Muguruza edges Konta at Australian Open

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Better late than never, right?

Garbine Muguruza finally won what is believed to be the latest-starting match in Australian Open history, edging Johanna Konta 6-4, 6-7 (3), 7-5 in an after-midnight marathon that began at 12:30 a.m. and concluded at 3:12 a.m. on Friday.

“Not ideal. Not ideal for anyone. I don’t think it’s ideal for anyone to do any physical activity when it’s bedtime,” Konta said with a chuckle. “Both of us were in the same boat, so both of us had to deal with the same challenge.”

A few hundred spectators dotted the stands at Margaret Court Arena, which has a seating capacity of 7,500.

One woman took up three seats to herself for a bit of a snooze.

“I seriously can’t believe there’s people watching us at 3:15,” two-time major champion Muguruza said in an on-court interview, then joked: “Like, who cares?”

The second-round match was delayed because the day session ran longer than expected – Venus Williams needed three sets to win her match there – and the first contest of the night session was a men’s match that lasted five sets. Konta said there was discussion of moving her match to Court 3, but that the seagulls that dot the tournament grounds had left their, um, mark there.

According to an Australian Open spokeswoman, Muruguzu and Konta were given the option of having Court 3 cleaned; it should have taken 15 minutes. But the players heard there was rain in the forecast, so decided to stay put, because Margaret Court Arena has a roof and Court 3 does not.

The tournament said the previous latest start on record in Melbourne was 11:59 p.m. for a women’s match between Elise Mertens and Daria Gavrilova a year ago.

The record for latest finish? That’s 4:34 a.m., for a 2008 men’s match between Lleyton Hewitt and Marcos Baghdatis.

“It was actually a very good match,” Konta said about her low-attendance loss. “It’s unfortunate more people couldn’t enjoy it during the day.”

Muguruza, a former No. 1-ranked player who is seeded 18th, managed to convert the only two service breaks of the match, including in the last game.

Asked afterward what she planned to do, Muguruza had a simple plan: breakfast.

The biggest beneficiary of the timing of it all might very well wind up being Timea Bacsinszky, the Swiss player who will face Spain’s Muguruza on Saturday for a spot in the fourth round.

Bacsinszky’s victory on Thursday ended more than 10+ hours earlier than Muguruza’s win did.

“I will recover as much as I can, because it was a tough match,” said Muguruza, who won the French Open in 2016 and Wimbledon in 2017, but has never been past the quarterfinals at the Australian Open. “Tomorrow is a day off, but I have to be (focused). The tournament is not over.”

U.S. sweeps Uzbekistan, advances to group stage in Davis Cup

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The United States swept its way into the group stage of the Davis Cup Finals, getting the winning point in a 4-0 victory over Uzbekistan from the doubles team of Rajeev Ram and Austin Krajicek.

They beat Sergey Fomin and Sanjar Fayziev 6-2, 6-4, after Tommy Paul and Mackenzie McDonald had won singles matches in Tashkent.

Ram is No. 3 in the ATP Tour doubles rankings and partnered with Joe Salisbury to win the last two U.S. Open men’s doubles titles. But the Americans opted not to use Ram last year in the final round, when they dropped the doubles match in a 2-1 defeat against Italy in the quarterfinals.

Krajicek was making his Davis Cup debut, having reached No. 9 in the doubles rankings late last year.

“They had five great days of preparation, and as anticipated they came out really sharp and got the early break in the first set. And after that it was like two freight trains, there was no stopping them,” interim captain David Nainkin said.

Denis Kudla then beat Amir Milushev 6-4, 6-4.

The winners of the 12 qualifiers being held this weekend advance 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 advance to the closing matches of the Davis Cup Finals scheduled for Nov. 21-26 in Malaga, Spain.

In other matches:

France 3, Hungary 2: On indoor hard courts in Tatabanya, Hungary, Ugo Humbert won it for the French with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Fabian Marozsan. Adrian Mannarino had forced the deciding match by beating Marton Fucsovics 7-6 (6), 6-2.

Serbia 4, Norway 0: On indoor hard courts in Oslo, the visitors, playing without top-ranked Novak Djokovic, put away the match when Filip Krajinovic and Nikola Cacic edged Viktor Durasovic and Herman Hoeyeraal 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. Hamad Medjedovic then outlasted Durasovic 6-4, 6-7, 10-4.

Sweden 3, Bosnia 1: On indoor hard courts in Stockholm, Mikael Ymer sent the hosts through by beating Damir Dzumhur 6-1, 1-6, 6-3.

Lesia Tsurenko to face Zhu Lin in Thailand Open final

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HUA HIN, Thailand — Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine reached her first final in four years after the top-seeded Bianca Andreescu retired with a shoulder injury during their semifinal match at the Thailand Open.

Tsurenko, in search of her fifth WTA title, was leading the 2019 U.S. Open champion 7-5, 4-0 when the Canadian stopped playing.

The former world No. 23 fought from 3-5 down to take the first set and reeled off eight straight games before Andreescu retired with a right shoulder problem.

“Bianca is such an amazing player. She is capable of hitting all kinds of shots and gave so much trouble today,” said the 33-year-old Tsurenko, now ranked 136th. “But I was just fighting and I told myself positive things that I can do it. Unfortunately, she had to retire.”

The Ukrainian last lifted a WTA trophy in Acapulco in 2018 and hasn’t been to a final since Brisbane in 2019.

She will face Zhu Lin of China in the final.

“She had some good wins in the Australian Open,” Tsurenko said. “She is one of the dangerous players in this tournament. She is going to give a good fight.”

In the all-Chinese semifinal earlier, Zhu benefited from a barrage of unforced errors from Wang Xinyu and prevailed 6-2, 6-4 for her first WTA final.

The world No. 54 player, who reached the last 16 at the Australian Open in January, relied on her solid baseline game to force errors.

“It was very windy, so I tried to be patient and keep my first serves in,” said the 29-year-old Zhu, who will team up with Wang in the doubles final against Hao-Ching Chan and Fang-Hsien Wu of Taiwan.