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Carlos Alcaraz Marches On At Wimbledon As Naomi Osaka Returns To Centre Court

Carlos Alcaraz raced into the Wimbledon third round on Wednesday to set up a mouth-watering duel with fellow crowd-pleaser Frances Tiafoe as Japanese superstar Naomi Osaka returned to Centre Court for the first time in five years. Alcaraz defeated Australia’s world number 69 Aleksandar Vukic 7-6 (7/5), 6-2, 6-2 on the back of 42 winners. The third-seeded Spaniard’s only moments of concern came in the first set when he let slip a 5-2 lead and found himself 5-6 down with Vukic serving for the opener.

However, the three-time major winner steadied the ship to race away to victory against a player who got the better of him in qualifying at the 2020 French Open. 

Alcaraz next faces Tiafoe, the American player he defeated in five sets in the semi-finals of the 2022 US Open on his way to his first Grand Slam triumph.

“I’m going for him,” said Alcaraz, who is bidding to become just the sixth man after Rod Laver, Bjorn Borg, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic to win the French Open and Wimbledon titles back to back.

“I’m ready to play a really high level of tennis and hopefully take him.”

Tiafoe made the third round by seeing off Borna Coric in straight sets.

‘Love and hate’

Eccentric Fabio Fognini of Italy needed a clutch of match points to knock out eighth-seeded Casper Ruud 6-4, 7-5, 6-7 (1/7), 6-3.

The 37-year-old Fognini, sporting bleach-blond hair, twice served for the match from 5-2 up in the third set before sealing victory over the three-time Grand Slam runner-up in the fourth set.

“It just shows why I love and hate this sport,” said Fognini.

Daniil Medvedev, the 2021 US Open champion, came back from dropping the first set and facing two set points in the second to see off Alexandre Muller of France 6-7 (3/7), 7-6 (7/4), 6-4, 7-5.

World number two and US Open champion Coco Gauff cruised into the third round with a 6-2, 6-1 win over Romanian qualifier Anca Todoni.

“I’m happy with the way I played, could have been cleaner on some points,” said Gauff, who broke her 19-year-old opponent five times.

The American, who made her career breakthrough at Wimbledon as a 15-year-old qualifier in 2019, goes on to face British qualifier Sonay Kartal, the world number 298.

The last time four-time major winner Osaka appeared on Centre Court was in 2019 when she was second seed but was dumped out in the first round by Yulia Putintseva.

Five years on, she is ranked at 113 having only returned to the tour in January after giving birth to daughter Shai in July last year.

All-Italian fight

Osaka’s win over Diane Parry in the first round was her first at Wimbledon since 2018.

The Japanese star takes on America’s 17th-ranked Emma Navarro, who arrived in London on the back of a semi-final run at the Bad Homburg grass-court tournament.

Later Wednesday, world number one Jannik Sinner will take on Italian compatriot and former runner-up Matteo Berrettini.

Italian men’s tennis has rarely been stronger, with the country boasting five players in the top 50 while the nation swept to Davis Cup glory last season.

Ten Italian men started the singles tournament this year at Wimbledon.

Sinner was the first Italian man to capture a Grand Slam title with his victory at the Australian Open in January and was also the first from his country to become world number one.

“I feel like in Italy we have so many tournaments, starting with juniors, then the Futures and Challengers,” said 22-year-old Sinner.

“We have big, big ATP tournaments there. We have good facilities and great coaches.”

Berrettini can boast his own breakthrough Italian moment when he was the first to make a Wimbledon men’s final in 2021.

Sinner made the semi-finals at the All England Club last year where he was defeated by Djokovic.

There could be a memorable day for Chinese tennis with teenager Shang Juncheng taking on 10th-seeded Grigor Dimitrov and 32nd seed Zhang Zhizhen facing Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff.

Until Monday, no Chinese man had won a match at Wimbledon in the Open era.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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