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Top-ranked Osaka, Halep crash out of Indian Wells

WORLD No. 1 Naomi Osaka crashed out of Indian Wells on Tuesday, routed by Belinda Bencic on a day that saw second-ranked Simona Halep sent packing, too.

Bencic, ranked 23rd in the world, defeated Osaka 6-3, 6-1 to reach the quarterfinals of the prestigious WTA premier mandatory event, where Osaka won her first tour title last year.

That marked the start of a remarkable rise that included Osaka’s first Grand Slam title at the US Open. She followed that with an Australian Open crown that sent her to No. 1.

But she never found her feet against Bencic, whose crisp groundstrokes and precise service game propelled her to victory in 66 minutes.

“I didn’t play that well,” Osaka said. “Honestly, at a time like this with that scoreline, I would usually feel very depressed and sad. But I feel pretty good right now, because I tried my best and I don’t really have any regrets.

“She was just playing so well … there wasn’t anything that I could do in that situation.”

Bencic, who turned 22 on Sunday, is back on the rise after a string of injuries stalled a career that had exploded with two precocious WTA titles in 2015.

The victory over Osaka came in “very high” in her list of big wins.

“I mean, she’s the No 1 player in the world. She won everything in the past couple of months. I played, I think, a great match. I’m really happy with myself. I’m very confident with my game right now. I’m hitting the ball well. So just things worked out for me.”

Osaka’s defeat capped a black day for top seeds in the combined WTA-ATP Masters event, with men’s world No 1 Novak Djokovic stunned by 39th-ranked Philipp Kohlschreiber.

The women’s field lost its top two seeds as Romania’s Halep, the 2015 Indian Wells winner, fell to Czech teenager Marketa Vondrousova 6-2, 3-6, 6-2. – AFP

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