Novak Djokovic feels he regained his momentum at the Madrid Open and is aiming to continue building on that at the Internazionali d'Italia next week.

World number one Djokovic clinched a record-equalling 33rd ATP Masters 1000 crown by defeating Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3 6-4 on Manolo Santana on Sunday, his first title on clay since completing the career Grand Slam at the 2016 French Open.

The Serbian had struggled for form since winning the Australian Open in January, losing three of his subsequent eight matches before arriving in Spain.

However, he overcame the in-form Dominic Thiem in the Madrid semi-finals and sealed the title for the third time in his career, making him the favourite to triumph at Roland Garros next month.

"I'm very pleased. I was saying yesterday after the semi-final win it was a very, very important win for me, for my confidence. I wasn't playing my best tennis after Australia so I was looking to regain momentum this week," Djokovic said in an on-court interview.

"I started off well, I didn't drop a set in the entire tournament so I'm very pleased. I played some of my best tennis here.

"[Tsitsipas is] very talented, he beat Rafa [Rafael Nadal] and I think they finished the match around midnight. He had a very late night, I could see he wasn't as dynamic in the movements as he was last night and that's probably due to the long match, but he's had a terrific week.

"It's a big win for me and in this tournament and I'm really looking forward to continue the streak in Rome."

Djokovic paid tribute to his brother Marko, who has acted as coach in the absence of Marian Vajda.

"I'd like to thank my team, my brother Marko, who has the role of the coach this tournament," said the 31-year-old.

"I'm really glad we managed to win the first tournament together as player and coach. You've been great, I love you."

Novak Djokovic claimed his first clay-court title since the 2016 French Open by defeating Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3 6-4 in the Madrid Open final on Sunday.

World number one Djokovic lifted the trophy on Manolo Santana for the third time in his career, moving level with 'King of Clay' Rafael Nadal – who Tsitsipas stunned in the semi-finals – on a record 33 ATP Masters 1000 triumphs.

The Serbian felt he played his "best match" on the red dirt this year by overcoming the in-form Dominic Thiem in the final four and eighth seed Tsitsipas was unable to halt his march to glory, failing to force a single break point.

Djokovic will be hoping to take momentum into the Internazionali d'Italia and then Roland Garros, where he completed his career Grand Slam three years ago and will be aiming to hold all four majors simultaneously for the second time in his career.

Tsitsipas lacked consistency in his groundstrokes during the early exchanges and followed a brilliant cross-court forehand with a wide shot down the line to surrender his opening service game.

Djokovic forced Tsitsipas to play on the back foot and looked sure to secure a second break after taking the first two points in game six, but the Greek responded brilliantly and held when he chased down the world number one's drop shot and sent it back over the net at an acute angle.

The Serbian served out the set and had two break-point opportunities at 1-1 in the second, though he was unable to take either and lost the game when a cross-court backhand as Tsitsipas rushed the net landed in the tram lines.

Tsitsipas displayed great character to keep things tight and make the top seed work, but Djokovic broke his resistance at 4-4 with a tremendous backhand down the line off the 20-year-old's smash from the baseline, followed by an errant forehand from the Greek.

That gave Djokovic an opportunity to serve out the match and, to conclude an intense final game, he handed Tsitsipas his second ATP Masters 1000 final defeat in as many appearances by stepping in and sweeping a forehand into the corner on his fourth match point.

Stefanos Tsitsipas showed incredible spirit and skill to upset Rafael Nadal 6-4 2-6 6-3 at the Madrid Open and reach his second ATP Masters 1000 final.

Greek prospect Tsitsipas outclassed the 'King of Clay' in the opening set, but the tide looked to have turned in his esteemed opponent's favour with a string of four games in succession to seal the second.

But Tsitsipas went two breaks up in the decider and converted his fourth match point to make Nadal, who has fallen at the semi-final stage in his three clay-court tournaments this year, wait for a place in a 50th Masters showpiece.

