Serena powers past No. 1-bound Osaka, Halep retires hurt

Naomi Osaka
Updated 10 August 2019

Serena powers past No. 1-bound Osaka, Halep retires hurt

  • In the semifinals, Serena Williams will face Czech qualifier Marie Bouzkova

TORONTO: Serena Williams won the rematch on Friday, dominating Naomi Osaka 6-3, 6-4 to ensure the Japanese star won’t leave Toronto with a title to go with her No. 1 world ranking.

Williams fired 12 aces and didn't face a break point as she beat Osaka for the first time in three meetings — avenging her shock loss in last year’s controversial US Open final in which the American star was docked a point and a game after losing her temper when warned about coaching.

There was no such drama in Toronto, where Williams broke Osaka for a 5-3 lead in the first and closed out the opening set with a service winner.

She broke again for a 2-1 lead in the second and never looked like surrendering the advantage.

Even a run-in with the net cord — as she raced forward trying to run down a drop shot — did not faze her.

“It hurt, but it wasn’t the end of the world,” Williams said.

The American’s lone wobble came in the final game. After a pair of aces gave her a triple match point, Williams offered up a double fault and two backhands into the net before she closed it out with an ace on her fourth match point.

“We haven’t played since New York, which was a really good match for her,” said Williams, adding that she feels her own game is coming on as she’d hoped in the buildup to this year's US Open at Flushing Meadows.

“I'm getting there,” said Williams, who hasn’t dropped a set this week as she pursues a fourth Toronto title to go with those she won in 2001, 2011 and 2013. “It's definitely not where I want to be, but I’m getting there.”

Osaka said she played too defensively — something she said was hard to avoid when Williams was hitting 31 winners.

“But I think there were chances where she hit shorter balls, but I wasn't expecting her to hit the shorter balls, so I didn’t move up on time,” she said.

In the semifinals, Williams will face Czech qualifier Marie Bouzkova, who advanced when Wimbledon champion Simona Halep retired with Achilles tendon trouble after dropping their first set 6-4.

"I've always wanted to play Serena," said Bouzkova, a 21-year-old ranked 91st in the world. "It's always my dream to play against her."

Bouzkova notched her third straight win over a Grand Slam champion, having beaten former US Open winner Sloane Stephens and former French Open champ Jelena Ostapenko.

But Halep marked her first win over a top-five player.

The Romanian, who roared back from 0-4 down to level the set at 4-4 only to lose the last two games, said she had been bothered by her Achilles tendon from the start of the tournament.

"And today I felt it more, so that's why I decided to retire," said Halep, no doubt exercising extra caution with the final Grand Slam of the year due to start on August 26.

Despite the defeat, Osaka is assured of a return to world number one next week after the second-round exit of top-ranked Australian Ashleigh Barty and a quarter-final defeat for third-ranked Czech Karolina Pliskova.

Canadian teen Bianca Andreescu ousted Pliskova 6-0, 2-6, 6-4 after one hour and 49 minutes to doom the Czech's bid to regain the top spot for the first time since 2017.

Andreescu advanced to a semi-final clash with American Sofia Kenin, who defeated Ukraine sixth seed Elina Svitolina 7-6 (7/2), 6-4.


Real Madrid aim to put crisis behind them

Updated 31 October 2020

Real Madrid aim to put crisis behind them

MADRID:  Real Madrid will be hoping to leave their sticky patch behind them when they play Huesca in La Liga on Saturday, with an early six-point lead to preserve over Barcelona.

The resignation of Barca’s club president Josep Maria Bartomeu has overshadowed what has been a dramatic week for Madrid, who barely salvaged a 2-2 draw against Borussia Monchengladbach in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Trailing 2-0 with three minutes left, Madrid were facing a defeat that would have squandered the momentum gained from last weekend’s Clasico win at Camp Nou.

A late double from Karim Benzema and Casemiro ensured Zinedine Zidane’s side snatched a draw that felt like a win but to consolidate that positivity, they cannot afford another slip this weekend.

“The team is what it has shown, it’s about a reaction,” said Zidane. “The first half was very good, we played well. The pity is we conceded the first goal, but we continued to think it was possible, even at 2-0.

“That showed the character of the team and I’m very proud of them. We are not happy because we want to win, but we must be happy with the performance.”

Madrid play a Huesca side that is yet to win this season, as they followed four consecutive draws with a 4-1 loss away at league leaders Real Sociedad on Sunday.

Zidane could also hand Eden Hazard his first start since August, after the Belgian came off the bench in midweek.

That was Hazard’s first appearance of the season as he tries to overcome his latest injury setback, which the club have only described as a muscle injury.

“It’s good. I’m here to play football,” said Hazard on Wednesday. “After two or three months off the pitch, I’m so happy. I just want to play football, that’s why I’m here.”

On the last-gasp draw in Germany, Hazard said: “We showed great character, to be 2-0 down with five minutes to play, I think we could have scored one more, I could have scored one more, but I missed. It’s not three points but it feels like a victory.”

Zidane was determined to give Hazard time to recover fully and he believes the club will have to be cautious.

“He’s just started playing. It is his first game after a long time away,” said Zidane. “The plan was for him to try to play but little by little is what we have to do.”

A Madrid victory against Huesca could send them back to the top of the table, above Real Sociedad who are the only team to have retained top spot in consecutive rounds so far this term.

Real Sociedad play away at Celta Vigo on Sunday, just before third-placed Granada host Levante and struggling Valencia play at home to Getafe.

If Atletico Madrid win their two games in hand they will go top, with Diego Simeone’s side away at Osasuna on Saturday.

Barcelona, who beat Juventus on Wednesday, also have two games in hand but are seven points off the lead. Their new era without Bartomeu begins in La Liga away at Alaves on Saturday night.