weeks ago in Stuttgart, where Azarenka surged ahead for a gritty three-set win to move ahead 4-3 in the pair’s head-to-head series.

Azarenka maintained the momentum that lifted her past two-time reigning champion Elina Svitolina in the second round when she opened a 6-4, 3-1 lead on another past No. 1-ranked player, Garbine Muguruza. The Spaniard was forced to retire with a left thigh injury.

On the contrary, Pliskova’s route to the last eight required patience in an eventual defeat of Sofia Kenin 4-6, 6-4, 6-3. In the two sets she won, the Czech was successful on 29 of 31 points when she made her first serve, a weapon she will need to bring to the table against the big-hitting Belarusian.—Matt Fitzgerald


UPDATE: Rafael Nadal d. Nikoloz Basilashvili, 6-1, 6-0 (round of 16)

Two matches won, two games lost. Write off Rafael Nadal this season at your own peril.—Ed McGrogan


UPDATE: Roger Federer d. Borna Coric, 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7) (round of 16)

Per Greg Sharko of the ATP, this is this is the fourth time in Federer’s career he has played two singles matches on the same day:

Rome (May 16, 2019) – d.  Sousa (2R) , playing Coric (3R)
Cincinnati (Aug. 17, 2018) – d.  L. Mayer (3R) and Wawrinka (QF).
Toronto (July 29, 2004) – d. Soderling (2R) and Mirnyi (3R)
Gstaad (July 9, 2004) – d. Karlovic (2R) and Stepanek (QF)

Federer is 8-0 in those matches.


For more on this result, read Steve Tignor's post about the match here.—Ed McGrogan


UPDATE: Diego Schwartzman d. Matteo Berrettini, 6-3, 6-4 (round of 16)

After reaching the Buenos Aires final, Schwartzman posted just six wins in his next 15 matches (excluding Barcelona qualifying). With considerable carnage in his quarter of the Rome draw–which saw Alexander Zverev, Gael Monfils and Lucas Pouille all fall at the first hurdle–Schwartzman capitalized on the opening Thursday.

The Argentine took care of business in brushing aside qualifier Albert Ramos-Vinolas and wild card Berrettini in straight sets to move into his first Masters 1000 quarterfinal since 2017 in Montreal. Schwartzman awaits the winner of sixth seed Kei Nishikori and Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff.—Matt Fitzgerald


UPDATE: Naomi Osaka [1] d. Mihaela Buzarnescu, 6-3, 6-3 (round of 16)

It was a great day at the office for Osaka on Thursday after topping Buzarnescu to punch her ticket to the quarterfinals—she had taken out Cibulkova earlier in the day. With the victory, she clinched the No. 1 seed for Roland Garros, denying French Open champion Halep the chance to take over the top spot—the Romanian fell to Vondrousova in the round of 32.

The French Open will be Osaka’s first Slam as the top seed, having taken over the No. 1 ranking for the first time by claiming her second consecutive major in January, at the Australian Open. Earlier this week, she had expressed her desire to be seeded No. 1 in Paris, and now her dream has come true.

Up next for Osaka is Madrid champion Bertens.—Ashley Ndebele


UPDATE: Fernando Verdasco d. Karen Khachanov [11], 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 (round of 16)

Prior to Madrid, veteran Verdasco was just 1-5 versus Top 50 opponents this season. After getting the best of Khachanov for the second consecutive week in Rome, the Spaniard has upgraded that mark to 6-6. Verdasco began the day by prevailing 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 over No. 5-seeded Thiem, his first Top 10 victory since the 2018 French Open third round, when he defeated Grigor Dimitrov.

The 35-year-old could meet fellow left-handed Spaniard Nadal in the quarterfinals.—Matt Fitzgerald


UPDATE: Kiki Bertens [6] d. Carla Suarez Navarro, 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 (round of 16)

It was a really impressive day for Madrid champion Bertens after spending nearly four hours on court Thursday in Rome. The sixth seed survived, 7-5 in the third, against lucky loser Amanda Anisimova; and she followed it up with another three-set victory, defeating 2015 Rome finalist Suarez Navarro.

