Nadal, Federer advance to Shanghai final for 38th encounter

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SHANGHAI — Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer will face each for the 38th time after advancing Saturday to the Shanghai Masters final.

Top-seeded Nadal defeated Marin Cilic of Croatia 7-5, 7-6 (3) in the first semifinal, and second-seeded Federer was stretched to three sets before posting a 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 win over Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina.

Nadal, who won a tour-best sixth title of the season at the China Open last week, improved his current winning streak to 16 matches. The Spaniard, who has 16 Grand Slam men’s singles trophies, won the French and U.S. Open titles this season.

Federer, looking for his sixth title this year, won the Australian Open and Wimbledon this year to increase his Grand Slam men’s singles record to 19 titles.

Nadal holds a 23-14 winning record over Federer, but Federer has won their last four meetings, including all three this season. Nadal has won 14 of 23 finals against Federer.

“I’m not sure what the stat is because most of them, half of them, maybe, were in finals and that’s why the rivalry is so special,” Federer said. “I enjoy playing against him even if the head-to-head is not in my favor. He’s one of the guys who’s made me a better player. I don’t want to thank him for that, but it made me go back and rework my game.”

Del Potro went for an MRI on Friday night after falling and hurting his left wrist but showed little sign of the injury bothering him against Federer. The Argentine said his wrist was hurting after the match.

Federer, who lost in the quarterfinals to del Potro at the U.S. Open this year, looked shaky in the opener but found his form for the final two sets. He broke 16th-seeded del Potro on a fifth break point in a contentious sixth game of the second set. When Federer missed out on the fourth break point, the Swiss hit a ball in anger across the court. During the changeover after the seventh game, an annoyed del Potro asked why Federer wasn’t given a warning for the outburst.

“Getting that break and then holding is always key … especially with all the twists and turns in tennis,” Federer said. “If you blink at the right time your back can be against the wall.”

Nadal, who was a finalist here in 2009, has now beaten Cilic in five of their six matches.

Nadal hadn’t lost his serve in 32 service games but fourth-seeded Cilic broke him twice, in the sixth and 10th games of the second set.

At 30-40 in the sixth game, Nadal netted a forehand volley to surrender his serve for the first time, and responded by twice angrily banging his racket on his leg, just above the knee.

“Is true, sometimes I get frustrated too,” Nadal said.

Nadal failed to take advantage of his first match point when he made a forehand error at 40-30 in the 10th game, and went on to have his serve broken.

Leading 6-3 in the second-set tiebreaker, Nadal prevailed on his second match point when Cilic netted a service return.

Nadal said there were “mistakes with my serve in the second, that’s the only thing. For the rest, I am happy.”

Nadal saved three set points on his own serve when 5-4 down.

The Shanghai Masters wants to expand to a 10 or 11 day event, increase its draw size from 64 to 96, and raise prize money to more than $10 million, starting in 2019.

The ATP board is expected to discuss Shanghai’s request next month.

Paul, McDonald give U.S. 2-0 lead over Uzbekistan in Davis Cup

Mike Frey-USA TODAY Sports
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LONDON – Australian Open semifinalist Tommy Paul and Mackenzie McDonald, who beat Rafael Nadal at Melbourne Park, gave the United States a 2-0 lead over host Uzbekistan in Davis Cup qualifying.

Paul beat Khumoyun Sultanov 6-1, 7-6 (6) after McDonald’s Davis Cup debut produced a 6-4, 6-1 victory over Sergey Fomin on an indoor hard court in Tashkent.

The best-of-five-match series finishes with one match in doubles followed by two in singles. The Americans can clinch a spot in the group stage of the Davis Cup Finals if Rajeev Ram and Austin Krajicek defeat Fomin and Sanjar Fayziev in doubles.

“A sweep would be nice,” Paul said. “Bring out the broomsticks.”

Paul moved into the top 20 in the ATP rankings for the first time this week by reaching his first Grand Slam semifinal in Australia, where he lost to eventual champion Novak Djokovic. McDonald eliminated 22-time Grand Slam champion Nadal in the second round at the year’s first Grand Slam tournament.

David Nainkin is serving as interim captain for the United States, replacing Mardy Fish.

There are 12 qualifiers being held this weekend with the winners of each advancing to the Davis Cup Finals group stage in September, along with reigning champion Canada, 2022 runner-up Australia and wild-card recipients Italy and Spain.

