Indian Wells: Naomi Osaka sets up fourth round clash with Dubai champion Belinda Bencic
World No 1 keeps her title defence alive with a straight sets win over Danielle Collins, while Venus Williams, Angelique Kerber and Anya Sabalenka also advance
World No 1 and defending champion Naomi Osaka powered past American Danielle Collins 6-4, 6-2 on Monday to book a fourth-round meeting with resurgent Swiss Belinda Bencic at Indian Wells.
Japan's Osaka, whose second straight grand slam title at the Australian Open propelled her to the top of the rankings, traded breaks with Collins early in the first set.
But she got the decisive break in the ninth game, giving herself a break point with a backhand winner before pouncing on a short ball and belting a forehand winner to give herself a chance to serve for the set.
An increasingly confident Osaka broke Collins to love for a 2-1 lead in the second. She finished out the next game for a 3-1 lead and led 5-1 before Collins saved a match point to hold and make Osaka serve out the match.
Collins, trying to build on a breakout run to the Australian Open semi-finals, failed in her bid to avenge her 6-1, 6-0 loss to Osaka in their only prior meeting in Beijing last year.
And Osaka, whose first career title came at this Premier Mandatory event last year, advanced to a meeting with Bencic, the 23rd seed who defeated Russian Ekaterina Alexandrova 6-4, 6-2.
Bencic, 21, stunned two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in the final of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships last month to capture her first WTA title in four years.
She won the WTA title in Toronto in 2015 before a series of back and wrist injuries saw her slide down the rankings.
Osaka was also in Dubai, but lost her first match in the second round to Kristina Mladenovic, resulting in an emotional press conference where she admitted to struggling with her new position as the leading player of women's tennis.
Kerber battles back
In other third-round action, three-time grand slam champion Angelique Kerber came from a set down to beat Russian qualifier Natalia Vikhlyantseva 3-6, 6-1, 6-3.
After dropping her serve in the first game of the second set, Kerber won seven games in a row to force a third set and take a 2-0 lead in the decider.
She was unable to convert four match points against Vikhlyantseva's serve at 5-1 and was broken to love when serving for the match at 5-2 before finally putting it away.
"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 difficult to face an opponent for the first time.
She will be doing the same in the round of 16 against Aryna Sabalenka, the ninth seed from Belarus who defeated Lesia Tsurenko 6-2, 7-5.
Williams eventually 'comfortable' in victory
Seven-time grand slam winner Venus Williams also found it tricky facing fellow American Christina McHale for the first time, but she pulled back early breaks in each set to win 6-2, 7-5.
"I never played her, so you're out there learning what they do well, what shots they select," Williams said, admitting that it wasn't until the second set that she felt 'OK, I understand.'
"I felt comfortable with trying to control the point from there," said Williams, who fired 20 winners and converted seven of her nine break point chances.
She will fight for a quarter-final berth against Mona Barthel, a 7-5, 1-6, 6-4 winner over Julia Goerges in an all-German contest.
Fifth-seeded Czech Karolina Pliskova relied on a solid service game in a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Belgian qualifier Ysaline Bonaventure.
She next faces Estonian Anett Kontaveit, who was leading 5-0 against 11th-seeded Anastasija Sevastova when the Latvian retired from their match.
Updated: March 12, 2019 11:07 AM