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Naomi Osaka returns a shot to Marie Bouzkova in the first round of the US Open on Monday in New York. (photo AP)

NEW YORK – Defending champion Naomi Osaka qualified for the third round of the US Open on Wednesday when her opponent retired due to illness.

Simona Halep and Garbine Muguruza also reached the third round, ending long unsuccessful streaks at Flushing Meadows for the double Grand Slam champions.

They were among the few players to score victories at the start of a rainy afternoon, when play started late and then was briefly suspended on the outdoor courts.

Osaka was due to face Serbian Olga Danilovic in the first match of the day at Arthur Ashe Stadium. Instead, the United States Tennis Association moved 12th-seeded Halep’s game against Kristina Kucova there.

Halep won 6-3, 6-1 to reach the third round for the first time since a quarter-final appearance in 2016. She was eliminated in the first round in 2017 and 2018 – the latter the first time to lead Series # 1 lost in the first round of the US Open.

Tennis fans take shelter under umbrellas as the rain begins to fall during the second round of the US Open tennis championships on Wednesday in New York. (photo AP)

But she made a comeback after missing Roland Garros and Wimbledon with a calf injury.

“It’s already a better result than when I was in good health, so it’s a good thing to be in the third round here”, she joked.

The ninth seed Muguruza has passed the second round of the US Open for the first time since 2017, when she defeated Andrea Petkovic 6-4, 6-2.

She will face Victoria Azarenka, three-time US Open finalist. The No. 18 seed beat Jasmine Paolini 6-3, 7-6 (1).

“I think it will be a very difficult game. I think she still plays very well here ”, Muguruza said. “I think it’s the best. Just to go out there and play with top people.

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