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At French Open, Osaka balances tennis and video games

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PARIS – Rattling through the first two rounds of the French Open without losing a set leaves more time for PlayStation for Naomi Osaka.

And should the next big thing in Japanese tennis turn up late for her next match, it could well be because she lost track of time plugged into her console. Who needs the sights of Paris when you have “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim” to distract you? (“It’s OK you don’t know it,” she kindly told a middle-aged journalist).

“It’s sort of consumed my time a little bit,” the 20-year-old Osaka said Wednesday after reaching the third round at Roland Garros. “Literally, if I have 30 minutes then I’ll just sit there and I might be a little bit late. Like I’ll spend 35 minutes and then I’m like, `Oh my God, it’s 30 minutes past,’ and then I have to rush out the door. So if I’m ever late to anything, you know why.”

The French Open marks the first time Osaka has been seeded at a major (at No. 21). That billing and her debut title on tour earlier this year, when she tore through a high-powered field to win at Indian Wells, mark out Japan’s top-ranked woman as a player to watch in this first week when many struggle to find their feet on the red clay of Paris but others make it their home.

Osaka, who also reached the third round at her first French Open in 2016 only to lose to a qualifier in straight sets in the first round last year, said she is concentrating less on the surface than on trying to win her first Grand Slam.

“In my mind, it’s not really clay,” she said. “I just focus more on the tennis part, rather than making up excuses of what the surface is and how my play style isn’t suited for it.”

Osaka’s third-round opponent is Madison Keys, an American seeded 13th. Keys beat Osaka in both of their previous matches. If Osaka has her way, next time will not only produce a different outcome but be quick, too – because she hopes to spend as little time as possible on the tournament grounds.

“I’m only here if I have to be, to be honest,” she said. “When I was younger I used to love walking around and just experiencing the atmosphere. But now, like, I just sort of think of this as my job. So it’s like clocking in and clocking out.”

Those she beat on her way to the Indian Wells title in March included five-time major winner Maria Sharapova and top-ranked Simona Halep. At her next tournament, in Miami, she then overpowered Serena Williams, her tennis idol in childhood, 6-3, 6-2 in the first round.

She started traveling with her games console from that point on.

“Sometimes I’m really bored in my room and I feel like I really want to play,” she said. “That’s why I started bringing it.”

Nadal beats Ferrer to reach Barcelona Open quarterfinals

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BARCELONA, Spain — Rafael Nadal looked closer to his clay-court best again as he beat David Ferrer 6-3, 6-3 on Thursday to reach the quarterfinals of the Barcelona Open.

The 11-time Barcelona champion saved four of five break points and broke four times in what could have been his last meeting with Ferrer, who is retiring after the Madrid Open next month. It was a sign of improvement for Nadal, who lost in the semifinals in Monte Carlo last week and then needed three sets to get past Leonard Mayer in his opening match in Barcelona.

“This match was important for me,” Nadal said. “Yesterday I had a tough match. I took a step forward and was able to play with more energy.”

The top-seeded Nadal will next face either Stefanos Tsitsipas, last year’s runner-up, or Jan-Lennard Struff.

Nadal was up 5-3 in the first set before play was stopped for a rain delay. He continued to dictate the match when play resumed, serving out the set and breaking Ferrer’s next service game.

Ferrer saved three match points before finally sending a forehand into the net to give Nadal the win.

The 37-year-old Ferrer was making his last appearance at the Barcelona Open and could not hold back the tears when he received an ovation from the audience. He placed his pink headband on the court as a mark that he had played his last match here.

“I am happy to be able to finish this tournament on the center court, playing against Nadal. I gave it my all,” Ferrer said.

Also, third-seeded Dominic Thiem broke Jaume Munar five times to earn a 7-5, 6-1 victory. Fourth-seeded Kei Nishikori, who won the tournament in 2014 and 2015, brushed off Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-1, 6-3.

Grigor Dimitrov was beaten 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (2) by Nicolas Jarry, who will meet Daniil Medvedev after he beat American Mackenzie McDonald 6-3, 6-2.

Osaka opens clay campaign by beating Hsieh in Stuttgart

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STUTTGART, Germany — Top-ranked Naomi Osaka opened her clay-court season by beating Hsieh Su-wei of Taiwan 6-4, 6-3, on Thursday to reach the Porsche Grand Prix quarterfinals.

Osaka hit 22 winners and converted three of her six break points to seal the win in 1 hour, 24 minutes and set up a meeting with Donna Vekic of Croatia.

After saving two break points early, it was an unusually smooth victory for Osaka over Hsieh. She needed three sets to get past the Taiwanese veteran en route to her Australian Open victory and then lost to her at the Miami Open last month.

“I felt like this surface is more suited for me (than Hsieh),” Osaka said. “I was sort of in my plan. So, I just felt like I executed what I was trying to do.”

Two-time Stuttgart champion Angelique Kerber also advanced by beating fellow German Andrea Petkovic 6-2, 6-4. The fifth-seeded Kerber saved two break points to hold for 2-2 in the first set and then reeled off the next four games to take control. She then earned a decisive break for 4-3 in the second before closing out the win with her fourth match point.

Kerber will face sixth-seeded Kiki Bertens, who served 20 aces to rally for a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over Belinda Bencic.

No. 7 Anastasija Sevastova also advanced by beating former champion Laura Siegemund of Germany 6-4, 6-3 to set up a quarterfinal against Petra Kvitova, who advanced on Wednesday.

Vekic dispatched Russia’s Daria Kasatkina, 6-1, 7-5, earlier on Thursday.