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Krunic rolls on in Japan after Date tear-jerker

Serbia’s Aleksandra Krunic powered on at the Japan Women’s Open yesterday by eliminating seventh seed Alison Riske, a day after ushering local favorite Kimiko Date into retirement.

It was a day of upsets at the Tokyo hardcourt tournament, with top seed Kristina Mladenovic the biggest scalp as the Frenchwoman was bundled out 4-6, 3-6 by Croatian qualifier Jana Fett in the first round.

World No. 67 Krunic, who whitewashed the 46-year-old Date on Tuesday, stormed to a 6-3, 6-4 win over American Riske in sweltering conditions to reach the quarterfinals.

Third seed Elise Mertens also booked a place in the last eight, the Belgian seeing off Poland’s Magda Linette 6-1, 7-5.

But there was another surprise later yesterday when Japan’s Miyu Kato toppled fourth seed Kristyna Pliskova — twin sister of former world No. 1 Karolina — 7-5, 6-3 to set up a meeting with Krunic.

Kurumi Nara upset sixth seed Naomi Osaka 6-3, 6-0 in the first round as the next generation of Japanese players took center-stage after Date’s tearful exit.

Osaka, who reached the third round of the US Open earlier this month after stunning defending champion Angelique Kerber, left her game in the locker room as she came out inexplicably flat.

“I felt really nervous,” shrugged Osaka. “I didn’t cope with the pressure and I just think emotionally I wasn’t really there.”

Australia’s former US Open winner Samantha Stosur was bundled out by Spain’s Sara Sorribes, who rallied to beat the fifth seed 3-6, 7-5, 6-1.

Second seed Zhang Shuai safely progressed to the last 16 by thrashing Dutchwoman Richel Hogenkamp 6-3, 6-3 as organizers looked to clear a backlog of matches caused by rain on Tuesday.

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