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Rome Masters: Victoria Azarenka, Angelique Kerber fall on a day of upsets

A dejected Victoria Azarenka attends her post-match press conference in Rome on Wednesday
A dejected Victoria Azarenka attends her post-match press conference in Rome on Wednesday
FEATURED COLUMNIST

The Foro Italico in Rome witnessed a slew of seeds making the exit on Wednesday as five WTA top-10 players fell by the wayside during second round action at the at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia. World No. 2 Angelique Kerber, No. 5 Simona Halep, No. 6 Victoria Azarenka, No. 7 Roberta Vinci and No. 9 Petra Kvitova all were major casualties.

It all started with Azarenka’s departure at the beginning of the day. Hampered by a back injury that forced her to withdraw from Madrid after two rounds, the Belarusian slumped to a 3-6, 2-6 defeat to Madrid quarter-finalist Irina-Camelia Begu.

Also Read: Rome Masters 2016 - Resurrection and Realignment: How Ready Are The biggies?

This was the Romanian’s maiden win over the former World No. 1 after five straight losses.

Bouchard outlasts Kerber

Former French Open semi-finalist Eugenie Bouchard scored her first top-10 win since 2014 when she toppled the second seed Kerber, 6-1, 5-7, 7-5. It wasn’t easy for the young Canadian as she let go of a 6-1, 3-0 lead to allow the German back in. The Australian Open winner even went up 2-0 in the deciding set but Bouchard rebounded from it to hand an opening round loss to the Stuttgart champion.

If Madrid had brought Halep a lot of joy, then Rome brought her bitter disappointment for she bowed out in her very first match at the Italian capital, losing to 2015 semi-finalist Gavrilova, 3-6, 6-4, 3-6.

Great Britain’s Johanna Konta played one of her best matches of the year to show the door to Italian No. 1 Roberta Vinci, 6-0, 6-4. American Madison Keys was the last one to claim a top-10 scalp as she upset the fifth seed Petra Kvitova, 6-3, 6-4. Riding on an incredible 84% first serves, the youngster needed just 1 hour 18 minutes to get the win.

The late evening matches also saw another upset as World No. 48 Timea Babos of Hungary outlasted 12th seed Venus Williams, 6(5)-7, 7-5, 6-4. 10th seed and Prague titlist Lucie Safarova also was among the casualties as she went down 3-6, 5-7 to Misaki Doi.

13th seed Ana Ivanovic too joined the exodus with a 7-6(3), 4-6, 1-6 defeat to qualifier Christina McHale.

3rd seed Garbine Muguruza and 11th seed Timea Bacsinszky managed to avoid the upset bug. While the Spaniard was a 6-1, 6-0 winner over Ekaterina Makarova, Bacsinszky triumphed 6-2, 6-4 over Lesia Tsurenko.

Teenagers Daria Kasatkina and Jelena Ostapenko also entered the third round.

ATP – The Big 4 reach the third round

Two blockbuster generational battles were set up as Roger Federer will now meet Dominic Thiem while Rafael Nadal will face off with Nick Kyrgios in the third round.

The four-time runner-up Federer played cautiously after his recent troubles with his back which had prompted him out of Madrid. Yet he managed to post a 6-3, 7-5 victory over 19-year-old rising star Alexander Zverev. His next opponent, Thiem was a 6-3, 6-2 winner over Joao Sousa.

Seven-time winner Nadal, meanwhile, made short work of Munich titlist Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-3, 6-3. Up next is his 2014 Wimbledon conqueror Kyrgios, who prevailed 7-6(5), 6-3 over 10th seed Milos Raonic.

World No. 1 and Madrid champion Novak Djokovic, though, did not have it easy and was put to a test by qualifier Stephane Robert. But the defending champion managed to raise his level to come away a 7-5, 7-5 winner. He will next be squaring off against Brazil’s Thomaz Bellucci, who beat Nicolas Mahut.

Madrid runner-up Andy Murray had a comfortable day at the office as he pummelled qualifier Mikhail Kukushkin, 6-3, 6-3. Next up for the Scot is 15th seed Roberto Bautista Agut, who saw off Jeremy Chardy.

Ninth seed David Ferrer and 11th seed Richard Gasquet too won their second round matches in straight sets.

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