Tennis tourney director quits after criticizing women pros

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LOS ANGELES (AP) The tournament director of the BNP Paribas Open who said women’s pro tennis players “ride on the coattails of the men” resigned Monday night.

Tournament owner Larry Ellison said in a statement that Raymond Moore was quitting as chief executive officer and tournament director of the $7 million event featuring men’s and women’s players in the California desert. Moore informed Ellison of his decision when they spoke earlier in the day.

“Ray let me know that he has decided to step down from his roles as CEO and tournament director effective immediately,” Ellison said. “I fully understand his decision.”

A tournament spokesman could offer no further details on Moore’s resignation, citing only Ellison’s statement.

Moore apologized after he was roundly criticized by executives from the women’s and men’s pro tours, players Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka and on social media for his comments Sunday.

The 69-year-old former touring pro from South Africa has been CEO of the tournament since 2012. In the event’s early years, Moore and fellow ex-player Charlie Pasarell started PM Sports Management, which oversaw the tournament as it expanded.

“In my next life when I come back I want to be someone in the WTA because they ride on the coattails of the men. They don’t make any decisions and they are lucky. They are very, very lucky,” Moore said. “If I was a lady player, I’d go down every night on my knees and thank God that Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal were born, because they have carried this sport.”

He also referred to women’s players as “physically attractive and competitively attractive.” Moore later apologized, calling his comments “in extremely poor taste and erroneous.”

“I am truly sorry for those remarks, and apologize to all the players and WTA as a whole,” the statement said. “We had a women’s final today that reflects the strength of the players, especially Serena and Victoria, and the entire WTA. Again, I am truly sorry for my remarks.”

Moore clearly had no intention to leave his post based on comments he made to reporters Sunday on the last day of the two-week tournament. Before the backlash over his controversial comments began, he was asked how long he planned to remain in charge.

“Firstly, I love what I’m doing. I’m passionate about it. I enjoy it,” Moore said. “Who knows who the face of the tournament will be down the road. But I don’t think that, oh, I’m going to stop next year or three years.”

Ellison, a billionaire and executive of Oracle Corp., credited Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova and Serena and Venus Williams, as well as other female athletes, for their leadership in treating women and men equally in sports.

“I’m proud to say that it is now a decade-long tradition at our tournament at Indian Wells, and all the major tennis tournaments, to pay equal prize money to both the women and the men,” Ellison said in his statement.

Ellison thanked the “great women athletes” who fought so hard in pursuit of equal prize money in pro tennis.

“All of us here at the BNP Paribas Open promise to continue working with everyone to make tennis a better sport for everybody,” he said.

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.”