John Isner finally reaches first Wimbledon quarterfinal on 10th try

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LONDON — At long last, John Isner is a Wimbledon quarterfinalist, finally making that far in his 10th appearance.

He’s also in the final eight at any Grand Slam tournament for the first time since 2011.

The No. 9-seeded Isner moved into a matchup against No. 13 Milos Raonic, the 2016 runner-up at the All England Club, by beating 19-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece 6-4, 7-6 (8), 7-6 (4) with the help of 22 aces and by saving the only break point he faced Monday.

It allows the 33-year-old Isner, the highest-ranked U.S. man, to have something about Wimbledon to relish other than his victory in the longest match in tennis history: 70-68 in the fifth set against Nicolas Mahut after 11 hours spread over three days in 2010.

He’d never even been past the third round at the grass-court Grand Slam until this year.

“Certainly this tournament, since that long match, has sort of been a house of horrors for me,” Isner said. “I’ve lost a lot of close ones since that match in 2010 – a lot of very, very close ones, a lot of deep five-set matches, third round especially.”

He had lost four five-setters in a row at Wimbledon until last week.

He’d been 0-3 in the third round until last week.

“There was certainly some doubt, when you have left this tournament the last nine, 10 years pretty disappointed with my result, gone home sort of hanging my head a little bit,” Isner said. “But not the case this year.”

His main asset is his booming serve, which he sees getting a boost because of the dry, hot weather that produces even bigger bounces than usual.

If he can pick up just the occasional service break, he’s tough to beat right now.

“It was a pretty weird match, to be honest. A lot of aces, short rallies. There was no play from the baseline at all. That was a bit annoying, because I was used to playing long rallies – play the point, construct the point,” said Tsitsipas, who was trying to become the first Greek man to reach a quarterfinal in Grand Slam history.

“But today it seemed like there was no plan when I was playing. It was just happening, like, randomly. He was serving very well and didn’t give me a lot of options to break.”

Could be similar on Wednesday between Isner and Canada’s Raonic, another top server who beat 103rd-ranked Mackenzie McDonald of the U.S. 6-3, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-2.

Asked how he’d describe Isner’s serve, Raonic said: “Incredible.”

Raonic’s isn’t too shabby, either. He hit 37 aces and never faced a break point against McDonald, who won the NCAA singles and doubles titles for UCLA in 2016.

“The key is going to come down to one, two, three points, here and there. That’s pretty much it. I don’t think we’re going to have many consecutive opportunities on each other’s serves. It’s going to be coming down to those moments (and) being sharp in the right moments, who is going to be able to step up, be the one that’s able to dictate, putting more pressure on the other guy,” Raonic said. “I think it’s going to be decided by small margins.”

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

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.”