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Nadal breaks McEnroe’s mark of straight sets won on surface

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MADRID – Rafael Nadal broke John McEnroe’s record of 49 straight sets won on the same surface by beating Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 6-4 in the third round of the Madrid Open on Thursday.

Nadal extended his winning streak to 50 consecutive sets on clay, eclipsing the mark McEnroe established on carpet in 1984.

While Nadal marched on, the top women’s players continued to struggle in the Spanish capital after top-ranked Simona Halep and Maria Sharapova both lost in the quarterfinals.

Also on the men’s side, second-seeded Alexander Zverev brushed aside Leonardo Mayer 6-4, 6-2 and will meet John Isner after he edged Pablo Cuevas in a hard-fought match that needed tiebreakers to decide all three sets.

Isner prevailed 6-7 (9), 7-6 (3), 7-6 (4) in 2 hours, 21 minutes.

The top-ranked Nadal, who improved to 18-1 overall on the season, has won 38 of his last 39 matches on his favored clay.

Nadal went up a break at 4-2 in the first set after back-to-back errors by Schwartzman, including a missed smash.

Nadal then struck a forehand winner on the run to break Schwartzman again in the second set. Schwartzman broke back, but two straight double-faults gave Nadal a third break en route to the win.

The 16-time Grand Slam champion is seeking his sixth title in Madrid after taking his trophy hauls at Monte Carlo and Barcelona to 11 apiece.

Nadal will next face Dominic Thiem in a rematch of last year’s final. Thiem outlasted Borna Coric 2-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4.

Also, Dusan Lajovic fought back from 0-4 in the decisive tiebreaker to stun fourth-seeded Juan Martin del Potro 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (6) for his first career win against a top-10 ranked player.

Lajovic moved on to meet sixth-seeded Kevin Anderson, who eliminated Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-3, 7-6 (7).

Kyle Edmund continued his excellent run by ousting eighth-seeded David Goffin 6-4, 6-4. Edmund, an unseeded Brit, defeated former No. 1 Novak Djokovic in straight sets on Wednesday.

Edmund will face 19-year-old Denis Shapovalov, after he bettered Milos Raonic 6-4, 6-4 in an all-Canadian clash.

Halep lost to Karolina Pliskova 6-4, 6-3, ending her bid to become a three-time consecutive champion in Madrid.

Pliskova gave the Romanian no chance, breaking her serve four times and hitting 20 winners.

“I think I played one of my best matches this year for sure, and for sure on clay in my life,” the sixth-seeded Pliskova said. “I feel amazing since in the last six matches I lost to her.”

Halep got off to a positive start by breaking Pliskova for a 2-0 lead, only for the Czech to take the break right back to swing the match in her favor.

“I missed in some important moments,” Halep said. “That’s why it went her way.”

Pliskova is now the highest seeded player left in the women’s tournament after both No. 2 Caroline Wozniacki and third-seeded Garbine Muguruza lost Wednesday.

She will play Petra Kvitova or Daria Kasatkina in the semifinals.

Kiki Bertens came from behind to beat Sharapova 4-6, 6-2, 6-3. She will play seventh-seeded Caroline Garcia after she dispatched with Carla Suarez Navarro 6-2, 6-3.

Bertens defeats Halep to win Western & Southern Open

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MASON, Ohio — Kiki Bertens served a 109 mph ace , flipped her racket away, fell to her knees and raised both arms. Moments later, she covered her face for a joyous cry, wiping the tears away with her sweat-soaked blue wristband.

One point away from another loss, she had pulled off her biggest win.

Top-ranked Simona Halep let a match point slip away during the second-set tiebreaker, and Bertens rallied for a 2-6, 7-6 (6), 6-2 victory and the Western & Southern Open title on Sunday that left her as stunned as everyone else.

“I cannot find words for this moment,” she said.

Playing her first hard-court final, the Dutch clay-court specialist ended Halep’s streak of nine straight wins, including the title at Montreal a week earlier. She’d never beaten a top-ranked player, but wore down Halep at the end of her two draining weeks.

During the week in Cincinnati, Halep had one match suspended overnight by rain and wound up playing twice in one day to reach the semifinals. She controlled the first set on Sunday and had a chance to close it out, leading 6-5 in the tiebreaker.

