A STRUG­GLE FOR DJOKOVIC, NADAL

For­mer cham­pi­ons over­come strong chal­lenges in open­ers

New Straits Times - - Sport - RAFAEL NADAL

MADRID cap­i­tal with­out a coach af­ter bring­ing to an end a 10-year re­la­tion­ship with Mar­ian Va­jda in an at­tempt to re­verse his dra­matic slump in form over the past year.

And af­ter a blis­ter­ing start, Djokovic had to bat­tle back from 30 down in the de­cid­ing set to book his place in the last 16 against Feli­ciano Lopez, who beat Gilles Si­mon 6-3, 36, 7-6 (7/3).

“I’m still find­ing my way to that con­sis­tency level and qual­ity of ten­nis that I’m look­ing for,” said Djokovic.

“I’m aware that I’m not play­ing at my best, but I’m def­i­nitely be­liev­ing in my­self and the process.

“Even­tu­ally the game will come to­gether.”

The early signs were pos­i­tive for the 12-time Grand Slam cham­pion as de­spite los­ing his ser­vice in the open­ing game, he broke straight back to start a six-game streak to romp through the first set.

Al­ma­gro had taken just one set from four pre­vi­ous meet­ings with Djokovic, but willed on by a par­ti­san home crowd, he held on to his serve de­spite more pres­sure from the Serb in the first game of the sec­ond set.

The Spa­niard had to save two break points to hold for 4-3 and then took his chance to break with Djokovic serv­ing to stay in the set.

The World No 75, who dipped down to the chal­lenger tour af­ter los­ing in the first round of the Aus­tralian Open ear­lier this year, then looked set for a mon­u­men­tal up­set as he raced into a 30 lead in the de­cider.

How­ever, a mix­ture of Al­ma­gro nerves and Djokovic up­ping his in­ten­sity saw the World No 2 re­act im­me­di­ately to level at 3-3.

More Al­ma­gro er­rors flowed to give Djokovic another break for 6-5 and he served out for the match. He could meet Nadal in the semi-fi­nals.

The home favourite needed 90 min­utes to com­plete the open­ing set, fi­nally fin­ish­ing off Ital­ian Fognini on a sec­ond match point af­ter be­ing bro­ken while serv­ing for vic­tory.

The 14-time Grand Slam cham­pion now faces Nick Kyr­gios in the third round.

Con­tro­ver­sial Aus­tralian Kyr­gios cruised past Amer­i­can Ryan Har­ri­son 6-3, 6-3.

Dou­bles part­ner Benoit Paire up­set third seed Stan Wawrinka 7-5, 4-6, 6-2 af­ter the Swiss had

My level of ten­nis was not so high to­day, but I man­aged to make it through the first round.

served for the first set.

Fifth seed Mi­los Raonic is into the last 16 as he got the bet­ter of a bat­tle be­tween two big servers, 6-4, 6-4 over Gilles Muller.

Kei Nishikori re­cov­ered from a dread­ful start to beat Ar­gen­tine Diego Schwartz­man 1-6, 6-0, 6-4 and faces David Fer­rer next.

In the WTA Madrid Open, Cana­dian Eu­ge­nie Bouchard ad­vanced when top seed An­gelique Ker­ber re­tired with a ham­string in­jury trail­ing 6-3, 5-0 in their third-round match.

An­gelique will take over the top rank­ing on Mon­day as a re­sult of ear­lier Madrid re­sults. The match lasted less than an hour.

“I just felt it in the last game. Now I will just check it. I will check it, I hope it’s not too se­ri­ous. But I can feel it a lit­tle bit,” she said. AFP

AP PIC

Rafael Nadal cel­e­brates af­ter de­feat­ing Fabio Fognini in the first round of the Madrid Open on Wed­nes­day.

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