Murray beats Nadal, reaches Madrid Open final again

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MADRID (AP) Continuing to impress on clay ahead of the French Open, Andy Murray defeated Rafael Nadal 7-5, 6-4 to reach his second straight Madrid Open final on Saturday.

Murray saved 11 break points to win a rematch of last year’s final.

Murray needs to successfully defend his title on Sunday to avoid losing the No. 2 ranking to Roger Federer. Top-ranked Novak Djokovic played No. 6 Kei Nishikori in the other semifinal late Saturday.

Nadal had his chances but failed on the decisive points, falling short on his attempt to win a third consecutive title this season.

“In general, he was a little bit better than me, and we have to congratulate him for his victory and recognize that he has played better than me in the important moments,” Nadal said.

Murray became the first player to ever beat Nadal at the same clay tournament in consecutive years.

“Not loads of players have won against Rafa on clay throughout his career,” Murray said. “Very few in the last year for sure when he wasn’t playing his best. To beat him in Spain on a clay court is obviously a big, big challenge for any player. Very pleased to have beaten him this year.”

It was Murray’s seventh win in his last eight matches on clay, the surface he struggled on the most early in his career. He had lost four of the last five matches against Nadal.

“Big, big step for me from where I was four or five weeks ago,” Murray said. “I’m going back in the right direction again.”

It was Nadal’s first loss after 13 straight wins this year. The former No. 1 was trying to win his third consecutive title after triumphs in Monte Carlo and Barcelona. Nadal also was looking to win a record 50th clay-court title in the Open era.

“Murray was not unbeatable today. It was an open match, an even match,” Nadal said. “I didn’t play my best level, but I didn’t play badly. I think I played a medium level, which was not enough to beat Murray today.”

Murray defeated the Spaniard in straight sets in 2015 for his first Masters title on clay, but the fifth-ranked Nadal beat Murray in three sets last month in the Monte Carlo semifinals.

“It was a better win for me this year than last year,” Murray said. “I didn’t think he played his best match in the final last year. Not saying he played his best tennis today, but he played better than last year.”

Nadal had the support of the home crowd but couldn’t capitalize on his numerous chances in a match that lasted 2 hours, 11 minutes.

Murray came up with big serves, including eight aces, when he needed them the most to keep Nadal from mounting a comeback.

Nadal had nine break points in the second set alone, converting only one. Nadal rallied from 5-2 down in the first set but lost four straight points while serving at 6-5 down, giving Murray the first set, which lasted more than an hour.

Nadal trailed again in the second set and got back on serve after saving a match point when Murray served for the match at 5-3, but it wasn’t enough after a poor final game on his own serve gave the Briton the win.

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Tiafoe beats Tsitsipas to give Team World 1st Laver Cup win

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LONDON — Frances Tiafoe staved off four match points to beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 1-6, 7-6 (11), 10-8 and clinch victory in the Laver Cup for Team World over Roger Federer’s Team Europe for the first time.

Tiafoe, a 24-year-old American, performed with the same crunch-time success and wide-smiling showmanship he displayed en route to his first Grand Slam semifinal at the U.S. Open this month.

The victory over 2021 French Open runner-up Tsitsipas allowed the group of 20-somethings on Team World to go up 13-8 in the three-day competition against Team Europe, which in addition to Federer – the 20-time major champion who just retired – featured Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.

Djokovic had wins in singles and doubles to put Team Europe up 8-4. The last day’s matches were worth three points each, with the first squad to 13 earning the trophy named for Rod Laver, the only man to win the calendar-year Grand Slam twice.

Team World took the lead on the final day at the O2 Arena, thanks to a pair of victories by Felix Auger-Aliassime, a 22-year-old from Canada. He defeated 21-time Grand Slam champion Djokovic 6-3, 7-6 (3), after partnering with Jack Sock to edge Murray and Matteo Berrettini 2-6, 6-3, 10-8 in doubles.

Team Europe came into the week having won all four previous editions of the Laver Cup, which was founded by Federer’s management company.

This one served as a celebration of the 41-year-old Swiss star’s career. His final match before retirement came when he and Nadal lost in doubles to Tiafoe and Sock.

Tiafoe was a single point from losing to Tsitsipas four times in their second-set tiebreaker. On the first, at 6-5, Tsitsipas netted a forehand to close a 22-stroke exchange. Tiafoe erased the second, at 9-8, with a volley winner. And Tsitsipas sailed backhands long on each of his last two chances to close it out, at 10-9 and 11-10.

Tiafoe went a record 8-0 in tiebreakers at Flushing Meadows this month and was just as resilient in the big moments this time. When Tsitsipas put a forehand into the net to end the match – and the competition – Tiafoe dropped his racket, then fell to his back on the court, where his teammates piled on top of him.

Sonego beats Bublik at Moselle Open to win 1st title of 2022

Winston-Salem Open - Day 5
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METZ, France – Lorenzo Sonego clinched his first title of the season by beating Alexander Bublik 7-6 (3), 6-2 in the Moselle Open final.

The 27-year-old Italian did not drop a set all tournament as he won the third title of his career and first on hard courts.

The unseeded Sonego recovered from 0-40 down in the fifth game of the match and secured victory when the seventh-seeded Bublik sent a backhand return long.

He then danced on court as he celebrated a perfect tournament where he also beat defending champion Hubert Hurkacz in the semifinals.

Sonego’s win will move him up 21 places in the ATP rankings and into 44th place.