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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.

 

Defending US Open champ Stephens wins Cincy opener

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MASON, Ohio (AP) Defending U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens overcame a thumb injury to cruise into the third round of the Western & Southern Open with a 6-3, 6-2 win over qualifier Tatjana Maria on Wednesday.

A trainer applied a bandage to the third-seeded Stephens’ right thumb between the third and fourth games of the second set of this U.S. Open tuneup. The match was Stephens’ first since losing on Sunday to Simona Halep in the finals at Montreal.

Sloane’s semifinal appearance last season is her best Cincinnati finish in six previous appearances.

Roger Federer advances in Cincinnati

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MASON, Ohio (AP) Roger Federer advanced to the third round of the Western & Southern Open with a 6-4, 6-4 victory against Peter Gojowczyk on Tuesday.

It was Federer’s first Cincinnati appearance since winning his tournament-record seventh championship in 2015. After a first-round bye, Federer extended his Cincinnati winning streak to 11 matches since losing to Rafael Nadal in the 2013 quarterfinals.

The second-seeded Federer, refreshed from a month off after losing in the Wimbledon quarterfinals, became the tournament favorite when Nadal withdrew on Sunday night.

Karolina Pliskova and Nick Kyrgios also advanced Tuesday in early tournament action.

Pliskova moved into the second round by snapping a seven-match losing streak against Agnieszka Radwanska with a 6-3, 6-3 win.

“It means a lot because it was against her, and, like, you know, I never beat her,” Pliskova said. “We played so many times. I think I always played her at her best level the matches before, so it was always tough.”

Kyrgios, a finalist last year in Cincinnati, overcame physical problems to fight off qualifier Denis Kudla for a 6-7 (2), 7-5, 7-6 (9) victory.

“This year has been tough,” Kyrgios said. “I started the year very well. Then, obviously, I hurt my elbow. Then I had an ongoing hip injury. We have been definitely thinking about the options with my hip. You know, there is only so much you can do before you have to, you know, I guess, get surgery or something like that. You know, right now I’m just managing it.”

No. 11 seed David Goffin advanced with a 7-5, 6-3 win over Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Leonardo Mayer became the first player to reach the third round on the men’s side with a 7-6 (7), 6-4 victory over 16th-seeded Lucas Pouille.

Australian Open semifinalist Hyeon Chung won the last five games to beat Jack Sock 2-6, 6-1, 6-2. Sock has lost eight straight matches since winning in Rome on May 13.

Two-time Cincinnati semifinalist Milos Raonic advanced with a 6-3, 6-3 win over qualifier Dusan Lajovic. Robin Haase also made it to the second round, defeating Filip Krajinovic 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.

Sixth-seeded Caroline Garcia reach the third round with a 6-4, 6-5 win over wild card Victoria Azarenka. Elise Mertens scored a 6-4, 6-2 first-round win over Magdalena Rybarikova. Ashleigh Barty stopped wild-card Marketa Vondrousova 6-3, 7-5.

Maria Sakkari upset Indian Wells champion Naomi Osaka 6-3, 7-6 (8). Ekaterina Makarova cruised past qualifier Ana Bogdan 6-3, 6-2.