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Nadal plays surging Querrey for Mexican Open title

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ACAPULCO, Mexico — Rafael Nadal routed Marin Cilic 6-1, 6-2 Friday night to advance to the Mexican Open final against Sam Querrey.

Seeking his first title this season and 70th overall, Nadal ran his Mexican Open winning streak to 14 matches. He won the event in 2005 and 2013, when it was played on clay.

Nadal will face the American Querrey, a 3-6, 6-1, 7-5 winner over Australian Nick Kyrgios.

The sixth-ranked Spaniard, playing his first tournament since losing to Roger Federer in the Australian Open final, last won a hardcourt title in January 2014 in Doha.

“You need to have a great day to get a result like this against Cilic,” Nadal said. “Anytime you play against someone like Cilic you expect to suffer in a tight match, but it was not like that. I believe that he had his chances, but I played a good game”.

In the late game, the 40th-ranked Querrey continued an inspired week in which he defeated No. 11 David Goffin, No. 9 Dominic Thiem and now No. 17 Kyrgios, who upset second-ranked Novak Djokovic on Thursday.

Querrey ended Thiem’s seven-match winning streak.

“It does not get any easier tomorrow, it will be the toughest test,” Querrey said. “I played great today, but I need to play even better tomorrow to beat Nadal”.

The American will try to win his ninth title, and first since Delray Beach in 2016. Querrey is 0-4 against Nadal.

In the women’s semifinal, second-seed Kristina Mladenovic of France beat American Christina McHale 7-5, 4-6, 6-2. Ukraine’s Lesiia Tsurenko led top-seeded Mirjana Lucic-Baroni of Croatia 5-0 when Lucic-Baroni retired because of a stomach virus.

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.