Auger-Aliassime making splash at soggy Miami Open

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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — It’s fair to say that Felix Auger-Aliassime is a surprise semifinalist at the Miami Open.

It’s fair – because he’s even surprising himself.

The 18-year-old Canadian will face 33-year-old American big-server John Isner, the defending champion. Auger-Aliassime is the youngest player left in a tournament where plenty of youngsters have made splashes, yet he says there’s no time right now to think about how rapidly his stock is rising.

“A lot of things are working, obviously,” Auger-Aliassime said. “I think I have been just improving in the last couple of weeks. But I don’t want to look back right now. I think I will do at the end of the tournament. Right now I’m looking forward to the next match and how far I can go in this tournament. Definitely I will take some time back home to reset and think about what happened.”

He had Thursday off, which probably saved him a bit of a frustrating day mentally. Play was to begin at 1 p.m. in a women’s semifinal match between 12th-seeded Ashleigh Barty and 21st-seeded Anett Kontaveit – they were delayed an hour at the start because of rain, then for another 2 1/2 hours after getting only two games in before the next wave of rain arrived.

Barty and Kontaveit came back out, played one more game – and hit another rain delay, their set tied 2-2 as they walked off the court at 4:39 p.m. Forecasters said rain was possible into the early evening.

“We understand your frustration,” tournament officials tweeted to fans curious about when play would resume.

Also on Thursday’s schedule, weather-permitting, was a men’s quarterfinal between fourth-seeded Roger Federer and sixth-seeded Kevin Anderson, along with the other women’s semifinal between second-seeded Simona Halep and fifth-seeded Karolina Pliskova.

Weather is supposed to be better Friday, when Auger-Aliassime will face off with Isner.

Auger-Aliassime wasn’t even in the top 100 of the world rankings two months ago, or in the top 50 when the Miami Open started. He’s now assured of climbing to at least 33rd when the rankings get updated Monday and becomes the first men’s player born in the 2000s to get past the No. 50 mark.

“Obviously it’s a privilege to be compared to all these great players,” Auger-Aliassime said. “I think it just shows that I’m doing good things, I’m on the right track.”

Shapovalov is 19, Tiafoe is 21, so that means the semifinal on that half of the bracket – facing the Federer-Anderson winner – will be a matchup of different tennis generations. Anderson is 32, Federer is 37.

Federer said he’s enjoying seeing the younger players start to make their mark.

“It’s interesting how they go about it differently against one another,” Federer said. “I think they really have taken it to the next level now, all the bunch of guys we are talking about right now, and it’s really nice to see.”

Sonego beats Bublik at Moselle Open to win 1st title of 2022

Winston-Salem Open - Day 5
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METZ, France – Lorenzo Sonego clinched his first title of the season by beating Alexander Bublik 7-6 (3), 6-2 in the Moselle Open final.

The 27-year-old Italian did not drop a set all tournament as he won the third title of his career and first on hard courts.

The unseeded Sonego recovered from 0-40 down in the fifth game of the match and secured victory when the seventh-seeded Bublik sent a backhand return long.

He then danced on court as he celebrated a perfect tournament where he also beat defending champion Hubert Hurkacz in the semifinals.

Sonego’s win will move him up 21 places in the ATP rankings and into 44th place.

Samsonova beats Zheng to win 3rd WTA title in 2 months

Toray Pan Pacific Open - Day Seven
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TOKYO – Liudmila Samsonova extended a remarkable summer run by clinching her third title in two months after beating rising Chinese player Zheng Qinwen 7-5, 7-5 at the Toray Pan Pacific Open.

No. 30-ranked Samsonova won in Washington and Cleveland in August and also reached the fourth round of the U.S. Open. The 23-year-old has now won 18 of her last 19 matches and didn’t drop a set in Tokyo.

“It’s amazing. I think I need a little bit of time to realize it, but it’s unbelievable,” Samsonova said. “It was like a nervous match today. I was really prepared physically but I was tired mentally because I was playing singles and doubles every day. I’m very happy with the way I managed the pressure.”

Samsonova added that the exclusion of Russian players from Wimbledon had helped her game though she stopped short of supporting the move.

“Wimbledon for me is the best tournament. I love it. The news really impacted me. I had one month without a tournament so I thought let’s work,” she said, adding: “I don’t agree that politics should be involved in sports because it’s unfair.”

The match between two power hitters with big serves was close throughout but Samsonova was striking the ball cleaner and stronger.

Zheng, who ousted top-seeded Paula Badosa and No. 4-seeded Veronika Kudermetova, was broken in the first set after giving up her first double fault on deuce in the 11th game.

Samsonova, who defeated Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina in the first round and former world No. 1 Garbine Muguruza in the quarterfinals, then sent a perfect forehand that landed in the right-hand corner of the court to break the 19-year-old and go 6-5 up. She took the first set with another strong service game that included her third ace.

Zheng was the first to crack in the second set when she handed Samsonova free points with two double-faults in the fifth game. A double-fault by the Russian saw her drop to 0-40 in the next game and the No. 36-ranked Chinese broke back to level at 3-3.

As in the first set, Zheng was broken in the 11th game. A long forehand at deuce gave Samsonova a breakpoint and she converted it with a crosscourt forehand that sent her opponent the wrong way. Samsonova then won her next game to love after three errors by Zheng, clinching the match 7-5, 7-5.

Samsonova has now won all of the finals she has appeared in.

In reaching the final, Zheng became the youngest Chinese finalist at a tour-level event, beating the mark set by Peng Shuai.