ROME: Once is enough when it comes to beating Rafael Nadal on a clay court.
Throughout his career, Nadal has never lost consecutive matches on his favorite surface and the Spaniard extended that perfect record on Wednesday by beating John Isner 6-3, 6-1 to reach the third round of the Italian Open.
Nadal was coming off a loss to 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz in the Madrid Open quarterfinals last week. After a first-round bye, he improved to 44-0 in matches on clay following a loss on the surface.
Perhaps more importantly, Nadal regained some confidence as he works his way back from a rib stress fracture that kept him out for six weeks before the tournament in Madrid.
While he would clearly love to add to his record total of 10 Italian Open titles, Nadal’s bigger objective is regaining his top form in time for the French Open, which starts in less than two weeks. Nadal has won 13 of his 21 Grand Slam titles at Roland Garros.
When the match finished, Nadal headed straight to the practice court to hit more balls. He explained that he’s a “bit in a rush” to find his best form “as soon as possible.”
“I need to work as much as I can,” Nadal said. “The match today was not that demanding physically.”
It was essentially decided during one brief stretch.
Nadal struggled on his serve at 3-3 in the first set, missing a forehand into the net then double-faulting to set up break points for Isner. But the American made unforced errors on both of his break-point opportunities and Nadal eventually held.
In the following game, Nadal broke Isner’s serve when the 6-foot-10 American missed a comfortable forehand volley into the net. Nadal then held at love to close out the first set and broke Isner’s serve in the opening game of the second.
“I finished better than I started — without a doubt,” Nadal said. “He had some chances on the returns. I was in his hands in that moment. Lucky that he missed those shots.”
Nadal improved to 19-0 against Americans on clay, having been forced to a deciding set only twice — both times by Isner, who pushed Nadal to five sets at the 2011 French Open and three sets at the 2015 Monte Carlo Masters.
Up next, Nadal meets Denis Shapovalov, the Canadian he beat at the same stage last year in a grueling three-set comeback victory in which the Spaniard saved two match points.
“Super lucky,” Nadal said, reflecting back to playing Shapovalov last year. “I know how dangerous he is. I need to play better than today.”
Three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka, playing only his second tournament after more than a year out following two surgeries on his left foot, edged Laslo Djere 7-6 (8), 3-6, 6-4 to set up a meeting with top-ranked Novak Djokovic.
“It’s going to be really difficult for me, because I’m not ready to compete — I think — at that level,” Wawrinka said of facing Djokovic. “But it’s what I need. I need those challenges. I need to push myself as much as I can to keep improving.”
Wawrinka had loud support from a packed crowd on the picturesque Pietrangeli court, which is lined with statues.
“The reason why after two surgeries, one year out, I’m still playing tennis at 37 years old is to live those moments as much as I can,” Wawrinka said. “I’m enjoying it a lot.”
Second-seeded Alexander Zverev, who was routed by Alcaraz in the Madrid final on Sunday, beat Sebastian Baez 7-6 (6), 6-3 to end the Argentine qualifier’s eight-match winning streak.
Also, Stefanos Tsitsipas saved two match points before getting past Grigor Dimitrov 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (4); and Marcos Giron, an American qualifier, picked up his fourth win and five days by beating 2020 finalist Diego Schwartzman 6-1, 7-6 (4).
In an all-Italian matchup during the night session on Campo Centrale, 20-year-old Jannik Sinner beat 34-year-old Fabio Fognini 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.
Wearing a ribbon with the colors of Ukraine’s flag pinned to her hat, defending women’s champion Iga Swiatek extended her winning streak to 24 matches with a 6-3, 6-0 victory over Romanian qualifier Elena-Gabriela Ruse.
The top-ranked player from Poland will next face former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka, who beat Camila Osorio 6-2, 6-4.
Ons Jabeur, coming off her maiden 1000 title in Madrid, defeated Ajla Tomljanovic 7-5, 6-2.
Also, 2019 French Open semifinalist Amanda Anisimova eliminated Olympic gold medalist Belinda Bencic 7-6 (5), 6-1; and Coco Gauff, who reached the semifinals a year ago, defeated fellow American Madison Brengle 6-2, 6-4.
