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Nadal withdraws, Murray loses to Medvedev in Brisbane

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BRISBANE, Australia — Andy Murray lost his second-round match less than an hour after Rafael Nadal withdrew from the Brisbane International on Wednesday.

Both players arrived in Australia after long injury breaks, and neither had played a competitive match since September.

At least Murray completed two matches. Playing on a protected ranking after an injury-interrupted 18 months, he beat James Duckworth before losing to fourth-seeded Daniil Medvedev 7-5, 6-2. There were signs in both matches that he is still bothered by the hip problem which has derailed his last two seasons.

Defending women’s champion Elina Svitolina also went out in the second round, losing to Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-4, 0-6, 6-3 in the last match of the day.

Murray, a three-time major champion, recovered a service break in the first set and was in the match at 5-5 until Medvedev won six straight games.

“As you play up the levels, whether it’s issues with your game, like if you’re not serving as well or if you’re not moving as well, the better players exploit that,” Murray said. “He is a top player and is able to do that. I need to try and find a way of working out how to get around some of the things I struggle with a little bit now.”

The second-ranked Nadal had a first-round bye but withdrew on the eve of his scheduled second-round match against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga after having an MRI on a muscle strain in his left thigh.

Nadal said he’d head to Melbourne after a brief stopover in Sydney for a Fast4 event to prepare for the Australian Open. The 32-year-old Spaniard is hoping he can still win the season’s first major, which starts on Jan. 14, despite his lack of match preparation.

Doctors “say that it’s a very small thing, but can become a big thing,” Nadal said during a news conference staged while Murray was playing Medvedev on Pat Rafter Arena. “When you increase the intensity on the muscle competing, then there is a big risk to make something bigger.”

Also exiting the men’s draw on Wednesday where defending champion Nick Kyrgios, who lost to Jeremy Chardy 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-3, and third-seeded Kyle Edmund, who lost to Japanese qualifier Yasutaka Uchiyama 7-6 (6), 6-4.

Second-seeded Kei Nishikori beat and 2017 champion Grigor Dimitrov had straight-set wins earlier to set up a quarterfinal showdown – a rematch of their final in 2017. Also advancing were fifth-seeded Milos Raonic and seventh-seeded Alex De Minaur.

Anett Kontaveit beat fourth-seeded Petra Kvitova 7-5, 7-6 (1) to reach the women’s quarterfinals, and Anastasija Sevastova advanced to a quarterfinal match against U.S. Open champion Naomi Osaka.

Fifth-seeded Karolina Pliskova had a 7-5, 6-2 win over Marie Bouzkova and will next meet Ajla Tomljanovic, who beat Johanna Konta 6-2, 7-6 (2). Donna Vekic ousted No. 6 Kiki Bertens 7-6 (5), 1-6, 7-5 and will take on Sasnovich in the quarterfinals.

The absence of Nadal, who was replaced in the draw by Taro Daniel, and Murray puts more focus on the Nishikori-Dimitrov quarterfinal match. Nishikori opened his year with a 7-5, 6-2 win over Denis Kudla.

The sixth-seeded Dimitrov, who beat Nishikori in the 2017 final here, had to withstand a late comeback from John Millman before winning 6-3, 6-4. He’s using the quarterfinal match as a barometer for where his preparations stand for the Australian Open.

“It’s great. I mean it’s right off the blocks,” Dimitrov said. “It’s perfect to play a match like that to kind of see where your game is at.”

Federer off to winning start in bid for 10th Halle title

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HALLE, Germany (AP) Roger Federer began his bid for a record-extending 10th Halle Open title with a 7-6 (1), 6-3 win over Australia’s John Millman on Tuesday, with defending champion Borna Coric also advancing.

Federer, who lost to Coric in last year’s final, hit nine aces and saved the only break point he faced to beat Millman in 1 hour, 17 minutes.

Federer next faces Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who defeated French compatriot Benoit Paire 6-4, 7-5 at the grass-court tournament.

Federer already has the best grass-court record in the Open era with 18 titles, and the 37-year-old can set a personal record with his 10th at a single event in Halle.

Federer and Tsonga played only once before on grass, with the French player coming from two sets down to win at Wimbledon in 2011.

The fourth-seeded Coric defeated Spain’s Jaume Munar 7-6 (2), 6-3 and will next face Portuguese qualifier Joao Sousa in the second round.

Italy’s Matteo Berrettini, who won the Stuttgart Open on Sunday, defeated Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-4, 6-4 for a second-round meeting with compatriot Andreas Seppi.

Seppi beat Mats Moraing 6-4 (7), 6-4.

Other winners Tuesday included Roberto Bautista Agut, David Goffin, Richard Gasquet, Sergiy Stakhovsky and Jan-Lennard Struff.

Top-ranked Osaka gets 1st-round win in Birmingham on grass

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BIRMINGHAM, England (AP) A day after saying she was “not really that comfortable” playing on grass, top-ranked Naomi Osaka needed three sets to get past her first-round opponent at the Birmingham Classic on Tuesday.

Osaka lost the second set to Maria Sakkari of Greece before recovering to win 6-1, 4-6, 6-3, for only her 11th tour-level victory on grass.

“I was kind of screaming on the inside during that entire match,” Osaka said in her on-court interview. “I got lucky a little bit, I guess.”

Osaka has yet to make it past the third round at Wimbledon, which starts on July 1.

“I felt better than the two practice days,” Osaka said. “And I feel every day that I play on grass of course I’m going to learn how to play better, but for now I’m just really happy I was able to win that match.”

Osaka needs to reach the final in Birmingham to guarantee holding on to top spot in the rankings heading into Wimbledon.

“During my entire clay season, it kind of mattered and I think it showed because I was kind of stressed out the entire time,” she said. “So, now, I’m just having fun. I’m enjoying it. And I know that if I play well, then I’ll be No. 1.”

Osaka will next face Yulia Putintseva, who defeated Britain’s Harriet Dart 6-1, 6-4.

Rain washed out much of the schedule Tuesday, with second-seeded Ashleigh Barty – the newly crowned French Open champion – among those who will have to try again on Wednesday.

Julia Goerges recovered to defeat Dayana Yastremska 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 while former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko eased past Wimbledon junior champion Iga Swiatek 6-0, 6-2 and will now face Johanna Konta.

Kristyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic set up a first tour-level meeting with her twin sister, Karolina, by defeating Viktoriya Tomova 6-3, 6-4.