Madrid Open

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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.

Andy Murray advances to third round at Madrid Open

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MADRID — Top-ranked Andy Murray made his debut at the Madrid Open with a comfortable 6-4, 6-3 win over wild card Marius Copil of Romania in the second round on Tuesday.

Murray broke serve once in each set and didn’t concede any break opportunities to the 104th-ranked Copil.

“When I started to control the points more towards the end of the first set and second set, I was hitting the ball pretty clean, creating a few chances,” Murray said. “I didn’t give him any opportunities. It was good for the first match.”

Murray won the Madrid title in 2008 and 2015 and was runner-up to Novak Djokovic last year. He improved to 11-0 in his opening matches in the Spanish capital, dating back to his debut in 2006.

The British player has been trying to regain his form after a difficult start to the year.

“I still think there’s a ways to go,” Murray said. “I don’t think I’m playing perfectly just now. I think there’s just things I can definitely do better.”

Eighth-seeded Dominic Thiem of Austria advanced to the third round by defeating Jared Donaldson of the United States 6-3, 6-4, while ninth-seeded David Goffin of Belgium had nine aces on his way to a 7-6 (3), 6-0 win over Florian Mayer of Germany, setting up a third-round match against either fifth-seeded Milos Raonic of Canada or Gilles Muller of Luxemburg, who defeated German Tommy Haas 6-4, 7-6 (7).

Ivo Karlovic of Croatia needed more than three hours to snap a five-match losing streak with a thrilling 7-6 (4), 6-7 (9), 7-6 (6) win over Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain. The big-serving Karlovic had 35 aces and saved four match points in their second-round match.

American Ryan Harrison had 15 aces to defeat Australian Bernard Tomic 7-5, 4-6, 6-2, setting up a second-round encounter against 16th-seeded Nick Kyrgios of Australia.

Defending men’s champion Djokovic will debut against Nicolas Almagro of Spain on Wednesday. Four-time champion Rafael Nadal will play his opening match against Fabio Fognini on the same day.

In the women’s draw, third-seeded Simona Halep of Romania defeated Italian Roberta Vinci 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (2), while 16th-seeded Samantha Stosur of Australia beat Mariana Duque-Marino of Colombia 6-3, 7-5.