Rafael Nadal requested that his opening match at the Madrid Open does not clash with his beloved Real Madrid's Champions League semi-final against Manchester City, according to tournament director Feliciano Lopez.

Nadal, who has won the Madrid Open on five occasions, will face Serbia's Miomir Kecmanovic in the round of 32 on Wednesday, the same day Los Blancos bid to overturn a 4-3 first-leg deficit against Pep Guardiola's team at the Santiago Bernabeu.

The 21-time grand slam winner is known to be an avid supporter of Madrid and was invited to take an "honorary kick-off" before Carlo Ancelotti's team wrapped up their 35th league title with a 4-0 win over Espanyol at the weekend.

Lopez confirmed Nadal's request to Spanish radio network Cadena SER on Tuesday.

"Nadal asked us that when Madrid played the Champions League semi-finals that we not play him," Lopez said.

"He likes to play during the day, so that the ball bounces higher. There are [Spanish] tennis players who are not from Madrid. David Ferrer is not from Madrid. Tommy Robredo and Marc Lopez are from Barcelona, Sergi Bruguera is very much from Barcelona… it's very hard to be an anti-Madridista!"

Real Madrid have been eliminated from each of their previous five Champions League semi-finals when losing the first leg – however, Los Blancos have progressed from two of their last three knockout ties when losing the opening match (the 2015-16 quarter-final against Wolfsburg and this season's last-16 tie against Paris Saint-Germain).

Madrid have won the European Cup/Champions League on a record 13 occasions, also finishing as runners-up three times, and Nadal will hope to have a good view if Los Blancos seal a 17th final appearance on Wednesday.

 

Kevin Anderson, the former world number five and two-time grand slam finalist, has retired from tennis aged 35.

The South African, who won seven ATP Tour titles, announced his decision in a Twitter post on Tuesday.

"I don't remember a time in my life when I wasn't playing tennis," Anderson wrote.

"I started on the journey 30 years ago when my Dad put a racquet in my hands and told me if I was willing to work hard, I could be one of the best players in the world.

"Since then, tennis carried me far beyond my roots in Johannesburg, South Africa and truly gave me the world.

"I've experienced so many different challenges and emotions; this sport can be exhilarating and at the same time lonely.

"I've had ups and downs, but I wouldn't change it for anything. My journey helped me become the man who I am today."

Anderson thanked his family, coaches, sponsors and fans before adding: "I am so thankful for the wonderful things that have come my way purely because I was a part of this sport.

"As a kid, my Dad used to tell me that success isn't defined by results, but by the effort and sacrifice you make along the way in becoming the best you can be.

"I gave it my best."

Anderson played the US Open final in 2017, losing in straight sets to Rafael Nadal. He ran into another of the sport's greats in the Wimbledon championship match the following year, beaten by Novak Djokovic.

Anderson's last tour title came at the Hall of Fame Open in July 2021.

Ons Jabuer avenged her recent loss to Belinda Bencic with a win at the Madrid Open, while Coco Gauff is out after being beaten in straight sets in the round of 16 by Simona Halep on Monday.

Gauff joins other big names in exiting the WTA 1000 event, with Naomi Osaka, Garbine Muguruza, Danielle Collins, Paula Badosa and Maria Sakkari among those crashing out in the second round.

The number 14 seed did not put up much resistance against her Romanian opponent, with Halep winning 6-4 6-4 in just 77 minutes.

Gauff struggled on her own serve in particular, making six double faults and only winning 61.5 per cent of her first-serve points, compared to 83.8 from Halep on hers.

The former world number one and two-time Madrid champion will now face the only remaining top-eight seed in the tournament in the quarter-final, Jabeur, who defeated Bencic 6-2 3-6 6-2.

The Tunisian was out for revenge after losing to Bencic at the same stage last year, as well as in the Charleston Open final last month, and took it well as she sealed victory in just over two hours.

"I came here to take my revenge," Jabeur said after the win. "I wish I played like that in the final in Charleston, to be honest.

"Part of me is very proud of myself for coming today and getting the win. Belinda is such an amazing player and it's very tough to play against her. I'm very happy with the level I showed today, and hopefully this level will continue for the rest of the tournament."

Elsewhere, Victoria Azarenka is out after the number 15 seed was beaten 6-1 6-4 by Amanda Anisimova, who will now face Ekaterina Alexandrova in the last eight after she overcame Marie Bouzkova 6-7 (4-7) 6-0 7-5.

Andy Murray swept aside Dominic Thiem in impressive fashion to secure his first clay-court win in five years as the Scot advanced to the second round at the Madrid Open on Monday.

