Nadal eases past Cuevas to reach Hamburg semi

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On to the next one: Rafael Nadal.

Top seed Rafael Nadal defeated fifth seed Pablo Cuevas 6-3, 6-2 on Friday to set up a Hamburg semi-final clash against Italian veteran Andreas Seppi.

Nadal, 29, broke the Cuevas serve five times on his way to a second triumph over the Uruguayan this year, having also beaten the South American in the Rio de Janeiro quarter-finals in February.

Nadal is playing in Hamburg for the first time since 2008, when he lifted the trophy with victory over Roger Federer, as the left-hander looks to breathe life back into his flagging season.

“I played I think 90 per cent of the match doing the right things, doing the right shots every time and waiting for my moment,” said Nadal, who is chasing his 47th clay-court title.

Seppi, who knocked Federer out of the Australian Open this year, enjoyed a walkover into today’s semi-finals when compatriot Simone Bolelli withdrew due to gastroenteritis.

Seppi trails Nadal 5-1 in career clashes with his only win coming in 2008 in Rotterdam.

“He’s a great player,” said Nadal of the Italian. “He’s a very consistent player that has very, very solid shots from the baseline and changing very well the direction.”

The other semi-final sees French qualifier Lucas Pouille face Italy’s Fabio Fognini. World No 85 Pouille defeated countryman Benoit Paire, who was champion on clay at Bastad last weekend, 6-3, 6-2. Eighth seed Fognini beat Britain’s Aljaz Bedene 6-4, 7-5.

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“I knew it would be tough. I was prepared for it,” said Pouille. “I succeeded in playing my best tennis today. It was a very good day. This will improve my ranking a lot. It’s been a great week and I’m hoping to get to the final.”

Fognini, 28, is through to his first semi-final since February, when he lost to David Ferrer in the Rio de Janeiro final.

“I’m happy to be in the semi-finals again here,” said Fognini. “I’m happy about my performance because I was playing good tennis, especially with my forehand. I have another day tomorrow to try and improve my game.”

Meanwhile, top seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova needed barely an hour to book her place in the semi-finals of the Baku Cup after sweeping aside the challenge of Kirsten Flipkens. Pavlyuchenkova had won the only previous meeting between the two in straight sets and the Russian repeated the feat with a 6-1, 6-3 win in just 62 minutes in the Azerbaijan capital.

The Russian will now face Patricia Maria Tig as she chases her first final appearance of the year, with the Romanian qualifier securing her spot with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Croatia’s Donna Vekic. 

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Venus Williams crashes out of Istanbul Cup

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Down and out: Venus.

Top seed Venus Williams was dumped out in the first round of the Istanbul Cup as the seven-time grand slam champion lost 6-4 7-6 (7/4) to Ukraine’s Kateryna Bondarenko.

Bondarenko had to come through qualifying to reach the main draw but the world No 119 was too good for Williams, particularly in the first set, which she won after breaking serve three times.

Williams looked on course for a comeback when the American won four games in a row to lead the second set 6-5 but Bondarenko dug deep to hold on and seal the match in a tie-break.

“I’m really sad,” Williams told wtatennis.com. “I came here to play and to win but I ran into an opponent that was just too hot today.”

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Williams’ defeat was not the only upset of the day as number three seed Jelena Jankovic also went out, losing to Urszula Radwanska 6-4, 3-6, 6-2.

Among those safely through to round two were France’s Alize Cornet, Italy’s Camila Giorgi, Slovakian Daniela Hantuchova and Belgium’s Kirsten Flipkens.

Meanwhile, top seed Sara Errani made a winning start to her Nurnberger Gastein Ladies campaign with a straight-sets victory over Aliaksandra Sasnovich. The Italian won 6-4, 6-4 and will next face Ukrainian qualifier Maryna Zanevska.

Anna Karolina Schmiedlova was also a first-round winner as she beat Patricia Mayr-Achleitner 3-6 6-2 6-0 while Johanna Larsson progressed thanks to a 6-2, 6-2 win over Stefanie Voegele.

Second seed Samantha Stosur was in second-round action and she is through to the quarter-finals after a thumping 6-1, 6-0 win against Klara Koukalova. The Australian will next face Danka Kovinic who was a 6-3, 6-1 victor over Richel Hogenkamp. 

Also through to the last eight are Polona Hercog, who beat fifth seed Lucie Hradecka 6-3, 6-2, and Annika Beck, a 6-2, 6-3 winner against Denisa Allertova.

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Tennis Australia seek meeting with Tomic

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Bernard Tomic has been under the spotlight due to his behaviour in recent times.

Tennis Australia said Tuesday it will contact troubled star Bernard Tomic in the next week to “clear the air” and hopes to have him back on-side for September’s Davis Cup semi-final.

President Steve Healy said TA was concerned about the 22-year-old following his arrest in Miami last week for failing to follow police orders over a raucous penthouse party.

It came on the eve of Australia’s ultimately successful Davis Cup quarter-final tie against Kazakhstan, from which Tomic was dumped after a tirade against Australian tennis administrators following his Wimbledon exit.

“We want to offer Bernard the opportunity to raise the issues he has raised, so we can address those with him,” Healy told reporters.

“We think the criticisms are unjustified — he needs to hear that. He needs to get some detail, and we want to bring him back into the fold.

“I think the important thing to understand is he’s had fantastic support from Tennis Australia and we want him to understand and appreciate that and then welcome him back into Davis Cup.”

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Tomic is currently in Colombia preparing to defend his Claro Open ATP title, which Healy conceded would make a face-to-face meeting difficult.

“But we want to take those issues off the table,” he said, adding that he hoped to resolve the issues quickly, but said it was mostly out of TA’s hands.”

“We want to get Bernard and we want to have a chat to clear the air with those issues and get him back hopefully for the semi-final if possible.”

Tomic created headlines when he lashed out at TA and tennis official Pat Rafter at a post-match Wimbledon news conference this month, accusing the governing body of penny-pinching and claiming he had been charged for practising on their courts in Brisbane this year.

He also insulted former Davis Cup captain Rafter, one of the country’s sporting icons.

Davis Cup captain Wally Masur said on Sunday he was confident of having Tomic back in his team for the away semi-final tie with Great Britain on September 18-20.

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