World no. 1 Naomi Osaka has made a winning start in Rome, defeating Dominika Cibulkova 6-3, 6-3 in an hour and 42 minutes, setting the clash with Mihaela Buzarnescu in a few hours. The Japanese fired 12 aces and repelled seven out of eight break points to wait for a chance on the return patiently, stealing almost half of the points behind Cibulkova's initial shot and securing four breaks from 15 opportunities to march towards the finish line.
Dominika broke at love in the third game of the match and stayed in touch only for a couple of minutes, suffering a break in the next game to bring Naomi back to the positive side of the scoreboard. They both had chances on the return in the following games and it was Osaka who seized the opportunity at 4-3, clinching a break and closing the opener on own serve for a 6-3.
Saving all four break points in set number two, Naomi had the upper hand and materialized it with breaks in games one and nine to seal the deal and book the place in the third round. As we already said, Mihaela Buzarnescu is her next rival, staying on the court for two hours and 23 minutes before Julia Goerges had to retire at 4-4 in the third set due to right thigh injury.
Madrid champion and new world no. 4 Kiki Bertens had to work hard against a lucky loser Amanda Anisimova, prevailing 6-2, 4-6, 7-5 in two hours and five minutes after losing serve six times. The young American had her chances despite eight breaks she suffered, rattling off four straight games in set number two and pushing Bertens to the limits in the decider before losing the last three games at 5-4 to send the Dutch player over the top.
An in-form Briton Johanna Konta toppled the 7th seed Sloane Stephens 6-7, 6-4, 6-1 in two and a half hours, winning four points more than the American and saving her best tennis for the decider to reach the last 16. Johanna saved seven out of 11 break points, delivering better numbers on the second serve and stealing rival's serve eight times to forge the advantage.
Stephens had nothing left in the tank in the deciding set, losing five straight games from 1-1 to end her Rome run earlier than she expected. Garbine Muguruza ousted Danielle Collins 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 in two hours and eight minutes, overcoming a tough second set and storming over the American in the final set to advance.
A qualifier Kristina Mladenovic took down Belinda Bencic 6-2, 2-6, 6-1 for a very important win, prevailing in the pivotal moments in the last set to grab the 12th triumph of the season and stay in the tournament.