Stan Wawrinka out in first round in Washington

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WASHINGTON — Stan Wawrinka’s surgically repaired left knee is just fine. What’s missing now for the three-time major champion as he goes through a rough season is the self-belief that comes with success.

Wawrinka’s latest quick exit came Tuesday night at the Citi Open, a 6-4, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (3) loss against 234th-ranked qualifier Donald Young of the U.S. in the first round of the hard-court tournament.

“I was missing a lot. Not feeling the way I wanted. I’m looking for confidence, for sure,” said Wawrinka, who has been ranked No. 3 but is merely 198th at the moment on account of a 6-11 record in 2018 after two knee operations last year. “It’s tough to not win a lot of matches. Then you start to think too much on the court.”

This was Wawrinka’s first match since bowing out of Wimbledon in the second round in early July; his ranking is so low that he needed a wild-card entry just to get into qualifying for his next event, in Toronto.

The only other time Wawrinka entered the U.S. Open tuneup in Washington, in 2010, he also lost his opener.

Right now, his issue is the doubt can creep up at key points in a match.

“I feel I’m really close but, at the same time, really far. The positive right now is that physically, I’m feeling good. Tennis-wise, I’m practicing well. I can put (in) a lot of work on the court,” said Wawrinka, who has won the U.S. Open, Australian Open and French Open once apiece. “I know and I’m sure I will get where I want to be. It’s just tough. It’s a long process and you have to accept (it).”

He and Young, who came into the day with just a 2-10 record this year, were supposed to play Monday night. But because of rain delays and a lengthy match before theirs, they only made it onto the court to warm up at 1 a.m., and then a downpour arrived, so the contest was postponed.

Wawrinka got broken in the first game Tuesday by dumping a forehand into the net; that turned out to be the match’s only break. Wawrinka then was two points from losing at 5-3 in the second-set tiebreaker. But a series of miscues by Young, including a double-fault at 5-4, sent them to a third set. This time, Young held on, and he’ll face 2014 U.S. Open runner-up Kei Nishikori on Wednesday.

“Fought a lot of nerves there, but I’m happy the end result was a `W,”‘ Young said. “Closing matches is kind of like a skill you get from winning and I haven’t done that – but I was able to do that.”

No. 1 seed and defending champion Alexander Zverev was scheduled to face Malek Jaziri in the main stadium’s final match Tuesday.

In earlier action, local product Denis Kudla – who is staying at his parents’ home in nearby Arlington, Virginia, this week – collected his first victory in seven attempts at the Citi Open, coming back to beat Lukas Lacko of Slovakia 6-7 (3), 6-1, 6-4.

“This is always a place that I’ve wanted to win and I’ve always struggled here. My record was pretty awful coming into today,” said Kudla, who had been 0-4 in main-draw matches and 0-2 in qualifying at the tournament. “Today it just came together.”

Marcos Baghdatis, the 2010 runner-up, advanced with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 victory over Benoit Paire, who drew boos from spectators after a racket-breaking tantrum. Vasek Pospisil, a finalist in 2014, lost to 19-year-old Alex de Minaur 6-7 (6), 6-2, 6-3.

Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki pulled out of the women’s draw because of an injured right leg, while defending champion Ekaterina Makarova lost her first-round match to Ana Bogdan 7-6 (2), 6-3.

No. 2 seed Sloane Stephens, the reigning U.S. Open champion, moved into the second round with a 7-5, 6-4 victory over Bethanie Mattek-Sands.

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.