The three-time grand slam champion was largely in control against his Austrian opponent, hitting nine aces and saving all three break points against his serve, while Thiem could only save one of the three he faced as Murray won 6-3 6-4.

He will now play 14th seed Denis Shapovalov after the Canadian beat Ugo Humbert 7-6 (7-1) 6-3.

The winner of that contest will have a last-16 meeting against the victor of Novak Djokovic and Gael Monfils after the latter eased into the round of 32 to set up a clash with the Serbian.

Monfils defeated wildcard Carlos Gimeno Valero 6-3 6-0 in less than an hour, while Alejandro Davidovich Fokina also advanced with a 7-5 6-3 win against Lloyd Harris.

Dusan Lajovic set up a second-round match against fifth seed Casper Ruud, who defeated Borna Coric 6-3 4-6 6-4, and ninth seed Cameron Norrie will go up against John Isner, the Briton having overcome Soonwoo Kwon 7-5 7-5.

An interesting tie awaits the much-talked about Carlos Alcaraz after Nikoloz Basilashvili beat Fabio Fognini 7-5 6-4, with the Georgian to face the number seven seeded teenager next.

Jannik Sinner, the 10th seed, scraped through a hard-fought encounter against American Tommy Paul 6-7 (4-7) 7-6 (7-4) 6-3, and will play Alex de Minaur next after the Australian beat Pedro Martinez 7-6 (7-2) 1-6 6-3.

Diego Schwartzman will take on Grigor Dimitrov in the second round. The Argentine 13th seed beat Benoit Paire 6-2 6-7 (5-7) 6-1, while Dimitrov overcame Maxime Cressy 6-2 7-6 (7-4).

Rafael Nadal has said that Carlos Alcaraz can become one of the best players in the world, ahead of a potential meeting between the two Spaniards at the Madrid Open.

Alcaraz has enjoyed an impressive season to date, having recently added the Barcelona Open to the titles won in Rio de Janeiro and Miami already in 2022.

Following on from that triumph in Catalonia, Alcaraz – who turns 19 on Thursday – became the youngest male player to break into the top 10 since Nadal 17 years ago.

However, one of his three defeats in 2022 came at the hands of Nadal in the semi-finals of Indian Wells in March, with the contest lasting over three hours.

Nadal eventually secured the win in California, 6-4 4-6 6-3, before losing the final to Taylor Fritz.

Alcaraz and Nadal are set to collide once again in Madrid should they both come through their second and third-round matches.

Speaking to Eurosport, Nadal lavished praise on his fellow Spaniard, outlining his belief that Alcaraz can have a very successful career, drawing comparisons with his own illustrious career.

"As everybody knows it's amazing," Nadal said. "He's a big candidate to win a lot of grand slams and become the number one player in the world.

"What he is doing is fantastic so well done for him and I wish him all the very best. He is doing a lot of things similar to me. He is young, he has the passion and the energy. He has every single thing to become a huge star.

"I'm like a Spanish spectator, personally I'm happy to have someone like him to stay on the tour for a long time and achieve a lot of things."

Nadal also gave an update on his own fitness, with his participation in Madrid following a hip injury part of his preparation to try and be ready for the upcoming French Open.

"I'm feeling good in terms of the hip," he said. "That's recovered so now is the time to try to recover the tennis and physical performance. That takes some time so I am here to try to be better and better every day.

"I have been out for more than a month and a half. The amount of practices I've had are just a few, and in this case, I need to be humble enough and accept that it's a process that I need to go through.

"Of course, the big goal now is to try and be ready for the French Open in three weeks."

Alcaraz last week revealed he has taken inspiration from facing Nadal, saying to Spanish talk show El Hormiguero: "I learned about the fighting spirit, of never giving up.

"From that match against him [at Indian Wells] I get the fighting spirit, never give up and fight until the last ball."

Ukrainian former tennis player Sergiy Stakhovsky has questioned Rafael Nadal after the world number four said Russian and Belarusian players should not be banned from playing at Wimbledon.

The All England Club, along with the Lawn Tennis Association, confirmed last month that Russian and Belarusian players would not be able to feature in their tournaments this year, including Wimbledon.

That decision came in the wake of Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine, which was backed by Belarus.

It means that men's world number two and reigning US Open champion Daniil Medvedev, as it stands, will not be competing at the season's third grand slam.

The ATP and WTA both want a rethink of the decision, while Nadal – along with Novak Djokovic – spoke out against the ban. Andy Murray, meanwhile, said he does not support the move, though understands the major's organisers are in a difficult position. 

 

"I think it's very unfair on my Russian tennis mates, my colleagues," Nadal told reporters.

