Halep, Azarenka advance in Rome

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Former world number one Simona Halep and Victoria Azarenka advanced to the second round of the Italian Open in Rome, while four-times Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka was forced to withdraw from the tournament due to an ankle injury.

Halep, champion in Rome in 2020, beat France’s Alize Cornet 6-4 6-4, exacting revenge for her fourth-round loss at the Australian Open in January.

In a match that had 10 break points converted by the two players, Halep led 5-1 in both sets before Cornet fought back on both occasions before the Romanian got the job done, sealing progress with a forehand winner on Cornet’s serve.

Azarenka met a familiar foe in Swiss Viktorija Golubic, who she beat at the same stage of the Madrid Open late last month.

Although the match in Madrid was a closer contest, this time Azarenka beat her emphatically with a 6-3 6-0 scoreline, wrapping up the match in just 68 minutes.

Organisers confirmed Osaka had withdrawn due to a left ankle injury and her opponent Sara Sorribes Tormo will now face lucky loser Nuria Parrizas Diaz.

Defending champ and top seed Iga Swiatek and Madrid champ Ons Jabeur are in action on Tuesday.

(Reuters)