Her numero uno po­si­tion gets a boost with Keys’ with­drawal in Rome

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She will play ei­ther Stephens or Gar­cia in the last eight

RO­MA­NIAN Si­mona Halep will ex­tend her stay as world num­ber one af­ter be­ing handed a walkover into the Ital­ian Open quar­ter-fi­nals when Amer­i­can Madi­son Keys with­drew in­jured on Thurs­day.

Halep needed to reach at least the quar­ter-fi­nals and go fur­ther than world num­ber two Caro­line Woz­ni­acki to re­tain the top-rank­ing go­ing into the French Open.

Keys, run­ner-up in Rome in 2016, was un­able to take to court be­cause of a right rib in­jury.

“I felt my rib in my match yes­ter­day and af­ter try­ing to warm up this morn­ing it was still painful,” she said. Halep, run­ner-up last year, will play ei­ther Sloane Stephens or Caro­line Gar­cia in the last eight.

Ear­liers, Alexan­der Zverev got his Rome ti­tle defence un­der­way at the Ital­ian Open with a straight­sets win over Italy’s Mat­teo Ber­ret­tini as the Ger­man bids for back-to-back Masters tri­umphs af­ter suc­cess in Madrid. The sec­ond seed eased past Ber­ret­tini 7-5, 6-2 to join for­mer win­ners Rafael Nadal and No­vak Djokovic in the third round at the Foro Ital­ico as Aus­trian Do­minic Thiem fell at the first hur­dle.

“It’s not easy to come from Madrid where there’s a lot of al­ti­tude and it’s very fast,” said Zverev. “I only had one day to pre­pare but I ad­justed well.” But sixth seed Thiem crashed out just a week af­ter in­flict­ing a first clay­court de­feat on Nadal in over a year in Madrid which cost the Spa­niard the world num­ber one rank­ing. The 24-year-old de­stroyed his racket in fury as he suf­fered his first loss to Ital­ian Fabio Fognini in three meet­ings, sink­ing 6-4, 1-6, 6-3.

For rising Ger­man star Zverev it was a tenth con­sec­u­tive win af­ter back-to-back ti­tle runs at Munich and Madrid. Zverev trailed 0/40 in the third game but rolled off five points to hold. He broke in the 11th game and later served out the set.

Ber­ret­tini turned on his right an­kle at 1-2 in the sec­ond set and looked in dif­fi­culty, al­low­ing Zverev to push through. The 21year-old from Ham­burg next meets Bri­tain’s Kyle Ed­mund, who beat Djokovic in the Madrid sec­ond round, and got past Lu­cas Pouille 6-2, 7-6 (7/3).

Si­mona Halep dur­ing her match against Ja­pan’s Naomi Osaka on Wed­nes­day.

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