(photo credit: NIR KEIDAR/ISRAEL TENNIS ASSOCIATION)
Dudi Sela missed out on his 21st career title on the Challenger circuit in heartbreaking fashion on Saturday, losing 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4) to Marko Tepavac of Serbia in the final in Karshi, Uzbekistan.
The 31-year-old Israeli, ranked No. 74 in the world, picked up his first title of the year and 20th of the career in Shenzhen, China in late March, but came up short on Saturday against a player ranked 177 places below him.
Despite the defeat, Sela remains on course to qualify for the Rio Olympics. The top 56 in the ATP rankings to be published on June 6 will qualify, with each country only being allowed to send four representatives.
Meanwhile, Andy Murray reached the final of the Madrid Open for the second year running by beating Rafael Nadal in straight sets 7-5, 6-4 on Saturday.
Murray, who beat Nadal to win last year’s final, will meet the winner of Saturday’s late semifinal between Novak Djokovic and Kei Nishikori on Sunday.
World number two Murray broke Nadal in the Spaniard’s second service game but lost his serve before breaking his opponent again to clinch the first set.
The Scot broke Nadal’s third service game in the second and held his serve to knock out the home favorite, taking advantage of a second match point after spurning the first.
“It’s easy after winning a tight first set to drop your intensity or your level and I really tried to stay on top at the beginning of the second and that was important,” Murray said.
“Rafa doesn’t serve as hard as everyone else but he puts a lot of pressure on your return because if you don’t hit a good one he dictates the point straight away with the forehand.
I was able to get some quite good direction on the returns and I think that helped me a lot today.”
Nadal admitted Murray had deserved to win but said the defeat, which prevents the Spaniard from collecting a third successive ATP title after winning the Monte Carlo Masters and the Barcelona Open, would not affect his mentality ahead of the French Open later this month.
“I played aggressively and to win but he served really well,” said Nadal. “In general he was a little better than me and I congratulate him for the victory because he was more effective in the crucial points.
“I’ve had a good week, reaching another semifinal in the Masters and demonstrated a high level of consistency,” he added.
“I think I was good on a mental level, fighting and looking for solutions but it wasn’t enough.”
In an interview with El Mundo published on Saturday, Nadal said that he is convinced that none of his rivals are taking performance-enhancing drugs and believes that people who have accused him of doping have “personal problems.”
The Spaniard is suing former French cabinet minister Roselyne Bachelot after she alleged earlier this year that he had failed a drugs test.
“I have total confidence that all my rivals are totally clean,” he said.
“I have no doubt about that, first of all because I believe in the anti-doping program and secondly because I believe in people until they show you otherwise.”