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Rafael Nadal beats Dominic Thiem to win 10th title in Barcelona Open

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Rafael Nadal defeated Dominic Thiem 6-4, 6-1 to win his 10th Barcelona Open title on Sunday.

It was the second consecutive week that Nadal had won a tournament for the 10th time. He had become the first men’s tennis player in the Open era to win the same title 10 times at the Monte Carlo Masters last Sunday.

“It means a lot to me to win 10 titles here in Barcelona as well,” Nadal said. “To win in Barcelona and Monte Carlo gives me a dream start to the clay season.”

It was Nadal’s second title of the season and 71st of his career. The fifth-ranked Spaniard had lost his previous three finals, including to Roger Federer in the Australian Open.

Next month he will try to win a 10th French Open title. The last of his 14 Grand Slams was three years ago in Roland Garros.

Nadal broke the ninth-ranked Austrian late in the first set and early in the second, then cruised to close out the match for his 51st career title on clay. He saved the only break point he conceded to Thiem at the “Rafa Nadal” center court. He was only broken twice in 47 service games throughout the week.

“It was vital for me to win the first set,” Nadal said. “It was difficult. I had a few more chances than him, but it was very even.”

The 30-year-old Nadal has won 10 consecutive matches and is 21-1 in his past 22 sets.

Thiem, who had upset top-ranked Andy Murray in the semifinals on Saturday, was trying to win his second title of the season. He won in Rio de Janeiro in February.

Nadal won five straight titles in Barcelona from 2005-09, then three consecutive from 2011-13, and now two in a row in 2016 and this year. He has a 10-0 record in finals in Barcelona, losing only one set.

Nadal improved to 53-3 at the ATP World Tour 500 event.

Victoria Azarenka misses direct entry for U.S. Open

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NEW YORK — Two-time U.S. Open runner-up Victoria Azarenka is ranked just below the cutoff for direct entry into the year’s last Grand Slam tournament.

Azarenka, a former No. 1 and twice the champion at the Australian Open, is No. 108 this week, seven spots outside of an automatic spot in the main draw.

The U.S. Tennis Association announced Wednesday that defending champion and top-ranked Rafael Nadal is one of six past male singles champions in the U.S. Open field, along with Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Juan Martin del Potro and Marin Cilic. Another past title winner at Flushing Meadows, Stan Wawrinka, is ranked 199th this week.

The women’s winners with direct entry based on this week’s rankings are six-time champion Serena Williams, two-time champ Venus Williams, defending champ Sloane Stephens, Maria Sharapova and Samantha Stosur.

Nadal-Djokovic semifinal suspended after 3rd set

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LONDON (AP) It was the kind of tennis that Wimbledon’s Centre Court crowd would gladly have watched all night long.

The show being put on by Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal was so good it could have been an instant classic had they been able to finish their semifinal before the tournament’s 11 p.m. curfew.

Instead, the two players – and a disappointed audience – were sent home after the third set on Friday with Djokovic leading 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (9) following a tense tiebreaker that had more entertaining rallies than some entire matches.

The two players didn’t even get onto the court until after 8 p.m. because of an earlier marathon semifinal won by Kevin Anderson and when Djokovic converted his second set point in the tiebreaker – having saved three of Nadal’s – the clock had ticked a couple of minutes past 11. That left organizers no choice but to call it a night, although the announcement from the chair umpire led to a scattering of boos from some fans who clearly wanted more.

Most of them will have to watch the rest on TV.

The match will resume at 1 p.m. local time on Saturday, before the women’s final between Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber. At stake is a place in Sunday’s men’s final against the man who was partly at fault for keeping Nadal and Djokovic out there so late. Anderson’s win over John Isner lasted 6 + hours and went to 26-24 in the fifth set.

Djokovic-Nadal had clearly been the headline act of the day – they have five Wimbledon titles between them and met in the 2011 final while Anderson and Isner had never made the semifinals before – and their tennis was at another level from the earlier match. Even Anderson said he could feel during his match that the crowd would rather be watching the next one.

“They’ve paid to see two matches, and they came pretty close to only seeing one match,” Anderson said. “I can feel the crowd (get) pretty antsy for us to get off the court. They’ve been watching us for over six hours.”

While Anderson-Isner was mostly a serving duel with a few longer rallies thrown in, Djokovic and Nadal repeatedly slugged it out from the baseline, chasing each other around the court and coming up with spectacular winners from every corner.

Many of the best points came in the tiebreaker, including a 23-shot rally that Nadal finished off with a forehand half-volley drop shot to set up his first set point.

It was one of three successful drop shots from the Spaniard in the tiebreaker alone, but Djokovic answered with one of his own to save the second set point at 7-6.

He eventually went up 10-9 with the help of a backhand passing shot and an errant shot into the net by Nadal brought the entertainment to an end – for now.

It led to the unusual situation of both players leaving the court to a huge ovation – and applauding the fans in return – but without there being a clear winner or loser.

To be continued.