Madrid finalist Jessica Pegula advanced when Anhelina Kalinina withdrew before their match because of an upper back injury. The American will next face third-seeded Aryna Sabalenka.
Nadal bounces back from loss to Alcaraz, beats Isner in Rome
Nadal bounces back from loss to Alcaraz, beats Isner in Rome
- Nadal was coming off a loss to 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz in the Madrid Open quarterfinals last week
- When the match finished, Nadal headed straight to the practice court to hit more balls
ROME: Once is enough when it comes to beating Rafael Nadal on a clay court.
Pope, Trippier help Newcastle grind out 0-0 draw at Brighton
- Pope racked up a second straight clean sheet since joining Newcastle
- Newcastle struggled for clear openings despite high endeavor in searing heat
BRIGHTON, England: Nick Pope conjured two fine saves and Kieran Trippier made a goal-line clearance as Newcastle’s two England internationals helped the team grind out a 0-0 draw at Brighton in the Premier League on Saturday.
Pope racked up a second straight clean sheet since joining Newcastle from relegated Burnley, thwarting both Adam Lallana and Solly March at the Amex Stadium.
March thought he had scored with a low shot through a crowd of players in the first half, only for Trippier to clear off the line at the very last opportunity.
Brighton midfielder Pascal Gross then turned the ball the wrong side of the post near the end, after Kaoru Mitoma’s neat cutback.
Newcastle struggled for clear openings despite high endeavor in searing heat, with both teams still unbeaten after two Premier League outings. Newcastle opened with a win over Nottingham Forest and Brighton won at Manchester United.
Brighton increased their domination the longer the match wore on, but Graham Potter’s team was unable to strike again after last weekend’s 2-1 victory at United.
Manchester City earn second win by thrashing Bournemouth 4-0 in Premier League
- Haaland was mostly crowded out by Bournemouth who sat deep with plenty of men behind the ball in a match that resembled an attack vs. defense training exercise
MANCHESTER: Erling Haaland might not hog all of Manchester City’s goals this season, after all.
Ilkay Gundogan, Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden were City’s scorers — along with an own-goal — in a 4-0 win over Bournemouth in the Premier League on Saturday, with Haaland barely getting a sight on goal at Etihad Stadium.
The Norway striker scored both of City’s goals in their opening-weekend 2-0 win at West Ham but was mostly crowded out a week later as Bournemouth sat deep with plenty of men behind the ball in a match that resembled an attack vs. defense training exercise.
City’s midfielders reaped the benefits of the extra focus on Haaland.
Gundogan’s goal did involve City’s new star striker, with Haaland holding off his marker with his back to goal and clipping a ball through to the Germany midfielder. Gundogan’s left-footed finish found the bottom corner in the 19th for his 50th goal for City.
De Bruyne scored the pick of the goals, the playmaker cutting inside on a counterattack led by Foden in the 31st, beating a defender and bending his shot with the outside of his right foot into the far corner.
De Bruyne returned the favor for Foden six minutes later, slipping a brilliant pass through the legs of a defender and into the path of his teammate, who took a touch and fired in a deflected shot that beat goalkeeper Mark Travers.
Haaland’s best chance fell in the 73rd when he mishit a first-time shot wide from Jack Grealish’s cut-back. The striker was substituted moments later.
The scoring was completed by Jefferson Lerma, who unwittingly turned a cross from Joao Cancelo into his own net from inside Bournemouth’s six-yard box.
It was a wake-up call for Bournemouth after the promoted team started the season with a surprisingly comfortable 2-0 win over Aston Villa last weekend.
City manager Pep Guardiola again chose to start with Bernardo Silva on the bench. The Portugal midfielder has been linked with a move to Barcelona and didn’t start against West Ham, either.
Barcelona sells more assets to clear Lewandowski for opener
- The troubled Spanish club were only able to ensure that their star signing will be available against Rayo Vallecano on Saturday
- They sold 24.5% of their Barça Studios production hub to Orpheus Media in a deal worth $103 million
BARCELONA, Spain: Working against the clock, Barcelona sold off even more of their club assets on Friday so they could meet the Spanish league’s financial rules and clear Robert Lewandowski and other summer signings to play in their season opener.
