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Top-ranked Osaka, Halep crash out of Indian Wells


Belinda Bencic (SUI) celebrates after defeating Naomi Osaka (not pictured) in her fourth round match of the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
 Indian Wells (United States), March 13: World number one Naomi Osaka crashed out of Indian Wells on Tuesday, routed by Belinda Bencic on a day that saw second-ranked Simona Halep sent packing, too.

Bencic, ranked 23rd in the world, defeated Osaka 6-3, 6-1 to reach the quarterfinals of the prestigious WTA premier mandatory event, where Osaka won her first tour title last year.

That marked the start of a remarkable rise that included Osaka’s first Grand Slam title at the US Open. She followed that with an Australian Open crown that sent her to number one.

But she never found her feet against Bencic, whose crisp groundstrokes and precise service game propelled her to victory in 66 minutes.

Bencic – who beat four top-10 players on the way to the title in Dubai last month, her first trophy in four years – next faces fifth-seeded Czech Karolina Pliskova, who downed Anett Kontaveit 7-6 (10/8), 4-6, 6-2.

The victory over Osaka came in “very high” in her list of big wins.

Osaka’s defeat capped a black day for top seeds in the combined WTA-ATP Masters event, with men’s world number one Novak Djokovic stunned by 39th-ranked Philipp Kohlschreiber.

The women’s field lost its top two seeds as Romania’s Halep, the 2015 Indian Wells winner, fell to Czech teenager Marketa Vondrousova 6-2, 3-6, 6-2.

Halep, who received treatment for blisters on her foot during the match, hit just six winners and piled up 36 unforced errors.

Her defeat means Osaka will retain her number one ranking, even though she couldn’t pull off her first title defense.

Vondrousova, who beat 2018 runner-up Daria Kasatkina and former French Open winner Jelena Ostapenko on the way to the fourth round, will go for another big win when she faces sixth-seeded Elina Svitolina, who battled to a 7-6 (10/8), 5-7, 6-4 victory over Australian Ashleigh Barty.

Former world number ones Venus Williams and Garbine Muguruza made it into the quarterfinals.

Spain’s Muguruza, a two-time Grand Slam champion now ranked 20th in the world, out-lasted seventh-ranked Kiki Bertens 5-7, 6-1, 6-4 while Williams, a seven-time Grand Slam winner, beat Germany’s Mona Barthel 6-4, 6-4.

Muguruza next faces 18-year-old Canadian Bianca Andreescu, who surprised China’s 18th-seeded Wang Qiang 7-5, 6-2.

Andreescu – who roared to her first WTA final as a qualifier in Auckland in January, beating two former world number ones on the way – is in the quarterfinals of one of the WTA’s elite premier mandatory events for the first time.

Andreescu improved her match record for 2019 to 25-3, including qualifying, as she became the youngest player to make the last eight at Indian Wells since a 17-year-old Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova reached the semis in 2009.

Williams will fight for a semifinal berth against eighth-seeded Angelique Kerber, who beat ninth-seeded Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus 6-1, 4-6, 6-4. – AFP

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