The eighth seed, who lost to Nadal in his only previous final appearance at this level, will now face world number one Novak Djokovic on Sunday.

Nadal slipped behind in the opening game on a breezy Manolo Santana, but he was immediately gifted a leveller as both players continued to go long on serve.

After a couple of brave holds on either side, the two traded breaks again, with Tsitsipas stylishly outmanoeuvring Nadal and then letting the second seed back in right away.

But the 20-year-old kept the pressure on and was able to hold and take the set after he broke once more, measuring a pinpoint effort out of reach of the despairing Nadal.

Tsitsipas initially appeared set to frustrate Nadal in the second set, too, but a wild forehand handed his opponent a precious advantage that he did not relinquish.

The five-time Madrid champion raced to another gain to take the contest to a decider, though Tsitsipas recovered his composure and was rewarded with a pivotal break in game five.

Tsitsipas brilliantly shaped another opening and sent Nadal into the net at close range for the second break, meaning a riposte from the world number two merely delayed a stunning victory until the end of a marathon next game.

Novak Djokovic was handed a walkover to the Madrid Open semi-finals for the second time in three years as quarter-final opponent Marin Cilic pulled out of the tournament due to food poisoning.

Ninth seed Cilic explained on Twitter that he had experienced "a terrible night dealing with a case of food poisoning" and would therefore be unable to face Djokovic for a 20th time on the ATP Tour.

World number one Djokovic, a two-time winner of the tournament, therefore advanced to a sixth Madrid Open semi-final, where he will face either Roger Federer or Dominic Thiem, who meet later on Friday.

In 2017, Djokovic also reached the semi-finals without hitting a ball at the last-eight stage as his opponent that year, Kei Nishikori, withdrew because of a wrist injury.

Cilic had been on a dreadful run of form prior to this week, winning just one of his previous six matches since the Australian Open.

He needed to stave off four match points against Martin Klizan before progressing beyond the opening round in Madrid, where he then recorded victories against Jan-Lennard Struff and Laslo Djere to reach the last eight.

Simona Halep took a huge stride towards a return to world number one on Thursday as she advanced at the WTA Madrid Open, while top-ranked Naomi Osaka was beaten.

Osaka has struggled to convinced since taking the number one spot with a second consecutive grand slam title at the Australian Open in January, while clay-court specialist Halep is in top form in Spain.

And Halep now knows she will replace Osaka at the summit if she triumphs this week, having seen the Japanese beaten by Belinda Bencic in three sets.

Romanian star Halep, meanwhile, took down Ashleigh Barty 7-5 7-5 to set up a meeting with Bencic.

The other semi-final will be between Kiki Bertens and Sloane Stephens, with second seed and defending champion Petra Kvitova absent after she was blown away by the former in the day's late match.

Stephens defeated Petra Martic in straight sets to move into her first semi-final of the 2019 WTA Tour season.

 

HALEP 'NOT YET 100 PER CENT'

She has been in fine form this week and could be going back to number one, but Halep is still feeling the effects of the hip injury that kept her out of the Stuttgart Open.

"I'm not yet 100 per cent," she told a news conference. "I have one more day of treatment to take, so the energy is not at 100 per cent. But, as we saw, I played very well.

"Maybe it's because I was relaxed and had no expectations - it's always like this. To play the semi-finals here is a very good result for me coming after the disappointment in Fed Cup."

OSAKA DISTRACTED IN DEFEAT

Osaka admitted that the thought of losing her top ranking might have contributed to her defeat.

"I think I was just thinking about too many things," she said. "I wanted to win this match so much.

"Of course, I wanted to win the Australian Open and the US Open, but, for me, I wanted to win this match more because she beat me already before and I just didn't want to lose twice in a row.

"Also people have been telling me, if I get to the semis here, of course I can stay number one. So I wanted to do that and I was thinking about that while I was playing, which wasn't necessarily a good thing."

