Djokovic beats Nadal for 7th straight time, reaches semis

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ROME (AP) Novak Djokovic extended his recent mastery over Rafael Nadal with a 7-5, 7-6 (4) win in the Italian Open quarterfinals on Friday, helped by Nadal wasting five set points in the second set.

Djokovic has won the last seven of their 49 encounters, the most in the Open Era. Overall, Djokovic leads the series 26-23.

This was their last opportunity to play each other before the French Open, which starts in nine days.

Djokovic’s semifinal opponent will be either Kei Nishikori or Dominic Thiem.

In the other half of the draw, Andy Murray overcame some trouble on his service games to beat David Goffin 6-1, 7-5 and improve his record on clay this year and last to 27-3.

“I’m getting rewarded now for the work that I put in over the years on this surface,” Murray said. “I deserve it because I have worked hard for it.”

Murray’s semifinal opponent will be French qualifier Lucas Pouille, who advanced when Argentine opponent Juan Monaco withdrew because of injury.

Organizers said Monaco, who upset Stan Wawrinka in three sets Thursday, had a problem with his left side.

In the women’s quarterfinals, Wimbledon finalist Garbine Muguruza beat Timea Bacsinszky 7-5, 6-2 and will next meet Madison Keys, who eliminated Barbora Strycova 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.

Also, Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania defeated Misaki Doi of Japan 6-2, 7-6 (3) and will next face either top-ranked Serena Williams or Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Seven-time champion Nadal and four-time winner Djokovic have combined to win the last 11 titles at the Foro Italico, and their match was billed as “a premature final.”

Djokovic closed out the first set by sticking out his racket at the last second for a volley winner to finish off a close exchange at the net, concluding a long point that also saw the Serb spinning around far behind the baseline to retrieve a shot with a desperation backhand.

Djokovic reacted to winning the first set with a big fist pump, but then after dropping his serve to start the second he slammed his racket to the clay in frustration.

Nadal called for a trainer to examine his left foot while leading 2-1 in the second set, apparently because the Spaniard was having trouble feeling his foot. The trainer tapped around in a few areas to see if Nadal could feel anything then cut off supportive tape around his ankle.

Serving for the second set at 5-4, Nadal wasted five chances to push it to a third then shanked a forehand off his racket frame into the stands to set up Djokovic’s first break point of the set, which the Serb promptly converted.

The match lasted 2 hours, 24 minutes.

Murray, meanwhile, hasn’t dropped a set this week and was a finalist at last week’s Madrid Open. He’ll return to No. 2 in the rankings ahead of Roger Federer on Monday.

Murray dropped his serve in the opening game of the match and three times in the second set as he and Goffin struggled amid swirling winds that whipped the clay up into their eyes.

“Second set obviously was up and down, but I don’t think there was any other reason for that apart from the conditions making it very tricky to play good tennis,” Murray said before going off to spend time with his three-month-old daughter, Sophia Oliva.

The 52nd-ranked Pouille gained a spot in the tournament as a lucky loser after Jo-Wilfried Tsonga withdrew because of an adductor injury. He beat David Ferrer in straight sets in the third round, and reaching the quarterfinals was already a career-best result.

“I’m very lucky and I cross the fingers it’s keeping this way,” Pouille said, adding that he goes to the casino now and then. “Sometimes I win but the next I lose. … I’m not especially lucky.”

Next week, Pouille will move into the top 32 of the rankings, making him a seeded player for Roland Garros.

Serena Williams loses in 1st round at Miami Open to Osaka

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KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. (AP) Serena Williams lost in the first round of the Miami Open on Wednesday, still rusty in her return from pregnancy and unable to overcome a tough draw against Naomi Osaka, who won 6-3, 6-2.

The 20-year-old Osaka, who earned her first career title Sunday at Indian Wells, showed no signs of letup and overpowered the erratic Williams. Osaka had the stronger serve, and in rallies wore down Williams working her from side to side.

The matchup worthy of a final came about because both players are unseeded. Osaka is ranked a career-best 22nd, while Williams’ ranking is 491st after her layoff of more than a year.

Another new mother and former No. 1, three-time Key Biscayne champion Victoria Azarenka, defeated Catherine Bellis 6-3, 6-0.

Williams has endured a first-round defeat only four other times, most recently at the 2012 French Open. The latest loss came at a tournament she has won a record eight times and considers her hometown event.

The match was the last for Williams at Key Biscayne, 90 miles south of her home in Palm Beach Gardens. The tournament is moving next year to the Miami Dolphins’ stadium, and Williams helped with the ceremonial groundbreaking Monday.

After her defeat, she left without speaking to the media.

Because of Williams’ ranking, she entered the draw as a wild card, and looked the part. She was a step slow to balls in the corners and often late with her swing, while she put barely half her first serves in play.

Osaka, who has both American and Japanese citizenship and lives in Fort Lauderdale, was playing her idol for the first time but didn’t seem a bit fazed. She improved to 14-4 this year.

Things may get tougher for her in the second round, when she’ll face No. 4-seeded Elina Svitolina.

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Sock, Querrey, Isner among U.S. Davis Cup picks

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WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — Jack Sock, Sam Querrey, John Isner, Ryan Harrison and Steve Johnson have been picked for the U.S. Davis Cup team that will face Belgium in the quarterfinals next month in Nashville, Tennessee.

The U.S. Tennis Association announced captain Jim Courier’s roster Wednesday. Belgium’s team hasn’t been made public yet.

Sock is the highest-ranked American man at No. 11 this week, with Querrey at 14th and Isner 17th.

The matches will be played on a hard court at Belmont University from April 6-8.

The winner will face Croatia or Kazakhstan in the semifinals Sept. 14-16. The U.S. hasn’t been to the Davis Cup’s final four since 2012.

The United States holds a 4-0 record against Belgium in the Davis Cup, but the countries last played each other in 2005.