Rafael Nadal saves 4 match points to advance

Mutua Madrid Open
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MADRID – Rafael Nadal saved four match points before outlasting David Goffin in three sets to reach the Madrid Open quarterfinals.

Nadal needed more than three hours to win 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (9) in only his second match after an injury layoff.

Nadal’s 1,050th career victory came after Andy Murray withdrew from his match against Novak Djokovic because of a stomach illness.

The fourth-ranked Nadal had beaten the 32nd-ranked Miomir Kecmanovic in straight sets in his opening match at the clay-court tournament, his first after missing six weeks because of a rib stress fracture.

“I knew before I arrived that this was going to be a complicated week,” Nadal said. “Whatever happens now, to win two matches here is fantastic news for me.”

Nadal was up 5-3 in the second set before being broken twice and squandering a couple of match points to allow Goffin to even the match. He also struggled in the third and faced four match points in the tiebreaker. The first was saved with an ace, and Goffin hit the net on the second. On the next two, Nadal needed a couple of perfectly executed drop shots to stay in the match.

“It was an incredible end to the match, but it should have never gotten to that point. I had it under control at 5-3,” Nadal said. “But we know that things are not perfect for me right now, I have to accept that. I fought until the end, it’s what I can expect from myself now.”

The third-seeded Nadal will next face either Cameron Norrie or Spanish sensation Carlos Alcaraz, who is celebrating his 19th birthday Thursday.

Goffin’s best appearance in Madrid had been a quarterfinal appearance in 2017, when he also lost to Nadal. The former No. 7 hadn’t played in Madrid since 2019. He won his first title of the season in Morocco last month.

Nadal is the most successful player at the Madrid Open with five titles.

Murray, a two-time champion, announced he had to withdraw not long before he was scheduled to take the court against the top-ranked Djokovic in the third round.

It would have been the first time Murray and Djokovic played against each other since the Serb won the Doha final in 2017.

The 78th-ranked Murray had won his first two matches in Madrid, defeating Dominic Thiem and Denis Shapovalov. The former No. 1 hadn’t won consecutive matches since January and hadn’t played in a clay-court tournament in nearly two years after undergoing hip surgery.

With Murray’s withdrawal, Djokovic automatically advanced to the quarterfinals – his second of the year after losing the Serbia final last month. He had lost in his first match in Monte Carlo in his first tournament on clay this season.

Djokovic’s opponent will be 12th-seeded Hubert Hurkacz, who defeated qualifier Dusan Lajovic 7-5, 6-3.

Djokovic is also trying to regain his best form after not being allowed to play in the Australian Open because he was not vaccinated against the coronavirus. This is only his fourth tournament of the season.

Andrey Rublev, who beat Djokovic in the Serbia final, advanced to the quarterfinals after a hard-fought 7-6 (7), 7-5 win over Daniel Evans in nearly 2 1/2 hours.

Rublev will next face fourth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas, who comfortably defeated Gregor Dimitrov 6-3, 6-4.

Defending champion Alexander Zverev advanced after qualifier Lorenzo Musetti retired with a left thigh injury while losing 6-3, 1-0.

In the women’s semifinals, eighth-seeded Ons Jabeur comfortably defeated qualifier Ekaterina Alexandrova 6-2, 6-3 in just over an hour to advance to the final. The Tunisian is the first Arab player to reach a WTA 1000 final.

The 10th-ranked Jabeur, the only top-10 player left in the women’s draw, had lost five of her six matches against Alexandrova from 2016-2018.

It will be her sixth final, and first since a runner-up finish in Charleston last month.

“This match is going to be different (from the Charleston final),” Jabeur said. “I’m just going to really give my best. I don’t want to regret, saying like, `should I have done this, should I have done that…”‘

She will face either 12th-seeded American Jessica Pegula or Jil Teichmann, who play later Thursday.

U.S. sweeps Uzbekistan, advances to group stage in Davis Cup

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The United States swept its way into the group stage of the Davis Cup Finals, getting the winning point in a 4-0 victory over Uzbekistan from the doubles team of Rajeev Ram and Austin Krajicek.

They beat Sergey Fomin and Sanjar Fayziev 6-2, 6-4, after Tommy Paul and Mackenzie McDonald had won singles matches in Tashkent.

Ram is No. 3 in the ATP Tour doubles rankings and partnered with Joe Salisbury to win the last two U.S. Open men’s doubles titles. But the Americans opted not to use Ram last year in the final round, when they dropped the doubles match in a 2-1 defeat against Italy in the quarterfinals.

Krajicek was making his Davis Cup debut, having reached No. 9 in the doubles rankings late last year.

“They had five great days of preparation, and as anticipated they came out really sharp and got the early break in the first set. And after that it was like two freight trains, there was no stopping them,” interim captain David Nainkin said.

Denis Kudla then beat Amir Milushev 6-4, 6-4.

The winners of the 12 qualifiers being held this weekend advance to the Davis Cup Finals group stage in September, along with reigning champion Canada, 2022 runner-up Australia and wild-card recipients Italy and Spain.

Eight teams will advance to the closing matches of the Davis Cup Finals scheduled for Nov. 21-26 in Malaga, Spain.

In other matches:

France 3, Hungary 2: On indoor hard courts in Tatabanya, Hungary, Ugo Humbert won it for the French with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Fabian Marozsan. Adrian Mannarino had forced the deciding match by beating Marton Fucsovics 7-6 (6), 6-2.

Serbia 4, Norway 0: On indoor hard courts in Oslo, the visitors, playing without top-ranked Novak Djokovic, put away the match when Filip Krajinovic and Nikola Cacic edged Viktor Durasovic and Herman Hoeyeraal 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. Hamad Medjedovic then outlasted Durasovic 6-4, 6-7, 10-4.

Sweden 3, Bosnia 1: On indoor hard courts in Stockholm, Mikael Ymer sent the hosts through by beating Damir Dzumhur 6-1, 1-6, 6-3.

Lesia Tsurenko to face Zhu Lin in Thailand Open final

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HUA HIN, Thailand — Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine reached her first final in four years after the top-seeded Bianca Andreescu retired with a shoulder injury during their semifinal match at the Thailand Open.

Tsurenko, in search of her fifth WTA title, was leading the 2019 U.S. Open champion 7-5, 4-0 when the Canadian stopped playing.

The former world No. 23 fought from 3-5 down to take the first set and reeled off eight straight games before Andreescu retired with a right shoulder problem.

“Bianca is such an amazing player. She is capable of hitting all kinds of shots and gave so much trouble today,” said the 33-year-old Tsurenko, now ranked 136th. “But I was just fighting and I told myself positive things that I can do it. Unfortunately, she had to retire.”

The Ukrainian last lifted a WTA trophy in Acapulco in 2018 and hasn’t been to a final since Brisbane in 2019.

She will face Zhu Lin of China in the final.

“She had some good wins in the Australian Open,” Tsurenko said. “She is one of the dangerous players in this tournament. She is going to give a good fight.”

In the all-Chinese semifinal earlier, Zhu benefited from a barrage of unforced errors from Wang Xinyu and prevailed 6-2, 6-4 for her first WTA final.

The world No. 54 player, who reached the last 16 at the Australian Open in January, relied on her solid baseline game to force errors.

“It was very windy, so I tried to be patient and keep my first serves in,” said the 29-year-old Zhu, who will team up with Wang in the doubles final against Hao-Ching Chan and Fang-Hsien Wu of Taiwan.