Rafael Nadal continued his perfect start to 2022, beating Cameron Norrie 6-4, 6-4 to lift the Acapulco ATP title in his first tournament since winning the Australian Open.

Nadal needed one hour and 54 minutes to beat Britain’s 12th-ranked Norrie for the fourth time in as many career meetings.

“Cameron is a very solid player, he’s a tricky player, he makes you feel that you cannot play comfortable against him at all,” Nadal said. “I had been going through some very difficult moments in the match.”

But the world number five wasn’t too unsettled to claim a 91st career victory, and his fourth in Acapulco after wins in 2005, 2013 and 2020.

As he did in 2020, Nadal won this week without dropping a set.

Nadal is undefeated since losing to Lloyd Harris in the third round at Washington on August 5, 2021. He ended his 2021 season after that because of a left foot injury.

He returned to win the Melbourne Summer Set Australian Open warm-up, then won the Australian Open for a second time to break out of a tie with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic for most men’s Grand Slam singles titles.

His victory over Daniil Medvedev in the Australian Open final was a classic, the Spaniard rallying from two sets down to triumph.

He beat the Russian again in the semi-finals on Friday, just a day after Medvedev was assured of rising to number one in the world thanks to Djokovic’s early exit at Dubai.

“I’m very pleased,” Nadal said of his week’s work. “It was a very important title for me, so I can’t be happier.”

He started strongly against Norrie, putting 89 percent of his first serves in play in the first set and winning 79 percent of those points.

Nadal pounced on his first break point in the fifth game of the first set, firing a forehand winner.

The Spaniard looked as if he could run away with the match when he broke Norrie in the opening game of the second set.

But Norrie – who was riding an eight-match winning streak that included a run to the title in Delray Beach last week – hit back to level at 1-1, though he needed four break points to do it.

Down 0-40, Nadal saved three break points before Norrie came out on top in a 20-ball rally.

After Norrie held for 2-1, Nadal reeled off the next four games only for Norrie to strike back again as Nadal served for the match at 5-3, the 21-time Grand Slam champion surrendering a break with two forehand errors.

Nadal made no mistake on his second attempt to serve out, reaching match point with a volley winner before Norrie belted a forehand long.

Swiatek dedicates Qatar Open win to ‘suffering Ukraine’

Poland’s Iga Swiatek swept aside Anett Kontaveit in the Qatar Open final on Saturday and dedicated her victory to “the people who are suffering in Ukraine”.

Former French Open champion Swiatek, seeded seven, needed just over an hour to see off the fourth-seeded Estonian.

“I want to show my support to all the people who are suffering in Ukraine,” the 20-year-old Swiatek told the crowd after capturing her fourth career title.

“Seeing those images is really emotional for me. I wouldn’t even imagine stuff happening like that in the country next to me.”

Her remarks came a day after Russian men’s star Andrey Rublev, playing in neighbouring Dubai, marked his semi-final win by signing a camera lens on court with the message, “No war please”, clearly stating his feelings about his nation’s invasion of Ukraine.

Swiatek beat three top 10 players on her way to the Qatar title.

The 2020 French Open champion now has two 1000-level titles after winning in Rome last year, where she crushed Karolina Pliskova 6-0, 6-0 in the final.

In the four finals she has won, the Pole has dropped just 11 games.

Kontaveit arrived at the tournament in red-hot form and was playing in her ninth final since the start of 2021.

Dubai: Andrey Rublev races past Jiri Vesely

An emotional Andrey Rublev said he will sleep for two days after securing his third trophy in seven days by ending the dream run of Czech qualifier Jiri Vesely with a 6-3, 6-4 victory in the Dubai final on Saturday.

The second-seeded Russian won the singles and doubles titles in Marseille last Sunday before flying to the Emirates and clawing his way to a 10th career singles crown, and a fifth at the ATP 500 level.

“For sure for the next two days I will sleep, I won’t leave my bed,” said Rublev, whose plea for peace in Ukraine after his win the previous night went viral across news stations worldwide.

“Finally I can rest for maybe one week now. I feel super happy, even though maybe I’m tired.

“I think I was lucky today that Jiri also was super tired. He had really tough matches since qualies, three sets, he beat top players starting from the first round, so I was super lucky that he couldn’t perform the way he can.

“I was lucky today and that’s why I’m happy to be the champion, I didn’t expect this. It’s an amazing feeling.”

Rublev entered the Dubai final having contested 17 matches –- across singles and doubles –- in three weeks, 12 of which were three-setters.

The world number seven has been running on fumes all week and had to rally back from a set down in three of his five matches.

World number 123 Vesely is the lowest-ranked finalist in the Dubai tournament’s 30-year history.

The 28-year-old left-hander made it through the qualifying rounds before knocking out ex-US Open champion Marin Cilic, eighth seed Roberto Bautista Agut, world number one Novak Djokovic, and sixth seed Denis Shapovalov en route to the biggest final of his career.

His performance against Rublev on Saturday however was far from what he was able to showcase earlier in the week, as he double-faulted eight times and struggled to win points on his second serve.

Rublev fired 30 winners, including 13 aces on his way to an 80-minute triumph.

Some clever returning from Rublev helped him carve a 4-1 lead and that sole break was all he needed to scoop the opening set in 29 minutes.

The 24-year-old started the second set with a break and looked in control until the sixth game where Vesely managed to stall his momentum.

A bad call from chair umpire Carlos Bernardes, who missed an obvious let on a Rublev serve, did not go down well with the Russian, who went on a rant before receiving a code violation.

Vesely capitalised on his opponent’s loss of focus and broke back to level the set at 3-3 but the Czech dropped serve again after an eight-minute seventh game.

Back in the driver’s seat, Rublev closed out the victory comfortably, and sank to his knees after match point, realising his marathon February was finally over.

Rublev is now 37-4 at ATP 500 tournaments since the tour resumed in August 2020 following a five-month suspension.

(Reporting by AFP)