Djokovic reaches quarterfinals at Miami Open

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KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. — Novak Djokovic rolled his eyes after a backhand found the net, shrugged after an early barrage of errors, double-faulted eight times and even heard the crowd at times pulling for his opponent.

None of it wound up mattering. Even when not at his sharpest, Djokovic is nearly impossible to beat.

Looking for his fifth title on Key Biscayne in six years, the world’s top player reached the quarterfinals Tuesday with a 6-3, 6-4 win over 14th-seeded Dominic Thiem of Austria. Djokovic will meet seventh-seeded Tomas Berdych – who grinded out a three-set win over 10th-seeded Richard Gasquet of France – in the Miami Open semifinals.

“It was far from easy,” Djokovic said. “I struggled a lot.”

Djokovic moved to 25-1 on the year, 27-1 in his last 28 matches on Key Biscayne. The Serbian star also moved a step closer to becoming the tournament’s first back-to-back-to-back winner since Andre Agassi in 2001, 2002 and 2003. He fended off 14 of the 15 break points he faced and hasn’t dropped a set so far in the tournament.

“That’s a positive, in a way,” Djokovic said of his success on break points. “I try not to get myself in those positions too much.”

Thiem was no pushover, and seemed the farthest thing from intimidated.

He cranked his serve up to 141 mph, recorded 11 of the match’s first 16 winners and twice got games on Djokovic’s serve to last 10 minutes before the world No. 1 would ultimately prevail. Perhaps it shouldn’t have been surprising, since he and Djokovic came into the day leading the tour with 24 wins apiece this year.

“With one of 15 break points, you cannot beat anyone, probably,” Thiem said. “For sure, not Djokovic.”

Thiem nearly broke Djokovic to get to 5-4 in the first, before a review showed that the backhand that looked like a winner actually sailed a tad long. Djokovic hopped from his seat – he was already in changeover mode – and took advantage, winning to finish off the opening set. He double-faulted to give Thiem a break and knot the second set at 3-3, but broke right back and eventually closed out the win.

“He’s still very young,” Djokovic said of Thiem, 22, the youngest player ranked in the top 20. “He’s been playing some of his best tennis the last couple of months. We’ll definitely see a lot of him in the future.”

Berdych needed nearly 2 1/2 hours to win 6-4, 3-6, 7-5, with the temperature reaching the mid-80s and the humidity making it seem much warmer on the court. A slew of upsets knocked out most of the tournament’s top seeds, although Berdych hasn’t seen his side of the draw open up much with all that star power going home early.

And now Djokovic awaits him.

“I’m just going to try and focus on my game, try to play some good tennis, stick with the things that are working well so far for me and just try to go for it no matter who’s going to be the opponent,” Berdych said.

Gilles Simon easily reached the men’s quarterfinals, needing only 58 minutes to beat fellow Frenchman Lucas Pouille 6-0, 6-1. No. 12 seed Milos Raonic of Canada, No. 15 David Goffin of Belgium and No. 24 Nick Kyrgios of Australia also advanced to the quarters with straight-set victories.

Switzerland’s Timea Bacsinszky, who has been the comeback queen on Key Biscayne, reached the women’s semifinals after another three-set marathon. The 19th-seeded Bacsinszky rallied to top fifth-seeded Simona Halep of Romania 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 in the quarterfinals.

“It’s something amazing,” Bacsinszky said. “I’m really happy today.”

A Russian player will oppose her in the semis, either 15th-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova or 30th-seeded Ekaterina Makarova.

It was the second straight win against a top-five seed for Bacsinszky, both coming after she dropped the opening set and exceeding the two-hour mark. She ousted third-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska in the round of 16, and needed 2:28 to beat Halep.

With Halep out, the only top-10 seed left in the women’s draw is No. 2 Angelique Kerber of Germany. She plays Madison Keys of the U.S. in the quarterfinals Wednesday.

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

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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.”

Australia beats Croatia 2-1 to reach Davis Cup final

Day Four - Davis Cup Finals 2022
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MALAGA, Spain – Australia had to fight back twice to reach its first Davis Cup final in 19 years after beating Croatia 2-1.

Lleyton Hewitt’s team recovered from losing the first singles. Then the Australian doubles pair battled back from a set down in the decider.

Australia won its 28th and last title in 2003. It has finally got back to the final.

“I am so proud. Australia has a really rich history in this competition,” said Hewitt, who played a record 43 Davis Cup ties for Australia from 1999-2018.

“We have been fortunate to win it all on a number of occasions a long time ago. And I know what it meant to me as a player to play a final, and I am glad these guys can play it.”

Borna Coric put Croatia ahead by beating Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-4, 6-3, but Alex de Minaur leveled after defeating Marin Cilic 6-2, 6-2 to send it to the doubles.

Jordan Thompson and Max Purcell then secured the semifinal win against Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic by 6-7 (3), 7-5, 6-4.

“This is what this team is about, that never-say-die attitude,” De Minaur said.

Canada will face Italy on Saturday in the other semifinal.

In the opener, Kokkinakis struck 11 aces, but Coric was able to break him once in each set.

“On my serve, I felt like it was an ace or he put it back on my toes,” Kokkinakis said.

Cilic, who was on the Croatia team that won the title in 2018, committed 10 double faults. That erratic serve helped De Minaur break Cilic four times and level his head-to-head record with the former U.S Open winner at two wins each.

Thompson and Purcell bettered the more experienced pair of Mektic and Pavic, both ranked in the top 10 in doubles. Thompson and Purcell combined for 13 aces, broke the Croats twice, and never dropped a service game to come back after losing the first-set tiebreaker.

Two-time winner Croatia was the runner-up last year.

“It proved too difficult on the court today,” Cilic said. “(But) for us it has been a great year again after the finals last year to reach the semis.”

The final is on Sunday on the indoor court in Malaga.