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Former runner-up Tomas Berdych progresses in Monte Carlo

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MONTE CARLO, Monaco —¬†Tomas Berdych needed two hours and three sets to overcome strong resistance from Russian qualifier Andrey Kuznetsov and reach the second round of the Monte Carlo Masters on Monday.

Berdych, a runner-up at the Country Club two years ago, converted only two of his 11 break points and rallied Kuznetsov 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. Berdych made the decisive break in the third game of the decider with a backhand winner down the line.

All six seeded players in action at the first big clay-court event of the season progressed to the second round: No. 12 Robert Bautista Agut, No. 13 Pablo Carreno Busta, No. 14 Alexander Zverev, No. 15 Albert Ramos-Vinolas, and No. 16 Pablo Cuevas.

Widely regarded as one of the most promising youngsters on the tour, the 19-year-old Zverev secured a convincing 6-1, 6-2 win over Italian veteran Andreas Seppi.

“I like playing on clay,” Zverev said. “It’s the surface I grew up on.”

Zverev will next be up against either Feliciano Lopez or Daniil Medvedev.

Novak Djokovic, who has been drawn in the same half of the draw as nine-time champion Rafael Nadal, will start his campaign on Tuesday against Gilles Simon of France. Djokovic has been struggling with injuries and recently withdrew from the Miami Masters with a right elbow complaint.

“The elbow is fine now,” Djokovic said. “I’ve been training for the past couple of weeks, playing Davis Cup, and making the transition to clay that’s very demanding for the body. I was skeptical of how my elbow would react to the heavy balls on clay, but it’s been good so far.”

Nadal cruises into Barcelona Open quarterfinals

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Rafael Nadal cruised into the Barcelona Open quarterfinals by defeating fellow Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 6-1, 6-3 on Thursday.

The top-ranked Nadal converted on his second match point to clinch his 16th straight victory on clay and set up an encounter with Martin Klizan, who eliminated Novak Djokovic in the second round.

Nadal, coming off his 11th Monte Carlo title, has won 11 of his 12 ATP Tour matches this season, with the only loss coming from an injury retirement in the Australian Open quarterfinals.

He has won 40 consecutive sets on clay to extend his own record, and has won 33 of his last 34 matches on the dirt.

Nadal needs to win his 11th Barcelona title this week to retain his No. 1 ranking.

Klizan, the 140th-ranked Slovak who defeated Nadal in the quarterfinals of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, reached the last eight by ousting veteran Feliciano Lopez 6-1, 6-4.

Second-seeded Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria defeated Malek Jaziri of Tunisia 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (8), while third-seeded Dominic Thiem of Austria got past Jozef Kovalik of Slovakia 7-6 (5), 6-2.

More AP tennis coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-Tennis

Djokovic falls to Klizan; Nadal advances

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BARCELONA, Spain — While Novak Djokovic struggles, Rafael Nadal keeps impressing.

Djokovic lost again on Wednesday, this time falling to 140th-ranked Martin Klizan 6-2, 1-6, 6-3 in the second round of the Barcelona Open.

Nadal, however, won again. He beat Roberto Carballes Baena 6-4, 6-4 for his 10th win in 11 ATP Tour matches this season.

Djokovic is trying to return to form after a lingering right elbow injury. He hasn’t made it past the last 16 in five tournaments this year.

The 12th-ranked Serb got off to a slow start against Klizan but rebounded to force a third set. He was then broken while trailing 4-3, allowing the Slovak to serve out for the victory.

“It’s a great feeling, amazing,” said Klizan, who had never beaten Djokovic in four previous matches. “I know that he didn’t play top tennis but a win is a win and I’m happy to be in the third round. I always play good tennis in Barcelona, I’m just enjoying it.”

Djokovic decided to play in Barcelona after losing to Dominic Thiem in the third round of the Monte Carlo Masters. He also lost in the second round in Miami and in Indian Wells, and failed to advance past the last 16 at the Australian Open.

Nadal, coming off his 11th Monte Carlo title, trailed early in his match but closed it out to reach the third round.

The top-ranked Spaniard has won 38 consecutive sets on clay, extending his own record. He has won 32 of his last 33 matches on the surface, including 15 straight.

Nadal will next face Guillermo Garcia Lopez of Spain, who defeated Kei Nishikori after the Japanese player retired because of an injury.

Nadal needs to win his 11th Barcelona title this week to retain his No. 1 ranking.

Earlier, second-seeded Grigor Dimitrov defeated Gilles Simon of France 6-2, 6-1, while third-seeded Thiem beat qualifier Jaume Munar 7-6 (8), 6-1.