Vinci beats Mladenovic at US Open, into 1st major semi at 32

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NEW YORK (AP) Roberta Vinci plans to watch the Williams sisters play in the U.S. Open quarterfinals Tuesday night. She won’t be rooting for one or the other.

“Doesn’t matter,” she said with a wide grin. “I am in the semifinal.”

For the first time in a major, at the age of 32.

Facing an opponent a decade younger, the Italian outlasted Kristina Mladenovic 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 on Tuesday afternoon.

Defending men’s champion Marin Cilic needed five sets to beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarterfinals later Tuesday. The 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (3), 6-4 win took nearly 4 hours, pushing back the start of the anticipated match between Serena and Venus Williams.

With Vinci’s ranking down to 43rd, she never expected this. This is her 44th Grand Slam tournament. Only Elena Likhovtseva had played in more (46) before making her semifinal debut at the 2005 French Open.

Vinci recognizes she’s had a favorable draw – she has yet to meet a seeded opponent. Two top-10 players she could have faced – Ana Ivanovic and Carla Suarez Navarro – were upset; another, Maria Sharapova, pulled out because of injury.

In the fourth round Sunday, Vinci was scheduled to take on 25th-seeded Eugenie Bouchard, but the Canadian withdrew after sustaining a concussion when she slipped and fell in the locker room two days earlier.

“Maybe this was my tournament,” Vinci said.

That left her plenty rested for Tuesday’s match on a steamy afternoon. Mladenovic, in contrast, didn’t wrap up her fourth-round win until 1 a.m. Monday, and then she played doubles later that day. She struggled with cramping Tuesday, when trainers rubbed ice on her legs during changeovers in the final two sets.

Still, the 40th-ranked Frenchwoman rallied from down a break in the second to force a third. At 3-3 in the decisive set, the two played a 15-minute game with 10 deuces. Mladenovic had six game points she failed to convert.

“That was a mental massacre for both of us,” Vinci said.

After getting broken, Mladenovic asked for a medical timeout. Not eligible under the rules to receive more treatment for cramping, she said it was a different injury. Vinci protested to the chair umpire as Mladenovic had her left thigh wrapped.

It wouldn’t make a difference. Mladenovic repeatedly bent over in discomfort between points, and Vinci won her last two service games to clinch victory after 2 hours, 32 minutes.

Mladenovic, who had never been past the third round at a major before now, had 64 unforced errors, including 11 double-faults – many of them at key moments.

“Of course a lot of positives for me with entire tournament,” she said. “Even today if I lost, it was quite a great and big battle out there with Roberta.”

Vinci has played on the biggest stages before, winning five major doubles titles with former partner Sara Errani. She had been 0-2 in Grand Slam singles quarterfinals, both at the U.S. Open.

“Of course I think I’m at the end of my career, so my semifinal, first semifinal, it’s incredible,” she said. “When you work hard for a long time and every single day, sometimes you have some periods down and try to come back. It’s not always easy.

“But it’s nice. I’m very proud of myself.”

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.”