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Nadal beats Kuznetsov to reach 3rd round at Madrid Masters

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MADRID (AP) Rafael Nadal defeated Andrey Kuznetsov 6-3, 6-3 on Tuesday to win his 11th consecutive match this year and advance to the third round of the Madrid Masters.

Nadal broke Kuznetsov’s serve once in the first set and twice in the second to secure the win in his opening match at the clay-court tournament that he has won twice in the last three seasons.

The Spaniard had four aces and no double faults against the 39th-ranked Russian, winning the match in 1 hour, 18 minutes.

Nadal will next face either American Sam Querrey or Frenchman Lucas Pouille, who play their match on Wednesday.

Nadal hasn’t lost since his opening match at the Miami Open in March. The former No. 1 is coming off consecutive titles at the Monte Carlo Masters and Barcelona Open.

Another win in Madrid this week would allow Nadal to match his total number of titles from last year, and boost his confidence even further heading into the French Open in three weeks. Nadal last won at Roland Garros in 2014.

After struggling last season, the fifth-ranked Spaniard is off to a good start in 2016 and has been playing at a high level again. He has reached at least the semifinals in six of the eight tournaments he has played this year, with the early eliminations coming at the Australian Open and in Miami.

“I’m happy with the way I started the clay-court season,” Nadal said. “Today, another victory, so that’s great news. I’m excited about this tournament.”

Nadal dominated on Tuesday by serving extremely well. He needed only eight second serves the entire match, and lost only five points on his first. He hit 22 winners and had only nine unforced errors at the “Magic Box” center court in Madrid.

“My serve has been solid,” Nadal said. “I served well both in Monte Carlo and in Barcelona. And it’s going to be vital to serve well here as well to have a good tournament.”

Nadal reached his 40th win at his home Masters. He has won the tournament four times, including in 2013 and 2014, but lost last year’s final to Andy Murray.

The second-ranked Murray will play Radek Stepanek later Tuesday. The 37-year-old Stepanek on Monday became the oldest player to win a match at a Masters 1000 tournament since Jimmy Connors in 1992.

Top-seeded Novak Djokovic debuts on Wednesday against either clay-court specialist Nicolas Almagro – a winner at the Estoril Open last weekend – or 19-year-old Croatian Borna Coric, the youngest player in the top 40. Coric is known as the “mini-Djokovic” for having a similar playing style as the top-ranked player.

Djokovic and Nadal each have 28 career Masters titles.

Third-ranked Roger Federer withdrew on Monday because of a back injury.

In other matches Tuesday, former No. 4 in the world Juan Martin del Potro – currently ranked 274th after a series on injuries – had an emotional 7-6 (5), 6-3 win over 14th-seeded Dominic Thiem.

Del Potro hit 10 aces to reach the second round against American Jack Sock, who rallied to defeat Benoit Paire of France 2-6, 6-2, 7-6 (5) in nearly two hours.

“I have just played my best match since I came back to tennis after my surgeries,” Del Potro said. “I’ve had a great test against a very high-level player.”

Also, 13th-seeded Gael Monfils cruised past Kevin Anderson 6-4, 6-1, while 15th-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut beat qualifier Santiago Giraldo 6-3, 7-5.

In the women’s draw, sixth-seeded Simona Halep of Romania routed Karin Knapp of Itay 6-1, 6-1, while eighth-seeded Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro beat Sabine Lisicki of Germany 6-3, 6-2.

Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

Kerber beats Sharapova in 3rd round; Halep in long-haul win

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Angelique Kerber is the only major winner remaining in the Australian Open women’s draw after ending Maria Sharapova’s comeback tour to Melbourne Park.

The 2016 champion routed Sharapova 6-1, 6-3 in the third-round match on Saturday night to extend her winning streak to 12 matches, including winning the Sydney International title last week.

Five-time major winner Sharapova was back at the Australian Open for the first time since 2016, when a failed test for meldonium led to a 15-month doping ban.

It was all over in one hour and four minutes, a vast contrast to top-ranked Simona Halep’s 4-6, 6-4, 15-13 win in three hours, 45 minutes over American Lauren Davis in the opening match on Rod Laver.

The third set took 2:22 and momentum swung. Halep wasted chances to serve for the match in the ninth, 11th and 15th games, then had to save three match points in the 22nd. There were 11 service breaks and two medical timeouts – for Davis to get treatment on both feet – before Halep converted on her first match point.

“I never played the third set so long, so I’m really happy I could stay and win it. I’m almost dead,” Halep said of the match which equaled Chanda Rubin’s win over Arantxa Shanchez Vicario in 1996 – also 48 games – for the Australian Open record in terms of most games.

“I just feel that my muscles are gone,” said Halep, who badly twisted her left ankle in the first round. “My ankle is, I don’t know how it is because I don’t feel it anymore! But … it was nice to win this match.”

Halep will play Naomi Osaka, who beat 18th-seeded Ashleigh Barty 6-4, 6-2 in a match that was moved from the center court to Margaret Court Arena because of the two long matches on Rod Laver.

No. 20 Barbora Strycova beat U.S. qualifier Bernarda Pera 6-2, 6-2, leaving U.S. Open finalist Madison Keys as the only American woman to reach the fourth round.

Keys advanced 6-3, 6-4 over Ana Bogdan and will next play No. 8 Caroline Garcia, who beat Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-3, 5-7, 6-2.

Sixth-seeded Karolina Pliskova beat No. 29 Lucie Safarova 7-6 (6), 7-5 in a match featuring just one service break.

On the men’s side, Hyeon Chung took out a Zverev for the second time this week. Chung beat fourth-seeded Alexander Zverev 5-7, 7-6 (3), 2-6, 6-3, 6-0 six days after a win over No. 32 Mischa Zverev in the first round.

Another unexpected loss at a major had the highly-touted Zverev admitted he may have a problem.

“Definitely not physical, so… I have some figuring out to do, what happens to me in deciding moments in Grand Slam,” he said.

The 20-year-old Zverev has five titles on the elite tour but his fourth-round exit at Wimbledon last year remains his best run at a major.

Tomas Berdych ended 2009 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro’s return to Melbourne Park for the first time since 2014 with a 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 win.

Fifth-seeded Dominic Thiem beat Adrian Mannarino 6-4, 6-2, 7-5 to set up a fourth-round match against Tennys Sandgren, who continued his career-best run by beating Maximilian Marterer 5-7, 6-3, 7-5, 7-6 (5).

Former world junior No. 1 Marton Fucsovics beat Nicolas Kicker 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 and No. 25 Fabio Fognini overcame Julien Benneteau 3-6, 6-2, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3.

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More AP coverage: http://www.apnews.com/tag/AustralianOpen

Top-seeded Halep survives marathon match

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Top-seeded Simona Halep served for the match four times before prevailing 4-6, 6-4, 15-13 over American Lauren Davis in a marathon match at Rod Laver Arena.

Halep saved three match points in the 22nd game of the third set at 0-40 and Davis saved five break points in the 23rd game in the 3 hour, 45-minute match. The final set took 2 hour, 22 minutes and Halep won on her first match point when Davis hit a forehand wide along the sideline.

Davis twice had medical timeouts in the final set to have blisters on both feet treated.

Halep will play the winner of Saturday’s later match between local hope Ashleigh Barty and Naomi Osaka.

In other women’s third-round matches, sixth-seeded Karolina Pliskova beat Lucie Safarova 7-6 (6), 7-5 and No. 8 Caroline Garcia beat Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-3, 5-7, 6-2. Garcia will play Madison Keys in the fourth round.

 

More AP coverage: http://www.apnews.com/tag/AustralianOpen