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Tennis

Favorites prevail on Thursday in Madrid

Enrique de la Fuente/Actionplus/Icon Sportswire
Enrique de la Fuente/Actionplus/Icon Sportswire

The top players on the men’s side and the last remaining elite woman all advanced on Thursday in Madrid. Here’s how they got the job done:

-Simona Halep’s path to the title is wide open, but that’s part of the challenge. As someone who has had her ups and downs dealing with expectations, this is a meaningful tournament beyond lifting the trophy. She overcame getting a bagel in the second set to beat fellow Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu, 6-3, 0-6, 6-1. Though it’s a little troubling that Halep admitted she knew a bagel would happen when it was only 3-0 in the second, her confident and assertive play in the third set portends good things for her.

-Halep will face Sam Stosur in one semifinal, while Dominika Cibulkova will face Louisa Chirico in the other. Cibulkova came back to beat Sorana Cirstea in three tough sets, while Chirico put her good fortune to use, taking out Dasha Gavrilova a day after receiving a walkover into the quarterfinals courtesy of Victoria Azarenka’s injury withdrawal.

-Rafael Nadal’s easy draw looked anything but at the start of his match against Sam Querrey. Possessed by the spirit of 2014 U.S. Open Marin Cilic, Querrey was serving bombs and redlining forehands for the first five or six games. Nadal faced a break point to go down 1-5, but saved it and Querrey’s magical hot streak wore off. Nadal won the next seven games and, save for one woeful service game, cruised the rest of the way for a 6-4, 6-2 win.

-He’ll play the only surprising member of the quarterfinalists, Joao Sousa, who outslugged Jack Sock in a three-setter. Down a set and a break, Sock found his game and forced a deciding set, only to have an argument with the chair umpire over a line call throw him off. Sousa took the early break and maintained it for a 6-1, 6-7 (3), 6-2 victory.

-Speaking of slugfests, Nick Kyrgios notched another impressive victory, backing up his win over Stan Wawrinka by beating Pablo Cuevas, 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-3. While he’s still not generating many break points, he found a way to get a clutch break in the third set. He’ll be back in the top 20 in Monday’s rankings update.

-Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray cruised over Roberto Bautista Agut and Gilles Simon, respectively. Business as usual for them.

-By seeding, Milos Raonic over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is an upset, except Raonic has been the better player this year and Tsonga had played the night before past 1 A.M. The win booked a meeting with Djokovic, in which Raonic will need to use the Madrid altitude to serve big all match to have a chance.

-Kei Nishikori (over Richard Gasquet) and Tomas Berdych (over David Ferrer) made a mess of things trying to close out their matches, but they eventually shut the door. In a rematch of their Miami semifinal that Nishikori won in straight sets, he’ll play Kyrgios, while Berdych faces Murray.

-The Bryan Brothers survived a close match with Lukasz Kubot and Marcin Matkowski to set up a meeting with Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert, the hottest doubles team on the planet. The Frenchmen have won all three Masters 1000s thus far.

– The top women’s doubles team, Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza, moved into the semis and one step closer to breaking their drought. After winning everything in sight in 2015, as well as January’s Australian Open, the duo has come up short in their last four tournaments.



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