"It's not their fault what's happening in this moment with the war. I'm sorry for them. Wimbledon just took their decision. The government didn't force them to do it.

"Let's see what happens in the next weeks, if the players will take some kind of decision in that regard."

However, former world number 31 Stakhovsky, who returned to his homeland to aid the resistance to Russia's attack, vehemently disagrees.

On his official Twitter account, Stakhovsy wrote: "@RafaelNadal we competed together... we've played each other on tour.

"Please tell me how it is fair that Ukrainian players cannot return home?

"How it is fair that Ukrainian kids cannot play tennis? How is it fair that Ukrainians are dying?"

Stakohvsky told Stats Perform in March that he was driven to fight the Russian forces despite having no formal military training, and left his family to do so.

Andy Murray does not support the ban on Russian and Belarusian players competing at this year's Wimbledon or other Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) tournaments, while Novak Djokovic reiterated his stance.

The All England Lawn Tennis Club recently announced that players from the two nations are prohibited from competing in the British grand slam following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

It means the likes of men's world number two Daniil Medvedev and women's world number four Aryna Sabalenka would miss out on the British swing.

Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have both spoken out against the ban, while the ATP and WTA have also pressed for reconsideration.

Now Murray, a two-time Wimbledon champion who also won Olympic gold at SW19 in 2012, has refused to give the ban his backing.

"I'm not supportive of players getting banned," Murray said in a news conference ahead of the Madrid Open, with the former world number one in action against Dominic Thiem on Monday.

"My understanding of the guidance was that Russians and Belarusians can play if they sign a declaration that they're against the war and against the Russian regime.

"I'm not sure how comfortable I would feel if something happened to one of the players or their families."

 

Murray understands it is a delicate situation, however. 

"I don't think there's a right answer. I have spoken to some of the Russian players. I've spoken to some of the Ukrainian players," he continued.

"I feel really bad for the players who aren't allowed to play and I get that it will seem unfair to them. But I also know some of the people who work at Wimbledon, and I know how difficult a position they were in.

"I feel for everyone, feel for the players that can't play, and I don't support one side or the other."

There has been speculation that the ATP and WTA may sanction Wimbledon, with one possibility being reducing the amount of tour points on offer from the grand slam.

World number one Djokovic, who will be allowed to compete at Wimbledon, where no requirement for a COVID-19 vaccination will be in place for players, is unsure what the next step will be.

He told reporters: "I've spoken to some of the Russian players in Belgrade [at the Serbia Open].

"Obviously, it's not an easy situation to be in. Being stripped of the right to participate in one of the biggest tournaments, if not the biggest tournament in the world, it's hard, I understand that. There is frustration.

"[The] ATP is going to analyse the whole situation and understand what can be done. I have not spoken to people from ATP so I'm not sure about it. I've gone through something similar, it's not the same thing, but something similar earlier this year for myself [when he was denied entry to Australia due to his COVID-19 vaccination status].

"It's frustrating knowing that you're not able to play. I still stand by my position that I don't support the decision. I think it's just not fair. It's not right. But it is what it is, they are entitled to make the decision.

"I guess it's on Player Council, the tour management, to really decide, along with the players, what is the best solution in this situation whether they keep the points, protect the points, take away 50 per cent of the points.

"So I heard that some of those models are still considered to be used in this kind of instance, but I'm not sure what is right, what is wrong, to be honest. I guess we'll have to wait and see the outcome."

Novak Djokovic hopes Boris Becker is able to live a relatively normal life once the six-time grand slam champion has served his prison sentence.

Becker, who became the youngest ever male major singles champion when he won Wimbledon in 1985, was sentenced last week after being found guilty of four charges relating to violations of the United Kingdom Insolvency Act.

The 54-year-old declared bankruptcy in 2017 but was found to have hidden assets and loans in order to avoid paying his debts, which amounted to around £50million.

Becker coached Djokovic earlier in the Serbian's career and the world number one is shattered for the German.

"Heartbroken for him," Djokovic told a news conference ahead of the Madrid Open.

"He is a friend, a long-time friend, a coach for three, four years. Someone I consider close in my life, he has contributed a lot to my success in my career.

"I was just heartbroken. I don't know what to say more than that. It's [not] getting into details of the verdict, because I'm not in a position to do that, but as his friend, super sad for him and there's not much that you can say.

"I just hope that he will go through this period that he has to be in jail and that when he comes out he's being able to live his life as, I don't know if you can use the word normal, because his life is definitely changing. For anybody going to prison, especially for that long of a time.

