Tagged in: Madrid open

Rafael Nadal bounces back with win over John Isner at Italian Open

Once is enough when it comes to beating Rafael Nadal on a clay court.

Throughout his career, Nadal has never lost consecutive matches on his favorite surface and the Spaniard extended that perfect record Wednesday by defeating John Isner 6-3, 6-1 to reach the third round of the Italian Open.

Nadal was coming off a loss to 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz in the Madrid Open quarterfinals last week. After a first-round bye, he improved to 44-0 in matches on clay following a loss on the surface.

Perhaps more importantly, Nadal regained some confidence as he works his way back from a rib stress fracture that kept him out for six weeks before the tournament in Madrid.

While he would clearly love to add to his record total of 10 Italian Open titles, Nadal’s bigger objective is regaining his top form in time for the French Open, which starts in less than two weeks. Nadal has won 13 of his 21 Grand Slam titles at Roland Garros.

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When the match finished, Nadal headed straight to the practice court to hit more balls. He explained that he’s a “bit in a rush” to find his best form “as soon as possible.”

“I need to work as much as I can,” Nadal said. “The match today was not that demanding physically.”

It was essentially decided during one brief stretch.

Nadal struggled on his serve at 3-3 in the first set, missing a forehand into the net then double-faulting to set up break points for Isner. But the American made unforced errors on both of his break-point chances and Nadal eventually held.

In the following game, Nadal broke Isner’s serve when the 6-foot-10 American missed a comfortable forehand volley into the net. Nadal then held at love to close out the first set and broke Isner’s serve in the opening game of the second.

“I finished better than I started — without a doubt,” Nadal said. “He had some chances on the returns. I was in his hands in that moment. Lucky that he missed those shots.”

Nadal improved to 19-0 versus Americans on clay, having been forced to a deciding set only twice — both times by Isner, who pushed Nadal to five sets at the 2011 French Open and three sets at the 2015 Monte Carlo Masters.

Up next, Nadal meets Denis Shapovalov, the Canadian he beat at the same stage last year in a grueling three-set comeback triumph in which the Spaniard saved two match points.

“Super lucky,” Nadal said, reflecting back to playing Shapovalov last year. “I know how dangerous he is. I need to play better than today.”

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Simona Halep beats second-ranked Paula Badosa, returns to Madrid Open last 16

Simona Halep played some of her best tennis at the Madrid Open again in defeating home-crowd favorite Paula Badosa in consecutive sets to reach the last 16 on Saturday for the seventh time in 11 appearances.

The two-time Madrid Open champion had 21 winners as she defeated No. 2-ranked Badosa 6-3, 6-1 on the Caja Mágica center court.

“I knew that I have to be for every point focused and to give everything I have, and I did it great today,” the 21st-ranked Halep said. “I’m really pleased with the way I played.”

Badosa, at a career-high ranking, converted only one of her seven break points versus Halep. The Spanish player broke through on home soil last year with a run to the Madrid semifinals as a 62nd-ranked wild card. “She’s played at a really good level, all of her merit, and I haven’t played very well,” Badosa said.

“I missed absolutely everything. That’s why I was only able to win four games. … At the important moments, the ball fell her side, and at the end of the day we just have to give her an applause. That’s why she’s a champion in this sport.”

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Halep won consecutive titles in Madrid in 2016 and 2017, and she was runner-up in 2014 and 2019.

She has 29 main-draw wins, behind only the 31 she has at the Australian Open and Roland Garros. Only three-time champion Petra Kvitova has won more main-draw matches than Halep in Madrid, with 32.

“I’m happy to be on court, and this is the most important thing at this age,” the 30-year-old Halep said. “I improved a lot in these four weeks, and I’m still looking to improve more. I will take this match as, you know, a boost and confidence, because I played with one of the best players in the world.”

Unseeded in Madrid for the first time in nine years, Halep hadn’t played since Indian Wells in March. The Romanian player has been showing a more aggressive game under new coach Patrick Mouratoglou.

“I know is the way I want to play, we want to play,” she said. “We talked about it, and I trust 100% what Patrick tells me about the game. So I’m really happy and pleased that actually I can do it on court, because it’s different when you practice and with the official match. So the fact I could do it in the official match with one of the best players in the world gives me confidence.”

Another former No. 1, Victoria Azarenka, rallied past Tamara Zidansek 3-6, 6-1, 6-3 in 2 hours, 20 minutes in her first match since the third round in Miami, where she retired for personal reasons.

