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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.”

Benedetti wins 12th stage; Polanc takes Giro lead

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PINEROLO, Italy (AP) Cesare Benedetti won the 12th stage of the Giro d’Italia on Thursday for his first victory as a professional while Jan Polanc took the overall leader’s pink jersey from UAE Emirates teammate Valerio Conti.

Benedetti, an Italian with the Bora team who has been a support rider for his entire career, was part of an early breakaway then accelerated from a select group of riders in a sprint finish.

“I’ve worked a lot for the others in the past but today I got my opportunity,” Benedetti said. “I’m not (usually) a winner.”

Benedetti required 3 hours, 41 minutes to complete the 158-kilometer (98-mile) leg from Cuneo to Pinerolo, which featured one major climb and another shorter but steeper ascent just before the finish.

Damiano Caruso crossed second and Eddie Dunbar came third, each with the same time as Benedetti. Polanc, a Slovenian who was also in the breakaway, finished 25 seconds behind.

In the overall standings, Polanc leads Primoz Roglic by 4 minutes, 7 seconds. Vincenzo Nibali, one of the pre-race favorites, is fifth overall, 5:51 behind.

“It was a team tactic that I would go in the breakaway so we could have a better control over the race,” Polanc said. “It was also a way to keep the pink jersey in the team.”

Mikel Landa and Miguel Angel Lopez attacked on the first-category climb to Montoso and gained about 30 seconds on the other overall favorites.

Before the stage began, sprinters Caleb Ewan and Elia Viviani withdrew from the race. Ewan won two stages, including the 11th leg a day earlier, while Viviani posted three second-place finishes.

Stage 13 on Friday is one of the race’s toughest, with two category one climbs and one category ascent, along with an uphill finish at the end of the 196-kilometer leg from Pinerolo to Ceresole Reale.

The Giro ends June 2 in Verona.

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Tsonga rallies past qualifier to reach quarterfinals in Lyon

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LYON, France (AP) Former champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga rallied past Canadian qualifier Steven Diez on Wednesday to reach the quarterfinals and extend his perfect record at the Lyon Open.

Tsonga, the 2017 champion, came within two points of losing but finally prevailed 3-6, 7-6 (2), 6-3 on his sixth match point after 2 hours, 42 minutes.

The clay-court event serves as a warmup for the French Open, which starts Sunday in Paris.

“It was good for me to play a long match like this,” Tsonga said. “I haven’t played a match this long for a while. I am not playing my best level, but I am giving everything mentally and that gives me confidence.”

Tsonga will next take on top-seeded Nikoloz Basilashvili, who beat lucky loser Tristan Lamasine 7-5, 7-5.

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