x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Rafael Nadal fights back, wins Madrid Open after Nishikori withdraws

Rafael Nadal won his fourth title at the Madrid Masters, 2-6, 6-4, 3-0 when Kei Nishikori retired with a lower back injury.

Rafael Nadal was handed the Madrid Open title after Kei Nishikori withdrew in the final, citing a back injury. Clive Brunskill / Getty Images
Rafael Nadal was handed the Madrid Open title after Kei Nishikori withdrew in the final, citing a back injury. Clive Brunskill / Getty Images

Rafael Nadal won his fourth title at the Madrid Open, 2-6, 6-4, 3-0 when Kei Nishikori retired with a lower back injury.

The Japanese player won the first set and had the top seed in trouble after breaking to start the second set before the lower back problems which have bothered him all week began to kick in late in the second set.

Nadal held on to win his first title of the spring season over Nishikori, the champion last month at Barcelona. The win comes just in time for Nadal with the defence of his French Open title starting in a two weeks.

Nadal had won all six previous meetings – 14 consecutive sets – against Japan’s top player, who will move into the top 10 today.

Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic has been pain-free for 10 days and is ready to return from the right wrist injury that forced him to withdraw from the Madrid Open a week ago.

The second-ranked Serb has been practicing hard as he prepares for this week’s Italian Open and the French Open, which starts in two weeks.

“Right now, I feel much more confident at the state of my wrist and I know that I’m ready much more to play a match than I was one week ago,” Djokovic said yesterday after attracting thousands of spectators to a practice session on the Foro Italico’s spectacular Pietrangeli court.

When Djokovic lost to Roger Federer in the Monte Carlo Masters semi-finals last month, his wrist was heavily strapped and he was unable to serve or return at his usual level.

“It’s a wiser decision if you try to heal it 100 per cent than 50 per cent and compromise the next weeks,” Djokovic said.

The last thing Djokovic wanted to risk was a recurrence, citing wrist problems that have affected fellow players Juan Martin del Potro and Nikolay Davydenko

“The second time that it comes back it becomes a chronic injury, which you definitely don’t want to have,” he said.

Djokovic opens in Rome against Czech veteran Radek Stepanek and he’s hoping to have both of his head coaches in place this week – long-time adviser Marian Vajda and six-time grand slam champion Boris Becker, who joined his staff in December.

Maria Sharapova fought back to defeat Simona Halep 1-6, 6-2, 6-3 to win her second clay title of the season at the Madrid Open.

The Russian, who claimed a victory last month in Stuttgart, improved to 3-0 over Halep and 16-4 at the event where she lost in the final a year ago to Serena Williams.

Sharapova will rise one position to seventh in the rankings as a result of her 31st career trophy. Eight of her last 10 titles have come on clay, but this is the first time she has triumphed in the Spanish capital.

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