Halep defeats Gauff to reach Madrid Open quarterfinals

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MADRID — Simona Halep continued to impress at the Madrid Open by overpowering American teenager Coco Gauff 6-4, 6-4 to make the quarterfinals.

A two-time Madrid Open champion, Halep upset No. 2-ranked Paula Badosa in the second round.

The 21st-ranked Halep converted three of her five break opportunities to close out the center-court match against 16th-ranked Gauff. She rallied from a break down in the second set, winning the last five games.

Halep won consecutive titles in Madrid in 2016 and 2017, and was runner-up in 2014 and 2019. She has 30 main draw wins, behind only the 31 she has at the Australian Open and Roland Garros.

“It means a lot because I feel great,” Halep said. “I like the conditions. The people are very nice to me. I will always have a warm welcome. Everyone makes me feel like home.”

Halep will face eighth-seeded Ons Jabeur, who defeated Belinda Bencic 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 in a match interrupted by rain after the second set.

The 10th-ranked Jabeur, the only top-10 woman left in the draw, lost to Bencic at this stage in Madrid last year, and also in the final in Charleston last month.

“I came here to take my revenge,” Jabeur said. “I wish I played like that in the final in Charleston, to be honest.”

On the men’s side, Jannik Sinner saved three match points in beating Tommy Paul 6-7 (4), 7-6 (4), 6-3. The American squandered two match points on serve at 5-3 in the second set, and another while trying to break at 6-5.

“It was a very difficult situation,” Sinner said after the three-hour match on center court. “I’m happy to be in the second round.”

The 12th-ranked Sinner has yet to reach a semifinal in 2022, but reached the quarterfinals at the Australian Open, Miami and Monte Carlo.

The Italian next has Alex de Minaur, who beat Pedro Martinez 7-6 (2), 1-6, 6-3.

Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, coming off his maiden Masters final in Monte Carlo, got past Lloyd Harris after breaking late in both sets of a 7-5, 6-3 victory.

Nikoloz Basilashvili defeated Fabio Fognini in straight sets to set up an encounter with Spanish sensation Carlos Alcaraz, who already has three titles this season: Rio de Janeiro, Miami and Barcelona.

The 18-year-old Alcaraz has been attracting as much attention as Rafael Nadal, who is expected to make his return from injury.

The practice courts were packed at the Caja Magica tennis complex when Alcaraz trained with Novak Djokovic.

The top-ranked Djokovic is scheduled to debut against Gael Monfils, who comfortably defeated Spaniard Carlos Gimeno Valero 6-3, 6-0.

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.