Venus Williams advances to fourth round at Wimbledon

AP Photo
1 Comment

LONDON — Venus Williams beat one 19-year-old opponent at Wimbledon on Friday. She’ll face another on Monday.

Both of those players were born months after Williams made her debut at the All England Club.

Think about that for a minute.

Williams’ 7-6 (3), 6-4 victory over Naomi Osaka of Japan made the 37-year-old American the oldest woman to reach the fourth round at Wimbledon since Martina Navratilova was that age when she was the tournament’s runner-up in 1994.

“I’ve had to step it up. I imagine that’s going to continue,” Williams said. “All I can do is try to be my best.”

This is the 20th appearance at the grass-court major for Williams, who has won the championship five times since her first match at the All England Club in 1997. Next up for Williams on Monday, with a quarterfinal berth at stake, is another foe not yet 20: Ana Konjuh of Croatia.

Osaka spoke about growing up admiring Williams and her younger sister, Serena.

She also acknowledged that these sorts of important rounds at important tournaments are much newer to her. That sort of thing can make a difference at crucial moments, such as the opening tiebreaker Friday. Osaka led it 3-0, before Williams claimed the next seven points.

“I actually feel like it’s better that she beat me, because I can learn more from her, and there’s something more I can look forward to,” the 59th-ranked Osaka said. “There’s more of a goal for me to practice every day and stuff.”

As for all of the chatter about gaps in, um, experience?

Williams said she didn’t focus on that at all when it came to Friday’s match.

“It’s interesting, for sure. But I guess when you walk on the court, I don’t think either of us is thinking about the age,” she said. “You’re thinking about: How do I win?”

The 10th-seeded Williams is playing in her first tournament since a two-car crash in Florida on June 9. A 78-year-old man in the other vehicle died about two weeks later and his estate has sued filed a lawsuit against Williams. On Friday, police said video shows that Williams legally entered an intersection seconds before she drove into the path of the other car.

When asked about the accident after her first-round match this week, Williams teared up during her news conference and was given time by the moderator to leave the room and compose herself. The topic was not raised Friday after the victory over Osaka.

With Serena off the tour because she is pregnant, and Maria Sharapova recovering from a leg injury, Williams was one of only two past Wimbledon winners in the women’s field when the tournament began. After a second-round loss by Petra Kvitova, Williams is the lone champ standing.

The 27th-seeded Konjuh had never been past the third round until upsetting 2014 Australian Open runner-up Dominika Cibulkova 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-4 on Friday.

Also advancing were French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko, No. 2-seeded Simona Halep, No. 4 Elina Svitolina, No. 6 Johanna Konta, No. 21 Caroline Garcia and two-time Australian Open champion and former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka.

The matchups Monday: Halep vs. Azarenka, Ostapenko vs. Svitolina, Konta vs. Garcia.

Azarenka has played only five matches since returning to the tour after a hiatus to have her first baby. But don’t think she’s just happy to have made it to the fourth round.

“I’m still very ambitious and focused. I’m not on cloud nine for making it to the second week, but I do appreciate everything that I have been able to achieve right now, and I don’t take anything for granted,” said Azarenka, who beat Heather Watson 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 on Centre Court. “I can’t be too happy. I’m never really satisfied until it’s done.”

Fernando Verdasco accepts 2-month doping ban

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

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
1 Comment

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.”