Watson ends four-month WTA Tour singles losing streak

Heather Watson

Heather Watson ended her four-month WTA Tour singles losing streak with victory over Kateryna Bondarenko to reach the second round of the Nuremberg Cup.

The 26-year-old overturned a deficit in the third-set tie-break to beat her Ukrainian opponent 6-3 3-6 7-6 (7-3) and end a winless run of eight matches.

Briton Watson’s last victory came in the quarter-finals of the Hobart International in January.

She will play Hungarian qualifier Fanny Stollar in the second round in Germany.

After winning the first set, British number two Watson dropped the second before struggling to hold serve in the decider.

She failed to convert several match points before wrapping up an important win in two hours and 38 minutes.

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French Open: Serena Williams will not be seeded at Roland Garros

Serena Williams

Former world number one Serena Williams will not be seeded for this year’s French Open.

The 36-year-old made her comeback in March, six months after giving birth, and her ranking has fallen to 453.

She had early defeats at Indian Wells and Miami as she has struggled for form and pulled out of clay-court events in Madrid and Rome.

The French Tennis Federation says the 32 women’s seeds at Roland Garros will be “based on the WTA ranking” .

“Consequently, (the seeds) will reflect this week’s world ranking,” the organisers added.

Williams has won the French Open, which takes place from 27 May to 10 June, three times.

The 23-time Grand Slam champion’s last appearance on clay was in the final at Roland Garros in 2016 when she lost to Garbine Muguruza.

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Heather Watson: British number two ends four-month losing streak

Heather Watson

Heather Watson ended her four-month WTA Tour singles losing streak with victory over Kateryna Bondarenko to reach the second round of the Nuremberg Cup.

The 26-year-old overturned a deficit in the third-set tie-break to beat her Ukrainian opponent 6-3 3-6 7-6 (7-3) and end a winless run of eight matches.

Briton Watson’s last victory came in the quarter-finals of the Hobart International in January.

She will play Hungarian qualifier Fanny Stollar in the second round in Germany.

After winning the first set, British number two Watson dropped the second before struggling to hold serve in the decider.

She failed to convert several match points before wrapping up an important win in two hours and 38 minutes.

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Queen's 2018: Cameron Norrie awarded wildcard at Fever-Tree Championships

Cameron Norrie

British number three Cameron Norrie has been awarded a wildcard into the singles at the Fever-Tree Championships at Queen’s in June.

Norrie, 22, is a career-high 102nd in the world rankings and impressed on his Davis Cup debut in February.

Australian four-time champion Lleyton Hewitt and compatriot Nick Kyrgios have received a doubles wildcard.

“[Cam] has shown that he can mix it with the top players on any given day,” said GB Davis Cup captain Leon Smith.

“He now needs to start winning matches regularly in main draws, make the top 100 and push on from there.”

This year’s Queen’s – which will take place from 18-24 June – is set to have the strongest line-up in its 128-year history, with 17 of the world’s top 30 taking part.

World number one Rafael Nadal is one of six players from the top 10 who have signed up to play, with Britain’s five-time winner Andy Murray, who is currently injured, also due to feature in the event.

The 2018 championships will mark only the second time Hewitt and Kyrgios, 23, have played together at a tournament, with the first coming in Montreal three years ago.

Hewitt, 37, retired from singles in 2016 having first won the Queen’s title in 2000, when he defeated Pete Sampras in straight sets when just 19 years old.

“The Fever-Tree Championships at The Queen’s Club will always have a special place in my heart,” said Hewitt.

“I still love to compete, I can still play a bit, and to be given the chance to get out there with another Aussie is something I’m really looking forward to.”

The Queen’s Club Championships, now sponsored by drinks brand Fever-Tree, will be live on BBC television, radio and online.

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Is Zverev a Grand Slam champion in the making?

Rafael Nadal and Alexander Zverev

2018 French Open
Venue: Roland Garros, Paris Dates: 27 May-10 June
Coverage: Daily live radio and text commentaries on BBC Radio 5 live and the BBC Sport website

In Indian Wells as an 18-year-old in March 2016, Alexander Zverev had a straightforward forehand volley to knock out Rafael Nadal and take his place in the quarter-finals.

He buried it in the net, and the chance was gone. “On match point, I sucked,” the German later said.

