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Nadal wins 11th Barcelona title, unbeaten in 46 sets on clay

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BARCELONA, Spain — Rafael Nadal continues to make winning on clay look all too easy.

Nadal extended his dominance on the surface with a 6-2, 6-1 win over 19-year-old Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas on Sunday to win his 11th Barcelona Open title.

Nadal, who also won his 11th Monte Carlos Masters title last week, was never seriously challenged on his way to a 19th straight victory on clay.

The top-ranked Spaniard has won 46 straight sets on clay, extending his own record. He hasn’t lost on clay since facing Dominic Thiem in Rome last year.

It was the 77th title overall for Nadal, tying him with John McEnroe for fourth best in the Open Era. Only Jimmy Connors, Roger Federer and Ivan Lendl are ahead.

Nadal, who won his 400th match on clay in Saturday’s semifinal, needed the victory in Barcelona to secure his No. 1 ranking.

“It’s hard for anybody to imagine all the feelings and emotions I have when I play here,” Nadal said. “Hopefully I can keep coming back for many more years to come.”

Nadal was out of action earlier this year because of a lingering right hip injury sustained in the Australian Open quarterfinals. He returned to help Spain defeat Germany in the Davis Cup quarterfinals and then went on to win in Monte Carlo.

“I’ve had two fantastic weeks but we were coming off difficult months because of the injuries,” Nadal said.

The 63rd-ranked Tsitsipas was trying to become the first Greek to win an ATP Tour title. He was the first Greek to make it to an ATP final since Nicholas Kalogeropoulos in 1973.

Tsitsipas was the youngest finalist in Barcelona since 2005 and was looking to become the first unseeded champion in the tournament since Gaston Gaudio in 2002.

Tsitsipas had 23 unforced errors in the 77-minute loss on the Rafa Nadal court, with brief rain interruptions.

The Greek is expected to move to 44th in the rankings after his performance in Barcelona.

 

Murray excited to end 11-month absence at Queen’s this week

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LONDON (AP) Andy Murray is excited to be returning at the pre-Wimbledon Queen’s Club event this week after the former top-ranked player in the world experienced the “lowest point” of his career during an 11-month absence from tennis.

The 31-year-old Briton, who has been out of action with a hip injury since losing in the 2017 Wimbledon quarter-finals, has been drawn to meet Australia’s Nick Kyrgios in the first round at Queen’s.

“I’m really looking forward to playing again,” Murray said in his regular BBC Sport column. “While I will be nervous, it will be great to finally step back on the court.

“With sport you play to win, but when you are away from something you love doing for almost a year, you realize you’re playing because you love it.

“I didn’t start playing to win Wimbledon or get to number one in the world. I never believed that was something I was going to do, or something I thought about when I was a kid growing up. I played tennis because I loved it and continued doing that throughout my whole career.”

Murray, who won the Wimbledon title in 2013 and 2016 and the U.S. Open crown in 2012, had an operation on his hip in January.

“When, after six months of not competing, you’re still not good enough to be where you want to be and looking like you’re going to have to have surgery, it’s the lowest point you can get to in your professional career,” he said.

“People might say, `oh, you’ve got it great’ – which I’m aware that we do, and I’m very lucky I get to play tennis for a living. But that’s what I’ve been doing since I was a child, and when you’re not able to do something that you love it’s tough.”

Wimbledon starts on July 2.

Federer beats Raonic for Stuttgart title, his 18th on grass

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STUTTGART, Germany (AP) Roger Federer defeated Milos Raonic 6-4, 7-6 (3) to mark his return from three months off with the Stuttgart Open title on Sunday.

The Swiss great, who is assured of reclaiming the No. 1 ranking from Rafael Nadal on Monday, broke at 1-1 in the opening set and held his nerve in the second, where Raonic double-faulted.

Federer skipped the entire clay-court season for the second year in a row, but he wrapped up his 18th grass-court title in 1 hour and 18 minutes – his 98th title overall and third of the season after victories at the Australian Open and World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam.

“It’s a wonderful feeling. I fought hard. When you finally manage it, the joy is even greater,” said Federer, who extended his grass-court winning streak to 16 matches including his titles at Halle and Wimbledon last year.

The 36-year-old will need to defend his title at Halle to maintain his No. 1 spot ahead of Wimbledon.