Photo: Rafael Nadal
Spain’s Rafael Nadal won the Madrid tennis tourney for the fourth time on Sunday, when Japan’s Kei Nishikori withdrew after suffering a back injury while trailing in the third set.
The 24-year-old Japanese - playing electrifying tennis and clearly besting Nadal early on - jumped out to a 6-2 lead in the first set and then was leading by 4-2 in the second when back problems and cramps in his left leg began to take their toll.
Nadal then won the next seven games before his rival conceded.
Nishikori - currently ranked No. 12 - had had back spasms on Saturday and had to get some treatment from the trainer during his hard-fought 7-6 (7-5), 5-7, 6-3 victory over Spain’s David Ferrer in the Madrid Masters semifinals.
Also on Saturday, Nadal had defeated countryman Roberto Bautista Agut 6-4, 6-3 to earn the right to play for his fourth title at the Madrid Open.
This is Nadal’s first European clay title of the season and the 63rd title victory of his career. He has won the Masters 1000 27 times.
Nishikori, despite having to withdraw from the title match, gave an outstanding performance this past week and will be the first Japanese to make it to the world’s Top 10, coming in ninth when the new ATP stats are released on Monday.
Nadal’s win ensures that he will remain the world’s No. 1 ranked player when the French Open gets under way on May 25.
In the women’s final, Maria Sharapova became the second Russian to win the Madrid tourney, defeating Romania’s Simona Halep in the final 1-6, 6-2 and 6-3 in an hour and 57 minutes.
This is Sharapova’s 31st title and her second consecutive one this year after she beat Ana Ivanovic of Serbia in Stuttgart.