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Zheng Qinwen Blazes Past Osaka at Italian Open, Protests Cause Temporary Delays

Naomi Osaka lose the match against Zheng Qinwen in Italian open

Naomi Osaka’s return to form at the Italian Open was cut short on Monday as rising star Zheng Qinwen delivered a dominant performance to oust the former World No. 1 in straight sets (6-2, 6-4). It sets the stage for a quarter-final clash between Zheng and Coco Gauff.

It was only the second meeting between Osaka and Zheng, with their first encounter going Osaka’s way in 2022. However, the script was flipped this time around. Zheng, a finalist at the Australian Open earlier this year, displayed a significant improvement in her return game, neutralizing Osaka’s powerful serve and forcing the Japanese star to play more rallies.

“I’m able to return her serve today,” Zheng said in her post-match interview. “I try to make her play as much as I can compared to the last time.”

This strategy proved highly effective. Osaka struggled to find her rhythm, conceding three crucial breaks in the opening set. The trend continued in the second set, with Zheng breaking Osaka in the very first game. While Osaka showed glimpses of her fighting spirit, Zheng remained rock-solid, converting all four break points she earned throughout the match. 

Osaka’s Serve Falters at a Crucial Moment

Osaka, who was enjoying a resurgence on clay with three consecutive wins, entered the match with momentum. However, her serve, usually a potent weapon, let her down at critical junctures. The inability to hold serve consistently hampered her ability to build pressure and ultimately led to her downfall.

Zheng Marches On, Gauff Awaits

With this impressive victory, Zheng continues her impressive run on the WTA tour. Her next challenge comes in the form of another young American talent, Coco Gauff. This quarter-final clash promises to be an exciting battle between two of the brightest stars in the sport. 

Protests Cast a Shadow

The day had its disruptions. Two matches, Madison Keys vs. Sorana Cirstea and the doubles match featuring Edouard Roger-Vasselin/Santiago Gonzalez vs. Marcelo Arevalo/Mate Pavic, were briefly halted by environmental protestors who entered the court and scattered confetti. Fortunately, security personnel swiftly intervened, and the matches resumed with minimal delay. 

Despite the unexpected interruptions, Zheng Qinwen’s dominant performance against Naomi Osaka stole the show. With her confidence soaring, Zheng looks poised to continue her deep run in Rome.

Also read: Rafael Nadal edges past qualifier Zizou Bergs in Rome opener