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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

Historical marker for tennis great Tilden rejected again

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) A Pennsylvania panel once again rejected a historical marker for Philadelphia tennis great Bill Tilden.

Tilden became the first American to win Wimbledon in 1920 and also won seven U.S. championships. In 1950, The Associated Press voted him the greatest player of the first half of the century.

A year ago, a panel of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission that approves historical markers voted 4-1 against recommending approval of a marker at Philadelphia’s Germantown Cricket Club, citing Tilden’s convictions on charges involving teenage boys in the 1940s.

Karen Galle, coordinator of the historical marker program, confirmed Wednesday that the panel again voted 4-1 against approving the marker in February and that recommendation was among 54 approved by the commission at its March 22 meeting.

“While the significance of this athlete’s tennis career and talent are indisputable, his convictions for sexual misconduct with underage boys preclude recognition,” commission spokesman Howard Pollman said.

Lack of a marker doesn’t diminish Tilden’s accomplishments but approval “may be perceived to dishonor victims of sexual abuse,” Pollman said. Officials have cited the climate in the commonwealth following the sex abuse scandal involving another sports figure, Penn State’s Jerry Sandusky.

Tilden was arrested in Beverly Hills, California, in November 1946, after a 14-year-old boy was caught driving the star’s car erratically. Officers reported that when the teen exited the car, his pants zipper was down. Police charged Tilden with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and he served seven months in jail. He was arrested again in 1949 on allegations that he violated probation by being in the company of another teen boy, and that he groped a third teen. He served 10 months at a prison farm.

Tilden, born to a wealthy Philadelphia family, was featured regularly in magazines, newspapers and newsreels during his career. He was friends with Hollywood elite and played at the White House at the invitation of President Warren Harding. He’s credited with urging children of all economic backgrounds to learn tennis, once a sport only for the wealthy, and modern players still value his manuals on how to play.

After his convictions, Tilden’s Germantown membership was revoked, and his portrait was removed. In recent years, the club has begun to embrace Tilden’s memory, and a group of Philadelphians has been lobbying for a historical marker at the site.

Injured Murray to miss Davis Cup quarterfinals

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LONDON —¬†Andy Murray will miss Britain’s Davis Cup quarterfinal series against France next month because of an elbow injury.

Murray sustained the injury in practice and also recently withdrew from the Miami Open.

Britain captain Leon Davis says “not having Andy in the side is obviously a big loss to our team, but most importantly we all wish him well for a speedy recovery back to full health and fitness.”

Dan Evans, Kyle Edmund, Jamie Murray and Dom Inglot will line up for Britain on clay in Rouen from April 7-9.