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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.”

Matteo Berrettini breaks through on grass to win Stuttgart Open

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STUTTGART, Germany — Matteo Berrettini beat Canadian teenager Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-4, 7-6 (11) to win the Stuttgart Open and his third tour-level title on Sunday.

The Italian saved five set points in a second-set tiebreaker and clinched his first title on grass. His other titles came at Budapest in April, and Gstaad, Switzerland, last year.

The 18-year-old Auger-Aliassime previously reached championship matches in Rio de Janeiro in February and the Lyon Open in May – both on clay.

Berrettini won all 50 of his service games during the week in Stuttgart. He did not face a break point against Auger-Aliassime.

Auger-Aliassime progressed to the final in his first professional grass tournament without playing Saturday as compatriot Milos Raonic withdrew ahead of their semifinal due to back problems.

Playing on two surfaces, Vekic reaches Nottingham semis

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NOTTINGHAM, England — Former champion Donna Vekic finally got to play on grass at the Nottingham Open on Friday but had to overcome multiple rain delays and another switch indoors before reaching the semifinals.

The second-seeded Vekic defeated Kristina Mladenovic 7-5, 6-4 in a match played on two surfaces as rain again played havoc with the schedule.

The opening two days were completely washed out before organizers decided to switch the first and second rounds indoors as rain fell for four consecutive days.

Vekic, who won the tournament in 2017, will play Germany’s Tatjana Maria in her third straight semifinal in Nottingham. Maria earlier defeated Ajla Tomljanovic 6-3, 7-6 (7) in the only match completed on grass so far at the tournament.

Also Friday, American Jennifer Brady defeated fourth-seeded Maria Sakkari of Greece 7-5, 6-3 to set up a semifinal against top-seeded Caroline Garcia.

Garcia rallied to beat Romanian qualifier Elena-Gabriela Ruse 4-6, 7-6, 6-1 in the last quarterfinal.