After winning the title at Indian Wells, Naomi Osaka has won just three out of last six matches, heading to Rome after a first round loss in Madrid. The 20-year-old Japanese has made a solid start, beating 2013 Rome finalist Victoria Azarenka 6-0 6-3 in an hour and 13 minutes to book her place in the second round. Two years ago at the Australian Open it was Azarenka who notched a commanding 6-1 6-1 triumph but she was nowhere near that performance today, winning just 40% of the points in her games and suffering five breaks from eight opportunities she gave to Naomi.
The Japanese served well, saving four out of five break points and overcoming a slower start of set number two to earn the win in straight sets and set the second round clash against world number 1 Simona Halep. Victoria lacked the depth in her shots and Naomi had the upper hand in the rallies on both the serve and return.
The first set was over in less than 30 minutes and Osaka was the only player on the court, racing into a 5-0 lead and scoring another break in game six after three deuces to serve a bagel and make the best possible start.
Azarenka managed to end her downfall at the beginning of the second set, breaking in the opening game to open up a 2-0 lead but Naomi was not to be denied, rattling off five straight games and closing the match in game nine after saving three break points.
Qualifier Donna Vekic has scored her 11th win of the season after a commanding 6-1 6-2 triumph over the Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro in an hour and 15 minutes. The result could have been at least a little bit more different if Suarez Navarro had managed to play better on the break points, converting just one from 11 and failing to take the advantage from only 44% of the first serve that Vekic landed in.
On the other hand, Donna won 60% of the return points and she broke her opponent six times from 12 chances, enough to control the scoreboard from start to finish. Vekic saved all five break points she faced in the opener and she broke her rival in games one, three and seven for a full control, taking the opening three games of the second set to move 6-1 3-0 ahead.
The last four games of the match offered 10 break chances on both sides and Vekic sealed the deal with two more breaks in games six and eight, hoping for more of the same in the following rounds as well. Another qualifier Kaia Kanepi is through to the second round after a commanding 6-1 6-2 win over the young Italian Camilla Rosatello in an hour and 16 minutes. The 22-year-old home player gave her best and she created 12 break points on the return, converting only one to end on the losing side and miss a chance to at least grab few more games for a decent defeat.
Kanepi was brutal on the return, winning 60% of the points and creating no less than 17 break chances, converting six to stay in front all the time. Kaia broke at love in the opening game to kick off the match in the perfect way and she grabbed another one in game five to forge a 4-1 lead.
Camilla wasted her chances earlier in the set and she got broken again in game seven to hand the opening set to her opponent by 6-1. Seven out of eight games of the second set offered break points, 16 overall, and the more experienced player managed to overcome a slower start to seize the last six games of the match and move into the next round.
First round results: