Fognini, Sinner advance in straight sets at Monte Carlo

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MONACO — Fabio Fognini opened the defense of his Monte Carlo Masters title with a 6-2, 7-5 victory over Miomir Kecmanovic Tuesday as second-ranked Daniil Medvedev withdrew from the clay-court tournament after testing positive for COVID-19.

The 15th-seeded Fognini was set to start his campaign Monday but rain delayed his return by a day. Back on the stage of his biggest success two years earlier, Fognini advanced to the second round after hitting 27 winners.

The Italian baseliner triumphed on the Riviera in 2019, beating 11-time champion Rafael Nadal on his way to the title. The tournament was canceled last year because of the pandemic.

“It is really special because I was born here, I was born in (nearby) San Remo,” said Fognini, reflecting on his return. “I was practicing here since I was 14 years old. I have a lot of memories here.”

Fognini will face Australia’s Jordan Thompson in the second round.

Italian teenager Jannik Sinner, who was runner-up in Miami this year, also progressed to set up a mouth-watering contest with top-ranked Novak Djokovic. Sinner defeated 2017 runner-up Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-3, 6-4.

Djokovic will be playing for the first time since winning his ninth Australian Open title in February.

Nadal is also playing in the tournament, chasing a record-extending 12th title here. He has recovered from a back injury and will be playing in only his second tournament of the season following a quarterfinal exit at the Australian Open.

“I am good. Honestly, I am confident. I am playing well,” Nadal said. “It’s true that I didn’t play much. At the same time, (it) is true that I had good success in the past without playing much.”

Earlier, second-ranked Daniil Medvedev withdrew from the first major clay-court tournament of the season following a positive COVID-19 test. Organizers said Medvedev was placed in isolation.

“It’s a big disappointment not to play in Monte Carlo,” Medvedev said. “My focus is now on recovery and I look forward to getting back out on Tour as soon and as safely as possible.”

Fourth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas advanced to the third round with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Aslan Karatsev and will take on either John Millman or 16th-seeded Cristian Garin for a spot in the quarterfinals.

Alcaraz loses to Goffin in 1st match as No. 1

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ASTANA, Kazakhstan — Carlos Alcaraz’s first match as the No. 1-ranked player ended with a straight-set loss to David Goffin at the Astana Open.

The 19-year-old Spaniard lost 7-5, 6-3 in his first tour match since winning the U.S. Open and capturing the No. 1 ranking.

“David was playing really, really well. To come back to competition is never easy,” Alcaraz said. “It’s really tough for me, for my confidence.”

Alcaraz came from 5-2 down to level the first set at 5-5, only to be broken again by his Belgian opponent.

“When you play against the World No. 1 on a big stage, big crowd, the fire inside gives you so much power to play your best tennis because you don’t have any choice,” Goffin said. “You have to fight and give your best and that was the case today.”

Second-seeded Daniil Medvedev and No. 3-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas both avoided similar upsets. Medvedev beat Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain 6-3, 6-1 and Tsitsipas ousted Kazakhstan’s Mikhail Kukushkin 6-3. 6-4.

Kasatkina knocks out Raducanu at Agel Open

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OSTRAVA, Czech Republic — Fifth-seeded Daria Kasatkina defeated 2021 U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu 7-5, 6-4 to advance to the second round of the Agel Open.

Kasatkina was playing her first match since losing in the first round of the U.S. Open and will next face Ekaterina Alexandrova.

Sixth-seeded Belinda Bencic of Switzerland rallied to eliminate former top-five player Eugenie Bouchard of Canada 6-7 (7), 6-1, while Aliaksandra Sasnovich upset eighth-seeded Jelena Ostapenko 6-2, 6-2.

American qualifiers Alycia Parks and Catherine McNally both advanced. Parks upset Czech Karolina Pliskova 6-0, 7-6 (3) and McNally eased past Anna Blinkova 6-1, 6-2 at the indoor hardcourt event in the Czech eastern city of Ostrava.