NO HISTORY FOR KVITOVA

Kvitova, who triumphed last year, was looking to become the first WTA player to win the same Premier Mandatory tournament four times this week.

But it is Bertens who will instead face Stephens, catching Kvitova cold after three prior straight-sets victories. The Dutch star ran out a 6-2 6-3 winner.

"I'll have a game plan and try to figure it out with my coach," Stephens said. "Obviously it's a big occasion, a semi-final."

Roger Federer was forced to save two match points as he battled into the Madrid Open quarter-finals, after Gael Monfils recovered from an appalling start to almost eliminate the world number three.

Federer returned to the clay courts this week and remains on course for a challenge come Sunday after a 6-0 4-6 7-6 (7-3) victory, yet he came extremely close to being beaten in a remarkable contest.

While Monfils has caused Federer problems in the past, he looked to be down and out in their first meeting for almost four years after starting with a miserable bagel that had the Spanish crowd jeering his display.

The 18th-ranked Monfils appeared to be motivated by the vocal criticism and took the second, but he could not close out the third and 20-time grand slam champion Federer scraped through.

Both players served extremely sloppily early on, but Federer was soon in command without moving out of second gear and Monfils' frustration appeared to boil over as a one-sided opening set lasted just 18 minutes.

A huge roar went up as the Frenchman held in the opening game of the second, though, and he then masterfully out-fought and out-thought Federer for an unlikely break.

Monfils' mood looked to be lifted and, while he was soon pegged back after initially withstanding Federer, he kept the pressure on and closed out the set on his opponent's serve.

When some lax play saw the Swiss slip behind in the decider, it was Federer who displayed his anger, thrashing a ball out of the arena as Monfils closed on an improbable victory.

A sublime return drew Federer back level, though, and then he came to the net to bravely hang on at match point, continuing to fend off Monfils to tee up the tie-break.

Monfils started with a double fault and then saw Federer close the door, coming up with some superb defensive work to belatedly win in just over two hours.

Top seed Novak Djokovic maintained his perfect record against Jeremy Chardy to march into the quarter-finals of the Madrid Open.

The world number one has now won 13 matches against Chardy and all 30 sets following a 6-1 7-6 (7-2) victory at La Caja Magica on Thursday.

Djokovic played with a swagger in the first set before Chardy warmed to the task in the second, but was unable to win a set point at 5-4 on Court Manolo Santana.

The 15-time grand slam champion came out on top in a tie-break and will face Marin Cilic in the last eight after winning 81 per cent of points on a first serve that laid the foundations for yet another win over the 47th-ranked Chardy.

Djokovic started with a spring in his step and led 2-0 when Chardy drilled a forehand into the tramlines after maneuvering the Serb to other side of the court.

Chardy was feeling the pressure and gifted Djokovic another break with a double fault, then his frustration heightened as the two-time Madrid champion held for a 5-0 lead after being 0-40 down.

The Frenchman got on the board with a blistering backhand winner on the run, which prompted a thumbs up from Djokovic, but the set was over in only 32 minutes when he fired a backhand wide.

It was a different story in the second set, with Chardy causing the 2011 and 2016 champion far more problems, serving impressively and reducing the unforced errors.

There were no break points in the second until Chardy forced one for the set, but Djokovic's serve got him out of trouble.

An errant forehand in the first point of the breaker from Chardy gave Djokovic the upper hand and he sealed victory with a sublime forehand winner.

A star-studded line-up will contest the Madrid Open quarter-finals after a day for the favourites to savour.

Petra Kvitova and Simona Halep have each won two of the last four titles in the Spanish capital and both are still in the running in 2019.

But it is a stacked field, with world number one Naomi Osaka also in the mix at the event.

Halep enjoyed the most impressive result on Wednesday with a dominant double-bagel thrashing of Viktoria Kuzmova.

FAMILIAR FACES IN THE HUNT

Reigning champion Kvitova won her third Madrid Open title last year, beating Kiki Bertens in the final.