"So I don't know how things will turn out for him. I just pray for him. I hope things will be well in terms of his health, his mental health, because that's probably going to be the most challenging part."

Former world number one Andy Murray, however, has little sympathy for Becker.

"I feel sorry that he's in that situation, but I also feel sorry for the people that he's affected with his decisions as well and what's happened to them," said Murray. who faces Dominic Thiem in his opening match in Madrid.

"I hope he's okay and that he learns from his mistakes. But I didn't have a particular emotion about it.” 

Rafael Nadal has described Wimbledon's decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players from competing at this year's tournament as "very unfair".

The All England Lawn Tennis Club recently announced that players from the two nations are prohibited from competing in the event following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

World number one Novak Djokovic labelled the decision "crazy", while Billie Jean King and governing bodies the ATP and WTA have also called for a rethink.

Nadal has now joined the ranks of those people questioning the decision, with the 35-year-old saying it is not fair on the players from those countries. 

"I think it's very unfair on my Russian tennis mates, my colleagues," Nadal told reporters.

"It's not their fault what's happening in this moment with the war. I'm sorry for them. Wimbledon just took their decision. The government didn't force them to do it.

"Let's see what happens in the next weeks, if the players will take some kind of decision in that regard."

Nadal will return to action following a rib injury at the Madrid Open in his homeland and the 21-time grand slam winner accepted that it might not be without difficulties. 

"Talking about the injury, I'm recovered, I feel good," Nadal added.

"Talking about my tennis game and preparations, well, it's a completely different story.

"Anyone who has broken a rib knows how limiting it is, very painful, especially the first weeks. I wasn't able to do anything without a lot of difficulties, even to fall asleep because of the pain.

"I have improved compared to when I came here but I still have ups and downs because it's been a long time without being in these kind of situations and it's going to be a difficult week, for sure."

Naomi Osaka joined several other big names in falling to a second-round exit at the Madrid Open, although Emma Raducanu cruised to a routine straight-sets win over Marta Kostyuk.

Four-time grand slam winner Osaka crashed to a resounding 6-3 6-1 loss to Spain's Sara Sorribes Tormo, exiting her first tournament on clay since the 2021 French Open, where she withdrew citing mental health issues.

Osaka, who had posted an underwhelming 20-15 record on the surface prior to this week, looked uncomfortable throughout and appeared to struggle with a leg injury during a disappointing second set display.

The 24-year-old was not the only high profile player to be on the receiving end of a shock during a day of drama in the Spanish capital, as several of the competition's seeds failed to secure places in the last 16.

Another home favourite, Garbine Muguruza, fell to a resounding loss of her own as Anhelina Kalinina raced to a 6-3 6-0 victory over the seventh seed, while sixth seed Danielle Collins was thrashed 6-1 6-1 by Canadian Bianca Andreescu.

Fourth seed Maria Sakkari was the highest-ranked player in action, and although the world number five won the first set of her clash with Daria Kasatkina, the Greek eventually fell to a 3-6 6-3 6-1 loss, while 2021 US Open runner-up Leylah Fernandez went down 6-4 6-4 to Jil Teichmann.

One big name who did make comfortable progress, however, was Fernandez's US Open conqueror Raducanu, who eased to a 6-2 6-1 win over Kostyuk to set up a last-16 encounter with another Ukrainian in Kalinina. 

The 19-year-old, who has been quoted as saying she believes clay could prove to be her best surface in the future, was delighted with her victory and enjoying the tournament after dropping just one game in the second set.

"I'm definitely happy with my performance," Raducanu said on court. "Marta's a great opponent - I knew it was going to be a really tough battle. I went out there trying to be really aggressive and it paid off.

"It's my first clay court season and I'm really enjoying it. Madrid is such a cool city and it's got such a great vibe about it. I definitely want to try and stay here for as long as possible."

There were victories for John Isner and Dan Evans as the Madrid Open got up and running on Sunday.

Big-serving American Isner overcame Filip Krajinovic 7-6 (10-8) 6-4 and will face either Cameron Norrie or Kwon Soon-woo in the round of 32.

Isner is joined in the next round by Evans, who eased past Federico Delbonis 6-3 6-4 to set up a last-32 meeting with either Roberto Bautista Agut or Jenson Brooksby.

Fellow Briton Jack Draper also enjoyed a straight-sets victory, edging out Lorenzo Sonego 6-4 6-3 to book a clash with number six seed Andrey Rublev, who received a bye.

Monday's action will see wildcard Andy Murray face Dominic Thiem and 10th seed Jannik Sinner take on Tommy Paul.

Sebastian Baez sealed a straight-sets win against Frances Tiafoe in the final of the Estoril Open on Sunday.

