Kerber sets up Wimbledon semifinal vs Ostapenko

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LONDON – Angelique Kerber reached her third Wimbledon semifinal after converting her seventh match point to beat Daria Kasatkina 6-3, 7-5 on Tuesday, setting up a meeting with former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko.

Ostapenko became the first Latvian woman to make the last four at the All England Club with a 7-5, 6-4 victory over Dominika Cibulkova on a windy No. 1 Court.

Kerber, the former No. 1 and two-time major champion who was the runner-up at Wimbledon two years ago, took advantage of Kasatkina’s erratic serving and many errors to return to the last four. Kasatkina finished with seven double-faults, including one on break point in the second game and then two straight to hand Kerber a 5-3 lead in the first set – halting her momentum just after breaking to get back on serve with the help of one of the best rallies of the match.

Still, Kerber had some trouble closing things out.

She served for the victory at 5-4 in the second set, but got broken. When she served for it a second time, she needed to navigate a 16-point game that included five deuces and all of those match points, until forcing a forehand error on the last.

Ostapenko was more efficient, serving her match out at love and converting her first match point with her 14th backhand winner.

Ostapenko was the aggressor throughout, hitting 33 winners to Cibulkova’s six, but also hitting 28 unforced errors to 13 for her opponent. She repeatedly went for winners on her service returns, a strategy that helped her break Cibulkova five times.

Both players struggled to deal with the wind at times when serving, having to interrupt their ball-toss motion on several occasions in the second set.

They traded breaks early in both sets before Ostapenko broke decisively for a 3-2 lead in the second when Cibulkova sent a forehand long.

Later, Serena Williams resumed her quest for an eighth Wimbledon title when she played 52nd-ranked Camila Giorgi of Italy.

In the fourth quarterfinal, 13th-seeded Julia Goerges of Germany faced former French Open semifinalist Kiki Bertens, with both players having reached the last eight at Wimbledon for the first time.

Also, Juan Martin del Potro became the last man into the quarterfinals by beating Gilles Simon 7-6 (1), 7-6 (5), 5-7, 7-6 (5).

The fifth-seeded del Potro failed to convert four match points when serving at 5-4 in the fourth set, but maintained his composure to close out the contest with his first opportunity in the tiebreaker that followed.

It was the only fourth-round contest to be carried over to Tuesday and lasted 4 hours, 24 minutes, making it the longest men’s singles match of the tournament.

Del Potro will face two-time champion Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals on Wednesday.

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.”