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Naomi Osaka, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal all recorded routine straight set victories at the start of an action-packed day at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia while Dominic Thiem became the first seeded casualty when he lost an enthralling three-set tussle to Fernando Verdasco.
World No.1 Osaka notched up her second victory over Dominika Cibulkova in as many weeks when she triumphed 6-3 6-3 in the first match on Court Centrale.
Osaka struck 44 winners and 12 aces on her way to the straight sets victory which extended her head-to-head lead over the Slovakian to 4-0.
“I feel pretty good today. I was expecting a really hard match. That’s what I was given. Given the circumstances, yeah, I feel pretty great,” said Osaka. “I think for me today, especially my serve was really good. I just tried to be really calm compared to the last match that I played.”
Osaka’s next opponent will be Mihaela Buzarnescu who advanced to the third round when No. 16 seed Julia Goerges retired in the third set of their match with what looked like a right thigh injury.
Federer needed just 80 minutes to record a 6-4 6-3 victory over Joao Sousa in the second match on Court Centrale. The 20-time Grand Slam champion, a runner-up here on four occasions, was in impressive form as he defeated his Portuguese opponent and set up a third round clash against No. 13 seed Borna Coric.
Defending champion Rafael Nadal also looked imperious as he made light work of Jeremy Chardy. The No. 2 seed was in dominant form as he crushed the Frenchman 6-0 6-1 in 67 minutes and sealed his spot in the third round to face No. 14 seed Nikoloz Basilashvili. Their match will take place under the lights on Court Centrale this evening.
The packed crowd on Court Pietrangeli were treated to almost three hours of enthralling tennis as Verdasco battled back from a set down to record a notable victory over No. 5 seed Thiem. The Spaniard was made to work hard for the win – his second of the year over the Austrian on clay – eventually prevailing 4-6 6-4 7-5 in two hours 43 minutes.
“Obviously I think it was an unbelievable match. I think both of us had chances to win the match. I think he played much, much better obviously than the last time we played in Rio,” said Verdasco.
“For me is always amazing to beat a player as good as him because, as I say, he’s top three for me, and I think for everybody. That gives me a lot of happiness and a lot of hopefully confidence.”
Diego Schwartzman was the first player to win a match on Thursday at the Foro Italico, recording his fourth match-win over Spanish qualifier Albert Ramos-Vinolas 7-6(5) 6-1. The Argentine will take to Grandstand later in the day to face Italy’s Matteo Berrettini with a place in the quarter-finals at stake.
There were also victories on Thursday morning for No. 6 seed Kei Nishikori, qualifier Kristina Mladenovic and former Roland Garros champion Garbine Mugurza.