When that slipped away, she never recovered, playing her worst in the final set – 13 unforced errors that gave Bertens a chance to pull away.

“I am a little bit tired,” she said.

Halep will be ranked No. 1 through the U.S. Open. She fell to 0-3 in Cincinnati finals, finishing as the runner-up in 2015 and each of the last two years.

Bertens has worked on her hard-court game and her confidence on the surface. In three previous appearances in Cincinnati, she won a total of one match. She became the first unseeded player to win in Cincinnati since Vera Zvonareva in 2006.

In the men’s bracket, Novak Djokovic was looking for a breakthrough win against nemesis Roger Federer. Djokovic was 0-5 in Cincinnati, the only ATP Masters 1000 event he hasn’t won. He’d become the first to claim all nine.

Federer has won the tournament an unmatched seven times, going 7 for 7 in the finals. He’s beaten Djokovic three times for the Rookwood pottery trophy.

Djokovic beats Federer for first Cincinnati title

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MASON, Ohio — Novak Djokovic finally mastered the one tournament that’s eluded him, beating nemesis Roger Federer 6-4, 6-4 on Sunday for his first Western & Southern Open championship.

He got the better of a nostalgic rematch — they hadn’t played in two years because of injuries — and broke through in a tournament that Federer has won seven times, never losing a title match.

After Federer’s forehand sailed wide for the deciding point, Djokovic raised both arms and roared. Then he jumped and punched the air before giving his racket to a fan and tossing his sweatbands into the stands.

No need for mementos. That first Rookwood pottery trophy will be enough.

Djokovic is the first to claim all nine ATP Masters 1000 events since the series started in 1990. It had become his personal quest after he lost in the finals five times — three against Federer.

Djokovic leads their all-time series 24-22, doing much better in the biggest matches. He’s 3-1 against Federer in Grand Slam finals and 12-6 overall in championship matches, including wins at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 2015.

Djokovic completed a long comeback from elbow surgery by winning his fourth Wimbledon title last month, then set out to get his hard-court game in order for the U.S. Open. He got better as the rainy week went on in Cincinnati, playing his best at the end.

Federer’s serve had been untouchable all week — held for 46 consecutive games. Djokovic broke that streak to go up 4-3 in the opening set, prompting Federer to mutter angrily. Djokovic served out the set, and then traded breaks with Federer early in the second set.

Federer’s game was off — 28 unforced errors — and Djokovic took full advantage. He broke him again to go up 4-3 and served it out.

In the women’s bracket, top-ranked Simona Halep let a match point slip away during the second-set tiebreaker, and Kiki Bertens rallied for a 2-6, 7-6 (6), 6-2 victory in her first hard-court final.

Bertens served a 109 mph ace , flipped her racket away, fell to her knees and raised both arms. Moments later, she covered her face for a joyous cry, wiping the tears away with her sweat-soaked blue wristband.

One point away from another loss, she had pulled off her biggest win, one that left her as stunned as everyone else.

“I cannot find words for this moment,” she said.

The Dutch clay-court specialist ended Halep’s streak of nine straight wins, including the title at Montreal a week earlier. She’d never beaten a top-ranked player, but wore down Halep at the end of her two draining weeks.

During the week in Cincinnati, Halep had one match suspended overnight by rain and wound up playing twice in one day to reach the semifinals. She controlled the first set on Sunday and had a chance to close it out, leading 6-5 in the tiebreaker.

When that slipped away, she never recovered, playing her worst in the final set — 13 unforced errors that gave Bertens a chance to pull away.

“I had a match (point), so I was there,” Halep said. “I didn’t take my chance. In the third set , I was empty and I couldn’t fight anymore.”

Halep will be ranked No. 1 through the U.S. Open. She fell to 0-3 in Cincinnati finals, finishing as the runner-up in 2015 and each of the last two years.

“I need a little bit of rest because I’m exhausted,” Halep said. “But I also take the positive from these two weeks. It’s a great confidence (boost).”

Bertens has worked on her hard-court game and her confidence on the surface. In three previous appearances in Cincinnati, she won a total of one match. She became the first unseeded player to win in Cincinnati since Vera Zvonareva in 2006.