Nadal overcomes Monfils to win 9th Monte Carlo Masters title

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MONACO (AP) Rafael Nadal overcame a sloppy performance on his serve to beat Frenchman Gael Monfils 7-5, 5-7, 6-0 on Sunday and win the Monte Carlo Masters for the ninth time.

This was the Spaniard’s first tournament win in Monte Carlo since winning the last of his eight straight titles there in 2012. It is also the record-equaling 28th Masters title for Nadal, bringing him alongside top-ranked Novak Djokovic.

Nadal sank to his knees after sealing victory with a brilliant forehand winner. It took him 2 hours, 46 minutes to finally see off Monfils, who had never won a set against Nadal on clay and lost 11 of their 13 previous matches.

The fifth-seeded Nadal dropped his serve five times against the 13th-seeded Monfils in a topsy-turvy encounter in which they conceded 34 break-point chances between them.

Playing in his 100th career final, Nadal clinched his 68th title, his first this year and his first since winning on clay at Hamburg last August. It was his first Masters win since the Madrid Masters in 2014 and his biggest trophy success since his last French Open title later the same year.

Nadal’s previous final was in January, where he was routed by Djokovic in Doha.

But with Djokovic a surprise second-round loser here, Nadal’s toughest opponent was out of the way and, in a contest between two 29-year-olds with differing career trajectories, Monfils was rank outsider here.

Since they first played each other 11 years ago, Nadal has won 14 Grand Slams and Monfils has never even won a Masters title.

In their previous four contests on clay, Monfils had lost in straight sets and never taken more than three games off Nadal, dating back to their first-ever career encounter here in the second round in 2005.

That was the year of Nadal’s first win and, coming into this match, he had only lost a total of five sets in nine previous finals – two of those in losing to Djokovic three years ago.

At times it seemed Monfils could cause a big upset, hitting some superb winners from sometimes incredible angles and with brutal strength.

But instead it was a 19th defeat in 24 finals and a third in a Masters final, having lost twice in Paris.

He will regret his 51 unforced errors, considering Nadal made 36 and double-faulted four times.

But Monfils double-faulted seven times and collapsed completely in the third set, with Nadal breaking him three further times to make it eight overall in the match.

After his brilliant winning shot on his first match point, Nadal slid on his knees, leant back and soaked up the win for several moments.

With six weeks to go until the French Open in Paris, Nadal will already have one eye on a 10th title at Roland Garros.

But he will need to sort out his serve.

Even in the third round against Austrian Dominic Thiem, Nadal faced 17 break points, saving 15, and he won only 29 percent of points on his second serve against Monfils – including a dismal 17 percent in the second set.

Better opponents would have made Nadal pay.

After the end of the second set, Nadal looked haggard, sweat pouring off his face despite considerably cooler conditions than during the rest of the sun-drenched week. But he was never pushed in a third set lasting just 30 minutes.

Nadal missed a chance to serve out the first set at 5-3 up but double-faulted as Monfils pulled back before holding for 5-5 in the next game – which featured one staggering 33-shot rally.

A rare comfortable hold from Nadal put him 6-5 up, leaving Monfils serving to stay in the set. Instead, he was on the back foot, saving four sets points before a double fault gave Nadal the opener.

Monfils broke Nadal to lead 2-1 in the second set when Nadal sent another errant forehand into the net and then rallied from 0-40 down to hold for 3-1.

Playing with great athleticism, Monfils hit an incredible leaping forehand down the line to force another chance on Nadal’s serve.

But Nadal held and broke Monfils to love in the next game to level at 3-3.

Monfils broke him again with a brilliant forehand winner that landed right on the line for 4-3, only for Nadal to break him for 4-4.

That second set of hugely entertaining yet erratic tennis eventually went to Monfis, but the effort spent clawing his way back had sapped his strength.

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.