Serena Williams talks fashion, not fouls at Las Vegas event

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LAS VEGAS — Serena Williams talked about her fashion business and her family, but not tennis fouls during a Friday appearance before a business trade group in Las Vegas.

The 23-time Grand Slam champion wasn’t asked about gender equality in sports or an argument she had last weekend with the chair umpire at her U.S. Open finals match in New York during about 25 minutes onstage with Sarah Robb O’Hagan, chief executive of Flywheel Sports, at the National Retail Federation trade show.

Williams, who took no questions from the audience, said previously she felt she had been treated more harshly than a male player would have been for smashing her racket and arguing with match official Carlos Ramos during her straight-set finals loss to Naomi Osaka of Japan on Sept. 8 in New York.

Williams received three code violations and was penalized a point and one game. She was later fined $17,000.

The incident drew a volley of commentary in recent days.

Tennis icon Billie Jean King said she believes tennis applies a double standard to women compared with men, and a similar outburst by a male player would have drawn no repercussions.

A cartoon caricature of Williams appeared in an Australian newspaper drew comparisons to U.S. racial stereotypes of the past.

In Croatia, U.S. Davis Cup team captain Jim Courier said he thought the gender issue had been polarized and, in some ways, politicized.

“It’s been quite the week,” O’Hagan said before steering the conversation away from controversy.

“It isn’t the first time you have had to deal with unfair judgment against you, and yet you have this amazing ability to come back with such courage and grace,” she said.

She drew applause praising Williams for calming a riled-up audience that booed the U.S. Open outcome to refocus the moment on Osaka’s victory.

“I feel it’s really important to stand up for what you believe in,” Williams said, “especially if it can affect the future and affect a lot of people in the future. That’s what it’s all about.”

Williams also was asked about what O’Hagan termed “epic comebacks” during her 20-year tennis career, including having a baby a little more than a year ago.

The tennis star, who has her own fashion line, advised business owners to “really figure out, `What can I do to revamp and bring it back to the top?”‘

“Really, it’s just about having a great team … and rolling up your sleeves and hard work,” Williams said. “I work really, really hard at my game. And then I work super hard at my fashion business. And I’m working incredibly hard at being a mom.”

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

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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.”