Murray Withdraws From Madrid, Djokovic Receives Walkover Into Quarterfinals

Andy Murray (photo: Florian Heer)

MADRID/WASHINGTON, May 5, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

A much-anticipated first meeting in five years between wild card Andy Murray and World No. 1 Novak Djokovic at the Mutua Madrid Open was called off after the three-time major champion from Great Britain was forced to withdraw from the third-round match on Thursday due to a stomach illness. The two had previously faced each other 36 times dating back to 2006. Their last meeting was won by Djokovic in the final at Doha in 2017.

The 78th-ranked Murray and top seed Djokovic, both 34, were due to start play on Manolo Santana Stadium at noon. Instead, another third-round match pairing Dan Evans of Great Britain and World No. 8 Andrey Rublev of Russia was moved into the opening slot from Arantxa Sanchez Stadium.

Murray won his first two Madrid matches earlier this week, defeating former Top 20 Dominic Thiem and No. 14 seed Denis Shapovalov. It was the former World No. 1’s first consecutive wins since January and he was appearing in his first clay-court tournament in nearly two years, which  improved his 2022 win-loss record to 12-8.

Thanks to the walkover win, the three-time Madrid champion Djokovic moved into Friday’s quarterfinal round, where he will face World No. 14 Hubert Hurkacz in the day’s first match on Manolo Santana Stadium. The 12th seed from Poland defeated 77th-ranked qualifier Dusan Lajovic of Serbia, 7-5, 6-3, in an hour and 36 minutes on Arantxa Sanchez Stadium. Hurkacz struck 16 aces and outpointed Lajovic 75-65.

During a Thursday afternoon interview broadcast on Tennis Channel, Djokovic called Murray a “great champion” and “someone I admire and respect a lot.

“Next to Rafa [Nadal] and Roger [Federer], Andy is the greatest rivalry I’ve ever had. There’s something special to our rivalry. We’re the same age, we grew up together and … we go back a long time. I’m really sorry for him that he was unable to come out on the court. Everyone was looking forward to the encounter. Hopefully, we’ll get to play soon.”

With the remainder of the men’s round of 16 plus the women’s semifinals, there was still plenty of outstanding tennis on Thursday’s order of play at La Caja Mágica, where the sunny conditions allowed for the roofs on the show courts to remain open.

Five-time Madrid champion Rafael Nadal and teen sensation Carlos Alcaraz, playing on his 19th birthday, gave Spaniards plenty to cheer about in Manolo Santana Stadium and defending champion and No. 2 seed Alexander Zverev of Germany and World No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece were among the headlining attractions in Arantxa Sanchez Stadium.

Rublev through to first Madrid quarterfinal

World No. 8 Andrey Rublev reached his first Madrid quarterfinal with a 7-6 (7), 7-5 win over No. 36 Dan Evans that lasted two hours and 29 minutes. The sixth seed Rublev is through to his seventh Masters 1000 quarterfinal overall, where he will face No. 4 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, who was a 6-3, 6-4 winner over No. 20 Grigor Dimitrov.

Rublev, who showed a lot of emotion and frustration, used his problem-solving abilities to his advantage in overcoming two breaks of his serve and trailing early during the match. Once he settled down, the Russian powered his way to 46 winners that overcame hitting 30 unforced errors. Evans put up impressive power numbers – 31 winners – while also saving nine break points. After breaking the Briton Evans to go ahead 6-5 in the final set, Rublev put away the victory – his sixth straight – on his serve. He outpointed Evans 103-94.

“I didn’t start well, and I got super frustrated,” Rublev admitted afterward. “I was 40-0 up and I had quite an easy forehand and I didn’t make it. I said to myself, ‘If I’m not going to change, I’m not going to win. I will lose.’

“So, I started to be calmer and started to play better. At the end, I was able to turn it around and win a set. The second set was better, and in the last games, I think I showed a good level.”

Meanwhile, Tsitsipas hit 19 winners to just nine unforced errors and dropped just eight points on his service en route to beating Dimitrov on Arantxa Sanchez Stadium in a tidy 88 minutes. He outpointed the Bulgarian 62-41.

“I was able to really stay in a zone from beginning to end,” Tsitsipas said in his on-court interview. “I was comfortable with what I was doing on the court. I’m happy it paid off that way.”

Tsitsipas was asked it would be difficult to turn around and face Rublev on Friday. He said: “I will have to do my job. He’s someone who hits the ball hard. Obviously, I’m going to have to work on my defensive game and try to focus on it a little more. With the right attitude and the right competitiveness, it’s something I can get the most out of.”

Nadal continues quest for sixth Madrid title

World No. 4 Rafael Nadal continued his quest for a record-extending sixth Mutua Madrid Open title and record-tying 37th ATP Masters 1000 crown after defeating No. 60 David Goffin of Belgium, 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (9), in three hours and nine minutes on Manolo Santana Stadium to finish the Thursday day session.

“Long live the king!” Tennis Channel commentator Brett Haber expressed after the 35-year-old Nadal secured his second victory in two days in Madrid. The Spaniard’s fighting spirit was on display throughout the three-set thriller, which Nadal nearly wrapped up in straight sets before he was broken by Goffin while serving for the match during the 10th game of the second set.

It was Nadal’s fifth win in five clay-court meetings with Goffin and it advanced the third-seeded Spaniard into his 16th Madrid quarterfinal and record-extending 99th ATP Masters 1000 quarterfinal. The win improved Nadal’s 2022 win-loss record to 22-1.