She will take on the Dutchwoman again in the last eight after defeating Caroline Garcia 6-3 6-3.

Halep was at her imperious best against world number 46 Kuzmova, dropping just 12 points in a 44-minute contest.

"I played nearly perfect," said a delighted Halep.

That could spell trouble for Ashleigh Barty, with the ninth seed next in line for Halep.

Barty needed three sets to get past Yulia Putintseva 4-6 6-1 6-2, while Bertens comfortably saw off Anastasija Sevastova 6-1 6-2.

 

OSAKA 'HAVING FUN AGAIN'

Top seed Osaka set up a clash with Belinda Bencic by defeating Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-2 6-3.

But it was the way she felt on court that proved the main talking point afterwards.

She explained: "I'm at a really good place right now, and I don't know, I feel like I'm having fun playing tennis again, which is always a good thing for me and I always play well if I have that mentality."

Bencic, meanwhile, thrashed Kateryna Kozlova 6-0 6-2.

DOING IT HER SLOANE WAY

Sloane Stephens' progress was anything but serene as the American had to fight back from a set down to oust Zheng Saisai.

The 2018 French Open runner-up turned the tide after losing the opener to triumph 3-6 6-3 6-2.

Stephens, seeded eighth in Spain, will meet Petra Martic, who saw her compatriot Donna Vekic retire due to a right hip injury in the third set of their all-Croatian tie.

Rafael Nadal believes Felix Auger-Aliassime is destined for greatness after facing the teenager for the first time on Wednesday.

The Spaniard, who had a stomach bug in the build-up to the match, wrapped up a 6-3 6-3 victory at the Madrid Open, where he is seeking a sixth title.

But Nadal was impressed with 18-year-old Auger-Aliassime, whose aggressive approach underlined his confidence, even if the 30 unforced errors ultimately proved his undoing.

"Felix is a great opponent, a great player and he'll be a great champion," said the 17-time grand slam champion.

"It has been a tough few days with a virus in the stomach. So for me, the main thing was the victory and it happened in straight sets.

"It's been a tough first round and I'm very happy to be through."

Nadal will face Frances Tiafoe in the last 16. 

Rafael Nadal once again demonstrated his class on clay with a straight-sets win over Felix Auger-Aliassime in the second round of the Madrid Open. 

Despite having suffered with a stomach bug in the build-up to Wednesday's match, Nadal was dominant as he secured a 6-3 6-3 success in the Spanish capital.

The 17-time grand slam champion, who has won the Masters 1000 event a record five times, now faces a last-16 showdown with Frances Tiafoe. 

With the roof on Manolo Santana Stadium closed following a spell of rain, it took a little while for Nadal to hit his stride.

His 18-year-old opponent, who overcame Denis Shapovalov in his opening tie, provided stern resistance. 

Indeed, Auger-Aliassime proved to be the primary aggressor in the early exchanges, but a tally of 30 unforced errors took its toll. 

He was also broken at a crucial juncture in the first set, Nadal the beneficiary of some loose Auger-Aliassime forehands as he was left to serve out the set.

The Spaniard carried that momentum into the second, winning the first two games as Auger-Aliassime struggled to cope with Nadal's pinpoint strokes and dominant court positioning.

Auger-Aliassime was already a double break down before he picked up a game against Nadal's serve, but that only delayed the inevitable as the world number two completed the win in a mammoth final game. 

Simona Halep demolished Viktoria Kuzmova as she raced into the Madrid Open quarter-finals with a ruthless double-bagel victory on Manolo Santana on Wednesday.

Former world number one Halep obliterated the unseeded Kuzmova 6-0 6-0 in just 44 minutes, dropping just six points on serve in a clinical display in the Spanish capital.

It is just the second time the two-time Madrid champion, seeded third, has pulled off a double bagel on the WTA Tour and her reward will be a last-eight clash against Ashleigh Barty or Yulia Putintseva.