The troubled Spanish club were only able to ensure that their star signing will be available against Rayo Vallecano on Saturday after they sold 24.5 percent of their Barça Studios production hub to Orpheus Media in a deal worth 100 million euros ($103 million).
That improved their financial balance enough to satisfy the Spanish league, which added Lewandowski and fellow newcomers Raphinha, Franck Kessié and Andreas Christensen as well as the recently renewed Ousmane Dembélé and Sergi Roberto to their list of eligible players.
But, by late Friday, the league had yet to declare eligible France defender Jules Koundé, who arrived to Barcelona from Sevilla last month. The club will still need to reduce their current salary load by selling one or more current players to register Koundé.
Last month Barcelona sold an initial 25 percent stake in their production hub to Socios.com, a blockchain provider, for another 100 million euros as well as 25 percent of their Spanish league television rights for the next 25 years for nearly 670 million euros ($689 million).
All told, the heavily indebted Catalan club has mortgaged their future for 870 million euros ($895 million) to sign Lewandowski, Raphinha and Koundé for a combined 160 million euros ($165 million). Kessié and Christensen arrived as free agents.
But the Spanish league has strict financial requirements that limit the amount clubs can spend on players’ salaries and transfers based on the clubs’ financial health. Despite efforts to reduce costs and pay down their debt, Barcelona still hold 1 billion euros ($1 billion) in debt and has seen their salary cap slashed by the league in recent seasons.
Earlier on Friday, coach Xavi Hernández said he was “optimistic” that he can have his new players available for the first game of the season.
“Everyone at the club is very optimistic,” Xavi said. “We have until two hours before the match.”
The club are also pushing to sell players with big salaries like Frenkie de Jong or players unwanted by Xavi such as Samuel Umtiti and Martin Braithwaite.
Orpheus Media is run by Catalan businessman Jaume Roures, the owner of Mediapro, a major television company involved in Spanish soccer but whose 2020 broadcast rights deal for the French league collapsed. Roures was a major financial backer of Barcelona club president Joan Laporta when he returned to run the financially troubled club in 2021.
Roures said on Friday that he was not sure if the money he paid Barcelona would be sufficient.
“The league won’t have any problems with this operation,” Roures told Cadena SER radio. “If the 100 million euros are enough, I don’t know. If it isn’t, the (necessary) amount must be close to that.”
Xavi also said that Barcelona may not be done signing new players, but that any arrivals would have to come after current players were sold. Barcelona are linked to interest in Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso, who would provide competition for Jordi Alba at left back.
Laporta at least was able to avoid the embarrassment of having Lewandowski watching from the Camp Nou stands on Saturday.
Ancelotti ‘surprised’ by Kroos absence from Ballon d’Or nominees
- New signing Antonio Rudiger is also on the list but there was no room for the German midfielder Kroos
- "It surprises me a bit, because Kroos had a fantastic season," quipped Ancelotti in a press conference
MADRID: Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti on Saturday said he was surprised that German midfielder Toni Kroos did not feature on the list of 30 finalists for the Ballon d’Or.
Five members of the Champions League winning side were nominated on Friday in the shape of Thibault Cortois, Casemiro, Luka Modric, Vinicius Junior and favorite Karim Benzema.
New signing Antonio Rudiger is also on the list but there was no room for the German midfielder Kroos.
“It surprises me a bit, because Kroos had a fantastic season... But it’s true that it could be a problem if we named all the Real Madrid players, I can understand that,” quipped Ancelotti in a press conference ahead of Madrid’s Liga opener at Almeria on Sunday.
“But (Federico) Valverde, (Eder) Militao, (David) Alaba... all deserve to be there.
“All of them had a fantastic season. I’m not talking about winning the Ballon d’Or, but they deserve to be on the list.”
Ancelotti was particularly pleased with the inclusion of Brazilian forward Vinicius on the 30-strong list of nominees.
“He scored the winning goal in our 14th Champions League, he had an incredible season,” said the Italian.
