Osaka and Halep crash out of Indian Wells

Rex Christensen
March 16, 2019

Naomi Osaka downplayed her straight-sets loss to Belinda Bencic at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells on Tuesday, saying she was learning to stay positive as she wrestles with the perils of being the world's top player.

Osaka surprised the tennis world when she parted with coach Sascha Bajin shortly after winning the Australian Open and moving to number one in the world.

The 21-year-old Osaka, trying to defend a title for the first time in her career, was routed 6-3, 6-1 by Switzerland's Belinda Bencic.

Bencic, the world number 23, has made a habit of upending top 10 players of late, defeating four en route to winning the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships last month.

"It gives me confidence that I can turn around matches, that I can play also three sets, also in the close moments that I'm there, that I can trust myself", said Kerber, adding that it was always hard to face an opponent for the first time.

Osaka was not the only top player who was shocked in California court as world No. 2 and 2015 title victor Simona Halep also fell to Czech teenager Marketa Vondrousova by 6-2, 3-6, 6-2.

On this unexpected victory, Bencic said, "I was really happy with the performance". Halep, who received treatment for blisters on her foot during the match, hit just six winners and piled up 36 unforced errors.

"I think I did well", she said. The first set was great for me, and then I just tried to keep it like that.

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Naomi Osaka won her first career title at Indian Wells a year ago, propelling her to a career-best year in which she defeated Serena Williams for the U.S. Open title.

Osaka, 21, said she lacked maturity when as a relative unknown player she won the tournament previous year to kick off her meteoric rise through the rankings.

She will play either Ukraine's Elina Svitolina or Australian Ashleigh Barty in the last eight.

"Honestly, I think at a time like this with that scoreline, I would usually feel very depressed and sad", Osaka said.

But Kerber - the eighth seed - rallied to secure a meeting with 2018 semi-finalist Williams, who defeated Mona Barthel 6-4 6-4.

Another teenager, unseeded Canadian Bianca Andreescu, upset 18th seed Wang Qiang of China 7-5 6-2 to book her place in the quarters.

Spain's Muguruza, a two-time Grand Slam champion now ranked 20th in the world, out-lasted seventh-ranked Kiki Bertens 5-7, 6-1, 6-4 while Williams, a seven-time Grand Slam victor, beat Germany's Mona Barthel 6-4, 6-4.

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