Australian Open champ Angelique Kerber falls in Indian Wells

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INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber dropped out of the BNP Paribas Open on Saturday and two other top-seeded women also exited in the second round at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

The second-seeded Kerber, from Germany, lost 7-5, 7-5 to Denisa Allertova of the Czech Republic in the opening match of the day on the main stadium court. Fourth-seeded Angelique Garbine Muguruza of Spain dropped a 7-5, 6-1 decision to American Christina McHale, and sixth-seeded Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain withdrew because of a right ankle injury.

Kerber, who beat Williams for the title in Australia, led Allertova 4-2 in the second set but got down 6-5, then double-faulted to give Allertova match point and hit a forehand long to finish off her third straight opening-match loss in the event.

“I was trying to find my rhythm and play my game but it was not my day,” said Kerber, who still is adjusting to the time demands that go with being a Grand Slam champion. “The pressure is much different than it was a few months ago, it’s a completely new situation for me, but I’m trying to get used to it. I will try to learn from this experience, this match, and get better in the next few weeks.”

Seventh-seeded Belinda Bencic of Switzerland survived with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 victory over U.S. wild-card Lauren Davis, and No. 9 Roberta Vinci of Italy held off Margarita Gasparyan of Russia, 6-3, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (5).

But the big winner was Serena Williams, who didn’t play – she’ll face Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan on Sunday – and seldom needs any help.

The top-ranked Williams is in the top half of the bracket with No. 3 Agnieszka Radwanska, a possible semifinal foe, No. 5 Simona Halep, a potential quarter-final opponent, and No. 8 Petra Kvitova. Bencic and Vinci are the highest seeds left in the bottom half of the bracket.

It was a more far formful day for the men, with second-seeded Andy Murray of Scotland beating Marcel Granollers of Spain 6-4, 7-6 (3), and No. 6 Tomas Berdych, No. 8 Richard Gasquet, No. 12 Milos Raonic and No. 13 Gail Monfils also advancing with straight-set wins.

Berdych, from the Czech Republic, beat Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina 7-6 (4), 6-2; Gasquet topped fellow Frenchman Nicolas Mahut 6-4, 6-1; Raonic, a Canadian, was a 6-1, 6-3 winner over Ingo Cervantes of Spain; and Monfils, from France, beat Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain, 7-5, 7-6 (1).

The only loss of note was talented, temperamental Australian Nick Kyrgios, the 24th seed who was beaten by Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain 7-6 (4), 7-5.

Muguruza, who reached the Wimbledon final last year and finished at No. 3 in the world, has struggled early this season and said a few days ago that she needed a good deal more work on her game. Saturday she demonstrated why with a few dozen mistakes against McHale, who was No. 24 in the world before a bout of mononucleosis derailed her late in 2012. She is No. 62 now.

“I think Christina was playing very good today,” Muguruza said. “The first set it was much more tough and difficult and she playing very good and she got the first set. Then the second set I think my energy went a little bit down and she kind of used it and went for the match.

“Obviously you’re frustrated when you’re trying and you don’t find really what you want to do and you see yourself (behind) 3-0 in the second set. Obviously it was frustration.”

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.”