Madrid Open: Nadal cruises past Spanish teenage sensation

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MADRID — In a much-anticipated battle of generations, Rafael Nadal showed he is still clearly the man to beat in Spanish tennis, cruising to a 6-1, 6-2 win over teenage sensation Carlos Alcaraz in the second round of the Madrid Open on Wednesday.

Nadal, seeking his sixth title in Madrid and looking to regain top form ahead of the French Open, was never threatened by Alcaraz, who turned 18 on Wednesday.

The 120th-ranked Alcaraz was coming off his first victory at a Masters 1000 event and had called the match against his idol a “dream come true.” He has been touted by many as the successor to the 34-year-old Nadal.

After the crowd at the “Magic Box” center court sang “Happy Birthday” to him, Alcaraz squandered a break point in the first game and then struggled to keep up with the 20-time Grand Slam champion. The wild-card entry was marred by unforced errors, earning his lone break toward the end of the second set.

Alcaraz needed medical attention in the third game after losing a long rally, apparently hurting his arm or shoulder while going for an overhead smash.

The two Spaniards had never played a match against each other but practiced together at the Australian Open, when Alcaraz reached the second round.

“It was a difficult match against a youngster who has been playing very well and who has an enormous potential ahead of him,” Nadal said on Wednesday. “All he needs is some time. In addition to being a great tennis player, he also has great values, which is something society needs right now.”

After the match, tournament director Feliciano Lopez, who lost to Alcaraz in the Andalucia Open last month, brought out a birthday cake, and Nadal also joined the celebration.

Earlier, second-seeded Daniil Medvedev broke his six-match tour-level losing streak on clay with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 win over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. The third-ranked Medvedev hadn’t played since March at the Miami Open. He will next face Chilean Cristian Garin, who defeated Dominik Koepfer 6-3, 6-4.

Alexander Zverev, the 2018 Madrid champion, comfortably defeated 2014 finalist Kei Nishikori 6-3, 6-2.

“Kei is someone who has done well here, reaching the final and he has beaten me on clay before,” Zverev said. “I’m definitely happy with this performance.”

The fifth-seeded German has reached the Madrid quarterfinals or better in his last three appearances in the Spanish capital. He will next face Daniel Evans, who defeated John Millman 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-3.

Seventh-seeded Diego Schwartzman lost 2-6, 6-4, 6-1 to Aslan Karatsev.

In the women’s draw, Paula Badosa defeated Belinda Bencic 6-4, 7-5 to become the first Spanish woman to reach the semifinals in Madrid. She will face top-ranked Ashleigh Barty, who got past Petra Kvitova 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.

French players get life bans for fixing

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LONDON — Two low-ranked French players were banned from the sport for life after being found guilty of match-fixing by a hearing officer.

Jules Okala, a 25-year-old with a career-best ATP ranking of No. 338, and Mick Lescure, a 29-year-old with a top ranking of No. 487, “admitted multiple charges,” the International Tennis Integrity Agency announced.

Neither player is allowed to compete at – or even attend – any sanctioned event again.

Okala was found guilty of seven match-fixing charges and fined $15,000 in addition to the permanent suspension. Lescure was found guilty of eight charges and fined $40,000 on top of the ban.

The punishments come after both players were involved in law enforcement investigations in France and Belgium, according to the sport’s integrity agency.

Ash Barty wins Australia’s top sports award for second time

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Ash Barty’s Australian Open singles title in January was enough to ensure the former top-ranked player won Australia’s most prestigious annual sports award — despite retiring from the game less than two months later.

Barty has been given The Don Award, named after its most accomplished and famous cricketer Don Bradman.

Barty shocked the tennis world in March when she announced her retirement at the age of 25. The three-time major winner was the No. 1-ranked female player at the time of her retirement decision.

The Sport Australia Hall of Fame’s Don Award is given to an athlete or a team “which has provided the most inspiration to the country through performance and example in the past year.”

Barty (2019, 2022) joins Olympic gold medal-winning hurdler Sally Pearson (2012, 2014) and Olympic champion pole vaulter Steve Hooker (2008, 2009) as a multiple winner of the award.

Barty said she had decided before the Australian Open started that it would be her last major tournament.

“This year was certainly my most enjoyable Australian Open . . . because it felt free,” Barty said in a television interview. “I played without consequence, I played like a little kid. In my eyes, there was no pressure. It was just about me trying to redeem myself, in a way, and playing how I’d always wanted to play – go out there and play like the kid that fell in love with sport.”

Barty said she has no plans to return to tennis.

“In my mind there was never going to be a perfect ending, but it was my perfect ending,” Barty said of her retirement. “It was never about finishing on a win or on a really high emotional feeling. It was just about collectively, I felt it was right.

“Now (that decision) has led to nine months of just an incredible life off the court. It’s been amazing.”

Barty married her long-time partner Garry Kissick in late July. She also golfs frequently and is reported to be playing off a handicap of low single figures.