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Djokovic rallies to beat Del Potro in Acapulco

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MEXICO CITY — Novak Djokovic rallied to beat Argentinian Juan Martin Del Potro in three sets 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 early on Thursday to advance to the Mexican Open quarterfinals.

Djokovic, playing in his first tournament since his shocking loss in the second round of the Australian Open, struggled to beat Del Potro, the 2009 U.S. Open winner, who ousted the Serbian 7-6 (4), 7-6 (2) in the first round of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

It was the first match between them since.

“Every time you play against Delpo, there’s a lot of tension, emotions and quality of play,” Djokovic said. “I’m happy I was able to beat him this time.”

The 29-year-old Serbian, ranked No. 2, suffered an unexpected loss to Uzbekistan’s Denis Istomin on the Australian Open.

Djokovic, making his debut in Acapulco, was losing 4-3 in the third set, but he broke Del Potro twice and was able to preserve his serve to get the victory.

The Serbian star will play against Australian Nick Kyrgios, who qualified with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over American Donald Young.

Spaniard Rafael Nadal routed Italian Paolo Lorenzi 6-1, 6-1 earlier to move on to the next round. Nadal won the tournament in 2005 and 2013 and has a 12-match winning streak in the event.

“Unfortunately, I will lose eventually,” Nadal said. “But the harmony with the crowd and the court is amazing. With all of the support from the people, it gets easier.”

The 30-year old Spanish star will face Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka, a 6-4, 3-6, 6-0 winner over Australia’s Jordan Thompson.

Nadal is playing in his first tournament since losing to Roger Federer in the Australian Open final.

“I played a complete match today and I*m feeling great after a month without playing,” Nadal said.

Another player on a winning streak in Acapulco is defending champ Dominic Thiem, who downed Adrian Mannarino of France, 7-5, 6-3, to reach the quarterfinals.

It was the Austrian’s seventh consecutive win of the season and also his seventh in Mexico.

Thiem, who won his eighth career title last week in Rio de Janeiro, will play American Sam Querrey, who beat fifth-seed David Goffin 6-2, 6-3 of Belgium.

Querrey served seven aces and finished off Goffin in just over an hour. Goffin, 11th in the ATP rankings, was coming off a strong performance in Rotterdam, where he lost the final to Jo-Wilfred Tsonga.

Croatia’s Marin Cilic also beat countryman Borna Couric 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 to reach the quarterfinals for the second tournament in a row. He will play American Steve Johnson, a 7-6 (5), 6-3 winner over countryman Ernesto Escobedo.

On the women’s side, Puerto Rico’s Monica Puig, the fourth seed, beat Slovakia’s Daniela Hantuchova 6-4, 6-4. Also, the Ukraine’s Lesia Turenko led Julia Goerges 6-1, 2-0 when the German retired. Croatian Ajla Tomljanovic also retired from her match against Belgian Kirsten Flipkens, who was winning 7-5 after the first set.

In a match between Americans, Christina McHale beat Taylor Townsend 6-1, 7-6 (5), and third-seeded Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia advanced with a 7-5, 6-4 victory over American Madison Brengle.

France’s Pauline Parmentier beat eighth-seeded Andrea Petkovic of Germany 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, and Kristina Mladenovic, from France, defeated Heather Watson, from Britain 7-6(4), 6-7(5), 7-5 in a match that lasted 3 hours, 32 minutes – four minutes shy of the longest WTA match of the year.

Wozniacki still in frame for return to No. 1

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Caroline Wozniacki had just been beaten by Kim Clijsters in the 2012 Australian Open quarterfinals, causing her to lose her No. 1 ranking on the WTA Tour, and she had some fighting words.

“I will get it back eventually, so I’m not worried,” she said. “The media talks to me like I’m finished … the fact is I still have quite a few good years in front of me.”

Fast forward to this year’s Australian Open, where Wozniacki’s win in the third round on Friday leaves her with a chance to regain the No. 1 ranking – six years later.

If so, it would be the longest gap between stints at the top since the WTA’s computer rankings were introduced in 1975. She might take some solace from the fact that the current longest streak between players returning to No. 1 is held by Serena Williams at 5 years, 29 days.

The 27-year-old Wozniacki also faced criticism during her first stay at No. 1 – which included year-end top rankings in 2010 and 2011 – that she’d never won a major, unlike Williams’ current 23. And that hasn’t changed either.

Maybe this year.

On Friday, two days after she came back from a 5-1 deficit and saved two match points in the third set to beat Jana Fett in the second round, she had a 6-4, 6-3 win over Kiki Bertens that wasn’t without late drama, both with closing out the match, and with her criticism of the chair umpire.

Wozniacki had to save four break points while serving for the match but clinched it on her fourth match point.

After coming so close to being knocked out of the tournament, she sounded like a gambler with cash in her pocket.

“Right now, playing with house money,” Wozniacki said in an on-court television interview. “Nothing to lose. I got a second chance. I’m just going to try and take it and see how far I can go.”

Wozniacki wasn’t happy with chair umpire Renaud Lichtenstein. She had complained about a few line calls, and that the court was slippery in several areas.

“I’ve never had this guy before … but I think he did a poor job today,” Wozniacki said. “If the court is wet, I think it’s normal to ask for a towel. I don’t think someone needs to be rude, and I told him so. I think there were some questionable calls, as well.”

Watching from Wozniacki’s support section was former NBA player David Lee. In November, the former New York Knicks forward proposed to her during a holiday on the French Polynesian island of Bora Bora.

“All I’ll say is it was a surprise, it was amazing,” Wozniacki said earlier this week of Lee’s proposal. “Had the best off-season. We had a great time traveling a little bit, exploring some new places. I was really recharged when I finally got back on the court again.”

Perhaps enough to get her back to No. 1.

Roger Federer through to Australian 3rd round

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Defending champion Roger Federer is through to the Australian Open’s third round after beating Jan-Lennard Struff 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (4) in a night match at Rod Laver Arena.

Federer maintained his record of always reaching the third round at Melbourne Park, and this is his 19th appearance. Five of his 19 Grand Slam singles titles have been in Australia.

Despite his straight-sets win, Federer was only able to convert three of his 11 break-point chances, and only one of six in the third set.

The 36-year-old Federer will next play French veteran Richard Gasquet. Federer has beaten Gasquet 16 of the 18 times they’ve played.