Easy going: Williams crushes Beck to reach 4th round

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LONDON — Serena Williams will still get a decent day’s rest on the middle Sunday at Wimbledon.

The defending champion and six-time winner overwhelmed Annika Beck 6-3, 6-0 in just 51 minutes on Centre Court early Sunday afternoon, advancing to the fourth round with her 300th career Grand Slam match win.

Williams, who compiled a 25-2 edge in winners, wasn’t aware of the 300-win milestone until she was asked about it in a post-match interview.

“Was it? Cool. Oh, nice,” she said with a laugh. “I had no idea. That’s awesome, right? That’s good, right? I think that’s a lot of matches.”

Williams’ latest win breaks a tie at 299 wins with Chris Evert and now ranks second in the Open era behind Martina Navratilova, who went 306-49.

For only the fourth time in Wimbledon’s 139-year history, play was scheduled on the middle Sunday, which is the traditional rest day, because of rain delays in the first week that caused a backlog of matches.

“Obviously I love having that Sunday off but I’m a little behind in my matches, so I guess I had to play an extra day,” Williams said.

She didn’t have to work very hard as she completely dominated the 43rd-ranked Beck, who has never been past the third round here.

After falling an early break behind at 2-1, Williams won 11 of the last 12 games and 24 of the second set’s 28 points. She finished the first set with one of her seven aces and served out the match at love.

“I still want to get out to a little bit of a faster start,” Williams said. “But I was really focused and calm today.”

Williams will next face No. 13 Svetlana Kuznetsova, who came from behind to beat No. 22 Sloane Stephens 6-7 (1), 6-2, 8-6 to reach the fourth round at Wimbledon for the first time since 2008. The 2 1/2-hour match started on No. 1 Court long before Williams and Beck began play on Centre – and finished after.

Kuznetsova, a two-time Grand Slam champion, has reached the quarterfinals here three times, but the last time was back in 2007.

CoCo Vandeweghe, making a strong run at Wimbledon for the second year in a row, beat No. 7 Roberta Vinci of Italy 6-3, 6-4 in the first match on Centre Court. The 27th-seeded American advanced to the quarterfinals here last year before losing to Maria Sharapova in three sets. This is the first time she’s been seeded at a Grand Slam.

“Roberta’s a really tough opponent,” Vandeweghe said. “She has a lot of craftiness to her game that you don’t see too much. She makes you beat her. So that’s what I tried to do, stay focused and keep pressing.”

Her fourth-round opponent will be 23rd-seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia, who downed No. 11 Timea Bacsinszky of Switzerland 6-3, 6-2. Bacsinszky made it to the quarterfinals last year, but failed to break serve once on Sunday.

Also advancing was 50th-ranked Elena Vesnina, who beat 225th-ranked American qualifier Julia Boserup 7-5, 7-5. The Russian previously reached the fourth round here in 2009.

All 22,000 tickets for Sunday’s play were snapped up in 27 minutes when they went on sale online on Saturday.

The tournament is still reverberating from the stunning exit of Novak Djokovic, whose bid for a fifth consecutive major title and the third leg of a calendar-year Grand Slam was stopped by American Sam Querrey in the third round.

Fernando Verdasco accepts 2-month doping ban

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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

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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.”