That makes  it 11 wins in 12 matches on the European clay for the former French Open semifinalist. With Halep’s surprise exit earlier in the day, the case for Bertens to be considered the pre-tournament favorite to win Roland Garros is much stronger.—Matt Fitzgerald


UPDATE: Kristina Mladenovic d. Ashleigh Barty [8], 6-2, 6-3 (round of 16)

Qualifier Mladenovic posted her second upset of the day by routing No. 8-seeded Barty to wrap up her double duty in tremendous fashion. The Frenchwoman had rallied to defeat No. 15-ranked Belinda Bencic, 6-2, 2-6, 6-1, earlier on Thursday.

"That's a very good win for me," Mladenovic said after her win over Bencic. "She's playing very quickly and very well this year. She has a lot of wins under her belt and she's very dangerous."

No. 63-ranked Mladenovic, who reached a career-high of No. 10 in 2017, is making inroads this season as she works her way back to the Top 10. She is now coached by Naomi Osaka’s former coach Sascha Bajin.

Mladenovic will play either No. 2-seeded Petra Kvitova or fellow qualifier Maria Sakkari for a place in the final four.—Ashley Ndebele


UPDATE: Johanna Konta d. Venus Williams, 6-2, 6-4 (round of 16)

While Venus received a free pass into the third round of Rome when her sister Serena pulled out of their highly anticipated second-rounder, Konta has earned her passage the hard way.

The Brit has taken out three Americans—Alison Riske, Sloane Stephens and now Venus—to reach the quarterfinals of the WTA Premier 5 tournament. Even more impressive is that she had to play two matches on Thursday, upsetting Stephens 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-1, before dismissing Williams.

The former world No. 4 is enjoying signs of a resurgence after dropping outside of the Top 50 last year. Just a few weeks ago she reached the final in Rabat, and Thursday marked her first win over Williams since Miami in 2017.

Konta is guaranteed to not play a seed in the quarterfinals, as she’ll face the winner of Marketa Vondrousova and Daria Kastakina.—Nina Pantic


UPDATE: Novak Djokovic [1] d. Denis Shapovalov, 6-1, 6-3  (round of 32)


It only took Djokovic 66 minutes to dispatch Shapovalov for a place in the round of 16. The three-time Rome champion, who captured Madrid last week, will face Philipp Kohlschreiber later today. The German previously upset the world No. 1 in the third round of Indian Wells.—Ashley Ndebele


UPDATE: Marketa Vondrousova d. Simona Halep [3], 2-6, 7-5, 6-3 (round of 32)


“Being able to control your power and aggression is a skill in itself,” said a commentator working the Halep-Vondrousova match in Rome on Thursday.

The announcer made the comment as a way of praising Vondrousova, a 19-year-old who reached a career-high No. 40 this month, and who upset Halep for the second time this season today in Rome, 2-6, 7-5, 6-3.

There has been plenty of praise to go around for the young Czech this year, and rightly so. It isn’t just the fact that she has steadily marched up the rankings; it’s the elegantly brainy game she has used to do it that has been especially impressive. Along with another teen, Bianca Andreescu, Vondrousova uses a style of play that privileges creativity over crushing power, variety over velocity, finesse over brute force.

In some ways, Vondrousova is the reverse, or the converse, of her countrywoman and fellow-lefty Petra Kvitova. Where Kvitova begins with the idea of pummeling every ball and then tries to reign her game in from there, Vondrousova begins with the idea that she can control the rallies with angles and drops, and then, when she needs it, ramp up the power. Over the course of a point, she can completely change the pace on her two-handed backhand, from sharp angles to feathery touch shots to blistering drives. And she has a knack for knowing just how much oomph she needs to use in any given situation.

At the heart of Vondrousova’s game is her backhand drop shot, which is her primary point-ending weapon; she hit 14 winners with it against Halep. In truth, a drop shot to Vondrousova is like snow to an Eskimo—she has a variety of them in her arsenal. She hits them with disguise, with extra English or without extra English, from behind the baseline or in front of it, crosscourt or down the line, with plenty of net clearance or hardly any at all, as an end-of-rally putaway or as a mid-rally surprise. Time and again, Halep would chase after a Vondrousova drop shot, have it in her sights, and then watch as it kicked backward, just out of her racquet’s reach. Not surprisingly, by the third set, Halep needed a trainer to work on her overworked hamstring.

