ATP Tour

Rafael Nadal through to quarter-finals in bid for sixth Madrid Open title

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Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal (PA/Supplied)
Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal (PA/Supplied)
PA/Supplied

Rafael Nadal swept into the Madrid Open quarter-finals on Thursday with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Alexei Popyrin.

Nadal, a five-time champion in the Spanish capital, saved five of six break points in a challenging opening set as he faced the 76th-ranked Popyrin for the first time.

A lone break of the Australian's serve in the second was enough for the 20-time Grand Slam winner to seal the win and set up a showdown with fifth seed Alexander Zverev or Britain's Dan Evans.

"It was difficult. The court today was slippery, it was very fast, very dry conditions. The ball was flying a lot. The beginning of the match was super tough," said Nadal.

"It was an important victory, he came here playing well."

Evans upset Novak Djokovic earlier this month at Monte Carlo, where Nadal lost in the quarters to Andrey Rublev. The Spaniard recovered from that setback to win his first title of the year in Barcelona last week.

Monte Carlo champion Stefanos Tsitsipas, who held a championship point against Nadal in Barcelona, suffered a 7-6 (7/4), 6-4 loss to Norway's Casper Ruud.

The 22nd-ranked Ruud is through to his third Masters 1000 quarter-final in a row on clay after earning his first win over a top-five player.

Dominic Thiem, the Madrid runner-up in 2017 and 2018, also reached the last eight after beating Alex de Minaur 7-6 (9/7), 6-4.

US Open champion Thiem, playing his first tournament since Dubai in March, will next meet John Isner following the American's 7-6 (7/4), 3-6, 7-6 (7/4) victory over Rublev.

Sixth seed Rublev had made at least the quarter-finals in all seven of his tour-level appearances this year before arriving in Madrid.

World number three Daniil Medvedev exited following a 6-4, 6-7 (2/7), 6-1 defeat by 16th seed Cristian Garin of Chile.

Medvedev had won his first match in Madrid in his third appearance on Wednesday, but the Russian was sent packing by an opponent far more at ease on clay.

The two-time Grand Slam runner-up heads to Rome next. He has never won a match in the Italian capital, and he has failed to get past the first round of the French Open in four previous tries.

Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan progressed with a 6-4, 6-3 win over in-form Russian Aslan Karatsev.

Results from the ATP/WTA Madrid Open on Thursday (x denotes seeding):

Women

Semi-finals

Ashleigh Barty (AUS x1) bt Paula Badosa (ESP) 6-4, 6-3

Men

3rd rd

Rafael Nadal (ESP x1) bt Alexei Popyrin (AUS) 6-3, 6-3

Dominic Thiem (AUT x3) bt Alex de Minaur (AUS) 7-6 (9/7), 6-4

John Isner (USA) bt Andrey Rublev (RUS x6) 7-6 (7/4), 3-6, 7-6 (7/4)

Alexander Bublik (KAZ) bt Aslan Karatsev (RUS) 6-4, 6-3

Casper Ruud (NOR) bt Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE x4) 7-6 (7/4), 6-4

Cristian Garin (CHI x16) bt Daniil Medvedev (RUS x2) 6-4, 6-7 (2/7), 6-1

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