Nadal secured match point on his fourth try about an hour and 20 minutes after his first match-point opportunity. He won after Goffin hit a forehand wide left on the seventh shot of the final rally of the match. Nadal saved four match points earlier during the 20-point tie-break, two of them with drop shots that surprised both fans and Goffin.

In a quarterfinal match that featured 225 points between the two competitors, Nadal hit seven aces and finished with 35 winners to 37 unforced errors, while Goffin ended with 39 winners and made 42 unforced errors. Each broke the other’s serve three times.

Since the Mutua Madrid Open switched to clay in 2009, Nadal is 10-0 in tie-breaks in Madrid.

After Nadal beat No. 32 Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia on Wednesday, in his return to the ATP Tour after being sidelined by a rib injury for six weeks, the 21-time major champion said: “Playing in Spain is something really, really important, and here in Madrid, the support and love of the people it’s always been unconditional.

“I am conscious of my age that I don’t know how many more times I’m going to be able to have the opportunity to play here in front of these people. So, I’m just trying to enjoy it as much as possible.”

Next for Nadal is a Friday afternoon quarterfinal matchup against No. 7 seed Carlos Alcaraz of Spain, who fought off No. 9 seed Cameron Norrie of Great Britain, 6-4, 6-7 (4), 6-3, in Thursday evening’s featured match.

Alcaraz, who won his first Masters 1000 title at the Miami Open in March, reached his third straight Masters 1000 quarterfinal. Then, he was feted with an on-court birthday celebration, complete with a birthday cake and candles and thousands of fans singing “Felix Cumpleaños.

The Spanish teen hit seven aces and struck 44 winners to offset his 49 unforced errors. He broke Norrie’s serve five times, including the final game of the match. He outpointed the British No. 1 104-102 to advance against Nadal.

Around La Caja Mágica

• Defending champion Alexander Zverev of Germany advanced to his fifth straight Madrid quarterfinal by retirement over 63rd-ranked qualifier Lorenzo Musetti of Italy, leading 6-3, 1-0. Musetti was hampered by a thigh injury, which required a medical time out, and was unable to continue after 39 minutes of play.

• Next, the second seed Zverev, who improved to 17-2 lifetime at the Mutua Madrid Open, will face No. 8 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada, who dominated No. 10 seed Jannik Sinner of Italy and won 6-1, 6-2 in one hour and 19 minutes on Stadium 3. Auger-Aliassime hit 28 winners to 16 unforced errors and allowed Sinner just seven winners while the Italian amassed 22 unforced errors. The Canadian, who did not face any break points on his serve, broke Sinner four times and outpointed him 65-38.

Jabeur, Pegula reach first WTA 1000 final

Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur became the first Arab woman and first on the African continent to reach a WTA 1000 final Thursday. She defeated qualifier Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia, 6-2, 6-3, in 61 minutes to advance to the biggest title match of her career.

The World No. 10 and eighth seed gave a stellar performance and dominated her semifinal against the No. 45 Alexandrova on Manolo Santana Stadium. She dropped just six points on her first serve, converted four of five break-point chances – including three in the opening set – and outpointed her opponent 59-40. Jabeur hit 13 winners and made just nine unforced errors, while Alexandrova countered with 11 winners and 23 unforced errors. She broke Jabeur’s serve just once.

“I was sick of losing to her all the time,” Jabeur, who improved to 11-2 on clay this season, quipped in her on-court interview after beating Alexandrova. “I came her to seek my revenge. I’m very glad with my performance. I tried to impose my rhythm and I’m very happy with how I played today.”

Jabeur, the only Top 10 player remaining, will face World No. 14 Jessica Pegula of the United States. The 12th seed Pegula defeated No. 35 Jil Teichmann of Switzerland, 6-3, 6-4, in an hour and 20 minutes that wrapped up the Thursday night session on Manolo Santana Stadium at 12:45 a.m. Friday morning. Pegula hit 22 winners, broke Teichmann’s serve four times and outpointed her 64-50 to advance to her first WTA 1000 final.

When Jabeur was asked how she would prepare for Saturday’s title match, her third final since last summer’s US Open, she answered: “I’m taking it a match at a time. Either [player] is going to be tough. I’m just going to focus on myself. It’s been tough losing a few finals recently but I’m going to do my best and give it all for this one.”

No. 2 seeds Dabrowski and Olmos reach doubles final

While much of the focus this week has been on singles, No. 2 seeds Gabriela Dabrowski of Canada and Mexico’s Giuliana Olmos have quietly but efficiently gone about business and have reached the Mutua Madrid Open women’s doubles final.

Thursday on Stadium 3, Dabarowski and Olmos went the distance to beat Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia and Lyudmyla Kichenok of Ukraine, 5-7, 6-1, 10-6. Dabrowski (ranked ninth) and Olmos (ranked 20th) improved to 8-7. They will face either No. 1 seeds Storm Sanders of Australia and Zhang Shuai of China, No. 3 seeds Desirae Krawczyk of the United States and Demi Schuurs of the Netherlands, or No. 5 seeds Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula of the United States.

Thursday’s Mutua Madrid Open ATP results

Thursday’s Mutua Madrid Open WTA results

Friday’s Mutua Madrid Open order of play

By the numbers

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