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.

Alycia Parks reaches 1st WTA quarterfinal in Ostrava

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OSTRAVA, Czech Republic — American qualifier Alycia Parks is having quite the breakthrough tournament in Ostrava.

The 21-year-old Parks earned her first win against a top-10 ranked opponent by beating fourth-seeded Maria Sakkari 5-7, 7-5, 7-5 at the Agel Open on Thursday to reach her first WTA Tour quarterfinal.

The 144th-ranked Parks ousted former No. 1 Karolina Pliskova in the opening round – her first win against a top-20 opponent – and showed off her power by hitting 59 winners against Sakkari, compared to just nine for her opponent.

“I came out here not expecting anything, just playing my game, and it got me through the match,” Parks said.

Parks will next face former French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova, who advanced via walkover when Belinda Bencic withdrew with a left foot injury.

Caty McNally, another American qualifier who is playing doubles with Parks in Ostrava, also reached the last eight by beating wild-card entry Karolina Muchova 6-1, 3-6, 6-1. McNally is also into her first WTA quarterfinal and will face top-ranked Iga Swiatek, who advanced Wednesday.

Djokovic beats Van de Zandschulp to reach Astana quarters

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ASTANA, Kazakhstan — Add Botic van de Zandschulp to the long list of players to have been schooled by Novak Djokovic.

Djokovic eased past Van de Zandschulp 6-3, 6-1 on Thursday in his first career meeting with the 27-year-old Dutchman to reach the quarterfinals of the Astana Open.

Van de Zandschulp earned one break point in each set but couldn’t seriously threaten Djokovic, who is looking for a second straight indoor hardcourt title after winning in Tel Aviv last week.

“(In the) second set I think I started to read his serve better and just started swinging through the court more,” Djokovic said. “Botic is a quality tennis player. When he has time, he can hurt you, so I tried to take away that time from him and I’m very pleased with the way I played, particularly in the second.”

Djokovic will next face Karen Khachanov, who rallied to beat Marin Cilic 2-6, 6-3, 6-3. If the 21-time Grand Slam champion gets past that one, he could come up against fellow former No. 1 Daniil Medvedev. The second-seeded Russian beat Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland 6-3, 6-2 to move one match away from a potential rematch of last year’s U.S. Open final, when Medvedev beat Djokovic to deny his attempt at a calendar-year Grand Slam.

Medvedev will first have to beat Roberto Bautista Agut, who advanced Wednesday.