Federer advances to Australian Open semifinal against Chung

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Roger Federer accounted for a long-time rival to set up a semifinal against Next Gen champion Hyeon Chung at the Australian Open.

Defending champion Federer’s 7-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over Tomas Berdych on Wednesday night extended his winning streak to 14 in Australian Open quarterfinals and to nine in that personal duel. The 19-time major winner leads that head-to-head contest 20-6, including all five meetings at Melbourne Park.

The 36-year-old Swiss star overcame a shaky start, dropping his opening service game and uncharacteristically challenging the chair umpire because of a technological fault.

“I had to get a bit lucky. A bit angry. A bit frustrated maybe at the umpire,” Federer said. “Anyway, glad to get out of that first set. It was key to the match.

“That first set could have gone either way. He deserved it, actually. I stole that one a little bit.”

Chung became the first Korean to make a Grand Slam tennis semifinal when he beat No. 97-ranked Tennys Sandgren 6-4, 7-6 (5), 6-3 in the afternoon match on Rod Laver Arena.

The 21-year-old Chung hadn’t let up when upsetting No. 4 Alexander Zverev or six-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic en route to the quarterfinals, but he let his guard down in the last game and needed six match points and to fend off two break points to hold off Sandgren.

“In last game, I think at 40-love … if I win one more point, I make history in Korea. I have to think about the ceremony, something,” he said, explaining how he got slightly ahead of himself. “After deuce, break point. I was like, no, nothing to do with ceremony. But just keep playing – keep focused.”

Then he fully embraced the moment, joking in an on-court TV interview, introducing the audience to his parents and his coach, and taking the microphone to speak in Korean to millions of new tennis fans back home.

“I think all the people is watching Australian Open now because we make history in Korea,” he said.

The No. 58-ranked Chung is the lowest-ranked man to reach the Australian Open semifinals since Marat Safin in 2004. He’s also the youngest to reach the last four at a major since Marin Cilic did it here in 2010.

With Chung already through, and Kyle Edmund playing No. 6 Cilic in the other half of the draw, it’s the first time since 1999 that multiple unseeded players have reached the Australian Open semifinals.

Federer said he has been impressed with the way the two unseeded players have progressed, particularly Chung’s run.

“To beat Novak on this court is particularly difficult. … He’s incredibly impressive in his movement, reminds me obviously a lot of Novak,” Federer said. “He’s clearly got nothing to lose. I will tell myself the same and we’ll see what happens.”

Chung’s big wins over Zverev and Djokovic have drawn extra attention to a player who last November won the inaugural Next Gen ATP Finals title.

He was too consistent for Sandgren, a 26-year-old American who had never won a match at a Grand Slam tournament or beaten a top 10 player until last week.

Sandgren’s unexpected surge to the quarterfinals – he beat 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka and No. 5 Dominic Thiem en route to the quarterfinals – was overshadowed by heavy scrutiny of his Twitter account and his follows and retweets of far-right activists.

Two women who’ve been to this stage at a Grand Slam before will meet in the last four. One has two major titles, the other still seeks a breakthrough. Top-ranked Simona Halep recovered from an early break to win nine straight games in a 6-3, 6-2 win over No. 6 Karolina Pliskova and set up a semifinal match Thursday against 2016 champion Angelique Kerber, who routed U.S. Open finalist Madison Keys 6-1, 6-2.

In the other semifinal, No. 2 Caroline Wozniacki will play 22-year-old Elise Mertens.

Kerber has been the only Grand Slam singles champion in the women’s draw since her third-round win over Maria Sharapova. Two-time French Open finalist Halep has had a tougher road – having to save match points in a third-round win over Lauren Davis that finished 15-13 in the third – to reach the semifinals at Melbourne Park for the first time.

Kerber has had no serious distractions on a 14-match winning streak, and is hoping to emulate her breakout year in 2016.

She won the Australian and U.S. Open titles two years ago and reached the No. 1 ranking, but slipped into the 20s last year. She didn’t win a title between the 2016 U.S. Open and the Sydney International earlier this month.

“I am just trying to find the feeling back that I had, like 2016, and just enjoying my time,” Kerber said.

Fernando Verdasco accepts 2-month doping ban

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
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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

Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports
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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.”