That was their first meeting. Four subsequent matches have also gone Nadal’s way, but there were five sets in the 2017 Australian Open, and a narrow escape for the Spaniard in Sunday’s Rome Masters final.

Nadal may well have recovered from 3-1 down in the deciding set without the rain delay, but it certainly checked Zverev’s momentum and ended his run of 13 wins in a row.

The now 21-year-old, who is based in Monte Carlo, has gathered an impressive array of trophies in a short period of time. In the past two years, the former junior world number one has won eight titles – including three at Masters level – and been runner-up a further five times.

Zverev, who also answers to the name Sascha, has no significant weaknesses. His backhand is breathtakingly good (which is a big advantage on clay when facing Nadal’s beloved, and heavily spun, crosscourt forehand), and despite being 6ft 6ins tall, is able to move as well as serve well.

But before the French Open, which begins on Sunday, Zverev still needs to prove himself on the Grand Slam stage. He is yet to reach the quarter-final of any Slam and his one appearance in the fourth round ended in defeat by Milos Raonic at Wimbledon last year.

After beating Zverev to the Rome title, Nadal confidently predicted this is just a matter of time.

Alexander Zverev celebrates Madrid win

“It’s impossible to not have a great result in a Grand Slam when you have the level that he has,” the new world number one said.

“It’s just time. If he’s not playing well in Grand Slams during the next two years, you can come back to me and tell me ‘you know nothing about tennis’. But I believe that it is going to be a different story.

“Tennis is tennis. It doesn’t matter – best of three, best of five. Playing best of five is a big advantage for the best players, and Sascha is one of the best players.”

It is hard to argue with Nadal’s prediction, although Zverev’s Grand Slam performances in the past year have not come close to matching his form on the ATP Tour. He lost to Fernando Verdasco in the first round of last year’s French Open, and after that run to the last 16 at Wimbledon, was beaten by Borna Coric in the second round of the US Open.

After losing the deciding set of his third-round match 6-0 to eventual semi-finalist Hyeon Chung at January’s Australian Open, Zverev said the problem was not physical, but hinted it could be mental.

What should be remembered, though, is that the German only turned 21 last month. The French Open will be just the 12th time he has played in a Grand Slam main draw. By means of comparison, Roger Federer’s first Slam title, at Wimbledon 2003, came at his 17th attempt. And Federer was about the age then that Zverev will be at the 2019 Australian Open.

“I try to play the same way, play the same way over a longer period of time,” Zverev said, as he looked ahead to Roland Garros after the Rome final.

“For me, it will be match by match there. And hopefully I’ll be able to play the same kind of tennis like I did in the last three weeks. We’ll see. The next few days, I will not even think about tennis. And then I’ll go to Paris and do my best to prepare and try to compete for the French Open.

“Of course, Rafa will be the favourite there, there’s no question about it. I’ll be in the other half of the draw. So, that’s a good thing,” he said, with a smile.

Alexander Zverev factfile
Born: 20 April 1997 in Hamburg, Germany
Turned pro: 2013
Grand Slam appearances: 11
Best Grand Slam performance: Fourth round, Wimbledon 2017
ATP Tour titles: Eight
ATP Tour finals: 13
Career prize money: £7.73m
2018 prize money: £2.44m

Zverev will arrive in Paris as the world number three, and in the absence of Federer, as the second seed. He knows he will be under the spotlight. He can be prickly and blunt with the media, but he can also be brutally honest.

“Nerves got the better of me. I choked,” he said, after losing a decisive round-robin match to Jack Sock at the ATP Finals in London last November.

Zverev has been seeped in tennis for all of his life. His parents, Alexander and Irina, are former professionals, and dad still coaches him to this day. His brother Mischa, nearly 10 years his senior, reached the last eight of the 2017 Australian Open after a stunning win over then world number one Andy Murray.

Sascha has been a regular by the side of the court from a toddler as the family travelled with Mischa on the junior tour. He thinks he first had a knock-up with Murray and Novak Djokovic at the age of just three.

The man, with the world at his feet, has been a long time in the making.

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Lyon Open: Cameron Norrie beats Jose Hernandez-Fernandez to reach round two

Cameron Norrie

British number three Cameron Norrie reached the second round of the Lyon Openwith a straight-set win over Jose Hernandez-Fernandez of the Dominican Republic.

