Nadal reaches Madrid Open quarters, Barty into final

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MADRID — Rafael Nadal got through another young opponent and showed signs he was getting closer to his best form on clay as he defeated Alexei Popyrin 6-3, 6-3 to make it to the Madrid Open quarterfinals.

Nadal overcame eight aces and saved five break points against the Australian. The five-time Madrid champion cruised past Spanish teenager Carlos Alcaraz in the second round on Wednesday.

“There is a lot of young, good players. (It’s) something normal that is happening,” said Nadal, who at 34 is 13 years older than Popyrin. “And, yeah, I’m excited that at my age I am able to keep playing against all of them. They are good. They are talented. They have a great future. For me it’s amazing to be where I am with my age competing with them still.”

Nadal struggled at times against the aggressive style of the 76th-ranked Popyrin but was able to stay in control for most of the match on the Magic Box center court.

“I knew he was coming with confidence, he has this energy that the young players have,” Nadal said. “From what I could do, it was a good match, and I’m happy to make it to the quarterfinals again here.”

Nadal will next face fifth-seeded Alexander Zverev, who defeated Daniel Evans 6-3, 7-6 (3). The sixth-ranked German has won his last two matches against Nadal, though none were on clay.

Third-ranked Daniil Medvedev lost to Cristian Garin 6-4, 6-7 (2), 6-1. The Chilean broke serve twice in the third set to reach his second Masters 1000 quarterfinal. He will face eighth-seeded Matteo Berrettini, who defeated Federico Delbonis 7-6 (4), 6-4.

Earlier, U.S. Open champion Dominic Thiem reached the last eight by defeating Alex de Minaur 7-6 (7), 6-4. The third-seeded Austrian is playing in his first tournament since taking a few weeks off after a slow start to his year.

“There were some good, long rallies. I was many, many times out of breath,” Thiem said. “It was perfect for me to get back a little bit the match rhythm, to run down a lot of balls. As it’s my first tournament, as it’s my way back, a buildup for the next week, it was great for me.”

Thiem’s opponent in the quarterfinals will be American John Isner, who used 29 aces – including two consecutive to clinch the deciding tiebreaker – to defeat sixth-seeded Andrey Rublev 7-6 (4), 3-6, 7-6 (4).

“To be honest, Andrey was the best player,” Isner said. “My serve kept me in the match. It’s been like that a lot throughout my career.”

Fourth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas, who lost to Nadal in the Barcelona final, fell 7-6 (4), 6-4 to Norwegian Casper Rudd, who is coming off consecutive semifinal appearances in Munich and Monte Carlo.

“I’m feeling good, especially here in Europe on the clay. It was a part of the season last year that I was looking extremely much forward to and unluckily it was kind of taken away from all the players,” the 22nd-ranked Ruud said. “This was one of the tournaments that we didn’t get to play last year, so I’m just trying to enjoy the moment and take care of the chances that I get.”

Ruud’s next opponent will be Alexander Bublik, who defeated Aslan Karatsev 6-4, 6-3 to reach his second Masters 1000 quarterfinal of the season.

In the women’s final, top-ranked Ash Barty will face fifth-seeded Aryna Sabalenka, who defeated Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-2, 6-3.

Barty cruised into the final with a 6-4, 6-3 win over wild-card entry Paula Badosa, the first Spanish woman to reach the semifinals in Madrid.

“I know it’s been a big tournament for her, she’s played an exceptional level of tennis,” Barty said. “She served particularly well, being able to control the court with her forehand. I think that was a challenge today. I was trying to neutralize that as best I could.”

Badosa had been the only opponent to defeat Barty since February. Barty has won 16 straight matches on clay and will be playing in her fourth final this year, having won the previous three.

How to watch the USATF Golden Games and Distance Open: Live stream, TV channel, entry lists for Sunday

Find out how to watch the USATF Golden Games and Distance Open this Sunday on NBC
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The USATF Golden Games and Distance Open takes place this Sunday, May 9 at Mt. SAC in Walnut, California on NBC from 4:30-6:00 p.m. ET. Live coverage of the event will also be available on Peacock beginning at 3:15 p.m. ET. Click here to see the full schedule of events and a preview of the most highly anticipated races.

With just one month to go before the U.S. Olympic Trials., Sunday’s event will be this year’s deepest track and field meet yet. Allyson Felix (200m), Shaunae-Miller Uibo (200m), Noah Lyles (200m), Donavan Brazier (800m), Michael Norman (400m), and Keni Harrison (100 mH) are just a few of the biggest stars competing this weekend. In a surprising turn of events, Seattle Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf, who may be trying to qualify for Trials in the 100m, will run on Sunday.

