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MADRID OPEN TENNIS

ROGER FEDERER

Nadal cruises as Azarenka crashes out

Rafael Nadal made a comfortable start to his quest for a third Madrid Masters title on Wednesday but Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka slumped to a shock exit.

Nadal cruises as Azarenka crashes out
Azarenka had a 17-0 record this year going into the Madrid Open but blamed her exit on a lack of match practice aften an injury kept her out for two months. Photo: Pierre-Philippe Marcou/AFP

Nadal eased past Frenchman Benoit Paire 6-3, 6-4 and will next face either compatriot Nicolas Almagro or Mikhail Youzhny of Russia for a place in the quarter-finals.

One break in each set was enough for Nadal as he overcame some impressive variety and touch shown by Paire early on to break when the world number 37 was serving at 2-3 down in the opening set, before eventually sealing it 6-3.

Paire had his only look at a break point on the Nadal serve early in the second set but couldn't take advantage, and in typical Nadal fashion he upped the pressure to break at 4-4 before serving out to book his place in the last 16.

Nadal insisted that it would be "arrogant" to consider himself the title favourite following the shock exit of world number one Novak Djokovic at the hands of Grigor Dmitrov on Tuesday.

"I'm not looking beyond the next round, it would be arrogant to do that so I am not going to do it," said Nadal.

The seven-time French Open champion has compiled a 27-2 match record this year after missing seven months of with a knee injury.

That run has included trophies in Sao Paulo, Acapulco, Indian Wells and Barcelona.

Spanish fourth seed David Ferrer also made the last 16 with a 7-5, 6-2 win over Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan.

Last year's finalist and sixth seed Tomas Berdych stayed on course for a quarter-final meeting with Andy Murray as he recovered from a set down against Jerzy Janowicz to win 6-7 (3/7), 6-3, 6-2.

German 13th seed Tommy Haas, the champion in Munich last weekend, saw off Tommy Robredo 6-3, 7-5 while French seventh seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga beat Dutchman Robin Haase 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/1).

Japanese 14th seed Kei Nishikori will face Roger Federer in the third round after he beat Victor Troicki 7-5, 6-2.

On the women's side there was a big upset as world number three Azarenka crashed out to Russian Ekaterina Makarova 1-6, 6-2, 6-3.

Azarenka had looked as if she would cruise into the last 16 early on as she dominated the world number 24 in the first set.

However, Makarova turned the match on its head in the second set as she broke early on and again with Azarenka serving at 2-5 to force the match into a decider.

There were even more twists and turns in the third as Azarenka again appeared to take control as she surged into a 2-0 lead, but the double Australian Open champion then fell to pieces with a string of unforced errors that allowed Makarova back onto level terms at 3-3.

Azarenka was then unhappy when she was docked a point by the umpire for smashing her racket in the next game as Makarova moved ahead for the first time in the set.

Azarenka, who had a 17-0 winning record on court this year going into the tournament, blamed her exit on a lack of match practice due to an injury that had kept her out for two months.

"I think it was really noticeable. I made mistakes that I don't normally do, but that's what comes after not playing for a long time," she said.

"I still have another tournament before the French Open to compete in, and I'm going to go back on the practice court as I always do and work hard to improve."

German sixth seed Angelique Kerber was the first woman into the quarter-finals with a 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 win over former French Open and US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Serb 14th seed Ana Ivanovic also made the last eight, coming from 2-5 downin the final set to beat Britain's Laura Robson 5-7, 6-2, 7-6 (7/5).

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ROGER FEDERER

Ten years on, Nadal looks back on ’emotional’ Wimbledon win over Federer

Ten years after out-duelling Roger Federer to win the greatest Wimbledon final, Rafael Nadal returns to the All England Club still basking in the warm glow of that epic encounter.

Ten years on, Nadal looks back on 'emotional' Wimbledon win over Federer
Spain's Rafael Nadal holds his trophy after defeating Switzerland's Roger Federer at the 2008 Wimbledon championships. PHOTO: LEWIS WHYLD / POOL / AFP
After losing to Federer in successive Wimbledon finals, Nadal finally got the better of the Swiss star in a thrilling 2008 clash many regard as the finest ever to grace the hallowed Centre Court.
 
Nadal's 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5/7), 6-7 (8/10), 9-7 victory was a defining moment for the Spaniard as it gave him a first Grand Slam crown away from his favoured clay at the French Open. The match marked the high point of a captivating rivalry between Nadal and Federer that played a huge role in tennis's resurgence as a multi-million-pound business.
 
For Nadal, the significance was far more personal. Aware of how important it was to legitimise himself by beating Federer at Wimbledon, Nadal went on to win on hard courts at the Australian and US Opens and emerged as one of the sport's all-time greats.
 
Nadal, now with 17 major titles on his CV, has arrived for next week's Wimbledon with the anniversary of his finest moment sparking happy memories.
 
“Of course in that moment, that final has been a very important step forward for me in my career,” he told a press conference at Wimbledon on Saturday. “I always have been very clear that it probably is one of the most emotional matches that I played in my career.”
 
“Yeah, everybody knows that for me to win here was one of my dreams,” Nadal continued. “After losing two finals, that final created a big impact in my tennis career. The personal satisfaction that tournament give to me is difficult to compare with other things. But, yes, it has been great.”
 
Nadal went onto win Wimbledon again in 2010 before a host of injury problems forced him to take a step back. He is back on top of the ATP rankings after winning an 11th French Open in June.
 
'I'm still here'
 
Asked what has changed since that golden evening against Federer, the 32-year-old said: “I'm older, more kilometres under my legs. In general terms, important things in life didn't change much. That's the real thing. 
 
“In terms of tennis, of course I had to adapt a little bit my game during that period of time. Today I see that final like a long time ago. But the good thing is I still here. I am happy for that.”
 
Nadal has won three of the last five Grand Slams, taking the French Open two years in a row and lifting the US Open trophy in 2017. Despite his strong form at Wimbledon in the first half of his career, Nadal hasn't been past the last 16 since 2011 after a series of shock defeats against players outside the top 100.
 
Nadal admits it is difficult for his aching knees to transition from clay to grass, but insists he can make a strong challenge for Federer's title over the next fortnight.
 
“Expectations are always high. I am not here to play the tournament; I am here to try to have a good result,” said Nadal, who opens against Israel's Dudi Sela in the first round.
 
“But it's true this is one of these events that you arrive here and you really don't have the previous feeling of how you feel, how you are playing. 
 
“It's nothing new; even when I won here, when I played five finals in a row. It's an event that you need to find your confidence during the tournament and during the practice the week before.
 
“For example, when I arrive to Roland Garros, I know more or less if I am playing well. I know where my chances are. In the US Open, little bit less, but still better than here.”
 
By AFP's Steven Griffiths