Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams crash out of Italian Open
Japanese and American big guns both lose in straight sets to Pegula and Podoroska, respectively, in second round
Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams both crashed out in the second round of the Italian Open on Wednesday.
Japan's Osaka fell to a 7-6, 6-2 defeat to American Jessica Pegula in the clay-court warm-up before the French Open at Roland Garros.
The four-time Grand Slam winner, seeded second in Rome, had received a first-round bye, but was unable to find her way back into the match after losing the first-set tie-break to her 31st-ranked opponent.
Osaka was playing just her third tournament since winning the Australian Open in February and also suffered a second-round defeat in Madrid earlier this month.
The reigning US Open champion has seven career hard-court titles, but has never managed to lift a clay-court trophy.
Pegula, 27, who reached the Australian Open quarter-finals, will now face the Russian Ekaterina Alexandrova.
Williams, playing the 1000th WTA match of her career, lost to Nadia Podoroska on her return to action after nearly three months away.
The 39-year-old eighth seed fell 7-6, 7-5 in under just two hours to the 44th-ranked Argentine, a surprise semi-finalist at last year's Roland Garros.
Williams, a four-time Rome winner and 23-time Grand Slam champion, had not played since her semi-final defeat to Osaka at Melbourne Park in February.
World No 1 Ashleigh Barty had no such problems in Rome, sweeping past Kazakh Yaroslava Shvedova 6-4, 6-1.
Days after her surprise defeat in the Madrid Open final to Aryna Sabalenka, the Australian overcame an early break of serve to see off Shvedova, a three-time Grand Slam quarter-finalist making her way back after giving birth to twins.
Playing with her left thigh strapped, Barty dropped her opening service game but rallied to level at 4-4, taking control of the match against Shvedova on the red clay of the Foro Italico.
Barty will next meet 28th-ranked Russian Veronika Kudermetova as she bids for a first Rome quarter-final on her third appearance. Kudermetova beat France's 56th-ranked Caroline Garcia 6-4, 6-4.
Ukrainian No 5 seed Elina Svitolina fought back from a set down to beat the American Amanda Anisimova 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, while Coco Gauff. also of the US, held off Greek 17th seed Maria Sakkari to progress 6-1, 1-6, 6-1.
Svitolina will now take on No 12 seed Garbine Muguruza of Spain, who beat American qualifier Bernarda Pera 2-6, 6-0, 7-5. Gauff has a mouth-watering clash with Madrid champion Sabalenka, who eventually overwhelmed Spain's Sorribes Tormo 7-5, 6-1.
Former Rome champion Karolina Pliskova, seeded ninth, advanced past Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia 6-2, 6-3.
Czech Pliskova, winner in 2019 and runner-up last year, built on her powerful serve, and converted six of her 13 break point chances.
The former world No 1 has Russian Vera Zvonareva next up, who ousted Czech 11th seed Petra Kvitova 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.
Updated: May 12, 2021 08:29 PM