Eight teams will then advance to the closing matches of the Davis Cup Finals scheduled for Nov. 21-26 in Malaga, Spain.

Nick Kyrgios pleads guilty to assault, has no conviction recorded

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CANBERRA, Australia — Australian tennis star Nick Kyrgios apologized for shoving a former girlfriend to the ground two years ago after he escaped conviction on a charge of common assault.

The 2022 Wimbledon runner-up pleaded guilty in the Australian Capital Territory Magistrates Court to assaulting Chiara Passari during an argument in his hometown of Canberra in January 2021.

Magistrate Beth Campbell did not record a conviction against Kyrgios for reasons including that the offense was at the low end of seriousness for a common assault, was not premeditated and he had no criminal record.

Kyrgios, who was using crutches following recent surgery on his left knee, ignored reporters’ questions as he left court but issued a statement through a management company.

“I respect today’s ruling and am grateful to the court for dismissing the charges without conviction,” Kyrgios said. “I was not in a good place when this took place and I reacted to a difficult situation in a way I deeply regret. I know it wasn’t OK and I’m sincerely sorry for the hurt I caused.

“Mental health is tough. Life can seem overwhelming. But I’ve found that getting help and working on myself has helped me to feel better and to be better,” he added.

The only media question he responded to as he was about to be driven away from the court was: “what’s next for Nick Kyrgios?”

“Just recovery and get back on court,” Kyrgios replied.

Campbell described the shove as an act of “stupidity” and “frustration.”

She assured him his celebrity was not a factor in him avoiding a criminal record.

“You’re a young man who happens to hit the tennis ball particularly well and your name is widely recognised outside this court room,” Campbell told Kyrgrios.

“I deal with you exactly the same way as any young man in this court.”

Kyrgios’ psychologist, Sam Borenstein, said in a written report and testimony by phone that Kyrgios had suffered major depressive episodes around the time of the assault and had used alcohol and drugs to cope. Kyrgios’ mental health led to impulsive and reckless behavior.

His recent knee injury had resulted in mild to moderate symptoms of depression, but his mental health was improving, Borenstein said.

“He’s doing very well,” Borenstein said. “His mental health has improved significantly.”

“Given the history, he is still vulnerable to recurrent episodes of depression depending on life circumstances,” Borenstein added.

Lawyers for Kyrgios had sought to have charge dismissed on mental health grounds but the application was unsuccessful.

In arguing against a conviction being recorded, defense lawyer Michael Kukulies-Smith cited the opinion of Kyrgios’s manager of a “strong likelihood of sanctions and impact upon sponsorship” from a conviction. Kyrgios had faced a potential maximum 2-year prison sentence if convicted.

The assault occurred when Kyrgios had been attempting to leave Passari during an argument late Jan. 10, 2021, outside her apartment in the inner-Canberra suburb of Kingston.

He called an Uber but Passari stood in the way of him closing the front passenger door. The driver wouldn’t leave with the door open.

Kyrgios eventually pushed Passari’s shoulders backward with open palms, causing her to fall to the pavement and graze her knee, according to agreed facts read to the court.

Passari signed a police statement alleging the assault 11 months later, after her relationship with Kyrgios had ended.

His current partner, Costeen Hatzi, wrote in a character reference that she had no concerns of such violence in her relationship. Hatzi was among Kyrgios’ supporters who sat behind him in court.

Kyrgios, wearing a dark suit and using the crutches for support, first spoke in court when the magistrate asked him if he could stand to enter a plea.

Kyrgios replied: “Yep, no worries, Your Honor,” as he rose to plead guilty.

In February last year, Kyrgios opened up about his performance at the 2019 Australian Open, saying what appeared to be a positive time in his life had been “one of my darkest periods.”

“I was lonely, depressed, negative, abusing alcohol, drugs, pushed away family and friends,” he wrote on Instagram. “I felt as if I couldn’t talk or trust anyone. This was a result of not opening up and refusing to lean on my loved ones and simply just push myself little by little to be positive.”

Kyrgios made further references to his mental health struggles during his runs last year to the final at Wimbledon and the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open.

After ending Daniil Medvedev’s U.S. Open title defense last September to reach the quarterfinals, Kyrgios expressed pride at lifting himself out of “some really tough situations, mentally” and “some really scary places” off the court.

The 27-year-old Kyrgios had a career setback last month when he withdrew from the Australian Open because the knee injury which later required arthroscopic surgery.