While Vondrousova used her drop shot whenever she could, there was never a sense that she was overusing it, or that it was a gimmick. It’s just a natural part of a repertoire that ranges through every type of shot you can hit on a tennis court. Vondrousova can still get better; she’s going to want, and need, to use her pace more often. But she’s already a presence, and she’s almost certainly going to be a future.—Steve Tignor


UPDATE: Casper Ruud d. Nick Kyrgios, 6-3, 6-7 (5), 2-1, default (round of 32)

Kyrgios, who called Rafael Nadal "super salty" during an interview in Rome, was pretty salty himself on Thursday. That's no surprise, given the Aussie's caustic nature, but this reaction was a bit much, even for him:


Nick Kyrgios walked off the court in a fit of rage after throwing a chair onto the red clay Thursday during his second-round match against Norwegian qualifier Casper Ruud at the Italian Open.

Kyrgios, who has a history of bad behavior, was suspended by the ATP Tour in 2016 for "tanking" a match and insulting fans during a loss at the Shanghai Masters.

The latest incident occurred on an outer court at the Foro Italico with Ruud leading 6-3, 6-7 (5), 2-1.

First, Kyrgios kicked a water bottle. Then he picked up a white chair and flung it onto the court with his right hand.

The ATP Tour said it wasn't immediately clear if the Australian was officially defaulted or had retired from the match.—Associated Press


UPDATE: Sofia Kenin d. Madison Keys [13], 6-7 (2), 6-3, 6-4 (round of 32)

On Thursday afternoon in Rome, packed spectators gathered for the first all-American clash between Kenin and Keys. A test of missed opportunities and serving under pressure played out—and it was Kenin who emerged victorious, regrouping to confidently win their second-round match, 6-7 (2), 6-3, 6-4 on Court 2.

A player doesn’t often withstand 20 aces and still create 21 break point chances, but the oddity hardly mattered for Kenin despite failing to slam the door shut on the 13th seed. After dropping the first-set tiebreaker, she gained traction on her own serve, anchored by surrendering just four points in the third set. Kenin was also the steadier off the ground, with Keys struggling to make returns and find a rhythm against her Fed Cup teammate.

Kenin, this year’s Hobart champion, will return to Court 2 later Thursday to take on fourth seed Karolina Pliskova. The 20-year-old Kenin is seeking her first win over a Top 10 opponent this season.

Keys, who lifted the trophy in Charleston in April, will be searching for answers heading into Paris after tallying just one victory in Rome and Madrid. The 24-year-old reached the semifinals at Roland Garros in 2018.—Matt Fitzgerald


UPDATE: Fernando Verdasco d. Dominic Thiem [5], 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 (round of 32)

Thiem will still play two matches on Thursday—he's entered in the doubles draw, with Jurgen Melzer. According to the original order of play (see below), Thiem could have played two singles and one doubles match today.—Ed McGrogan


UPDATE: Rafael Nadal [2] d. Jeremy Chardy, 6-0, 6-1 (round of 32)


Rafa, who as you may have heard is without a European clay-court title in 2019, shouldn't be too taxed when he faces Nikoloz Basilashvili a few hours from now (fifth match on Centrale). He dropped just one game in his opening-round match.—Ed McGrogan


UPDATE: Roger Federer [3] d. Joao Sousa, 6-4, 6-3 (round of 32)


Tournament organizers raised ticket prices for Wednesday, which included Federer's opener, when the star took a late entry into the tournament. The tennis gods were vengeful, and rained out the entire session. For those fans who ended up with tickets to today's stacked card—which undoubtedly includes those who paid the surcharge—they'll at least have the chance to see Federer play twice.

"Good thing was this one was not that physical," Federer said afterward. "Borna [Coric, his upcoming opponent] is tough. I lost to him a couple of times last year."—Ed McGrogan


UPDATE: Kiki Bertens [6] d. Amanda Anisimova, 6-2, 4-6, 7-5 (round of 32)

What a difference a day can make, in Rome or anywhere else, but especially at the Foro Italico today. On Wednesday, persistent, enraging rain drenched the grounds and forced every match to be cancelled. On Thursday, there’s hardly a cloud in the sky, and there are more matches than this old marble facility can handle. To make up for yesterday’s washout, virtually everyone must play twice today, including tennis royals named Federer, Djokovic and Nadal. This is what tennis might look like if it were scheduled like a golf tournament and crammed into four days. It’s tough on the players, but if you have a ticket for today, you can probably see the upside.

