Nadal rallies to beat Murray and reach Monte Carlo final

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MONACO (AP) Eight-time champion Rafael Nadal beat Andy Murray 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 to reach the Monte Carlo Masters final for the first time since 2013.

Murray had dominated on his serve – and pressured Nadal’s – throughout the first set, using his drop shot effectively. But Nadal broke Murray to start the second set, regaining momentum to defeat Murray for the third time in a semifinal here.

The Spaniard found his serving range in the deciding set, twice holding at love and eventually clinching victory on his fifth match point.

Nadal won the last of his eight straight titles in 2012, then lost the final to Novak Djokovic the following year.

He’ll face Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or Gael Monfils in the final.

Nadal has not won a tournament this year and the last of his 67 titles was on clay at Hamburg last August while his last final was in January, when he lost to Djokovic in Doha, Qatar.

This showed as he served for the match – with a full 10 minutes between his first match point and his successful fifth.

He got the win after 2 hours, 44 minutes when Murray’s forehand swipe on the run failed to clear the net, improving to 17-6 in career meetings against Murray and 7-1 on clay.

Murray lost to Nadal in the semis here in 2009 and 2011 when the Spaniard was the undisputed world’s best on clay. But Nadal has since proven vulnerable, and the nine-time French Open champion relinquished his Roland Garros title last year to Stan Wawrinka.

Murray beat him for the first time on clay last year too, routing him 6-3, 6-2 in the final of the Madrid Masters.

No British player has reached the final in Monte Carlo since Welshman Mike Davies finished runner-up in 1960, and Murray looked well set to end that long barren run.

While Nadal was struggling on his serve, Murray hit an ace to move 2-1 up and then broke Nadal in the sixth game to lead 4-2 in the first set. A superb drop shot from Murray gave him set point and he clinched it when Nadal sent a forehand into the net.

The major turning point came when Nadal broke to lead 4-3 after Murray missed an easy smash at the net, allowing Nadal to pass him down the line.

Nadal then saved two break points in the next game to lead 5-3 as the players thrilled the crowd with some spectacular rallies in a long ninth game that Murray struggled to hold.

After Nadal served out the second set, during which Murray got only 39 percent of his first serves in, the Spaniard broke him again at the start of the third with an exquisite drop shot.

Trailing 3-1, Murray’s composure started to wilt in the sunshine as he remonstrated several times with the chair umpire.

Sakkari through to Parma Open quarterfinals; Stephens loses

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PARMA, Italy — Top-seeded Maria Sakkari rallied past Arantxa Rus 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 to reach the quarterfinals of the Parma Ladies Open.

Sakkari, who accepted a late wild card to the red clay court tournament, was playing her first event since losing to Wang Xiyu in the second round of the U.S. Open.

The Greek player will next face Maryna Zanevska of Belgium after she eased past Dalma Galfi 6-1, 6-3.

Fourth-seeded Sloane Stephens of the United States, the 2017 U.S. Open champion, lost to Danka Kovinic 7-5, 2-6, 7-5.

Kovinic will face Jasmine Paolini in the quarterfinals after the Italian defeated compatriot Elisabetta Cocciaretto 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.

There will be an American in the final eight, however, as Lauren Davis rallied to beat Sara Sorribes Tormo 3-6, 6-4, 7-5. Sorribes Tormo had eliminated second-seeded Martina Trevisan in straight sets in the opening round.

Davis will play Mayar Sherif after the Egyptian player defeated Simona Waltert 6-3, 7-6 (1).

Also, third-seeded Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania eased past Italian wild card Matilde Paoletti 6-4, 6-4 to set up a quarterfinal against sixth-seeded Ana Bogdan, who beat Anna Karolina Schmiedlova 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.

Sorribes Tormo beats 2nd-seeded Trevisan at Parma Open

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PARMA, Italy — Sara Sorribes Tormo beat second-seeded Martina Trevisan 7-5, 6-0 in the opening round of the Parma Ladies Open – marking the third consecutive first-round loss for this year’s French Open semifinalist.

Third-seeded Irina-Camelia Begu advanced when Viktoriya Tomova retired with Begu leading 7-5, 5-1.

Danka Kovinic beat Oceane Dodin 6-1, 3-6, 6-4 and will next face 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens.

Also on the red clay courts, Mayar Sherif of Egypt eliminated fifth-seeded Anna Bondar 7-5, 6-4; Elisabetta Cocciaretto defeated seventh-seeded Nuria Parrizas Diaz 7-5, 6-1; and Italian wild card Matilde Paoletti earned her first tour-level win by beating Romanian qualifier Gabriela Lee 6-4, 3-6, 6-0.