Rafael Nadal cruises past Sergiy Stakhovsky in Montreal opener

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Allez: Nadal has won the Rogers Cup on three previous occasions.

Rafael Nadal got his US Open preparations off to a flying start with a 7-6 (4), 6-3  win over Sergiy Stakhovsky in the second round of the Rogers Cup in Montreal Wednesday.

Nadal was playing his first match in the ATP Masters 1000 event since winning the title in 2013.

Barring brief blips where the seventh-seeded Spaniard got broken when serving for the first set and again for the match, Nadal was in no real trouble against the Ukrainian as he eased into a third round clash with Russian Mikhail Youzhny.

Earlier, Kei Nishikori notched an ATP-leading 27th hard court match win of the season with a smooth 6-3, 6-3 win over Spain’s Pablo Andujar.

The four-seeded Japanese needed just 70 minutes to beat the 48th-ranked Andujar, dropping serve just once and breaking his opponent four times.

American big-hitter Jack Sock notched his second consecutive win over No14 seed Grigor Dimitrov with a tight 5-7, 7-6 (5), 7-5 triumph to set up a third round with world No1 Novak Djokovic.

This will be the first meeting between the pair.

Over in Toronto, in incredibly windy conditions, the WTA Rogers Cup saw second-seeded Simona Halep kick off her US Open preparations with an impressive 6-3, 6-4 win over former world No1 Jelena Jankovic to reach the third round.

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Kei Nishikori outguns John Isner in Washington to claim 10th title

Fifth-seeded Ana Ivanovic clawed her way back from a double-break down in the second set to beat Belarusian qualifier Olga Govortsova 6-4, 7-6 (4) in the Serb’s first match back with British coach Nigel Sears. Ivanovic will next face Slovenia’s Polona Hercog who upset No11 seed Ekaterina Makarova 6-2, 6-7 (2), 7-5. 

“It wasn’t a great match out there today – the conditions made it especially tough as it was very windy,” Ivanovic said.

“She had some matches under her belt so I was just happy to pull through.

“I just tried to hang in there and fight for each point. I was doing that in the second set and I managed to fight back and I was pleased with that.”

Germany’s Sabine Lisicki also advanced, 7-6 (3), 6-4 over Barbora Strycova describing the wind as “like a hurricane”.

It was a bad day for grand slam runners-up as both Roland Garros and Wimbledon finalists, Lucie Safarova and Garbine Muguruza were sent packing by lower-ranked opposition.

Seventh-seeded Safarova, French Open runner-up, fell to 21-year-old Daria Gavrilova 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 while Wimbledon runner-up and No8 seed Muguruza stumbled to Ukrainian qualifier Lesia Tsurenko 7-5, 6-1.

It was Gavrilova’s third top-10 victory of the season having also upset Maria Sharapova in Miami and Ivanovic in Rome.

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Kei Nishikori avenges US Open loss to reach Washington final

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Kei Nishikori returns a shot to Marin Cilic during the Citi Open semi-final.

Japan’s Kei Nishikori avenged his loss to Marin Cilic in last year’s US Open final, defeating the Croatian 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 Saturday to reach the ATP and WTA Washington Open final.

The 25-year-old Asian number one rallied to oust the reigning US Open champion and advanced to Sunday’s title match against US eighth seed John Isner, who fired 31 aces and saved three match points to edge American Steve Johnson 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (11/9).

Fifth-ranked Nishikori improved to 6-3 all-time against Cilic in their first meeting since he missed a chance to become the first Asian man to win a Grand Slam title by losing last year’s Flushing Meadows final.

“It’s great to have revenge,” Nishikori said. “Today I was playing very much better against Cilic. It was important to play well. Hopefully I will keep it going.”

Isner beat Nishikori four months ago in a Miami quarter-final in their only prior meeting.

“Everything sort of clicked for me that day,” Isner said. “I played extremely well. That was my best match of the year. I’m probably going to have to bring that again tomorrow.”

Isner seeks his 11th career ATP title after winning last week in Atlanta while Nishikori seeks his 10th career title after crowns at Memphis and Barcelona this year.

