Nadal, Nishikori to play for Madrid Open title

Top-ranked Rafael Nadal of Spain is back in a clay-court final at the Madrid Open, where Kei Nishikori of Japan converted his 10th match point in a grueling semifinal victory over David Ferrer on Saturday.

Defending champion Nadal reached his first clay final since winning in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in February. He posted a 6-4, 6-4 victory over countryman Roberto Bautista Agut.

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“Psychologically speaking about (recent tournaments in) Monte Carlo and Barcelona, whenever I had nerves, I was not ready and I was a little bit down,” Nadal said. “I am mentally more stable and more confident things will go well.”

Spaniard Ferrer saved nine match points before Nishikori secured a 7-6 (7-5), 5-7, 6-3 victory.

Earlier, Maria Sharapova of Russia reached her second consecutive women’s final, where she will play Simona Halep of Romania.

Sharapova beat Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland 6-1, 6-4. Halep defeated 2011 champion Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic 6-7 (4-7), 6-3, 6-2.

Sharapova hit 28 winners — compared with four for Radwanska.

Hall of Fame to expand

The International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum in Newport, R.I., is set to break ground Wednesday in the first phase of a $15.7 million project to expand and upgrade its facilities.


Stiverne wins WBC title

Bermane Stiverne completed his long journey to a heavyweight title with one more punishing victory.

Stiverne stopped Chris Arreola in the sixth round, claiming the WBC heavyweight-title belt vacated by Vitali Klitschko.

Stiverne (24-1-1) dropped Arreola (36-4) twice in the sixth, and the Haitian-born fighter was punishing Arreola again when referee Jack Reiss stopped the fight with 58 seconds left in the round at the Galen Center on the USC campus in Los Angeles.

“I felt like I was winning the fight,” Arreola said.

The Klitschko brothers, Vitali and Wladimir, had held every major heavyweight title for the past six years.

Vitali’s retirement into Ukrainian politics in December created an opportunity for the 35-year-old Stiverne, who hasn’t lost in 13 consecutive fights.

Stiverne beat Arreola by decision last year.

Stiverne’s next opponent will be unbeaten Deontay Wilder, the WBC’s mandatory challenger.


Wiggins looks solid

Bradley Wiggins might be the only one who doesn’t consider himself the overwhelming favorite to win the Tour of California when it begins Sunday in Sacramento.

The 2012 Tour de France champion and leader of Team Sky’s British invasion has identified one of America’s premier stage races as one of his priorities this season.

But he also believes it could come down to the finishing stages next weekend.

Defending champion Tejay van Garderen, who was born in Tacoma, is not competing in the Tour of California, instead focusing on the Tour de France in July.

Kittel wins Giro stage

German Marcel Kittel of the Giant-Shimano team sprinted to victory in a wet second stage of the Giro d’Italia in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Australian Michael Matthews took the overall leader’s pink jersey from Orica-GreenEdge teammate Svein Tuft of Canada.

Kittel covered 135 miles in 5 hours, 13 minutes, 12 seconds. Garmin-Sharp rider Tyler Farrar of Wenatchee was 10th in the stage.

Horse racing

Durkin to exit Aug. 31

Tom Durkin will retire from calling races Aug. 31 at Saratoga after a 43-year career that included announcing the Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup.

Chicago native Durkin, 63, has handled announcing duties at New York tracks Aqueduct, Belmont Park and Saratoga since 1990.

“It’s been exciting,” he said, “and just as importantly, it has been fun.”

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