Rafael Nadal on Friday withdrew from the Rome Masters as he continues his recovery from an injury. The latest withdrawal casts major doubts over the 22-time Grand Slam champion’s ability to defend his French Open title.
Napoli won their first Serie A title in 33 years, and third overall after securing a draw at Udinese to confirm the Italian crown.
In other football news, Brighton’s late winner dented Manchester United’s chase of a Champions League spot in the Premier League.
Meanwhile in the Madrid Masters, Aryna Sabalenka booked a spot in the final where she will face Iga Swiatek.
Here’s a look at the key stories from international sporting events through the day for 5 May, 2023:
Nadal to miss Rome Masters
Rafael Nadal on Friday withdrew from the Rome Masters tournament as he continues his recovery from injury, casting serious doubts over his fitness for the French Open.
The 22-time Grand Slam winner has not played since suffering a hip injury at the Australian Open in January.
The French Open, which the 36-year-old has won on a record 14 occasions, gets underway in Paris in three weeks’ time.
Nadal said his injury situation has improved in the past few days but not sufficiently to be able to compete next week in the Italian capital.
“I am very sorry to announce that I will not be able to be in Rome,” Nadal wrote on his social media accounts.
“You all know how much it hurts me to miss another of the tournaments that have marked my professional and personal career because of all the love and support of the Italian tifosi (fans).
“Although I have noticed an improvement in the last few days, it has been many months without being able to train at a high level and the process of readjustment takes a certain amount of time, and I have no choice but to accept that and continue working.”
The 22-time Grand Slam champion – he shares the men’s record with Novak Djokovic – had originally thought he would be out for up to two months.
He pulled out of hard-court tournaments at Indian Wells and Miami, with his sights set on a return at the start of the clay-court season, but it did not come to fruition.
Nadal had to withdraw from events in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid, before eventually adding Rome, the final French Open warm-up event, to the list.
Napoli win Serie A title
Napoli finally ended their long wait to win Italy’s Serie A on Thursday after a 1-1 draw at Udinese secured their third league title with a record-equalling five games to play.
Thousands of fans in Udine, at the Stadio Maradona in Naples and all around southern Italy’s biggest city exploded with joy at the final whistle as 33 years of waiting came to an end.
Supporters streamed onto the pitch at the Dacia Arena to celebrate after a season dominated by Luciano Spalletti’s side.
Victor Osimhen scored the decisive goal as Napoli’s current stars came back from trailing to Sandi Lovric’s opener at half-time and emulated the teams led by Diego Maradona which won the league in 1987 and 1990.
Spalletti and his team will receive an emotional welcome when they return to Naples, where the partying is set to continue to until at least their next home fixture against Fiorentina on Sunday evening.
It was appropriate that Osimhen was the man to take Napoli over the line as the Nigeria striker has had the best season of his career and been key to Napoli’s historic charge to glory.
Osimhen’s title-deciding strike was his 22nd goal in 28 league appearances and rightly caused bedlam among the massed ranks of away fans who took over the Dacia Arena in Udine.
Napoli’s 16-point lead over second-placed Lazio leaves them with a month-long parade between now and the end of the season which will allow their long-suffering supporters to fully unload more than a generation of frustration.
Sabalenka in Madrid final
Aryna Sabalenka gave herself an early birthday gift by easing into the Madrid Open final for the second time in three years on Thursday and then plotted revenge on world number one Iga Swiatek.
The world No 2 turns 25 on Friday and the Belarusian celebrated in style by breezing past Greek world No 9 Maria Sakkari, 6-4, 6-1.
Sabalenka, the 2021 champion in Madrid, will face Swiatek in Saturday’s championship match after the French and US Open winner swept aside 13th-ranked Veronika Kudermetova 6-1, 6-1.
Reigning Australian Open champion Sabalenka will be chasing a fifth WTA 1000 title, a 13th career title overall and third in 2023.
She will have the opportunity to avenge her straight-sets defeat to Swiatek in last month’s Stuttgart championship match.
“I really want this revenge,” she said. “It would be really great to be able to defeat a player like Iga on clay.
“In Stuttgart, I was rushing on the short balls, I tried too hard for the winning shot. This time, I played with more patience and waited for the right ball to finish the point.”
Top seed Swiatek enjoys a 5-2 win-loss record against Sabalenka, having also won the pair’s three previous clay-court meetings.
In the men’s quarter-finals, Jan-Lennard Struff stunned world No 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas to become only the third lucky loser to reach the semi-finals of an ATP Masters event.
The 33-year-old German, who had lost in the qualifying round before being allotted a place in the main draw, triumphed 7-6 (5), 5-7, 6-3.
He will now face Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev in Friday’s semi-finals.
Brighton beat Manchester United
Brighton gained sweet revenge on Thursday for their defeat by Manchester United in the FA Cup semi-finals, with Alexis Mac Allister converting a 99th-minute penalty to dent the visitors’ Champions League hopes.
Classy Brighton dominated possession but lacked a cutting edge until Luke Shaw’s handball deep into stoppage time presented them with an opportunity to take all three points.
The 1-0 win completes a league double for the Seagulls against United, who beat Erik ten Hag’s men in their first match of the season but suffered a painful defeat on penalties in last month’s FA Cup semi-final at Wembley.
United remain in the fourth and final Champions League qualification spot in the Premier League, four points ahead of fifth-placed Liverpool with a game in hand, while Brighton are up to sixth.
“There is a God of football,” Brighton boss Roberto De Zerbi told Sky Sports.
“We deserved to win the semi-final but lost on penalties but today we won with a penalty. In both games I think we played better than United.”
Ten Hag bemoaned his team’s lack of finishing, but said United’s destiny was still in their own hands.
“We have to finish the chances, be more clinical and don’t make the mistakes we did like in the last seconds,” said the disappointed Dutchman.
“We have everything in our hands and we have to bounce back. We take the lessons from tonight and we have to move on.”
With text inputs from AFP
Updated through the day