Kuzmova, 20, won just 12 points in the entire match and was broken to love twice in succession in the second set as she was completely outclassed.

The Slovakian was successful with just 37 per cent of her first serves and won just six points behind it across a dismal display.

Kuzmova also committed 18 unforced errors as Halep claimed her first double bagel since sealing the Bucharest Open title against Anastasija Sevastova in July 2016.

Halep's ferocious start was unchecked by an early pause in play to close the roof due to rain, and she felt the conditions ended up benefitting her.

"[The roof] was good for me because the game was faster and I could play my best style. I think everything went very well for me today. I felt the ball, every single shot," Halep said in an on-court interview.

"I don't think it was [Kuzmova's] best match. Maybe she was nervous before the match a little bit. It's a big tournament and it's not easy to face the top players. I've been in that position. I played my best tennis and I felt good on court.

"I have doubles today [so] I will have to play a little bit more, but it's a good day and I've started well. To be back in the quarter-finals in this tournament means a lot to me."

Roger Federer revelled in a "special" clay-court comeback as he outclassed Richard Gasquet after Novak Djokovic joined him in the third round of the Madrid Open on Tuesday.

You would never have known Federer had not played a clay-court match for three years as he eased to a 6-2 6-3 victory over Gasquet on Court Manolo Santana.

World number one Djokovic made light work of securing his passage into the last 16, beating qualifier Taylor Fritz 6-4 6-2.

Dominic Thiem, on a high after winning the Barcelona Open, moved into round three when Reilly Opelka retired after losing the first game of the final set.

David Ferrer's retirement will have to wait until another day following a 6-4 4-6 6-4 victory over fellow Spaniard and close friend Roberto Bautista Agut in his homeland.

Stan Wawrinka and Marin Cilic were among the other winners at the Caja Magica, defeating Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Jan-Lennard Struff respectively.

 

FED IMPERIOUS BACK ON RED

Federer said he was making his return on the red surface in hope rather than expectation, but he put on an exhibition to topple Gasquet.

The 20-time grand slam champion struck 28 winners and did not face a single break point in a second-round match that was over in 52 minutes, setting up a meeting with Gael Monfils or Marton Fucsovics.

Federer – who last played on clay in 2016 – said: "I grew up on this surface so I feel comfortable about that. I think Richard was also maybe a little bit hurt from his match yesterday, so it was nice seeing him back after so many months being away from the Tour with injury.

"I think for both of us it was a special match being back here in Madrid."

 

DJOKOVIC MASTERS FRITZ

Fritz dumped out Grigor Dimitrov in the first round, but Djokovic was a cut above the American qualifier.

The top seed won through to an encounter with Diego Schwartzman or Jeremy Chardy at a canter, winning 85 per cent of points on his first serve and capitalising on all three break-point opportunities. 

Djokovic said: "I thought the second set I read his serve better and just managed to put an extra ball in to the court and he made a lot of unforced errors.

"And I don't think he was playing at his best today. But I think it was a solid opening match for me in the tournament."

 

FERRER SAVOURING SWANSONG

Ferrer will retire after the tournament on home soil and the wildcard is determined not to bow out with a whimper.

The 37-year-old will take on defending champion Alexander Zverev in the second round after getting the better of his compatriot.

"I'm trying to enjoy the moment I have right now. I want to be with my family and try to enjoy as much as possible the time that I have to play in this centre court." he said. 

"And tomorrow I have another opportunity and I'll go out there to try to enjoy every single feeling that I might experience out there."

It was as if he had never been away as Roger Federer brushed aside Richard Gasquet in his first clay-court match for three years at the Madrid Open on Tuesday.

Federer had said he was making his return on the red surface with hope rather than expectation but he should be more optimistic after dismantling Gasquet 6-2 6-3.

The 20-time grand slam champion struck 28 winners and did not face a break point, breezing into the third round in only 52 minutes on Court Manolo Santana.