Click here for the entry lists. See below for additional information on how to watch/live stream Sunday’s USATF Golden Games and Distance Open.

     RELATED: Tokyo Olympics – Key dates, events on road to Opening Ceremony


How to watch the USATF Golden Games and Distance Open:

  • Where: Mt. SAC in Walnut, California
  • When: Sunday, May 9
  • Start Time: 4:30-6:00 p.m. ET
  • TV Channel: NBC
  • Stream liveWatch online or with the NBC Sports App

                            RELATED: Who are the fastest NFL players in track’s 100m?

Nibali, Evenepoel among Giro favorites after injury returns

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MILAN — Two of the contenders for this year’s Giro d’Italia title are returning from injury and they are very much at opposite ends of their cycling careers.

Two-time winner Vincenzo Nibali was given the all-clear on Monday to compete following a training crash last month. At the age of 36, it is likely to be his last chance of a third Giro crown.

In contrast, 21-year-old Remco Evenepoel will be riding in his first Grand Tour and hasn’t raced in nine months after a bad crash in last year’s Tour of Lombardy.

The 104th edition of the Giro runs from May 8-30 and consists of 21 days of racing, totaling 3,479.9 kilometers (2,162.3 miles) between the start in Torino and the finish in Milan.

Here are some key things to know about the race:

COMEBACKS

Evenepoel is widely regarded as one of the most promising talents of his generation and the Belgian was talked about as a favorite for last year’s Giro, which was postponed until October because of the coronavirus pandemic.

But Evenepoel hasn’t raced since August after a crash which saw the youngster hit a bridge wall and go over it into a ravine, leaving the Deceuninck-Quick-Step rider with a fractured pelvis and a damaged right lung.

“I think you cannot prepare 100% for a race without racing but that is the risk that we took,” Evenepoel said Wednesday. “I’m just happy to be at the start finally again almost 10 months after the crash.

“So it’s almost one year without racing so my goal here is just to do well in the bunch again, (have) a lot of fun with the guys because I’ve missed racing for too long.”

At the other end of the spectrum, Nibali is looking to become the oldest winner of the Giro.

In possibly his last season of racing, Nibali did not want to miss his home Grand Tour despite undergoing surgery on his wrist just three weeks ago.

“It was a race against time and I’m very happy that I’ve won it,” said the 2013 and 2016 winner. “Since the day of the crash, April 14, I’ve done nothing but think about recovering in order to be at the Giro.

“I don’t have the top condition, which I had hoped to achieve without the crash, and I’ll also need a lot of caution pedaling in the peloton. But now, finally, I can only think about the competition that, now more than ever, will be to experience day by day.”

MAIN CONTENDERS

In the absence of last year’s winner Tao Geoghegan Hart, Egan Bernal will spearhead a strong Ineos Grenadiers team. However, his form is unclear after a back injury which forced him to abandon his Tour de France defense last year.

Another top favorite is Tour of the Alps champion Simon Yates, who led the race for 13 days in 2018, the same year he won the Spanish Vuelta. Yates had to abandon last year’s Giro after testing positive for COVID-19.

Evenepoel’s teammate Joao Almeida was one of the revelations of last year’s Giro, which he led for 15 days. He is is likely to challenge again this year, along with last year’s runner-up Jai Hindley, who was pipped by just 39 seconds by Geoghegan Hart.

THE ROUTE

The 2021 Giro will include just two time trials, at either end of an arduous route from Turin to Milan that also crosses briefly into Slovenia and Switzerland.

There are six stages for the sprinters in the three weeks of racing that also features six mountain finishes, seven other hilly stages, and almost 47,000 meters of climbing.

The general classification will get its first real shake-up on stage 14 with the steepest finish of the race, with the climb up the Monte Zoncolan ending in double digit gradients.

That comes just two days before the Giro’s toughest leg, the so-called queen stage, which includes nearly 6,000 meters of climbing over the Passo Fedaia, the Passo Pordoi and the Passo Giau in the Dolomites before the descent to the finish in Cortina d’Ampezzo. At 2,239 meters, the Passo Pordoi is also the race’s highest point.

After the final rest day, there are three more mountain stages including the penultimate leg, which has also been given the maximum difficulty rating of five stars. The race’s longest route comes on stage 18: 231 kilometers from Rovereto to Stradella.