Rafael Nadal not worried after Madrid exit, keeps focus on Paris

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MADRID — Rafael Nadal wasn’t losing any sleep after his loss to Carlos Alcaraz in the quarterfinals at the Madrid Open.

His focus hasn’t changed. It’s still all about getting ready for the French Open in a few weeks.

“I accept this loss naturally and with tranquility,” Nadal said after a three-set defeat. “I’m know the path I have to stay on so I can arrive (in Paris) with real options in two-and-a-half weeks’ time. That’s what I’m working on right now.”

Nadal came to Madrid without being able to prepare properly because of a six-week injury layoff. He said ideally he should have skipped the tournament but in the end was happy with how it turned out.

“I have done what I could,” he said. “I have had better days, worse days. But it has not been a disaster in any case. I have competed with the correct attitude. I have played two, two-and-a-half hours, nearly three, I think three matches, this is a positive outcome.”

The 35-year-old Nadal was trying to win his sixth Madrid Open title. He opened with a straight-set win over Miomir Kecmanovic then needed to save four match points to get past David Goffin in three sets in his second match. He was overpowered in the quarterfinals by the 19-year-old Alcaraz, one of the hottest players on tour this year and considered by many in Spain as Nadal’s successor.

“I was out there with the correct attitude and analyzing every single morning what I had to do to generate options for myself and to improve,” Nadal said. “It’s clear to me what I need to improve. Now is the moment to work and to be confident that things will evolve in the right way.”

The 21-time Grand Slam champion said he has fully healed from the rib stress fracture that kept him from playing in Miami, Monte Carlo and Barcelona. The fourth-ranked Spaniard was off to a great this season start before getting injured, having won three titles, including the Australian Open in January.

“Some days the injuries don’t allow you to do the right things correctly to improve your game,” he said. “You have to prioritize your physical evolution.”

Nadal, who also won tournaments in Melbourne and Acapulco this season, will next play in Rome, where he is a defending champion after beating Novak Djokovic in three sets last year.

After Rome, Nadal will try to win a record-extending 14th French Open title. He lost to Djokovic in four sets in last year’s semifinals in Paris.

The tournament at Roland Garros starts on May 22.

“Just looking forward with optimism,” Nadal said. “We will see what happens.”

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.