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Nadal snaps winless streak vs. Djokovic to reach Madrid final

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MADRID — Rafael Nadal ended his seven-match winless streak against Novak Djokovic with a 6-2, 6-4 win that put him in the Madrid Open final again on Saturday.

Nadal overpowered Djokovic, and converted on his third match point to earn his first victory against the second-ranked Serb since the 2014 French Open final. Nadal had lost 15 straight sets against Djokovic, and won only one of the last 12 matches against him in four years.

It was another categorical win in what has been a superb season for the fifth-ranked Nadal, who will be trying to win his third straight title on Sunday. He can also tie Djokovic with 30 titles in Masters 1000 events.

It was Nadal’s 14th straight victory, and his tour-leading 33rd for the year.

The four-time Madrid champion will play the title game against Dominic Thiem of Austria or Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay.

It will be the Spaniard’s eighth final at his home tournament, and the first since losing to Andy Murray in 2015. Nadal last won in Madrid in 2014.

“I can’t be any happier,” Nadal said. “It means the world to me to make it to another final here in Madrid.”

Nadal has been playing some of his best tennis this year. He’s reached six finals this season and is coming off consecutive titles in Monte Carlo and Barcelona.

“It was an important match for me because it meant continuing with the good dynamic that I’ve been carrying for several months,” Nadal said. “I knew that I had to play well. It’s true that he made some mistakes, but he fought until the end.”

Djokovic hasn’t reached a final since winning his first tournament of the year in Doha. This was his first semifinal since he won that title in January.

“I did try my best,” Djokovic said. “It wasn’t a very high quality of tennis from my side. Just his quality was very high. He managed to do whatever he wanted really, especially in the first set.”

Djokovic didn’t have to play the quarterfinal in Madrid because Kei Nishikori withdrew before the match because of a wrist injury. This was Djokovic’s first tournament since splitting with longtime coach Marian Vajda.

With Cristiano Ronaldo and Olympic great Nadia Comaneci watching courtside, Nadal was aggressive from the start, and had 20 winners, including seven off his backhand.

He conceded only two break opportunities to Djokovic, who converted one early in the second set. Nadal had six break chances, converting two in each set.

Nadal’s other titles in Madrid came in 2005, 2010 and 2013-14.

It was the 50th meeting between the two players, with Djokovic still ahead 26-24.

Playing on two surfaces, Vekic reaches Nottingham semis

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NOTTINGHAM, England — Former champion Donna Vekic finally got to play on grass at the Nottingham Open on Friday but had to overcome multiple rain delays and another switch indoors before reaching the semifinals.

The second-seeded Vekic defeated Kristina Mladenovic 7-5, 6-4 in a match played on two surfaces as rain again played havoc with the schedule.

The opening two days were completely washed out before organizers decided to switch the first and second rounds indoors as rain fell for four consecutive days.

Vekic, who won the tournament in 2017, will play Germany’s Tatjana Maria in her third straight semifinal in Nottingham. Maria earlier defeated Ajla Tomljanovic 6-3, 7-6 (7) in the only match completed on grass so far at the tournament.

Also Friday, American Jennifer Brady defeated fourth-seeded Maria Sakkari of Greece 7-5, 6-3 to set up a semifinal against top-seeded Caroline Garcia.

Garcia rallied to beat Romanian qualifier Elena-Gabriela Ruse 4-6, 7-6, 6-1 in the last quarterfinal.

Auger-Aliassime, 18, to play Berrettini in Stuttgart final

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STUTTGART, Germany — Canadian teenager Felix Auger-Aliassime will play Italy’s Matteo Berrettini in the final of the Stuttgart Open.

The 18-year-old Auger-Aliassime progressed to his third tour-level final without playing on Saturday as compatriot Milos Raonic withdrew ahead of their semifinal due to back problems. The sixth-seeded Raonic lost last year’s final to Roger Federer, who opted not to defend his title.

Berrettini defeated Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff 6-4, 7-5 in the other semifinal. The 30th-ranked Berrettini will be going for this third tour title and his first on grass after victories in Budapest in April, and Gstaad, Switzerland, last year.

The 21st-ranked Auger-Aliassime previously reached championship matches in Rio de Janeiro in February and the Lyon Open in May – both on clay.