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