Top-ranked Osaka loses in second round in Birmingham

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BIRMINGHAM, England — Naomi Osaka lost in straight sets at the Birmingham Classic grass-court tournament on Thursday – and could soon lose her No. 1 ranking, too.

The two-time Grand Slam champion from Japan never looked comfortable in a 6-2, 6-3 loss to Yulia Putintseva in the second round, choosing to sit on the court instead of her chair at changes of ends.

Osaka would have guaranteed holding onto top spot in the rankings heading into Wimbledon, which starts July 1, by reaching the final in Birmingham but she could now be ousted by No. 2 Ashleigh Barty.

The newly crowned French Open champion beat Jennifer Brady 6-3, 6-1 in a match interrupted by rain to advance to the quarterfinals.

Barty has made a strong transition from clay to grass as she seeks a title win that would lift her to No. 1 status.

“The stars have aligned a little bit for me and I think when you get those opportunities, you have to do your best to take them with both hands,” Barty said.

“That’s what we have been able to do over the last month in particular but I feel like I’m comfortable in my own skin. I feel like I know exactly how I want to play in most matches, and it’s just about going out there trying to execute as best I can.”

Osaka, meanwhile, has slumped to a second straight early exit from a tournament, after losing in the third round of the French Open to unseeded Katerina Siniakova from the Czech Republic.

Venus Williams, a five-time Wimbledon champion, joined Barty in the quarterfinals with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Wang Qiang.

Alcaraz loses to Goffin in 1st match as No. 1

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ASTANA, Kazakhstan — Carlos Alcaraz’s first match as the No. 1-ranked player ended with a straight-set loss to David Goffin at the Astana Open.

The 19-year-old Spaniard lost 7-5, 6-3 in his first tour match since winning the U.S. Open and capturing the No. 1 ranking.

“David was playing really, really well. To come back to competition is never easy,” Alcaraz said. “It’s really tough for me, for my confidence.”

Alcaraz came from 5-2 down to level the first set at 5-5, only to be broken again by his Belgian opponent.

“When you play against the World No. 1 on a big stage, big crowd, the fire inside gives you so much power to play your best tennis because you don’t have any choice,” Goffin said. “You have to fight and give your best and that was the case today.”

Second-seeded Daniil Medvedev and No. 3-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas both avoided similar upsets. Medvedev beat Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain 6-3, 6-1 and Tsitsipas ousted Kazakhstan’s Mikhail Kukushkin 6-3. 6-4.

Kasatkina knocks out Raducanu at Agel Open

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OSTRAVA, Czech Republic — Fifth-seeded Daria Kasatkina defeated 2021 U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu 7-5, 6-4 to advance to the second round of the Agel Open.

Kasatkina was playing her first match since losing in the first round of the U.S. Open and will next face Ekaterina Alexandrova.

Sixth-seeded Belinda Bencic of Switzerland rallied to eliminate former top-five player Eugenie Bouchard of Canada 6-7 (7), 6-1, while Aliaksandra Sasnovich upset eighth-seeded Jelena Ostapenko 6-2, 6-2.

American qualifiers Alycia Parks and Catherine McNally both advanced. Parks upset Czech Karolina Pliskova 6-0, 7-6 (3) and McNally eased past Anna Blinkova 6-1, 6-2 at the indoor hardcourt event in the Czech eastern city of Ostrava.