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Wednesday December 12th, 2018 1:50PM

Nadal has high praise for Shapovalov after beating teenager

By The Associated Press
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ROME (AP) — Seven-time champion Rafael Nadal methodically wore down Denis Shapovalov 6-4, 6-1 Thursday to reach the Italian Open quarterfinals and gain revenge against the Canadian teenager.

The 19-year-old Shapovalov stunned Nadal in the third round in Montreal last year to deny the Spanish player a chance to regain the No. 1 spot.

Nadal is also attempting to win the top spot back this week. He'll replace Roger Federer if he wins an eighth Rome title.

In a match between two left-handers, Shapovalov saved eight break points in his opening two service games before finally dropping his serve midway through the first set.

"He was really serving big and I had some mistakes with the return," Nadal said. "It was not a comfortable match against a lefty who serves big and goes for his shots.

"He's good in all aspects. The only thing he needs is a little bit more time."

Shapovalov was stretched to three sets in his opening two matches, against 15th-seeded Tomas Berdych and Robin Haase, and reached the semifinals of last week's Madrid Open.

"I didn't feel completely dead out there but I felt like I could've been fresher," Shapovalov said.

Nadal, who hasn't won the Italian Open since 2013, next faces Fabio Fognini, who beat Peter Gojowczyk 6-4, 6-4.

Fognini slammed his racket midway through the second set and received a warning from the umpire but otherwise held his composure to follow up an impressive win over Dominic Thiem.

Four-time Rome champion Novak Djokovic reached his first quarterfinal of the year with a 6-1, 7-5 victory over Alberto Ramos-Vinolas.

Defending champion Alexander Zverev needed eight match points before completing a 7-5, 7-6 (11) win over Kyle Edmund.

Zverev will next play ninth-seeded David Goffin, who was leading 6-2, 4-5 when Juan Martin del Potro retired because of a groin injury.

Fourth-seeded Marin Cilic defeated Benoit Paire 6-3, 6-4 and will meet Pablo Carreno Busta, who beat Aljaz Bedene 6-4, 6-7 (3), 6-2.

In the women's tournament, Simona Halep's hold on the No. 1 ranking received a boost when American Madison Keys withdrew from their last-16 match due to a rib injury.

Halep now needs to progress further than No. 2 Caroline Wozniacki to stay in top spot.

Wozniacki faces 15th-seeded Anastasija Sevastova in a late match.

The winner will play Anett Kontaveit, who ousted 1999 champion Venus Williams 6-2, 7-6 (3) for her second win over the American in two weeks.

Last year, Halep rolled her ankle in the final and lost a lead and the championship to Elina Svitolina.

Halep next plays U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens or seventh-seeded Caroline Garcia.

Svitolina overcame a poor start to beat 14th-seeded Daria Kasatkina 0-6, 6-3, 6-2. She'll next face former No. 1 Angelique Kerber, who routed Maria Sakkari of Greece 6-1, 6-1.

This is the last major warmup for the French Open, which starts in 10 days.

Jelena Ostapenko, preparing to defend her title at Roland Garros, rallied past Johanna Konta 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 and will meet three-time Rome champion Maria Sharapova, who eliminated Daria Gavrilova 6-3, 6-4.

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More AP tennis coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-Tennis

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Andrew Dampf on Twitter: www.twitter.com/asdampf

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Sports, AP Online Tennis, AP Sports - Men's Tennis, AP Sports - Women's Tennis
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