John Isner hits 64 aces in second-round win

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LONDON – John Isner hit 64 aces – 64! – and saved two match points while winning a five-setter at Wimbledon for only the second time in six tries.

You might have heard of the other such victory: It ended 70-68 in the final set.

In this much shorter instance of going the distance, the No. 9-seeded Isner came through 6-1, 6-4, 6-7 (6), 6-7 (3), 7-5 against Ruben Bemelmans, a Belgian qualifier ranked 104th, in a second-round match that ended Thursday after it was interrupted by rain the evening earlier.

“Certainly didn’t sleep like a baby last night,” the 33-year-old American said.

“All the stuff is running through my head. I’m half asleep, I’m not really asleep. We have all been there. You have something weighing on you,” he continued. “But fortunately, I didn’t feel, like, tired today. I still had a lot of adrenaline running through my body.”

Among the things that might have kept Isner tossing and turning:

– Isner held a match point at 6-5 in the third-set tiebreaker, but Bemelmans erased that with a winner, then added the next two points, too, to grab that set;

– he also dropped the fourth set in a tiebreaker;

– he had lost four five-setters in a row at Wimbledon, exiting the tournament that way in 2012, 2015, 2016 and 2017;

– he got into a heated and extended argument with chair umpire Mohamed Lahyani over a couple of replay reviews Isner was sure were incorrect, drawing a warning for the language he used.

“Now I’m going to get fined for that,” Isner said to Lahyani after apologizing, while also noting, “I said one bad word.”

They resumed Thursday at 4-3 in the fifth set, and Isner quickly was one point from defeat, trailing 5-4 while serving at 15-40. But he made both of those match points disappear via – what else? – aces, the first at 132 mph and the other at 144 mph.

“Just him keeping his nerves really well. Props to him that he produced those serves,” Bemelmans said. “There’s always a letdown when you miss those chances, but really, I didn’t miss them. He served them away. So it was not my fault. I could do nothing about it.”

Isner, who is based in Dallas, then broke in the next game and served out the victory, although not without casting aside one last break point, after double-faulting to 30-40. He closed this way: 141 mph service winner, 127 mph ace, 140 mph service winner.

That serve, Bemelmans said, is “tough on any surface.”

“Sometimes you’ve just got to bluff a little bit and choose a side, just to get in his head,” he added, “which I managed to do from the third set on.”

Enough to take that pair of tiebreakers, perhaps, but not to win a return game: Isner held all 27 times he served.

When a reporter told him how many aces Isner finished with, Bemelmans asked, “Is that a record?”

He then was reminded of that three-day, 11-hour marathon in the first round eight years ago – Isner hit 113; the man he beat, Nicolas Mahut, had 103 – and Bemelmans rolled his eyes and said, “Ah, of course.”

So Isner’s 64 slots come in as the third highest ace count at Wimbledon. At this point, though, he’s far more interested in doing something he’s never done: get to the fourth round at the grass-court Grand Slam tournament.

Isner is 0-3 in the third round so far, with each defeat in a fifth set.

“That, of course, weighs on you, especially at this event. It’s not just fifth set, in general; it’s this event,” said Isner, who faces 98th-ranked Radu Albot of Moldova on Friday. “So to finally come through on the good side of that feels amazing.”

Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

More AP tennis coverage: https://www.apnews.com/tag/apf-Tennis

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

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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.