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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.

Raonic withdraws from Miami Open with hamstring injury

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KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. (AP) Milos Raonic has pulled out of the Miami Open after aggravating a right hamstring injury that sidelined him for nearly a month.

The No. 3-seeded Raonic withdrew before Sunday’s match against American qualifier Jared Donaldson, who advanced to the fourth round.

Raonic said his injury became progressively worse after his opening match, his first since Feb. 25. He expects to be sidelined at least two weeks and perhaps longer.

The Canadian said he hasn’t made it through an entire tournament healthy since Wimbledon last July.

Nadal advances to start bid for first Key Biscayne

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KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. — Rafael Nadal’s first fist pump Friday followed his second point in the Miami Open, when he kissed a forehand off the sideline to win a long rally.

He accompanied the celebratory gesture with a skip in his step and then hit the accelerator, holding every service game to beat Dudi Sela 6-3, 6-4.

Thus began Nadal’s latest bid to win Key Biscayne.

“A lot of big motivation,” he said.

He’s playing the tournament for the 13th time and has never won it, although he was the runner-up in 2005, 2008, 2010 and 2014. At 0 for 12, it’s Nadal’s longest drought at any event, and perhaps the most glaring gap in the 14-time Grand Slam champion’s resume.

Does it bug him? He won’t admit to any frustration, but lets slip that he still remembers the exact score when he was two points from the title in the third set versus Novak Djokovic.

That was six years ago.

“Against Novak – 6-5, 15-30,” Nadal said. “It didn’t happen.”

The Spaniard has always enjoyed the atmosphere in Miami, where Latin fans give him enthusiastic support, and he likes the tournament’s hard courts. He’s simply overdue.

“I’m trying my best every year,” Nadal told the stadium crowd after dispatching Sela. “I’ve been very close four times. I will try to give myself another chance.”

Nadal is 15-4 this year and pleased with his play. He lost to Roger Federer in the Australian Open final, and again in the fourth round at Indian Wells last week.

Against Sela, Nadal served well, erased the only two break points he faced and overcame the occasional errant groundstroke on a windy afternoon.

“It was very difficult to find the right feelings,” Nadal said. “These kind of days, what you have to do is try to win. That’s what I did, and I’m happy with that.”

Making Nadal’s title bid easier will be the absence of six-time champion Djokovic and two-time champion Andy Murray, both out with elbow injuries.

But No. 3-seeded Milos Raonic is back. He won in his first match since Feb. 25, beating Viktor Troicki 6-3, 7-5. Raonic had been sidelined by a right leg injury.

“I’ve prepared the best I can for this tournament,” Raonic said. “I’m not necessarily in the best position right now, but fortunately it’s a long tournament. Doesn’t mean things can’t change and I can’t get better throughout this event.”

No. 2 Kei Nishikori beat Kevin Anderson 6-4, 6-3. No. 7 Marin Cilic lost to Jeremy Chardy 6-4, 2-6, 6-3.

In women’s play, Elena Vesnina made a quick exit only five days after winning the biggest title of her career. Seeded 13th, Vesnina lost her opening match to wild card Ajla Tomljanovic 3-6, 6-4, 7-5.

Vesnina beat Svetlana Kuznetsova in the Indian Wells final.

In a match that took two days because of rain, No. 6 Garbine Muguruza rallied past Christina McHale 0-6, 7-6 (6), 6-4. No. 3 Simona Halep beat Naomi Osaka 6-4, 2-6, 6-3. American qualifier Taylor Townsend eliminated No. 25 Robert Vinci 6-3, 6-2.