Nadal extends winning streak to 16 when Almagro retires

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ROME — Rafael Nadal hardly had to get his socks dirty to extend his winning streak to 16 matches.

Back to being the best player on tour over the last month, Nadal advanced from his opening match at the Italian Open on Wednesday when Nicolas Almagro retired in the first set with an apparent injury.

Nadal was leading 3-0, 15-30 when Almagro bent over toward the red clay court and grasped his left knee.

Nadal went over to Almagro’s side of the net to ask what was wrong and consoled his opponent. Almagro then got some medical attention at his chair but quickly retired from the second-round match.

The fourth-ranked Spaniard remained on court for a practice session.

Nadal has won consecutive clay-court tournaments in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid. He’s aiming for an eighth title at the Foro Italico as he prepares for the French Open, which starts in less than two weeks.

Nadal will next face either 13th-seeded Jack Sock or Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic.

The 73rd-ranked Almagro had come through qualifying.

Also, seventh-seeded Kei Nishikori beat David Ferrer 7-5, 6-2.

Nishikori showed no lingering pain from the right wrist injury that prompted him to withdraw from the quarterfinals in Madrid last week.

“My wrist is OK now. I assume to be 100 percent now,” Nishikori said.

In women’s action, second-seeded Karolina Pliskova defeated Lauren Davis of the United States 6-1, 6-1, and sixth-seeded Simona Halep beat Laura Siegemund of Germany 6-4, 6-4.

Also, eighth-seeded Elina Svitolina eliminated Alize Cornet of France 6-4, 7-6 (11), and 15th-seeded Kiki Bertens beat American qualifier CiCi Bellis 6-4, 6-0.

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Alcaraz loses to Goffin in 1st match as No. 1

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ASTANA, Kazakhstan — Carlos Alcaraz’s first match as the No. 1-ranked player ended with a straight-set loss to David Goffin at the Astana Open.

The 19-year-old Spaniard lost 7-5, 6-3 in his first tour match since winning the U.S. Open and capturing the No. 1 ranking.

“David was playing really, really well. To come back to competition is never easy,” Alcaraz said. “It’s really tough for me, for my confidence.”

Alcaraz came from 5-2 down to level the first set at 5-5, only to be broken again by his Belgian opponent.

“When you play against the World No. 1 on a big stage, big crowd, the fire inside gives you so much power to play your best tennis because you don’t have any choice,” Goffin said. “You have to fight and give your best and that was the case today.”

Second-seeded Daniil Medvedev and No. 3-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas both avoided similar upsets. Medvedev beat Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain 6-3, 6-1 and Tsitsipas ousted Kazakhstan’s Mikhail Kukushkin 6-3. 6-4.

Kasatkina knocks out Raducanu at Agel Open

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OSTRAVA, Czech Republic — Fifth-seeded Daria Kasatkina defeated 2021 U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu 7-5, 6-4 to advance to the second round of the Agel Open.

Kasatkina was playing her first match since losing in the first round of the U.S. Open and will next face Ekaterina Alexandrova.

Sixth-seeded Belinda Bencic of Switzerland rallied to eliminate former top-five player Eugenie Bouchard of Canada 6-7 (7), 6-1, while Aliaksandra Sasnovich upset eighth-seeded Jelena Ostapenko 6-2, 6-2.

American qualifiers Alycia Parks and Catherine McNally both advanced. Parks upset Czech Karolina Pliskova 6-0, 7-6 (3) and McNally eased past Anna Blinkova 6-1, 6-2 at the indoor hardcourt event in the Czech eastern city of Ostrava.