Azarenka hadn’t obtained consecutive matches since the Australian Open. The two-time Grand Slam champion, seeded 15th in Madrid, last made it to the round of 16 in 2016.

Eighth-seeded Ons Jabeur defeated Varvara Gracheva 7-5, 0-6, 6-4, and Belinda Bencic defeated Karolina Muchova 6-3, 4-6, 7-5. American Amanda Anisimova also needed three sets to rally past Petra Martic.

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Rafael Nadal cruises past teen sensation Carlos Alcaraz in Madrid Open

In a much-anticipated clash of generations, Rafael Nadal showed he is still clearly the man to beat in Spanish tennis, cruising to a 6-1, 6-2 victory over teenage sensation Carlos Alcaraz in the second round of the Madrid Open on Wednesday.

Nadal, seeking his sixth title in Madrid and looking to regain top form ahead of the French Open, was never threatened by Alcaraz, who turned 18 on Wednesday.

In the women’s draw, Paula Badosa defeated Belinda Bencic 6-4, 7-5 to become the first Spanish woman to reach the semifinals in Madrid. She will face top-ranked Ashleigh Barty, who got past Petra Kvitova 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.

The 120th-ranked Alcaraz was coming off his first victory at a Masters 1000 event and had called the match versus his idol a “dream come true.” He has been touted by many as the successor to the 34-year-old Nadal.

After the crowd at the “Magic Box” center court sang “Happy Birthday” to him, Alcaraz squandered a break point in the first game and then struggled to keep up with the 20-time Grand Slam champion. The wild-card entry was hampered by unforced errors, earning his lone break toward the end of the second set.

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Alcaraz needed medical attention in the third game after losing a long rally, apparently hurting his arm or shoulder while going for an overhead smash.

The two Spaniards had never played a match against each other but practiced together at the Australian Open, where Alcaraz reached the second round.

“It was a difficult match against a youngster who has been playing very well and who has an enormous potential ahead of him,” Nadal said Wednesday. “All he needs is some time. In addition to being a great tennis player, he also has great values, which is something society needs right now.”

After the match, tournament director Feliciano Lopez, who lost to Alcaraz in the Andalucia Open last month, brought out a birthday cake, and Nadal also joined the celebration.

“It’s amazing to spend my birthday playing against Rafa, learning from him,” Alcaraz said. “It could (be) better if I could win, but I really enjoy (it). I think this match made me grow up as a player.”

Nadal will next face Australian qualifier Alexei Popyrin, who defeated Jannik Sinner 7-6 (5), 6-2. Fourth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas, who lost to Nadal in the Barcelona final, advanced to the third round by beating Benoit Paire 6-1, 6-2.

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Murray, Bertens win virtual Madrid Open titles

The inaugural Madrid Open Virtual Pro tournament turned into a showcase event for Andy Murray and Kiki Bertens.   

Murray won the men’s side of the bracket, though he was given a stiff test from David Goffin before prevailing 7-6 in the championship match. 

Bertens had no such problems in the women’s championship match, cruising past Fiona Ferro 6-1 to virtually defend her Madrid Open title.

Murray got a bye into the final when his semifinal competitor Diego Schwartzman had internet issues that prevented him from connecting to the Playstation’s online server. 

Per Tennis.com, Murray and Schwartzman played offline in a match that Schwartzman actually won 10-6 in a super-tiebreaker, but the Argentinian decided to let Murray move forward.

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“We need to talk with the organization to fix this,” Schwartzman said, via Tennis.com. “You deserve to be in the final. We need to split the prize money we share to the foundations. And then you play the final. I think it’s going to be better for TV for everyone. If you are in Europe, the transmission is better.”

After his first unofficial loss of the tournament, Murray rebounded to hold off Goffin with a forehand winner on match point. 

The win marks Murray’s first tournament victory of any sort since the European Open last October. He didn’t appear in any official ATP events this year due to an injured pelvis.  

Bertens ended Caroline Wozniacki’s comeback in the semifinal with a 7-5 victory. She had a difficult final hurdle to get over to defend her title. Ferro went undefeated in group play and survived a tiebreak versus Donna Vekic in the quarterfinal. 

The women’s championship match didn’t offer nearly as much drama for Bertens as her semifinal bout. Ferro does have a gripe about match point when the connection lagged, keeping her from being able to return Bertens’ serve.

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