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Nadal extends winning streak to 16 when Almagro retires

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ROME — Rafael Nadal hardly had to get his socks dirty to extend his winning streak to 16 matches.

Back to being the best player on tour over the last month, Nadal advanced from his opening match at the Italian Open on Wednesday when Nicolas Almagro retired in the first set with an apparent injury.

Nadal was leading 3-0, 15-30 when Almagro bent over toward the red clay court and grasped his left knee.

Nadal went over to Almagro’s side of the net to ask what was wrong and consoled his opponent. Almagro then got some medical attention at his chair but quickly retired from the second-round match.

The fourth-ranked Spaniard remained on court for a practice session.

Nadal has won consecutive clay-court tournaments in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid. He’s aiming for an eighth title at the Foro Italico as he prepares for the French Open, which starts in less than two weeks.

Nadal will next face either 13th-seeded Jack Sock or Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic.

The 73rd-ranked Almagro had come through qualifying.

Also, seventh-seeded Kei Nishikori beat David Ferrer 7-5, 6-2.

Nishikori showed no lingering pain from the right wrist injury that prompted him to withdraw from the quarterfinals in Madrid last week.

“My wrist is OK now. I assume to be 100 percent now,” Nishikori said.

In women’s action, second-seeded Karolina Pliskova defeated Lauren Davis of the United States 6-1, 6-1, and sixth-seeded Simona Halep beat Laura Siegemund of Germany 6-4, 6-4.

Also, eighth-seeded Elina Svitolina eliminated Alize Cornet of France 6-4, 7-6 (11), and 15th-seeded Kiki Bertens beat American qualifier CiCi Bellis 6-4, 6-0.

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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.

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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.