Nadal withdraws, Murray loses to Medvedev in Brisbane

ABS-CBN Sports on Jan 02, 2019 08:01 PM
Nadal withdraws, Murray loses to Medvedev in Brisbane
Rafael Nadal of Spain announces that he is pulling out of the tournament due to an injury at the Brisbane International tennis tournament in Brisbane, Australia, Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019. (AP Photo/Tertius Pickard)

By John Pye, Associated Press

BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Andy Murray lost his second-round match less than an hour after Rafael Nadal withdrew from the Brisbane International on Wednesday.

Both players arrived in Australia after long injury breaks, and neither had played a competitive match since September.

At least Murray completed two matches, playing on a protected ranking after an injury-interrupted 18 months, beating James Duckworth before losing to fourth-seeded Daniil Medvedev 7-5, 6-2. There were signs in both matches that he is still bothered by the hip problem which has derailed his last two seasons.

The second-ranked Nadal had a first-round bye but withdrew on the eve of his scheduled second-round match against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga after having an MRI on a muscle strain in his left thigh.

Nadal said he would keep practicing in Brisbane until the weekend, then head to Melbourne after a brief stopover in Sydney to prepare for the Australian Open. The 32-year-old Spaniard is confident he will be fit enough to compete at the season's first major, which starts on Jan. 14 at Melbourne Park.

"After analyzing everything, (doctors) say that it's a very small thing, but can become a big thing, because a strain in the muscle is dangerous," Nadal said during a news conference staged while Murray was playing Medvedev on Pat Rafter Arena. "When you increase the intensity on the muscle competing, then there is a big risk to make something bigger."

Also exiting the men's draw on Wednesday where defending champion Nick Kyrgios, who lost to Jeremy Chardy 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-3, and third-seeded Kyle Edmund, who lost to Japanese qualifier Yasutaka Uchiyama 7-6 (6), 6-4.

Second-seeded Kei Nishikori and 2017 champion Grigor Dimitrov had straight-set wins earlier to set up a quarterfinal showdown — a rematch of their final in 2017 — and fifth-seeded Milos Raonic advanced with a 6-3, 7-6 (2) win over Miomir Kecmanovic.

Anett Kontaveit beat fourth-seeded Petra Kvitova 7-5, 7-6 (1) to advance to the women's quarterfinals, and Anastasija Sevastova set up a match against U.S. Open champion Naomi Osaka when she beat Harriet Dart 6-2, 6-0.

Fifth-seeded Karolina Pliskova had a 7-5, 6-2 win over Marie Bouzkova, Ajla Tomljanovic beat Johanna Konta 6-2, 7-6 (2), and Donna Vekic ousted No. 6 Kiki Bertens 7-6 (5), 1-6, 7-5.

Nadal withdrew after one match at an exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi before arriving this week in Australia, where he forecast another withdrawal when he said he wanted to focus on quality of his play over quantity of matches in his schedule this year.

He played nine tournaments in 2018, winning five titles, including the French Open, in a season curtailed by knee and ankle injuries.

"Probably I'm 100 percent in five days. And then I have plenty of time to prepare Melbourne," he said. "It's a waste to damage my body for one month if I keep playing here. After all the things that happened to me, probably I am not ready to assume that waste."

Taro Daniel, a lucky loser from qualifying, will take Nadal's place in the Brisbane draw and will play Tsonga on Thursday.

The absence of Nadal and Murray casts more focus on the Nishikori-Dimitrov quarterfinal match. Nishikori broke at love in the 11th game to seize momentum in a 7-5, 6-2 win over Denis Kudla in the second round.

The sixth-seeded Dimitrov, who beat Nishikori in the 2017 final, had to withstand a late comeback from local favorite John Millman before winning 6-3, 6-4. He's using the quarterfinal match against Nishikori as a barometer for where his preparations stand for the Australian Open.

"It's great. I mean it's right off the blocks," Dimitrov said. "It's perfect to play a match like that to kind of see where your game is at."

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