Getty Images

Djokovic defeats Nishikori in 1st round of Madrid Open

Leave a comment

MADRID (AP) Novak Djokovic notched an encouraging win in his comeback from a right elbow injury when he beat Kei Nishikori 7-5, 6-4 in the first round of the Madrid Open on Monday.

Djokovic broke serve late in each set to get past the 20th-ranked Nishikori after nearly two hours in the Magic Box.

Djokovic hasn’t made it to the quarterfinals in his previous five tournaments this year, admitting he returned to tennis too quickly. In his last event, he lost in the third round in Monte Carlo, where Nishikori reached the final.

Djokovic was aggressive from the start, hitting 26 winners against Nishikori, who has made at least the Madrid quarterfinals for the last five years. He was a finalist in 2014, losing to Rafael Nadal.

“The draw was such that we had to face in the first round, which is a bit strange,” Djokovic said. “But it was a good opening match.”

Maria Sharapova, who won in Madrid in 2014, made it to the last 16 by defeating Irina-Camelia Begu 7-5, 6-1 in only her second match since the Australian Open. She has been dealing with a left forearm injury.

“It was a lot of hard work,” Sharapova said of her match. “Being down a break to start off both of those sets didn’t make things easy for me. That will certainly help me moving forward.”

Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki edged past Ashleigh Barty 6-2, 4-6, 6-4. Wozniacki reached the 2009 final on debut and hasn’t been close since.

“I was lucky to get away with it in that third set,” the second-seeded Wozniacki said.

Milos Raonic defeated Nicolas Kicker 6-3, 6-2 to set up a second-round encounter with third-seeded Grigor Dimitrov, while Richard Gasquet beat Tomas Berdych 6-4, 6-2 to advance to play qualifier Dusan Lajovic, who got past Karen Khachanov 6-3, 6-2.

In a first-round match between Frenchmen, Benoit Paire hit 39 winners to defeat 18th-ranked Lucas Pouille 6-2, 6-3, advancing to face 19-year-old Denis Shapovalov of Canada, who got past Tennys Sandgren of the U.S. 6-1, 6-4.

More AP tennis coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-Tennis

Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

Larsson beats Riske to win Nuremberg Cup

Getty Images
Leave a comment

NUREMBERG, Germany — Swedish player Johanna Larsson won her first WTA singles title in three years by beating Alison Riske of the United States 7-6 (4), 6-4 in the final of the Nuremberg Cup on Saturday.

Her only other career singles victory was on home soil at Bastad in 2015.

Having come from a set down to win matches in the quarterfinals and semifinals, Larsson rallied from a break down in the first set and won the last four points of the tiebreaker. Larsson then won the final five games to take the match and deny Riske a second career singles title.

“When I held for 4-2, I could see some signs that she was a little bit tired,” Larsson said, “and that gave me a lot of energy to fight back.”

Pavlyuchenkova labors past Cibulkova to win at Strasbourg

Getty Images
Leave a comment

STRASBOURG, France — Third-seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia won the Strasbourg International after laboring to a 6-7 (5), 7-6 (3), 7-6 (6) win against Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia on Saturday.

They spent 3 hours, 35 minutes on court in a grueling contest, which ended when Pavlyuchenkova sealed victory on her second serve.

Pavlyuchenkova won her first title of the year and 12th overall, beating Cibulkova for the fourth time in their 11 career meetings.

Fifth-seeded Cibulkova was bidding for her ninth career title.

Both players head to the French Open in Paris, where first-round play starts Sunday.

Cibulkova reached the semifinals at Roland Garros in 2009, while Pavlyuchenkova reached her only quarterfinal there in 2013.