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Nadal and Murray advance to 3rd round in Barcelona Open

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Defending champion Rafael Nadal cruised past Rogerio Dutra Silva of Brazil 6-1, 6-2 to reach the third round of the Barcelona Open on Wednesday.

Top-seeded Andy Murray also advanced, but without having to play as Bernard Tomic withdrew before their second-round match because of a lower back injury.

Nadal, making his debut at the newly named “Rafa Nadal” center court in Barcelona, had a slow start to the second set against the 69th-ranked Brazilian, but recovered by winning the final six games to secure the victory.

The fifth-ranked Nadal is a nine-time champion at the clay-court tournament. He is coming off his 10th title at the Monte Carlo Masters.

Nadal will next play Kevin Anderson of South Africa.

The top-ranked Murray was originally going to skip the Barcelona Open but decided to play after being eliminated in the third round at the Monte Carlo Masters, when he blew a 4-0 lead in the deciding set to Albert Ramos-Vinolas.

Murray is trying to regain his form going into the French Open following a right elbow injury that kept him out of the Miami Open and the Davis Cup quarterfinals.

He will play 40th-ranked Feliciano Lopez of Spain, who defeated Albert Montanes 6-2, 6-2.

It was the final career match for Montanes, who had announced last week that the Barcelona Open would be his last tournament after nearly 20 years on tour.

The 36-year-old Barcelona resident won six ATP titles and was ranked a career-high 22nd in 2010. His first-round victory over Guillermo Garcia-Lopez on Monday was the 255th of his career.

In other second round matches, fifth-seeded David Goffin of Belgium defeated Nikoloz Basilashvili 7-5, 6-0, while qualifier Hyeon Chung of South Korea beat 12th-seeded Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany 6-3, 6-4.

Keys sends U.S. into second straight Fed Cup final

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AIX-EN-PROVENCE, France — Defending champion United States will play in a second consecutive Fed Cup final after defeating France on Sunday.

Madison Keys secured the decisive point for the visiting team by beating Pauline Parmentier 7-6 (4), 6-4 in the second reverse singles. Keys’ victory gave the defending champions an unassailable 3-1 lead over France in their semifinal.

The 13th-ranked Keys, a late replacement for CoCo Vandeweghe, came back from a 4-1 deficit in the first set and made the decisive break in the ninth game of the second set with two consecutive winners.

“The girls did so well, both today and yesterday. We are very fortunate to have such a strong group and now we are looking forward to what is going to be a great final,” U.S. captain Kathy Rinaldi said.

Parmentier fought hard until the end and saved two set points in the opener, but ultimately surrendered to Keys’ deep groundstrokes. The Frenchwoman had the chance to break back while trailing 5-4 in the second set but Keys used her big serve to win the next three points and seal the match.

The U.S. will play the Czech Republic in the final.

Earlier, Sloane Stephens had given a 2-1 lead to the U.S. with a 6-2, 6-0 thrashing of Kristina Mladenovic.

The U.S. Open champion delivered a ruthless display against the 20th-ranked Mladenovic and prevailed in 54 minutes. Stephens hit 16 winners and converted five of six break chances at the 6,700-capacity Arena Pays d’Aix on indoor clay.

“That was a really good one. You never anticipate a scoreline like the way it turned out but it was really solid,” Stephens said. She also won her first singles match on Saturday.

The Americans extended their winning record to 12-2 against the French.

The Czech Republic qualified for the final by defeating Germany 4-1 in Stuttgart.

Nadal beats Nishikori to win Monte Carlo Masters

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MONACO — Rafael Nadal won a record 31st Masters title after beating Kei Nishikori 6-3, 6-2 in the Monte Carlo Masters final on Sunday.

Nadal also became the first man in the Open era to win the same title 11 times – 13 years after his first title here – and moved one ahead of rival Novak Djokovic for career Masters titles.

“It’s great to have this trophy in my hands again,” Nadal said.

It gave him a 76th title overall and ensured the Spaniard keeps his top ranking ahead of Roger Federer.

Nishikori was chasing a first Masters title, but the Japanese player took 11 minutes to hold for 1-1.

He got some brief hope, breaking Nadal with a superb passing shot at full stretch to lead 2-1, but meekly surrendered the next four games.

“I knew it was going to be tough even though I was up break,” said Nishikori, who complained of tiredness. “My legs were very heavy today, playing three sets (for) three days in a row (before the final). It wasn’t easy physically.”

The second set was a procession and Nadal won on his first match point with a stinging backhand winner.

Nadal’s celebration was brief and low key. He thrust both hands into the air, and then jogged over to offer Nishikori a sympathetic hug after beating him for the 10th time in 12 meetings.

Nishikori saved a set point with a sharp, angled volley at the net. But Nadal was in relentless mood and sealed it on his next chance with a crisp forehand winner.

“It’s not easy to describe when you are coming back from injury and you start the clay-court season in this way,” Nadal said.

Nishikori is still working his way back to form and full fitness, after missing the 2017 U.S. Open and this year’s Australian Open because of a torn tendon in his right wrist.

“It was a great week for me, I had an injury and couldn’t play for a long time,” said Nishikori, whose ranking has slipped to 36.

Nadal has not dropped a set in seven matches since coming back from a recurrence of a right hip injury that forced him to abandon during the fifth set of his Australian Open quarterfinal against Marin Cilic.

The injury relapse subsequently forced him out of the Mexico Open and Masters tournaments at Indian Wells and Miami, but Nadal now looks back to his ruthless best on clay.

He has his sights firmly set on an 11th title at Barcelona next week and then an 11th French Open title at Roland Garros.