World No.1 Novak Djokovic put up another strong show against Frenchman Lucas Pouille to take another step forward in successfully defending his title at the ongoing Cincinnati Masters 2019 tournament. After a slow start in the first set, the top-ranked Serb was at his imperious best to register a straight-sets victory in the quarterfinals on Saturday. The 16-time Grand Slam champion will next face Daniil Medvedev, who beat Russian compatriot Andrey Rublev, conquerer this week of Roger Federer, 6-2, 6-3.
In other men’s singles, Richard Gasquet prevailed over Spanish veteran Roberto Bautista Agut in three sets to move into his first Cincinnati semifinal, first Masters 1000 semifinal in six years (since 2013 Miami) and seventh overall. He will play for a place in the final against 16th seed David Goffin, who advanced in a walkover against Japanese qualifier Yoshihito Nishioka, who could not take the court due to illness.
In the women’s singles draw – Ashleigh Barty edged closer to a return to the top WTA ranking, reaching the semis as the current number one Naomi Osaka retired with a knee injury. Barty, the Australian top seed, on Friday engineered her second comeback in as many days, overhauling Maria Sakkari 5-7, 6-2, 6-0.
But the US Open alarm bells were ringing for Osaka less than two weeks before the start of her title defence at Flushing Meadows after a left knee injury saw her retire against Sofia Kenin — sending the American into the semis with a 6-4, 1-6, 2-0 victory.
“I managed to finish the match, there was a little bit of tightness in there,” Djokovic said.
“Hopefully all will be fine for tomorrow.”
Osaka’s left knee trouble was more of a concern, the Japanese star admitting it put a cloud over her upcoming US Open title defence. “Last year I won the US Open and this year I’m trying to play the US Open,” she said.
“I don’t even really think about winning the tournament. I just want to have the chance to play it now. If there is a 1 per cent chance of me not playing it, that’s what’s concerning me.”
Osaka had won the second set to level the match when she first complained of apparent knee pain and after one game of the third set called for the physio. With the knee heavily taped Osaka played one more game before packing it in and sending Kenin to the semis.
French Open champion Barty will play for a place in the final against Russian veteran Svetlana Kuznetsova, who beat third seed Karolina Pliskova 3-6, 7-6 (7/2), 6-3 to end the Czech’s chances of claiming the number one ranking next week.
Serving for the match at 5-4 in the second set, Pliskova was broken. Kuznetsova dominated the ensuing tiebreaker and took charge in the third set as Pliskova began to fade.