ROME: Naomi Osaka won twice yesterday to reach the Italian Open quarter-finals, retaining the world number one ranking ahead of the start of the French Open next week.
She eased into the last eight in Rome with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Mihaela Buzarnescu.
Osaka beat the 29th-ranked Romanian in 78 minutes after earlier beating Slovak Dominika Cibulkova by the same scoreline in one hour and 42 minutes in the second round, as players doubled up after the previous day was washed out.
At the start of the day, the 21-year-old had needed to make the quarter-finals to ensure Romanian Simona Halep could not swipe the number one ranking and with it top seeding in the French Open.
But Osaka’s top spot was guaranteed when reigning Roland Garros champion Halep fell to Czech Marketa Vondrousova 2-6, 7-5, 6-3 in the second round.
Osaka next meets Madrid champion and sixth seed Kiki Bertens for a place in the final four.
Osaka, who broke through by winning the US Open last year and Australian Open this year, did not survive the second round in her two previous appearances in Rome.
Before this year Osaka had never made the last eight of any clay tournament, but has also reached the semi-finals in Stuttgart and quarter-finals in Madrid as she warms up for the French Open start on May 26.
Former French Open winner Garbine Muguruza needed three sets to get past American Danielle Collins 6-4, 4-6, 6-2.
The Spanish former world number one, now ranked 19th, next plays Belarus Victoria Azarenka who ousted two-time defending champion Elina Svitolina in the second round.
Sixth seed Kiki Bertens also needed three sets to get past American Amanda Anisimova 6-2, 4-6, 7-5, with France’s Kristina Mladenovic seeing off Swiss Belinda Bencic 6-2, 2-6, 6-1 to set up a meeting with eighth-seed Ashleigh Barty of Australia.
Czech second seed Petra Kvitova eased past Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan 6-0, 6-1.
Earlier in the day, Britain’s Johanna Konta brushed aside former champion Venus Williams to reach the quarter-finals.
Konta had earlier beaten another American Sloane Stephens 6-7 (3/7), 6-4, 6-1 as competitors play two games to make up for Wednesday’s rain washout.
Williams, the 1999 Rome winner, was handed a third round ticket after sister Serena pulled out with a knee injury before they were due to meet.