Nadal retires in 3rd set at Miami Open against Dzumhur

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KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. (AP) Rafael Nadal slumped in a changeover chair, the blood pressure gauge strapped to his mighty left arm serving as a scoreboard.

He was on the verge of defeat, and a few points later he retired from a match for the first time in six years.

Nadal faded in the subtropical heat and conceded after falling behind in the third set of his opening match Saturday at the Miami Open against Damir Dzumhur.

The No. 5-seeded Nadal trailed 2-6, 6-4, 3-0 when he called it quits after losing a point to fall behind 30-15. He had earlier consulted with a trainer between games three times, and had his blood pressure checked.

Nadal said he started feeling badly at the end of the first set.

“It was getting worse and worse and worse,” the Spaniard said. “I get a little bit scared – too dizzy. I felt I was not safe, so I decided to go. I wanted to finish the match, but I seriously couldn’t.”

His departure left the draw without three of the five highest-seeded men. No. 4 Stan Wawrinka lost to Andrey Kuznetsov 6-4, 6-3, and No. 3 Roger Federer withdrew Friday because of a stomach virus.

Eight-time champion Serena Williams avoided the upset bug and seemed unfazed by the weather. The South Floridian earned her 20th consecutive victory at Key Biscayne and reached the fourth round by beating Zarina Diyas 7-5, 6-3.

“I live down the street, and I’m used to these conditions,” she said. “Even though it was a little humid, I’m used to it and I love this weather.”

Nadal’s match lasted less than two hours, but the temperature approached 90 degrees and was even higher on the sunbaked stadium hardcourt.

Nadal said he felt fine before the match and wasn’t sure whether he was contracting an illness.

“Hopefully it’s just the extreme conditions,” he said. “It’s tough for me, because I felt I was playing well. It’s a hard accident. That’s life.”

Nadal later pulled out of doubles.

The 14-time Grand Slam champion hasn’t won a tournament since August. But it had been 443 matches since he retired – in the 2010 Australian Open quarterfinals against Andy Murray.

Key Biscayne remains one of the biggest tournaments Nadal has never won. He’s 0-4 in finals.

Dzumhur, a 23-year-old Bosnian ranked 94th, rallied with a variety of tactics, including half a dozen drop shots for winners and an occasional serve and volley. Nadal had to work hard from the start, failing to convert nine break-point chances during a marathon second game before Dzumhur double-faulted to lose serve.

The heat also appeared to bother the 154-pound Dzumhur, who consulted with a trainer following the first set.

Nadal finished 3 for 13 converting break points. Dzumhur was 4 for 4.

In other men’s play, No. 6 Kei Nishikori defeated qualifier Pierre-Hughes Herbert 6-2, 7-6 (4). No. 12 Milos Raonic, the runner-up at Indian Wells this month, beat Denis Kudla 7-6 (4), 6-4.

On the women’s side, No. 8 Petra Kvitova lost to No. 30 Ekaterina Makarova 6-4, 6-4. No. 3 Agnieszka Radwanska, the 2012 champion, eliminated Madison Brengle 6-3, 6-2.

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.”