Nadal saves 2 match points, advances at China Open

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BEIJING (AP) Rafael Nadal needed to save two match points before advancing to the second round at the China Open.

The top-ranked Spaniard, playing for the first time since winning the U.S. Open title last month, rallied to beat Lucas Pouille 4-6, 7-6 (6), 7-5 Tuesday.

Pouille held two match points while leading 6-4 in the second-set tiebreaker. But Nadal reeled off four straight points to take the set and turn the match around.

“Was a very tough first round, as I say the other day,” said Nadal, who lost to Pouille in five sets at the 2016 U.S. Open. “He played well, I think. Very aggressive. He’s serving well. For me was little bit difficult at the beginning. Then I started to play better, I think.

“But still, I didn’t have the control of the match for almost all the time.”

In the final set, Nadal broke Pouille’s serve to take a 6-5 lead and then served out the match.

Nadal is 57-9 this season and leads the tour with five ATP singles titles, including the French Open. He won the China Open title as a teenager in 2005 and has a 21-5 record in Beijing. He next plays Thursday against Karen Khachanov, who beat Chinese wild-card entry Wu Di.

Earlier, Juan Martin del Potro advanced by beating Pablo Cuevas 7-6 (4), 6-4.

“It was enough to win. I play good in important moments of the match, that’s the tiebreaks and the last game of the second set,” said the 2009 U.S. Open champion, who returned to professional tennis last year after wrist surgery.

Third-seeded Grigor Dimitrov, sixth-seeded John Isner, eighth-seeded Nick Kyrgios and Leonardo Mayer also advanced.

In the women’s tournament, Maria Sharapova rallied to defeat Ekaterina Makarova 6-4, 4-6, 6-1.

“She definitely picked it up in the second. But I felt like although she won that second set, I was really motivated to start the third,” Sharapova said. “I was questioning how I would feel physically, but I felt really good going into the third set.”

The former top-ranked Russian will next face second-seeded Simona Halep on Wednesday.

“We know each other’s games very well. That’s no secret. They’ve always been very challenging, tough, competitive, emotional,” Sharapova said. “Any time you’re able to face an opponent that’s done something and well, it’s great to see where you are and where your level is.”

Halep advanced after Magdalena Rybarikova retired from their match while trailing 6-1, 2-1.

Other winners include Karolina Pliskova, Elena Vesnina, Petra Kvitova, Daria Gavrilova, Sorana Cirstea, Darla Kasatkina and Barbora Strycova.

Alycia Parks reaches 1st WTA quarterfinal in Ostrava

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OSTRAVA, Czech Republic — American qualifier Alycia Parks is having quite the breakthrough tournament in Ostrava.

The 21-year-old Parks earned her first win against a top-10 ranked opponent by beating fourth-seeded Maria Sakkari 5-7, 7-5, 7-5 at the Agel Open on Thursday to reach her first WTA Tour quarterfinal.

The 144th-ranked Parks ousted former No. 1 Karolina Pliskova in the opening round – her first win against a top-20 opponent – and showed off her power by hitting 59 winners against Sakkari, compared to just nine for her opponent.

“I came out here not expecting anything, just playing my game, and it got me through the match,” Parks said.

Parks will next face former French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova, who advanced via walkover when Belinda Bencic withdrew with a left foot injury.

Caty McNally, another American qualifier who is playing doubles with Parks in Ostrava, also reached the last eight by beating wild-card entry Karolina Muchova 6-1, 3-6, 6-1. McNally is also into her first WTA quarterfinal and will face top-ranked Iga Swiatek, who advanced Wednesday.

Djokovic beats Van de Zandschulp to reach Astana quarters

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ASTANA, Kazakhstan — Add Botic van de Zandschulp to the long list of players to have been schooled by Novak Djokovic.

Djokovic eased past Van de Zandschulp 6-3, 6-1 on Thursday in his first career meeting with the 27-year-old Dutchman to reach the quarterfinals of the Astana Open.

Van de Zandschulp earned one break point in each set but couldn’t seriously threaten Djokovic, who is looking for a second straight indoor hardcourt title after winning in Tel Aviv last week.

“(In the) second set I think I started to read his serve better and just started swinging through the court more,” Djokovic said. “Botic is a quality tennis player. When he has time, he can hurt you, so I tried to take away that time from him and I’m very pleased with the way I played, particularly in the second.”

Djokovic will next face Karen Khachanov, who rallied to beat Marin Cilic 2-6, 6-3, 6-3. If the 21-time Grand Slam champion gets past that one, he could come up against fellow former No. 1 Daniil Medvedev. The second-seeded Russian beat Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland 6-3, 6-2 to move one match away from a potential rematch of last year’s U.S. Open final, when Medvedev beat Djokovic to deny his attempt at a calendar-year Grand Slam.

Medvedev will first have to beat Roberto Bautista Agut, who advanced Wednesday.