• KYODO, AFP-JIJI

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Kei Nishikori and Yoshihito Nishioka were both eliminated in the second round of the men’s singles at the Madrid Open, the second of three ATP Masters 1000 tournaments played on clay, on Wednesday.

Nishikori was beaten by world No. 6 Alexander Zverev 6-3, 6-2, having been unable to convert a single break point in the second set against the German. Nishioka fell to Norway’s Casper Ruud 6-1, 6-2.

“A lot of my shots were going out of bounds but it was because of strategy mistakes,” Nishioka said. “I don’t feel like I’m leaving for Rome (for the next competition) on a bad note,” Nishioka said.

Both Nishikori, currently ranked 43rd in the world, and the 60th-ranked Nishioka are on the entry list for the Italian Open in Rome, which begins May 9 and marks the final Masters 1000-level tune-up before the French Open.

Rafael Nadal began his bid for a sixth Madrid Open title in simple fashion, easing past youngster Carlos Alcaraz 6-1, 6-2 to reach the last 16.

Nadal, who returned to No. 2 in the world last week after his thrilling win over Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Barcelona Open final, strolled past his 18-year-old opponent in the Spanish capital.

Alcaraz, ranked No. 120, walked out to fans singing “happy birthday” — and later received a cake — as he celebrated by playing against his childhood idol.

Alcaraz battled bravely, and even broke Nadal’s serve in the second set, but was predictably overwhelmed by one of the game’s greats.

“The victory in Barcelona helped me a lot. Things have got better since,” said Nadal, who had special praise for his vanquished opponent.

“He has a lot of potential. He’s young and a good guy. He already has a great level of tennis today, but I really believe that he’s going to be a fantastic player in the near future.” I wish him all the very best. (As a) Spanish player and Spanish (tennis) fan, I really believe that we need somebody like him, and it’s great to have him here.”

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