Alcaraz and Norrie into Rio semis, eye 2nd final in 2 weeks

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RIO DE JANEIRO – A rematch is in sight for Carlos Alcaraz and Cameron Norrie in the Rio Open final.

Both advanced to the semifinals of the clay-court tournament and could repeat last weekend’s Argentina Open decider, which the Spaniard won.

Defending Rio Open champion Alcaraz beat Dusan Lajovic 6-4, 7-6 (0). He will take on Nicolas Jarry, who topped Sebastian Baez 6-3, 7-6 (3).

The Chilean was suspended for doping for 11 months in 2020 and is trying climb back in the rankings since February of last year. His best ranking was No. 38, but today he is now No. 139.

Once again, the 19-year-old Alcaraz did not play his best tennis in Brazil, as in his first two matches, but still prevailed. Unforced errors, difficulties with the first service and less energy than the usual were evident throughout the Spaniard’s match against Lajovic.

Alcaraz, who won last year’s U.S. Open for his first major, is playing his second tournament since a right leg injury that sidelined him for four months.

Alcaraz and Jarry have never played each other in a tour match.

“I feel I am at a great level physically, I am playing tough, demanding matches day after day,” Alcaraz said. “Last year I was at a great level, winning here, Miami, other tournaments. I can still improve what I am doing now, obviously.”

Second-seeded Norrie overcame Bolivia’s Hugo Dellien 4-6, 6-1, 6-4. The British player will next take on Bernabe Zapata Miralles, who beat Spanish compatriot Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-4, 2-6, 6-4.

“I had a very slow start, I didn’t make a lot of returns, which is pretty unlike me,” Norrie said. “I was fortunate to stay patient.”

Martina Navratilova says doctors told her she is cancer-free

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LONDON — Martina Navratilova returned to TV work at Tennis Channel for its coverage of the Miami Open, less than three months after saying she had throat cancer and breast cancer.

“It’s great to be back. … Thrilled to be here,” said the 18-time Grand Slam singles champion and member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame. “So happy to be working. How many people can say that?”

The 66-year-old Navratilova said her sense of taste disappeared during the treatment for cancer and she lost 15 pounds. She did not appear on television during the Australian Open in January or the BNP Paribas Open this month.

“It puts you face-to-face with your mortality, No. 1, because at the beginning, I wasn’t sure if it was treatable, so that was hard,” she said. “But once I got into the program, it was a little easier emotionally, but more difficult physically. … But I’m still standing.”

In an interview with Piers Morgan on TalkTV scheduled to air Tuesday, Navratilova said she has been told by doctors that, “as far as they know, I’m cancer-free,” and that she should be “good to go” after some additional radiation treatment.

According to The Sun newspaper, Navratilova also told Morgan that when she was diagnosed, “I was in a total panic for three days, thinking I may not see next Christmas” and came up with a bucket list of things she wanted to do.

She noticed an enlarged lymph node in her neck while attending the season-ending WTA Finals in Fort Worth, Texas, in November, and a biopsy showed early stage throat cancer. While Navratilova was undergoing tests on her throat, she said, the unrelated, early stage breast cancer was discovered.

Navratilova was diagnosed with a noninvasive form of breast cancer in 2010 and had a lumpectomy.

She won 59 Grand Slam titles overall, including 31 in women’s doubles and 10 in mixed doubles. The last was a mixed doubles championship with Bob Bryan at the 2006 U.S. Open, a month shy of her 50th birthday.

Navratilova originally retired in 1994, after a record 167 singles titles and 331 weeks at No. 1 in the WTA rankings. She returned to the tour to play doubles in 2000 and occasionally competed in singles, too.

Alcaraz wins Indian Wells over Medvedev, regains No. 1 rank

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INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – Carlos Alcaraz defeated Daniil Medvedev 6-3, 6-2 to win the BNP Paribas Open title and regain the world’s No. 1 ranking.

The 19-year-old Spaniard will move from second to first in the ATP Tour rankings on Monday, displacing Novak Djokovic. The Serb withdrew from Indian Wells before the tournament began when he couldn’t gain entry to the U.S. because he’s unvaccinated for COVID-19.

“For me, it’s a dream come true again,” Alcaraz said. “Obviously being in front of such great players like Novak, it’s an amazing feeling.”

“I would say this has been the perfect tournament,” he said.

In the women’s final, Elena Rybakina beat Aryna Sabalenka 7-6 (11), 6-4 and handed the world’s second-ranked player just her second loss this year.

Last year, Alcaraz became the youngest man to reach No. 1 in ATP history after his title at the U.S. Open.

He achieved another mark in the third round at Indian Wells. That’s when Alcaraz notched his 100th career match victory, the second-quickest player behind John McEnroe to do so.

Alcaraz also became the first man to win the tournament without dropping a set since Roger Federer in 2017 and the youngest man to win the title in the desert.

“I really trust in every shot that I hit,” he said. “If I miss, I don’t mind.”

Alcaraz hit 19 winners and had 10 unforced errors while keeping Medvedev off-balance with a steady array of serve-and-volley and drop shots. The teenager never faced a break point while opening leads of 3-0 in the first set and 4-0 in the second.

“What I improve a lot is to don’t take the pressure, just to play relaxed,” Alcaraz said. “That’s why I show a great level, because I feel like I have no pressure. I enjoy. I’m playing relaxed.”

Medvedev’s 19-match winning streak ended. It went back to his title run in Rotterdam in February. He then won tournaments in Doha and Dubai.

“I want to congratulate you for the work you have done in the last few months,” Alcaraz told his opponent. “Winning three titles in a row and reaching the finals here is an amazing achievement.”

Alcaraz and Rybakina earned $1,262,220 each for their wins.

Rybakina carried the momentum from her straight-set semifinal upset of top-ranked Iga Swiatek into the final and beat Sabalenka for the first time in five career meetings.

For the first time in their budding rivalry, the match didn’t go three sets. Sabalenka went the distance to beat Rybakina in the Australian Open final in January. In that match, Sabalenka fired 17 aces and rallied from a set down to win her first Grand Slam title.

This time, the 10th-seeded Rybakina had seven aces and No. 2 seed Sabalenka committed 10 double faults. Sabalenka won just 11 of 35 second-serve points.

“I would say that I was super disappointed with my serve, so I was back to old habits,” she said. “I was like a little bit overreacting on things, and I wasn’t there in the first two games in the second set.”

Rybakina broke for leads of 2-0 and 5-2 in the second set before Sabalenka closed to 5-4. But Rybakina served out the victory in just over two hours.

“This tiebreak was really epic, I would say, with all these double faults and nerves,” Rybakina said. “In the end, it was just focusing on every point and try to fight till the end.”

Rybakina improved her match record to 16-4 this year; Sabalenka fell to 17-2.

“This tough loss will motivate me more because I don’t like to lose in the finals,” Sabalenka said. “This is the worst.”

During the victory ceremony, Rybakina, the current Wimbledon champion, told the crowd it was the first time she’d beaten Sabalenka.

Sabalenka stepped forward, took the mic and said, “I will make sure it was the last one.”

Then she smiled.