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Nishikori advances to quarters in Rome

Kyodo, AP

Kei Nishikori rolled into the Italian Open quarterfinals for the third straight year by beating David Ferrer in straight sets Wednesday.

Nishikori, who had a bye into the second round and also defeated Ferrer in two sets at last week’s Madrid Open, won 7-5, 6-2 and will face Juan Martin del Potro in the next round.

World No. 9 Nishikori pulled out in Madrid ahead of his quarterfinal against Novak Djokovic after aggravating a right wrist injury, but the seventh seed on Wednesday said it did not bother him one bit.

“It was never an issue,” Nishikori said, after knocking out the 30th-ranked Ferrer in 1 hour, 21 minutes. “My condition was a little different from last week so I struggled a bit in the first game. But he made a few mistakes and that got me into a good flow.”

The match could have been more one-sided with Ferrer allowing 12 break-point opportunities, of which Nishikori converted only five. Ferrer struggled with his serve — the Spaniard’s first service percentage was 55 percent — and Nishikori never let his opponent find his rhythm.

“The court is heavier, the ball feels heavier so it’s not quite like Madrid,” Nishikori said. “I had to be patient. I’ve got a lot of adjustments I still need to make.”

Nishikori reached the semifinals in Rome for the first time last season.

Rafael Nadal hardly had to get his socks dirty to extend his winning streak to 16 matches.

Back to being the best player on tour over the last month, Nadal advanced from his opening match when Nicolas Almagro retired in the first set with an apparent injury.

Nadal was leading 3-0, 15-30 when Almagro bent over toward the red clay court and grasped his left knee.

Nadal went over to Almagro’s side of the net to ask what was wrong and consoled his countryman. Almagro then got some medical attention at his chair but quickly retired from the second-round match.

“It’s difficult to see what’s going on now just after what happened,” Nadal said. “He felt something on the knee.”

Nadal has won consecutive clay-court tournaments in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid. He’s aiming for an eighth title at the Foro Italico as he prepares for the French Open, which starts in less than two weeks.

Nadal will next face 13th-seeded Jack Sock, who beat Jiri Vesely 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7-1) after more than 2½ hours.

Meanwhile, Maria Sharapova is vowing to “rise up again,” a day after she was denied a wild-card entry for the French Open.

On her Twitter feed Wednesday, Sharapova posted these words: “If this is what it takes to rise up again, then I am in it all the way, everyday. No words, games, or actions will ever stop me from reaching my own dreams. And I have many.”

French Tennis Federation president Bernard Giudicelli announced Tuesday that he decided not to invite Sharapova to play at Roland Garros, where the main draw starts May 28. She recently returned to the tour after serving a 15-month doping ban.

The 30-year-old Sharapova didn’t comment about Giudicelli’s ruling on Tuesday.