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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.

Fed Cup: Stephens to open for US against France in semis

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AIX-EN-PROVENCE, France (AP) U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens will open play for the U.S. against Pauline Parmentier of France in the Fed Cup semifinals.

France No. 1 Kristina Mladenovic and CoCo Vandeweghe will follow on Saturday in the second singles at the new 6,700-capacity Arena Pays d’Aix. France has opted for an indoor clay court.

Mladenovic and Amandine Hesse are set to face Madison Keys and Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the doubles on Sunday following the reverse singles.

France and the United States meet for a 14th time, with the Americans holding an 11-2 winning record. The French won their most recent meeting, in 2014.

Both teams are missing their highest-ranked player: No. 8 Venus Williams for the U.S., and No. 7 Caroline Garcia for France.

Germany is facing the Czech Republic in the other semifinal in Stuttgart.

Nadal doesn’t see himself skipping tournaments like Federer

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MONACO (AP) For now, Rafael Nadal doesn’t see himself skipping any major tournaments the way Roger Federer has been sitting out the French Open.

The veterans are back at the top of world tennis, with Nadal needing to win the Monte Carlo Masters this week to avoid losing his top ranking once again to Federer in their seemingly eternal battle for tennis supremacy.

For the second consecutive season, the 36-year-old Federer is skipping the entire clay-court season in order to be at his best on grass.

After coming back from injury to win the Australian Open last year, Federer skipped the clay-court season, won Wimbledon, and retained his Melbourne crown to extend his record tally to 20 majors.

The Swiss star is keeping his aging body fresher by playing a bit less – avoiding Nadal on clay at Roland Garros or elsewhere – and it is working for him.

But Nadal still thinks he can play a full schedule.

“There (are) tournaments that I can’t imagine missing on purpose, because (they are) tournaments that I love to play,” Nadal said on Wednesday. “I don’t see myself missing Monte Carlo on purpose. I don’t see myself missing Wimbledon on purpose, or the U.S. Open, or Australian, or Rome. These kind of events, I don’t see missing (them).”

The 31-year-old Spaniard recently returned from a right hip injury which forced him to retire during the fifth set of his Australian Open quarterfinal against Marin Cilic.

With his 32nd birthday coming up on June 3 – during the French Open – the 16-time Grand Slam champion accepts he may think differently when he gets closer to Federer’s age.

“Of course, when you get older, you need to adjust a little bit more the efforts and the calendar. But for me (it) is difficult to say I don’t play, for example, grass, or I don’t play hard (courts),” Nadal said. “(It) is not in my plan, but I can’t say `never’ because I cannot predict what’s going to be in the future.”

Nadal is chasing an 11th title at both Monte Carlo and Roland Garros, which begins on May 27.

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