“He doesn’t care if he finishes fourth or second. For the players, only victory matters. He will do better in the future. But unfortunately for Vini, this season, we already have the winner with us.”
Ancelotti was in little doubt, it seems, that French striker Benzema, who is hotly tipped to succeed would walk away with the award.
The Ballon d’Or will be awarded on October 17.
Real Madrid will kick off the defense of their La Liga title at newly-promoted Almería.
“We are feeling good, we have all the hope in the world as we start this season,” said Ancelotti, adding that “each game will be very difficult, starting tomorrow.”
‘Game-changer’ Bynoe-Gittens propels Dortmund to comeback win over Freiburg
- The visitors dominated the early stages, with Anthony Modeste — playing in his first game for Dortmund just days after transferring from FC Cologne — striking up an immediate partnership with captain Marco Reus
BERLIN: Eighteen-year-old Englishman Jamie Bynoe-Gittens scored one and created another as Borussia Dortmund came back to defeat Freiburg 3-1 on Friday with all their goals coming in the last 13 minutes of the game.
With the game drifting toward defeat, Dortmund were again able to rely on their young brigade, with Bynoe-Gittens and 17-year-old Youssoufa Moukoko scoring two quick goals to see the visitors pick up a valuable three points in their quest for a sixth Bundesliga title.
Dortmund manager Edin Terzic lauded his side’s depth and praised “game-changer” Bynoe-Gittens.
“With him, it’s pretty simple — he’s got the skills to decide games,” said Terzic.
“He’s a game-changer and (I told him when he came on) I wanted to see that from him.
“We fought back, scored three goals through three substitutes and showed how good the squad is.”
The visitors dominated the early stages, with Anthony Modeste — playing in his first game for Dortmund just days after transferring from FC Cologne — striking up an immediate partnership with captain Marco Reus.
Reus teed up Modeste to run into the left side of the penalty box in the 20th minute, forcing Freiburg keeper Mark Flekken into a save.
Modeste also had a chance right in front in the 32nd minute after superb one touch football from Jude Bellingham and Raphael Guerreiro, but the Portuguese’s cross was inches too high.
As if stunned into action, Freiburg then flipped a switch, building pressure on a suddenly shaky Dortmund defense.
Roland Sallai won a free kick on the edge of the box with 33 minutes played.
Dead-ball specialist Vincenzo Grifo stepped up to force a fingertip save from Gregor Kobel in goal.
Freiburg took the lead minutes later, when former Dortmund defender Matthias Ginter found Michael Gregoritsch who deftly drifted a header over Kobel and into the top right corner of the goal.
Terzic turned to youth halfway through the second half, bringing on Bynoe-Gittens and Moukoko to introduce some potency to Dortmund’s attack.
Known more for his dribbling and assists, the Englishman equalized with a stunning strike from outside the box.
While his shot was helped by a poor attempted save from Freiburg keeper Mark Flekken, the goal spurred Bynoe-Gittens and Dortmund into action
The former Manchester City academy player had a chance to put his side in front after 82 minutes, but was unable to control a sharp Marius Wolf pass with the goal begging.
He then set up Dortmund’s second just a minute later when he slalomed past several Freiburg defenders on the edge of the area before delivering a no-look pass to Julian Brandt.
Brandt, who had also been brought on by Terzic in the second half, found Moukoko in the box, with the teenager whipping in from close range.
Wolf, another who was subbed on in the second half, then put the result beyond doubt in the 88th minute, striking powerfully across goalkeeper Flekken and into the bottom left corner of the net.
The game was manager Terzic’s ninth win in a row in charge of Dortmund, breaking a record set by former mentor Juergen Klopp a decade ago.
The loss continues a poor run of home form for Freiburg recently, with the Breisgauer now conceding 16 goals in their last six games at Europa Park Stadium.
Despite the loss, Freiburg manager Christian Streich said he was impressed by his side’s “unlucky” performance.
“We played a good game, I’m satisfied,” he said.
“Ultimately we lost, it’s a shame... but it doesn’t achieve anything to think we were unlucky to lose the game.”