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Nadal, Halep cruise into French Open third round

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PARIS — Rafael Nadal completed another straight-set win to reach the third round of the French Open on Thursday, extending his Roland Garros record to 81-2.

Nadal is once again the big favorite on his favorite surface following a tremendous clay-court season, and the 10-time champion lived up to the status by easily dispatching Guido Pella of Argentina 6-2, 6-1, 6-1 on Court Suzanne Lenglen.

Nadal hasn’t lost a set at the French Open since 2015, when he was beaten in the quarterfinals by Novak Djokovic. In 2016, he withdrew with an injured left wrist after a pair of easy victories, then claimed every set he played last year en route to the trophy.

Against Pella, the top-ranked Spaniard saved all four break points he faced and hit 37 winners. He will be up against Richard Gasquet of France in the next round.

Gasquet advanced to this stage for the eighth straight year by defeating Malek Jaziri 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, 6-0.

Gasquet and Nadal are both 31 years old and know each other since their teenage years. Nadal has since become a multiple Grand Slam winner and the most successful clay-court player ever, while Gasquet did not live up to the huge expectations surrounding him at the start of his professional career.

He has never beaten Nadal in 15 previous meetings.

Among other seeded players advancing were No. 3 Marin Cilic, No. 6 Kevin Anderson, No. 7 Dominic Thiem and No. 15 Lucas Pouille.

In women’s play, top-ranked Simona Halep, third-seeded Garbine Muguruza and two-time champion Maria Sharapova all powered into the third round with straight-set victories.

Halep showed no signs of fatigue in beating wild-card entry Taylor Townsend 6-3, 6-1, despite playing on consecutive days.

Sharapova improved to 13-0 in second-round French Open matches by beating 50th-ranked Donna Vekic of Croatia 7-5, 6-4.

And Muguruza impressed with her easy movement around the court in a 6-4, 6-3 victory over French wild-card entry Fiona Ferro.

Halep broke the 72nd-ranked Townsend in the first game and jumped to a 5-1 lead.

Townsend dug deep in the eighth game, with Halep serving for the set, clawing back a break to slow the progress of last year’s losing finalist.

Halep swiftly quelled the rebellion. Heaping pressure on Townsend’s serve at 5-3, she earned herself two set points and converted the first, with a forehand winner from the baseline.

Halep tightened the squeeze in the fourth game of the second set. Townsend saved three break points, but hit a backhand long to give Halep a 3-1 lead.

From there, Halep’s serve and shots that pulled Townsend around the Court Philippe-Chatrier finished the job.

She served out the last game to love, breaking into a smile after a winning volley at the net that brought up three match points.

Halep said in her post-match interview that she struggled initially against the left-hander’s shots with topspin. But the score didn’t show it.

Her next opponent, Andrea Petkovic of Germany, beat Bethanie Mattek-Sands 6-0, 7-6 (5) to reach the third round.

Sharapova took a bit of time to close out her match on Court 1. She led 5-2 in the second set, then served for the win at 5-3, but was broken when she sailed an off-balance forehand wide.

She broke right back to end it, though, converting her fifth match point with a forehand return winner.

Sharapova is competing at Roland Garros for the first time since 2015. She missed the clay-court Grand Slam tournament in 2016 while serving a doping suspension, then was denied a wild-card entry by the French tennis federation last year, when her ranking was too low to earn automatic entry.

The 31-year-old Russian won the title in 2012 and 2014, part of her career Grand Slam. She is seeded 28th this year.

Next for Sharapova is a matchup against sixth-seeded Karolina Pliskova, the runner-up at the 2016 U.S. Open and a semifinalist in Paris a year ago. Pliskova’s twin sister Kristyna lost to Serena Williams in the first round this week.

Pliskova reached the third round with a 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 victory over 2015 French Open runner-up Lucie Safarova.

Muguruza’s third round opponent is Sam Stosur of Australia. Ferro, ranked 257th, posed little difficulty for the 2016 champion. They exchanged breaks of serve at the start of the second set. But the Spaniard broke Ferro again in the seventh game to take the lead and closed out the win with her first match point on Ferro’s serve two games later.

Nadal beats Ferrer to reach Barcelona Open quarterfinals

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BARCELONA, Spain — Rafael Nadal looked closer to his clay-court best again as he beat David Ferrer 6-3, 6-3 on Thursday to reach the quarterfinals of the Barcelona Open.

The 11-time Barcelona champion saved four of five break points and broke four times in what could have been his last meeting with Ferrer, who is retiring after the Madrid Open next month. It was a sign of improvement for Nadal, who lost in the semifinals in Monte Carlo last week and then needed three sets to get past Leonard Mayer in his opening match in Barcelona.

“This match was important for me,” Nadal said. “Yesterday I had a tough match. I took a step forward and was able to play with more energy.”

The top-seeded Nadal will next face either Stefanos Tsitsipas, last year’s runner-up, or Jan-Lennard Struff.

Nadal was up 5-3 in the first set before play was stopped for a rain delay. He continued to dictate the match when play resumed, serving out the set and breaking Ferrer’s next service game.

Ferrer saved three match points before finally sending a forehand into the net to give Nadal the win.

The 37-year-old Ferrer was making his last appearance at the Barcelona Open and could not hold back the tears when he received an ovation from the audience. He placed his pink headband on the court as a mark that he had played his last match here.

“I am happy to be able to finish this tournament on the center court, playing against Nadal. I gave it my all,” Ferrer said.

Also, third-seeded Dominic Thiem broke Jaume Munar five times to earn a 7-5, 6-1 victory. Fourth-seeded Kei Nishikori, who won the tournament in 2014 and 2015, brushed off Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-1, 6-3.

Grigor Dimitrov was beaten 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (2) by Nicolas Jarry, who will meet Daniil Medvedev after he beat American Mackenzie McDonald 6-3, 6-2.

Osaka opens clay campaign by beating Hsieh in Stuttgart

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STUTTGART, Germany — Top-ranked Naomi Osaka opened her clay-court season by beating Hsieh Su-wei of Taiwan 6-4, 6-3, on Thursday to reach the Porsche Grand Prix quarterfinals.

Osaka hit 22 winners and converted three of her six break points to seal the win in 1 hour, 24 minutes and set up a meeting with Donna Vekic of Croatia.

After saving two break points early, it was an unusually smooth victory for Osaka over Hsieh. She needed three sets to get past the Taiwanese veteran en route to her Australian Open victory and then lost to her at the Miami Open last month.

“I felt like this surface is more suited for me (than Hsieh),” Osaka said. “I was sort of in my plan. So, I just felt like I executed what I was trying to do.”

Two-time Stuttgart champion Angelique Kerber also advanced by beating fellow German Andrea Petkovic 6-2, 6-4. The fifth-seeded Kerber saved two break points to hold for 2-2 in the first set and then reeled off the next four games to take control. She then earned a decisive break for 4-3 in the second before closing out the win with her fourth match point.

Kerber will face sixth-seeded Kiki Bertens, who served 20 aces to rally for a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over Belinda Bencic.

No. 7 Anastasija Sevastova also advanced by beating former champion Laura Siegemund of Germany 6-4, 6-3 to set up a quarterfinal against Petra Kvitova, who advanced on Wednesday.

Vekic dispatched Russia’s Daria Kasatkina, 6-1, 7-5, earlier on Thursday.