Norrie, ranked 102, defeated Hernandez-Fernandez, ranked 266, 7-6 (7-5) 6-1.

The 21-year-old struggled with his serve at times in the first set, he was far more solid in the second set.

He next faces either French sixth seed Gael Monfils or Germany’s Maximilian Marterer.

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Nadal survives Zverev comeback to win eighth Italian Open

Breaking news

Rafael Nadal survived a stunning fightback from Alexander Zverev to win an eighth Italian Open.

Nadal cruised to the first set before defending champion Zverev won nine of the next 12 games to take the second set 6-1 and lead 3-2 in the decider.

But Nadal turned the match around following a lengthy rain delay and closed out a 6-1 1-6 6-3 victory.

The win will see Nadal regain the world number one ranking before the French Open which starts next week.

Roger Federer had regained top spot in the rankings when Nadal lost to Dominic Thiem at the Madrid Masters last week, his only defeat on clay this season.

Nadal has now won three clay-court titles from four tournaments in the lead-up to his bid for an 11th French Open title in Paris.

More to follow.

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Svitolina overwhelms Halep to win Italian Open

Elina Svitolina

Elina Svitolina thrashed world number one Simona Halep 6-0 6-4 to win a second consecutive Italian Open.

In a rematch of last year’s final, the Ukrainian dominated from the start in Rome and took the first set without losing a game in just 19 minutes.

Romanian Halep, 26, received some stern words from coach Darren Cahill at 5-0 down and improved in the second set.

But 23-year-old world number four Svitolina maintained the upper hand as she powered to a comfortable win.

Halep, who also had a medical time out in the second set, was a set and 5-1 down to Svitolina at last year’s French Open before winning – but there was no comeback this time around.

There were signs of her quality when she held serve in the ninth game of the second set – only for Svitolina to keep her nerve and successfully close out the match.

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Nadal beats Djokovic to reach Italian Open final

Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal came out on top in a captivating Italian Open semi-final against long-term rival Novak Djokovic as he won 7-6 (7-4) 6-3 in Rome.

A gruelling contest was full of heavy-hitting and dramatic points, with Nadal edging the first set on a tie-break.

Djokovic, who is trying to get back to his peak after returning from elbow surgery in January, faded in the second set as Nadal powered to victory.

The Spaniard will face Marin Cilic or Alexander Zverev in the final.

More to follow.

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Italian Open: Rafael Nadal to play Novak Djokovic in Rome

Rafael Nadal through to Rome semi-finals

Rafael Nadal reached his first Italian Open semi-final since 2014 with a hard-fought victory against home player Fabio Fognini in Rome.

The Spanish world number two won 4-6 6-1 6-2 to set up a last-four clash with Novak Djokovic, who beat Kei Nishikori.

Former world number one Djokovic, now ranked 18 and playing his first ATP quarter-final of 2018, triumphed 2-6 6-1 6-3 in two hours and 21 minutes.

Croatian fourth seed Marin Cilic beat Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta 6-3 6-3.

Seven-time champion Nadal, 31, needs to win the Masters title to reclaim the world number one spot from Roger Federer.

Fognini, ranked 21st in the world, fought back from a 4-1 deficit to take the first set, but could not sustain that level of play as Nadal’s quality shone through.

Nadal, who has lost twice to Fognini on clay, took his second match point to win in two hours and 14 minutes.

He now awaits a 51st ATP Tour meeting with 11th seed Djokovic, the four-time Italian Open champion, who holds a 26-24 record against the Spaniard.

Japan’s Nishikori was seeking only his third win in 15 meetings with 30-year-old Djokovic, who has played in seven Grand Slam finals against Nadal.

Nishikori appeared to show signs of fatigue when, with the court at his mercy, he smashed a certain point into the net as the Serbian broke in the third game of the deciding set, but the world number 24 broke back immediately.

However, Djokovic prevailed to win his fourth successive match for the first time since Wimbledon last year.

Saturday’s match will his first against Nadal since Madrid last year, when the Spaniard ended a run of seven consecutive Djokovic victories.

German second seed and defending champion Alexander Zverev, who beat British number one Kyle Edmund in the last 16, faces Belgium’s David Goffin for the right to play Cilic.

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