HomeTennisOsaka plays solidly in her opening match at the Italian Open. Darderi...

Osaka plays solidly in her opening match at the Italian Open. Darderi eliminates Shapovalov

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ROME (AP) — Naomi Osaka looked comfortable in her opening match at the Italian Open, beating 45th-ranked Clara Burel 7-6 (2), 6-1 on Wednesday.

It was Osaka’s first victory over a top-50 player on clay since defeating Victoria Azarenka at the 2019 French Open.

Osaka was proud of the way she maintained her mental focus after dropping her serve while serving for the first set at 5-3.

“Just being able to hang in there and eventually close it on my terms is something that I’m very proud of myself for,” she said.

It’s also the first time that Osaka is playing in Rome since 2019 — when she reached the quarterfinals.

Osaka, who was formerly ranked No. 1 but is now No. 173 after a maternity break, served eight aces and produced 27 winners to her opponent’s 10. She’ll next face 19th-seeded Marta Kostyuk, who reached the final of a clay event in Stuttgart, Germany, recently.

Also, qualifier Bernarda Pera beat fellow American Caroline Dolehide 7-6 (6), 6-3 and will next face top-ranked Iga Swiatek; Magda Linette beat Zhu Lin 6-3, 6-2; Brenda Fruhvirtova rallied past Taylor Townsend 3-6, 6-2, 6-0; and Lesia Tsurenko eliminated Donna Vekic 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (5).

In men’s action, Argentine-born Italian Luciano Darderi had strong crowd support in a 6-7 (4), 6-3, 7-6 (4) victory over Denis Shapovalov on Campo Centrale; Brazilian qualifier Thiago Monteiro eliminated Gael Monfils 6-2, 7-5; and Yoshihito Nishioka defeated Sebastian Ofner 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (4).

Rafael Nadal, the record 10-time Rome champion, opens against Belgian qualifier Zizou Bergs on Thursday.

Top-ranked Novak Djokovic, who is also back in Rome after a month out, is on the opposite half of the draw from Nadal. But second-ranked Jannik Sinner and third-ranked Carlos Alcaraz both withdrew because of injuries.

Former Wimbledon finalist Matteo Berrettini also withdrew, saying he wasn’t ready to compete following a series of physical issues.

And the Italian federation announced that Camila Giorgi, an Italian who was once ranked as high as No. 26 and won a WTA 1000 event in Montreal 2021, has retired.

Rome is the last big warmup tournament before the French Open, which starts May 26.

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