Federer, in action for the first time since claiming his 101st ATP singles title at the Miami Open in March, produced an imperious exhibition and will face either Gael Monfils or Marton Fucsovics in the last 16.

The fourth seed, champion at the Caja Magica on three occasions, hit the ground running and was break up at 2-0 when Gasquet ballooned a backhand into the crowd following a double fault.

Federer did not give the Frenchman a look-in as he served magnificently and conjured up two exquisite drop shots for a break point at 5-2, taking the set when his opponent tried one of his own but failed to clear the net.

The two traded punches from the baseline with their stylish backhands and Federer had to bide his time for a break-point opportunity in a tight second set.

A thunderous forehand followed by an overhead volley gave Federer the break for a 5-3 lead and the Swiss served it out with ease, converting his first match point and improving his record against Gasquet to 18-2.

Angelique Kerber has been forced to withdraw from the Madrid Open with an ankle injury.

The three-time grand slam champion, who has not been past the quarter-finals at the French Open in her career, revealed on Tuesday that she twisted her right ankle in practice.

Kerber had been set to face Petra Martic later in the day, having defeated Lesia Tsurenko in the first round, but the Croatian will now advance to the next stage of the tournament.

And Kerber was concerned about how the injury will set her up for the rest of the season on clay, with the Italian Open and the French Open at Roland Garros to come later in the month.

"It's not the best clay court preparation," she told a news conference. "I was looking forward this year to the clay court season and now, first with the virus, now with the ankle, it's not really a good sign.

"Hopefully I can be ready for the next big ones. I hope there are big chances to play in Rome. I still have a few days to go.

"I have to say now, to see the next few days how it's recovered, how I feel the pain or what exactly it is at home.

"It's still one week and if it would be tomorrow, or two days, I would say the chances are not so good. But if it is one week, the chances are bigger."

Describing the issue, Kerber added: "I think it's not too serious, but I'm not able to give today everything and that's why I decide to be safe for the rest of the clay court season.

"I cannot really walk without pain, so this is why I really said, 'Okay, it's better to not risk it,' because I feel it when I'm walking and this is a not a good sign to going on court and giving everything, two or three hours running out there."

Naomi Osaka survived three sets against Sara Sorribes Tormo at the Madrid Open on Tuesday despite a wildly inconsistent performance.

The world number one dictated the outcome of the match with her errors too often letting Sorribes Tormo in, while some outstanding pieces of play contributed to the eventual 7-6 (7-5) 3-6 6-0 result.

Osaka questioned any criticism of her form at the Stuttgart Open, but this display too often slipped below the standards expected of a two-time grand slam champion in the opening two sets, with the 73rd-ranked Sorribes Tormo threatening to capitalise.

A one-sided third gave the scoreline some gloss, yet tougher tests lie ahead.

After breaking early, some extremely sloppy play from Osaka opened the door for the Spaniard and the favourite lost her advantage by blasting long from the third break-point opportunity.

A strange display continued as Osaka followed up each brilliant winner with a wayward shot, wearing a bemused expression as a second lead - earned with a stunning forehand down the line - was again immediately wiped out.

Osaka managed to build on an early advantage in the tie-break, edging the opener, only to see her momentum checked by more errors after briefly leading the second.

All composure looked to have been lost as she was broken to love and a double fault gave Sorribes Tormo a third break of the second set, taking the match to a decider.

A fortunate break at the net gave Osaka control again, though, and she finally kicked on, showing just what she is capable of in a ruthless finish.

Earlier in the day, Simona Halep came through a testing first set to dispatch Johanna Konta 7-5 6-1.

Konta was on top initially and broke in Halep's second game before being pegged back. The Briton dug in and saved two set points serving at 5-4 down, but she bowed to the third seed's pressure eventually.

The second set was comfortable for Halep and she raced to victory, setting up a meeting with Viktoria Kuzmova.

Page 1 of 2
© 2018 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.