The Argentinian put in a powerful performance to ease past the American fifth seed, winning 6-3 6-2 in Portugal in just 74 minutes.

It was a fast start from Tiafoe, breaking Baez in the opening game, before the 21-year-old secured back-to-back breaks of his own in the fourth and sixth games to edge ahead, ultimately taking the first set.

The second set started evenly, but from 2-2, Baez put his foot down, again breaking consecutive Tiafoe service games, before serving out for the title.

The first serve was the difference for Baez, making 64 per cent of his compared to Tiafoe, who managed just 39 per cent.

Baez was also more effective when he needed his second serve, winning 61 per cent of points, with his opponent winning only 39 per cent from his own second serve.

Holger Rune won his first ever ATP tour title on Sunday, but admitted it was the "worst way to win a final" after opponent Botic van de Zandschulp retired in the BMW Open final.

Both men were playing in their maiden tour-level final on debut at the ATP 250 event in Munich, and Rune becomes the third-youngest Munich champion in the Open Era.

Eighth-seed Van de Zandschulp was leading 4-3 in the first set, with his Danish opponent serving at 40-15 when the Dutchman retired due to an aching chest.

"This was probably the worst way to win a final,” Rune said. "I was obviously expecting a very tough match and he came out very strong.

"I just wish him all the best, a speedy recovery, and we all just hope to see him back on the court very soon."

Rune, who turned 19 on Friday, had a memorable week in Germany, including securing his first victory against a top 10 opponent when he beat world number three Alexander Zverev in the second round, before also getting past Jiri Lehecka, Emil Ruusuvuori and Oscar Otte on his way to the final.

"I'm super happy, of course," Rune continued. "As I said, not the way I want it to end, but if I look through the week, what a week.

"I played some unbelievable tennis, really fighting my way through it. To be playing here in Munich and winning my first ATP title in front of such a brilliant crowd, I couldn't really ask for more."

Rafael Nadal remains confident that he will be fully fit in time for this month's French Open, despite still suffering from a "very disabling" rib injury.

The 35-year-old has been sidelined since sustaining a cracked rib during the Indian Wells Masters in March.

However, Nadal confirmed last week he intends to make his return to action on home soil at the Madrid Open next week.

And the Spaniard, who won a record 21st grand slam at the Australian Open in January, expects to be ready for Roland-Garros later this month.

"I have three weeks," he said on Saturday. "I trust that the daily training will help me to get ready.

"Here the demand [in high altitude in Madrid] is maximum, but what can be done is going to be done.

"The most important thing is to be healthy, but I think that going to Paris I'm on time. Three weeks is enough time to get competitive."

He added: "I have trained very little, because the rib is very disabling and also very painful. I had two very bad weeks and afterwards it has been very, very disabling.

"I haven't been able to do practically anything, but it's here, at home, in Madrid."

Thirteen-time French Open winner Nadal will face either Alexander Bublik or Miomir Kecmanovic in the second round of the Madrid Open.

The third seed is on a collision course with highly rated compatriot Carlos Alcaraz in the quarter-finals at the Caja Magica.

Simona Halep blew Paula Badosa away with a Madrid Open masterclass to reach the round of 16 on Saturday.

Second seed Badosa had no answer to the brilliance of Halep in her homeland as the relentless Romanian won 6-3 6-1 at the Caja Magica.

Unseeded two-time grand slam champion Halep took just an hour and 17 minutes to eliminate Badosa, breaking three times in the first set and twice in the second.

Halep, in a new era with Patrick Mouratoglou in her corner, won 84 per cent of points when she landed her first serve in, staying in the hunt to win this tournament for a third time with the French Open on the horizon.

The former world number one will face Coco Gauff for a place in the quarter-finals following the American's 6-1 2-6 6-4 late-night defeat of Yulia Putintseva.

Gauff, the 14th seed, racked up 10 double faults and was pushed all the way by Putintseva, but served out the match after securing a third break in a tight final set.

Ons Jabeur earlier advanced into the third round at the expense of Varvara Gracheva, recovering from a second-set bagel to win 7-5 0-6 6-4.

Jabeur faces a meeting with Belinda Bencic after the Swiss dispatched Karolina Muchova 6-3 4-6 7-5.

Victoria Azarenka came from a set down to beat Tamara Zidansek 3-6 6-1 6-3 to set up a meeting with Amanda Anisimova, who also had to come from behind to dispatch Petra Martic 3-6 6-3 6-2.

Ekaterina Alexandrova and Marie Bouzkova also progressed in the Spanish capital.

 

 

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