Serena rolls, will face sister Venus in Open quarters

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NEW YORK — No need for any extra practice for Serena Williams after this performance.

Plus, it’s not as if she needs to study too hard to figure out how to deal with her next opponent.

Playing far better than she did earlier in the U.S. Open as she chases a calendar-year Grand Slam, Williams set up a quarterfinal against older sister Venus with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over 19th-seeded Madison Keys on Sunday.

“A Williams will be in the semis, so that’s good,” the No. 1-seeded Serena said after needing only 68 minutes to dismiss Keys, a 20-year-old American with formidable serves and forehands who simply was outplayed.

Already a winner of the past four major tournaments, including last year’s U.S. Open, Serena is trying to become the first tennis player to win all four Grand Slam titles in the same season since Steffi Graf in 1988.

Venus, at 35 the oldest woman to enter the field, was on court even less time than her sibling, overwhelming 19-year-old qualifier Anett Kontaveit of Estonia 6-2, 6-1.

Venus’ match came first in Arthur Ashe Stadium, so then she had to decide whether to watch Serena play.

“I get very nervous, because even if I have to play Serena, I still want her to win, so I have a hard time watching unless she’s winning. Then it’s easy to watch,” said Venus, who won U.S. Open titles in 2000 and 2001, but had lost in the third round or earlier each of the past four years. “So it depends on how my nerves are.”

Serena acknowledged having a bout with the jitters before her second-round match, when she double-faulted 10 times, made another two dozen unforced errors and needed to come back over and over just to claim the opening set against a qualifier ranked 110th. Afterward, she took pointers from coach Patrick Mouratoglou and headed out to the practice court right away.

Then, in the third round, against someone ranked 101st, Serena dropped the first set and was two games from defeat in the second before turning things around. Again, she put in more work to fix things.

“I’m so proud that I was able to serve a lot better. Obviously I had to,” she said after winning 22 of 28 first-serve points and never facing a break point against Keys. “I was like, `Serena, it’s now or never. You’ve got to get that serve together.'”

As for whether she’d need to head out for a training session with Mouratoglou this time, Serena said: “No, not today. I’m going to take the rest of the day off and relax and just enjoy it.”

Another women’s fourth-round match scheduled for Sunday was scratched when 25th-seeded Eugenie Bouchard withdrew with a concussion, two days after slipping and falling in the locker room. The 21-year-old Canadian, the runner-up at Wimbledon last year, was supposed to play Roberta Vinci of Italy.

Fernando Verdasco accepts 2-month doping ban

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
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LONDON – Former top-10 player Fernando Verdasco accepted a voluntary provisional doping suspension of two months after testing positive for a medication for ADHD, the International Tennis Integrity Agency announced.

Verdasco, who turned 39 this month, said he was taking methylphenidate as medication prescribed by his doctor to treat ADHD but forgot to renew his therapeutic use exemption for the drug. The integrity agency said Verdasco has now been granted an exemption by the World Anti-Doping Agency moving forward.

He tested positive at an ATP Challenger tournament in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in February.

The integrity agency said in a news release that it “accepts that the player did not intend to cheat, that his violation was inadvertent and unintentional, and that he bears no significant fault or negligence for it,” and so what could have been a two-year suspension was reduced to two months.

Verdasco will be eligible to compete on Jan. 8.

The Spaniard is a four-time Grand Slam quarterfinalist, reaching that stage most recently in 2013 at Wimbledon, where he blew a two-set lead in a five-set loss to eventual champion Andy Murray.

Verdasco reached a career-best ranking of No. 7 in April 2009 and currently is No. 125.

Auger-Aliassime, Shapovalov give Canada 1st Davis Cup title

Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports
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MALAGA, Spain — Felix Auger-Aliassime fell to his back behind the baseline, then waited for teammates to race off Canada’s bench and pile on top of him.

A few minutes later, the Canadians finally could lift the Davis Cup.

“I think of us all here, we’ve dreamt of this moment,” Auger-Aliassime said.

Canada won the title for the first time, beating Australia behind victories from Denis Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime.

Auger-Aliassime secured the winning point when he downed Alex de Minaur 6-3, 6-4 after Shapovalov opened the day by rolling past Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-2, 6-4.

Seven years after leading Canada to the top of junior tennis, Auger-Aliassime, Shapovalov and their teammates finally got to lift the biggest team trophy in their sport.

“We wanted to grow up and be part of the team and try to help the country win the first title,” Shapovalov said, “so everything is just so surreal right now.”

Shapovalov had dropped both his singles matches this week and needed treatment on his back during a three-set loss in the semifinals to Lorenzo Sonego of Italy that lasted 3 hours, 15 minutes. But the left-hander moved quickly around the court, setting up angles to put away winners while racing to a 4-0 lead in the first set.

Auger-Aliassime then finished off his superb second half of the season by completing a perfect week in Spain. He twice had kept the Canadians alive after Shapovalov dropped the opening singles match, and he replaced his weary teammate to join Vasek Pospisil for the decisive doubles point.

This time, Auger-Aliassime made sure the doubles match wouldn’t even be necessary. After his teammates poured onto the court to celebrate with him, they got up and danced around in a circle.

Canada had reached the final only once, falling to host Spain in Madrid in 2019, when Rafael Nadal beat Shapovalov for the clinching point after Auger-Aliassime had lost in the opening match.

But with Auger-Aliassime having since surged up the rankings to his current spot at No. 6, the Canadians are a much more formidable team now. They won the ATP Cup in January and finally added the Davis Cup crown to the junior Davis Cup title Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov led them to in 2015.

Australia was trying for its 29th title and first since current captain Lleyton Hewitt was part of the title-winning team in 2003.

But it was finally time for the Canadians, who were given a wild card into the field when Russia was suspended because of its invasion of Ukraine.

“Look, I think we were very close today,” de Minaur said. “Just wait until the next time we get the same matchup. Hopefully we can get the win and prove that we can do it.”

But Canada will be tough to beat as long as Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov play.

Shapovalov is just 23 and Auger-Aliassime 22, but both already have been Grand Slam semifinalists and Auger-Aliassime ended 2022 as one of the hottest players on the ATP Tour. He won all of his four titles this year, including three straight weeks in October.

He also beat Carlos Alcaraz in the previous Davis Cup stage in September, just after the Spaniard had won the U.S. Open to rise to No. 1 in the rankings. That victory helped send the Canadians into the quarterfinals, which they started this week by edging Germany.

“They’re not kids anymore, that’s for sure. Not after today – well not after the last couple of years,” said Pospisil, the team veteran at 32. “They’ve been crushing it.”