Canadian tennis player Felix Auger-Aliassime speaks to reporters during a news conference in Montreal, Tuesday, April 2, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

Felix-Auger-Aliassime loses against Kei Nishikori in Barcelona

BARCELONA, Spain — Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime has been eliminated at the Barcelona Open.

The No. 16 seed from Montreal lost 6-1, 6-3 to No. 4 seed Kei Nishikori of Japan in the third round of the ATP Tour 500 clay-court event on Thursday.

Auger-Aliassime won just 54 per cent of his points on first serve, well below Nishikori’s 69 per-cent success rate.

The 18-year-old Montreal native had chances, but failed to capitalize on five of six break-point opportunities against the 2014 and 2015 Barcelona champion.

Since Auger-Aliassime and fellow Canadian Denis Shapovalov advanced to the semifinals of the Miami Open ATP Tour Masters 1000 hard-court event last month, the young players haven’t had the same success.

Shapovalov has lost his last two matches, while Auger-Aliassime is 1-2 in the European clay-court season.

Meanwhile, Rafael Nadal looked closer to his clay-court best again as he beat David Ferrer 6-3, 6-3 to reach the quarterfinals.

The 11-time Barcelona champion saved four of five break points and broke four times in what could have been his last meeting with Ferrer, who is retiring after the Madrid Open next month. It was a sign of improvement for Nadal, who lost in the semifinals in Monte Carlo last week and then needed three sets to get past Leonard Mayer in his opening match in Barcelona.

“This match was important for me,” Nadal said. “Yesterday I had a tough match. I took a step forward and was able to play with more energy.”

The top-seeded Nadal will next face 51st-ranked Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany, who upset fifth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-4, 3-6, 6-2. The 20-year-old Tsitsipas, No. 8 in the world, lost last year’s final in Barcelona to Nadal.

Nadal was up 5-3 in the first set before play was stopped for a rain delay. He continued to dictate the match when play resumed, serving out the set and breaking Ferrer’s next service game.

Ferrer saved three match points before finally sending a forehand into the net to give Nadal the win.

The 37-year-old Ferrer was making his last appearance at the Barcelona Open and could not hold back the tears when he received an ovation from the audience. He placed his pink headband on the court as a mark that he had played his last match here.

“I am happy to be able to finish this tournament on the centre court, playing against Nadal. I gave it my all,” Ferrer said.

Also, third-seeded Dominic Thiem broke Jaume Munar five times to earn a 7-5, 6-1 victory.

Grigor Dimitrov was beaten 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (2) by Nicolas Jarry, who will meet Daniil Medvedev after he beat American Mackenzie McDonald 6-3, 6-2.

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