Play starts earlier than normal, at 10 A.M. local time (4 A.M. Eastern Time), but the Roman fans have already gathered. The players, knowing what’s in store for them, are moving at a brisk clip, and the balls seem to be as well. For two sets, no one is moving more briskly than Bertens. The world No. 4 is trying to do something exceedingly rare this week: win the Madrid-Rome double. Only one woman, Serena Williams, has done it before, in 2013.

Still carrying the momentum that took her to the title at the Caja Magica on Saturday, Bertens leaps out to a 6-2, 3-0 lead over Anisimova, a 17-year-old American who is as erratic as she is talented. She can hit winners from anywhere, which means she often tries winners from anywhere, which means she misses a lot of them. But down a double break in the second set, Anisimova stops missing and comes all the way back to win the second set. By the start of the third, she has the momentum, and Bertens is staring at her coach, Ramon Sluiter, in disbelief. There’s a reason why no one other than Serena, in her peak season, has stormed through Madrid and Rome.

But there’s also a reason why Bertens has a chance to do it. While she struggled today, and was overpowered at times by Anisimova, Bertens played like someone who has found her way through a lot of matches recently. And she did it with the same shots: her serve and her drop. At 1-2, 30-30, in the third, Bertens stopped Anisimova’s momentum cold, with an ace and a service winner. At 4-5, 30-30, two points from defeat, Bertens put together a nice drop shot/passing shot combination and held with a service winner. She closed out her 6-2, 4-6, 7-5 win with her 12th ace, and let out a long shriek of relief. The 27-year-old doesn’t seem satisfied with one big title.

Can a player win the Madrid-Rome double, and the French Open, by relying heavily on her serve to get her out of trouble? The answer, as Serena showed in 2013, is yes.—Steve Tignor


UPDATE: Naomi Osaka [1] d. Dominika Cibulkova, 6-3, 6-3 (round of 32)

Top-ranked Naomi Osaka comfortably beat Dominika Cibulkova 6-3, 6-3 in the first of her two matches at the Italian Open on Thursday.

Osaka, who can hold on to the No. 1 ranking by reaching the quarters, hit a whopping 44 winners and 12 aces.

"My serve was really good," Osaka said. "I just tried to be really calm."

With play backed up following a rainout on Wednesday, Osaka was also to play Mihaela Buzarnescu or Julia Goerges for a spot in the quarterfinals.

Osaka also beat Cibulkova in straight sets last week in Madrid.—Associated Press


COMPLETE ORDER OF PLAY

When in Rome—at least on Thursday, May 16, 2019—you schedule 55 ATP and WTA matches, in singles and doubles, beginning at 10:00 A.M. local time and lasting until God knows when.

Provided the weather cooperates, of course.

A dismal and drenched Wednesday, during which no matches were even able to begin at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia, has given way to one of the busiest days in tennis history. It was a perfect storm, so to speak, because nearly all the tournament's top draws—Roger Federer, Naomi Osaka, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, to name a few—were scheduled to begin their tournaments on Wednesday.

Now, should Federer, Osaka, Djokovic or Nadal win their opening-round matches, they'll play their next matches within a few hours of their first. Federer, for example, will play Joao Sousa second on Centrale, with the winner facing Borna Coric fifth on Grandstand. 

The circumstances give players who have already advanced to the third round, like Coric, a huge advantage, given the unavoidable physical strain their opponents will endure in their first matches. In some cases, like Naomi Osaka's, a third-round match will be contested between two players that have already played the same day.

Expect a few strange results in this Roman feat for the tennis gourmand. Below is the entire schedule—screenshots from ATPTour.com—and we'll be updating this page throughout the busy day with Steve Tignor's thoughts throughout Teeming Thursday.

Follow the matches on our live scores page, and watch them from morning to night on Tennis Channel,m beginning at 4 A.M. ET. You'll also want to follow with Tennis Channel Plus. There's no way the network can stay with just one match on this loaded day of play, but with Tennis Channel Plus, you can, and on any device.—Ed McGrogan