Nadal returns from injury with straight-set win in Madrid

May 4, 2022, 12:01 AM | Updated: 4:04 pm
Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates a winning point against Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia during their m...

Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates a winning point against Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia during their match at the Mutua Madrid Open tennis tournament in Madrid, Spain, Wednesday, May 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Paul White)

(AP Photo/Paul White)

MADRID (AP) — Rafael Nadal got off to a good start in his return from injury, defeating Miomir Kecmanovic in two sets to reach the third round at the Madrid Open on Wednesday.

Nadal showed few signs of rustiness in his 6-1, 7-6 (4) opening win at home. He cruised in the first set and recovered in the second after twice losing his serve following a rain interruption.

The victory lasted nearly two hours, but it was fast enough to allow Nadal to watch Real Madrid’s Champions League match later Wednesday night in the Spanish capital. Tournament organizers said Nadal asked to play in the afternoon so his match would not coincide with Madrid’s semifinal game against Manchester City, which the hosts won 3-1 to advance to the final.

Nadal is a Madrid fan and on Saturday gave the ceremonial kickoff at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium before the team clinched the Spanish league title with a win against Espanyol.

The fourth-ranked Nadal had been out for nearly 45 days after a rib stress fracture halted his great start to the season, highlighted by winning his record 21st Grand Slam title with victory at the Australian Open.

“Coming from injury I always need to play many matches to regain my best form,” Nadal said. “Winning is very important to give me confidence.”

Nadal was cruising before getting injured in the semifinals in Indian Wells, where he lost the final to Taylor Fritz for his first defeat of the season. Nadal missed tournaments in Miami, Monte Carlo and Barcelona.

The third-seeded Nadal had been downplaying expectations of winning his sixth Madrid Open title, and first since 2017.

The 35-year-old Nadal looked sharp in the first set, though, breaking serve twice against the 32nd-ranked Kecmanovic. He struggled more after the match was interrupted for about half an hour with Kecmanovic leading 1-0 in the second set as the center-court roof had to be closed. Nadal was broken twice, including while serving for the match at 6-5, but eventually prevailed in the tiebreaker by converting his first match point with an ace.

Nadal could face a quarterfinal against Spanish teenage sensation Carlos Alcaraz, and a semifinal against either top-ranked Novak Djokovic or former No. 1 Andy Murray.

If he wins in Madrid, Nadal will move level with Djokovic on a record 37 titles in Masters 1000 tournaments.

Defending champion Alexander Zverev earlier rallied past Marin Cilic 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, setting up a third-round encounter with American Sebastian Korda.

The third-ranked Zverev is seeking his first title of the season. He lost to Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Monte Carlo semifinals. Zverev also won in Madrid in 2018.

“I thought I played very well. I just lost focus in the first set,” Zverev said. “Marin is a difficult opponent, especially with the altitude here, so I am happy with this match.”

Tsitsipas won his opener 6-3, 6-4 against Lucas Pouille, while eighth-seeded Felix Auger-Aliassime defeated Cristian Garin 6-3, 6-0.

Qualifier Dusan Lajovic upset fifth-seeded Casper Ruud 7-6 (7), 2-6, 6-4, while ninth-seeded Cameron Norrie defeated American John Isner 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-4.

Daniel Evans needed nearly three hours to defeat 17th-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (2).

Marc López retired after losing his doubles match with Alcaraz 6-3, 3-6, 10-7 to Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski. López, who won the Olympic doubles gold medal with Nadal in 2016, is joining the coaching staff of the Spanish great.

In the women’s draw, 12th-seeded American Jessica Pegula defeated home-crowd favorite Sara Sorribes Tormo 6-4, 6-2 to set up a semifinal against with Jil Teichmann, who beat Ukrainian Anhelina Kalinina 6-3, 6-4.

Eighth-seeded Ons Jabeur made her second WTA 1000 semifinal by defeating two-time Madrid champion Simona Halep 6-3, 6-2.

“It’s never easy to play Simona,” said Jabeur, who lost to Halep in Dubai earlier this year. “Really happy with the fact that I took my revenge. I can see that I’m progressing in my game and in other stuff. I hope I can continue with this level to play the other matches.”

The 21st-ranked Halep had 20 unforced errors and only eight winners.

Jabeur will next face Ekaterina Alexandrova, who defeated American Amanda Anisimova 6-4, 6-3.

___

More AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

___

Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Bump & Stacy Show

AP

Associated Press

Thomas, Sun rally from 17 down, beat Mystics 74-72 in OT

UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) — Alyssa Thomas scored 14 of her 23 points after halftime and finished with nine rebounds as the Connecticut Sun rallied from a 17-point second-half deficit Sunday to beat the Washington Mystics 74-72 in overtime. Courtney Williams added 15 points, Natisha Hiedeman scored 14 and Jonquel Jones had 11 points for Connecticut […]
14 hours ago
Scott McLaughlin, center, celebrates in Victory Circle after winning an IndyCar auto race at Mid-Oh...
Associated Press

McLaughlin picks up victory in front of his visiting parents

LEXINGTON, Ohio (AP) — Scott McLaughlin on Sunday picked up his second career IndyCar victory, which may go down as one of the most special wins of his career. The New Zealander won at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with his nervous parents watching from pit lane. McLaughlin had not seen his family in 31 months […]
14 hours ago
FILE - Ryan Lochte, of the United States, bites his gold medal for the men's 200 meters freestyle a...
Associated Press

Ryan Lochte’s 6 Olympic swimming medals up for auction

All of Ryan Lochte’s Olympic silver and bronze medals are up for auction, with the proceeds going to a charity benefitting children. The 37-year-old swimmer earned 12 medals over four Olympics, including six gold that he plans to keep for now. “I’m not one to be all sentimental about medals,” Lochte told The Associated Press […]
14 hours ago
Miami Marlins starting pitcher Pablo Lopez throws during the third inning of a baseball game agains...
Associated Press

Marlins’ López has no-hitter through 6 innings at Nationals

WASHINGTON (AP) — Pablo López of the Miami Marlins has not allowed a hit through six innings against the Washington Nationals. Miami leads 2-0 after Bryan De La Cruz doubled and scored in the third and Luke Williams homered off Erick Fedde in the fourth. López has been far from perfect, issuing three walks and […]
14 hours ago
FILE - Megan Rapinoe waves to fans following the team's international friendly soccer match against...
Associated Press

Rapinoe’s role changing as US preps for World Cup qualifying

Known for her iconic victory pose at the 2019 World Cup in France, Megan Rapinoe’s on-field role on the U.S. national team is changing as the team looks to qualify for the 2023 event. The wily winger is now 36 and admittedly slowing a bit. Off the field, however, Rapinoe is outspoken as ever. “I […]
14 hours ago
Toronto Blue Jays' Santiago Espinal (5) celebrates with first base coach Mark Budzinski after hitti...
Associated Press

Jays coach Budzinski leaves team following daughter’s death

TORONTO (AP) — Toronto Blue Jays first base coach Mark Budzinski will be away from the team following the death of his eldest daughter. Julia Budzinski was 17. “The Budzinskis have been part of our Blue Jays family over the last four seasons,” general manager Ross Atkins said in a statement Sunday. “This devastating loss […]
2 days ago
Nadal returns from injury with straight-set win in Madrid