Davis Cup, Laver Cup getting new companion

Getty Images
1 Comment

LONDON — The Davis Cup and the Laver Cup are getting a new team-competition companion.

The men’s tennis tour said Thursday the debut of the ATP Cup will take place in January 2020, just a week before the start of the Australian Open.

The announcement of the 24-team event comes three months after the International Tennis Federation – backed by a group of investors spearheaded by Barcelona soccer player Gerard Pique – said it would hold a one-week competition for 18 nations in Madrid in November 2019.

The ATP Cup will be played over 10 days in three yet-to-be-confirmed Australian cities.

“You can have multiple team events, that’s not the issue,” ATP president Chris Kermode said. “The issue is that the timing is so close and I get that. I’m really, really confident that down the line we will find a resolution for this.”

The ATP Cup, which will offer $15 million in prize money for players, will be held in partnership with Tennis Australia. The location and timing is intended to provide ideal preparation ahead of the Australian Open, with the first Grand Slam of the season starting in Melbourne a week later.

Tennis Australia is also a partner of the Laver Cup, another annual team competition, which began in 2017 and pits European players against a “World” team in September.

“We’ll make sure that in 2020 we run a great event and we’ll do whatever we can in partnership with the tour and others to ensure that Davis Cup is also a magnificent global event,” Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley said.

Nations will qualify for the ATP Cup by virtue of the ranking of their highest-seeded player and will then be split into six groups of four to compete in a round robin, which will feature one doubles contest and two singles matches.

Unlike the Davis Cup, the ATP Cup will offer ranking points, which will be based on individual results. A player who wins all his matches – and the tournament – could claim 750 points.

The launch took place at the O2 Arena in London, where the men’s tennis tour’s flagship event, the ATP Finals, is currently taking place.

“We have Davis Cup, obviously, that has been the most historical team event,” said top-ranked Novak Djokovic, the president of the ATP Player Council. “And now we have the ATP Cup that is definitely going to be right up there in terms of its value from the players’ perspective.”

The ATP formerly held a World Team Cup in Dusseldorf, Germany, which ran for 35 years but was discontinued in 2012.

“All of us players around the world are unified and united in this event,” American player John Isner said. “It’s the perfect week for it. Everyone wants to be in tip-top shape come the Australian Open and this event is going to allow us to do that.”

Fernando Verdasco accepts 2-month doping ban

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

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
1 Comment

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.”