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Djokovic, Nadal set up Madrid Open semifinal

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MADRID —¬†Rafael Nadal set up a semifinal with Novak Djokovic after withstanding a tough challenge from David Goffin 7-6 (3), 6-2 at the Madrid Open on Friday.

Djokovic, the defending champion, advanced when Kei Nishikori withdrew before their quarterfinal because of a wrist injury.

“It’s going to be a very tough match against one of the best players in tennis history,” Nadal said. “I’ve been playing at a high level during many weeks. I know tomorrow is going to be a day that either I play really well or I’m not going to have many chances.”

Nadal hasn’t beaten Djokovic since the 2014 French Open final, losing the last seven matches against him.

On the women’s side, defending champion Simone Halep of Romania cruised past Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia 6-2, 6-3 to reach her third Madrid Open final. The third-seeded Halep, who lost the 2014 final to Maria Sharapova, will play Kristina Mladenovic of France.

Mladenovic made it to her fourth final of the year- and second consecutive – by defeating Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia 6-4, 7-6 (4).

“I just want to go there and (play) my game, because if I do, I have a big chance to win,” Halep said.

In a meeting between the players with the most match wins this year, Nadal saved all five break points he faced against the 10th-ranked Goffin, and converted his chances in the second set to win his 13th straight match and tour-leading 32nd of the year.

Goffin, who has 27 victories, was trying to make it to his third final this season.

He saved all six break opportunities he conceded to Nadal in the first set, but the fifth-ranked Spaniard took control of the tiebreaker under the closed roof on center court.

Nadal, a four-time champion in Madrid, had an easier time in the second set after earning an early break, and closed out the match with another at the end.

“We had to hit very close to the line to win the points,” said Nadal, who is trying to win his third consecutive title after victories in Monte Carlo and Barcelona.

In another quarterfinal, Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay rallied to beat Alexander Zverev of Germany 3-6, 6-0, 6-4. Cuevas won one of the points of the tournament with a no-look winner with his back to the court after a lob shot by Zverev early in the second set.

The sixth-seeded Nishikori, a Madrid finalist in 2014, withdrew saying his wrist was “not 100 percent” and he didn’t want to risk a more serious injury.

Djokovic hasn’t played in the semifinals of any event since winning the title in Doha at the beginning of the year. He lost to Goffin in the quarterfinals in Monte Carlo, his first clay tournament of the season.

Nishikori, who beat Djokovic in the 2014 U.S. Open semifinals, was playing in his first tournament since March. He withdrew from the Barcelona Open last month because of the lingering wrist inflammation.

Nishikori said he will “take a couple of days off” and try to recover in time to play in Rome next week and then in the French Open at the end of the month.

“I cannot promise to play or pull out right now,” he said.

Thiem reaches third round at Monte Carlo

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MONACO — Dominic Thiem saved a match point and beat Andrey Rublev of Russia 5-7, 7-5, 7-5 in the second round of the Monte Carlo Masters on Tuesday.

Rublev was serving for the match at 5-4, 40-30 but hit a forehand narrowly wide. Fifth-seeded Thiem broke him with backhand pass down the line and held for 6-5.

The Austrian was 15-40 up on Rublev’s serve and clinched victory on his first match point, when Rublev double-faulted with a weak serve into the net.

“I was 10 centimeters from being out of the tournament,” a relieved Thiem said. “But I’m happy that I played two hours and 40 (minutes).”

Thiem has reached the French Open semifinals for the past two years. He next meets 12-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic or Borna Coric of Croatia, who play their second-round match on Wednesday.

“I’m looking forward to watching Djokovic and Coric in front of the TV, and then playing the winner on Thursday,” Thiem said.

In the second round later Tuesday, fourth-seeded Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria faced Pierre-Hugues Herbert and seventh-seeded Lucas Pouille played Mischa Zverev.

In remaining first-round play, there were wins for Gilles Simon of France, Marco Cecchinato of Italy and Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany.

Jared Donaldson fined $6K for ranting at umpire

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MONACO — Jared Donaldson has been fined $6,200 for unsportsmanlike conduct after angrily ranting at the chair umpire during his first-round loss to Albert Ramos-Vinolas at the Monte Carlo Masters.

The American became irate with a call when Ramos-Vinolas was serving at 3-2, 40-0 in the second set on Monday. Donaldson thought the serve was out and pointed to the ground, shouting, “There’s a mark right here,” and then screaming the same words in the face of French umpire Arnaud Gabas.

He then squared up to Gabas and shouted: “Yes it is, yeah it is,” as he insisted his mark was right and the umpire’s call of in was wrong.

Donaldson, who yelled again at Gabas before the supervisor came on, received a code violation. He lost 6-3, 6-3.