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Rafael Nadal reaches Rome semifinals

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ROME — Rafael Nadal put away Fernando Verdasco 6-4, 6-0 at the Italian Open on Friday, and ought to be a little nervous.

He’s conceded only six games in six sets at the Foro Italico, but he’s reached the semifinals.

Nadal has fallen in the semifinals of his last three tournaments – all on his favored clay. And next up is Stefanos Tsitsipas, whom Nadal lost to in Madrid last week.

“I know what happened last week, and I (am) going to try to do it better tomorrow,” Nadal said. “I have to hold the level or increase a little bit more. If that happens, I (am) going to have my chances. The good thing is during the last month my feeling is every week was better than the previous one.”

Tsitsipas, 20, is up to No. 7 in the rankings.

“Every year, we make (a) prediction with the team which player is going to be at the top 10 at the end of the season,” Nadal said. “I put Tsitsipas there. … He started even better than what I (expected). He deserves to be where he is now.”

Meanwhile, Roger Federer and top-ranked Naomi Osaka withdrew before their quarterfinals because of injuries.

Federer reported a right leg injury ahead of his match against Tsitsipas, while Osaka said her right hand was hurting before she was to play Kiki Bertens.

Also reaching the last four was Diego Schwartzman, who beat Kei Nishikori for the first time in four tries, 6-4, 6-2, to reach his first Masters Series semifinal.

The 24th-ranked Schwartzman will face top-ranked Novak Djokovic or fellow Argentine Juan Martin del Potro.

On the women’s side, Karolina Pliskova rallied past former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-2 and will face one of two qualifiers, Kristina Mladenovic or Maria Sakkari, for a spot in the final.

Bertens, who won the Madrid Open last week, will face Marketa Vondrousova or Johanna Konta.

While Osaka won both of her matches on Thursday in straight sets, the 37-year-old Federer had to labor for more than 2 1/2 hours to overcome Borna Coric in his second time on court.

Federer said after beating Coric that he slid on a wet line and his leg “was hurting a little bit.”

“I am disappointed that I will not be able to compete today. I am not 100 percent physically and, after consultation with my team, it was determined that I not play,” Federer said. “Rome has always been one of my favorite cities to visit and I hope to be back next year.”

Later, Federer added on Instagram: “The fan reaction and crowd energy during my matches yesterday remind exactly why I am still competing on the ATP Tour.”

It’s only the fourth time in Federer’s career he has had a walkover loss, the ATP Tour said, adding the 20-time Grand Slam champion has never retired in 1,465 matches.

Osaka couldn’t immediately say how serious was her injury, or if it will affect her status for Roland Garros, which starts in nine days. She was yet to see a doctor but when she held her hand up for reporters it was clearly swollen.

“I woke up this morning and couldn’t really move my thumb,” Osaka said. “I tried to practice and grip my racket but I couldn’t, and I kept feeling this pain when I tried to move my hand in different directions.”

Osaka’s win on Thursday guaranteed she will remain No. 1 going into the French Open.

“I didn’t feel anything yesterday. That’s why I’m kind of confused right now because I literally woke up in the morning and couldn’t move my thumb,” Osaka said. “So I was like, `Maybe I slept on it and maybe it will go away.’ But it didn’t.”

Osaka also withdrew before a semifinal in Stuttgart, Germany, last month due to an abdominal injury. And she retired from her previous meeting with Bertens at last year’s WTA Finals with a leg injury.

“I feel like the ab thing could have been helped, but this one I don’t think I could have helped it because I don’t know what caused it,” Osaka said. “I don’t know why I have it.”

Defending champs Osaka, Djokovic are No. 1 seeds for US Open

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NEW YORK (AP) Defending champions Naomi Osaka and Novak Djokovic are the No. 1 seeds for singles play in the U.S. Open.

Osaka, who beat Serena Williams in last year’s final for her first Grand Slam title, recently regained the top spot in the WTA rankings from Ash Barty. Barty is the No. 2 seed, followed by Karolina Pliskova, Wimbledon champion Simona Halep and Elina Svitolina.

Williams was given the No. 8 seed Wednesday by the U.S. Tennis Association. Madison Keys, the 2017 runner-up who just won the Western & Southern Open, rounds out the top 10 seeds.

Djokovic, bidding for his second straight major title, is followed by fellow past U.S. Open champions Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. Dominic Thiem is No. 4 and surging Daniil Medvedev, who won the title outside Cincinnati last week in what was his third straight tournament reaching the final, is fifth.

The draw will be held Thursday and main-draw play begins Monday.

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Strycova upset in first match at WTA’s Bronx Open

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NEW YORK (AP) Wimbledon semifinalist Barbora Strycova was knocked out of the Bronx Open on Tuesday with a 3-6, 6-2, 6-1 loss to Bernarda Pera.

Strycova was the No. 3 seed and was playing her opening match in the new WTA tournament after receiving a first-round bye. But the 33-year-old Czech, the oldest player in the field, was handled easily by the American wild-card entrant over the final two sets on a hot afternoon after winning the first set.

Pera will play No. 5 Katerina Siniakova, who had rolled to a 6-0, 3-0 lead over Anastasia Potapova before the Russian qualifier retired.

The other quarterfinal matchup set up Tuesday will feature Camila Giorgi, who outlasted Andrea Petkovic 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (3), against Alize Cornet, who was leading 7-6 (5), 4-0 when Zhu Lin had to retire with an injury.