“It was a great win for me,” Nishikori said. “Overall, I’m playing well, very aggressive. The last two sets I was very happy with my tennis.”

Despite the defeat, eighth-ranked Cilic felt the week was a solid start on the path to defending his US Open crown.

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“Overall I’m pretty satisfied with the way I was playing,” Cilic said. “Definitely it has given me some vision of what I’m going to focus on the next days and weeks.

“In my next match I will try and be more focused on my serve, to be more deadly.”

On the women’s side, American Sloane Stephens reached her first WTA career final by eliminating Australian second seed Samantha Stosur 7-6 (7/4), 6-0. She will play for the title against Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who advanced 4-6, 6-3 when top-seeded compatriot Ekaterina Makarova retired with a right leg injury.

Stephens ended her long wait in her 84th WTA tournament, having been the world’s highest-ranked player without a finals appearance at 35th, six prior semi-final losses including the 2013 Australian Open.

Cilic won the first set in 35 minutes but Nishikori roared back in the second to force a third. After double-faulting away a break in the eighth game, Nishikori broke for a 5-4 lead and held for the triumph.

“I started to hit a little more aggressively in the second set,” Nishikori said. “I had to change mentally a little bit. The third set he came back and I had to concentrate again.”

Isner, the 2007 and 2012 Washington runner-up, and Johnson exchanged lone breaks over the first two sets. In the tie-breaker, Johnson missed a forehand on his first match point and Isner fired the first of four consecutive aces to save the second. The drama turned when Isner charged the net and hit a backhand volley winner, then closed the match with a service winner.

“My serve bailed me out,” Isner said. “I’m so excited to be back in the final. Hopefully it’ll be third time lucky.”

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Kei Nishikori and Marin Cilic power into Washington quarter-finals

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Marin Cilic returns a shot during his match against Sam Querrey.

Reigning US Open champion Marin Cilic and 2014 US Open runner-up Kei Nishikori advanced to the quarter-finals of the ATP and WTA Washington Open with straight-set triumphs Thursday.

Japense second seed Nishikori, the highest-ranked player in the field after Britain's Andy Murray crashed out in his opening match, never faced a break point in dispatching Argentina's Leonardo Mayer 6-4, 6-4, after 92 minutes.

Croatian third seed Cilic, who faced a possible rematch with Nishikori in the semi-finals, outfought 32nd-ranked American Sam Querrey 7-6 (7/2), 7-6 (7/3) at the US Open hardcourt warm-up event.

French fourth seed Richard Gasquet, coming off a Wimbledon semi-final run, was upset by 37th-ranked American Jack Sock 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (7/5), 6-4 after two hours and 33 minutes.

Women's top seed Ekaterina Makarova of Russia also reached the last eight, defeating Britain's Naomi Broady 6-4, 7-6 (7/2). She next plays Romanian sixth seed Irina-Camelia Begu.

Nishikori, who seeks his third title of the year after Memphis and Barcelona and the 10th of his career, silenced speculation in Japan he might be becoming a father, saying, "I hope one day, but not yet."

Fifth-ranked Nishikori broke Mayer for a 4-3 edge and held twice more to take the first set in 59 minutes, then broke again in the penultimate game of the match when the South American netted a forehand volley after having saved two other break points.

The 25-year-old Asian number one will next face Australia's Sam Groth, who fired 20 aces to defeat Spanish seventh seed Feliciano Lopez 6-3, 6-4 in 59 minutes.

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The two have never played, although Groth — ranked a career-best 62nd — will get some pointers thanks to a shared coach with Nishikori's second-round victim, Aussie James Duckworth, and Nishikori has seen the ball smasher in action.

Cilic improved to 4-0 all-time against Querrey, their prior matchup a 2012 Wimbledon epic third-rounder Cilic won 17-15 in the fifth set. Cilic rolled to a 6-1 edge in each tie-breaker to win.

Blocking Cilic's path to his second semi-final of the year is Alexander Zverev, who rallied past Ukraine's Alexandr Dolgopolov 2-6, 6-2, 6-4. The 18-year-old German became the youngest Washington men's quarter-finalist since a 17-year-old Andy Roddick in 2000 by eliminating the 2012 Washington winner.

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