AP Images

Top-seeded Stephens rallies to advance in Acapulco

Leave a comment

ACAPULCO, Mexico (AP) Top-seeded Sloane Stephens rallied to beat Dutch qualifier Arantxa Rus 5-7, 7-6 (6), 6-0 on Wednesday night to reach the Mexico Open quarterfinals.

Rafael Nadal withdrew before his opening match, saying he neeeds more time to recover from a hip injury. The second-ranked Spanish star hasn’t played since retiring in the Australian Open quarterfinals.

Stephens saved a match point in the second-set tiebreaker against the left-hander. The American won the U.S. Open last year for her first Grand Slam title and took the Acapulco hardcourt event in 2016. She’ll face Switzerland’s Stefanie Voegele, a 6-3, 6-4 winner over Greece’s Maria Sakkari.

Second-seeded Kristina Mladenovic also overcame a slow start to advance, beating Brazil’s Beatriz Haddad Maia 3-6, 6-3, 7-5. Mladenovic will play seventh-seeded Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine, a 6-3, 6-1 winner over Arina Rodionova of Australia.

Third-seeded Daria Gavrilova of Australia beat Mexico’s Renata Zarazua 7-5, 6-3 to set up a match against Veronica Cepede Royg of Paraguay. Royg beat No. 5 Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania 7-6 (3), 6-1.

Fourth-seeded Zhang Shuai of China faced Jil Teichmann of Switzerland in a late match.

In men’s play, second-seeded Alexander Zverev beat fellow German Peter Gojowczyk 7-6 (6), 6-3. Zverev will face Ryan Harrison of the United States. Harrison edged Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 5-7, 6-4.

Third-seeded Dominic Thiem of Austria topped Denis Shapovalov of Canada 6-2, 6-3. The Argentina Open winner two weeks ago on clay, Thiem will face the winner of a late match between sixth-seeded Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina and David Ferrer of Spain.

Fifth-seeded Kevin Anderson of South Africa faced France’s Adrian Mannarino in another late match. Anderson won the New York Open two weeks ago.

Nadal beats Zverev for Italian Open title

AP Photo
Leave a comment

ROME — Rafael Nadal came out on top in a matchup of this year’s top two clay-court players, beating defending champion Alexander Zverev 6-1, 1-6, 6-3 Sunday to win a record-extending eighth Italian Open title.

Nadal recovered from an early break in the third set after a 50-minute rain delay.

The victory means Nadal will reclaim the No. 1 ranking from Roger Federer on Monday.

Federer is sitting out the clay season to prepare for Wimbledon.

Nadal and Zverev had each won two titles on clay this season entering the final, with Nadal lifting trophies in Monte Carlo and Barcelona and Zverev taking Munich and Madrid.

Nadal improved to 5-0 in his career against Zverev and gained an extra measure of confidence entering the French Open, which starts next Sunday.

Earlier, Elina Svitolina defended the women’s title, facing little resistance from top-ranked Simona Halep in a 6-0, 6-4 win.

Svitolina defends Italian Open title as Halep injured again

AP Images
Leave a comment

ROME – Elina Svitolina faced little resistance from Simona Halep in a 6-0, 6-4 win Sunday to defend her Italian Open title.

Just like in last year’s final, Halep appeared bothered by an injury.

The top-ranked Romanian called a trainer onto the court for an apparent back problem while trailing 2-3 in the second set then exited the court for treatment under a medical timeout.

“I was a little bit too stiff with my body and I couldn’t stay in the rallies,” Halep said. “The muscles were stiff. I couldn’t run.”

Last year, Halep rolled her ankle in the final and lost a set lead to Svitolina.

This time, Svitolina didn’t face a single break point in a match that lasted just 67 minutes.

“It’s amazing that I could come and defend my title here,” Svitolina said. “It’s really something very, very special for me.”

Halep said her physical problems were the result of a long three-set win over Maria Sharapova in the semifinals a day earlier

“Every time I play against Sharapova the ball is coming very flat and I bend down a lot,” Halep said.

The fourth-ranked Svitolina became the first woman to defend her title at the Foro Italico since Serena Williams accomplished the feat in 2013 and 2014. The Ukrainian picked up a winner’s check of 507,000 euros (nearly $600,000) for her 12th career title.

Svitolina improved to 4-2 in her career against Halep, who had already secured the No. 1 ranking for another week by reaching the semifinals.

“She deserved to win for sure,” Halep said. “She didn’t miss. I missed.”

Later, Rafael Nadal was aiming for a record-extending eighth Rome title against defending champion Alexander Zverev.

This is the last major warmup for the French Open, which starts next Sunday.

“In a Grand Slam it’s very tricky,” said Svitolina, who has never made it beyond the quarterfinals at a major. “But I’m definitely going to Roland Garros on a high note.”