Medvedev beats Dimitrov at U.S. Open for first Grand Slam final

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NEW YORK — Daniil Medvedev first made a name for himself at the U.S. Open by earning the wrath of spectators. Now he’s gaining everyone’s respect as he heads to his first Grand Slam final.

The No. 5-seeded Russian has gone from trolling angry crowds at Flushing Meadows to playing for the title after beating unseeded Grigor Dimitrov 7-6 (5), 6-4, 6-3 in the semifinals Friday under Arthur Ashe Stadium’s closed retractable roof.

During his on-court interview, Medvedev referenced his “tournament of controversies,” which included accumulating $19,000 in fines and antagonizing booing fans last week, saying he knew it was “not going to be easy with the public.”

Medvedev’s tennis was a bit scratchy Friday, and he barely avoided dropping the opening set, but he did just enough with his mostly defensive style to get past Dimitrov, who had eliminated Roger Federer in a five-set quarterfinal.

In Sunday’s final, Medvedev will face either 18-time major champion Rafael Nadal or Matteo Berrettini, a 23-year-old from Italy who is seeded 24th.

Medvedev, 23, said he planned to watch that second semifinal, with “popcorn, in front of TV.”

Nadal has been gaining on Federer in the Grand Slam title standings: A fourth championship at the U.S. Open will also move him within one of Federer’s record total in the overall standings.

Like Medvedev, Berrettini is trying to make his debut in a major final.

The 6-foot-6 Medvedev hadn’t even been past the fourth round at a Slam until this one. He’s been the tour’s top player over the recent hard-court circuit, though, reaching three other finals on the surface. Medvedev has won 20 of his last 22 matches and leads the tour with 50 victories in 2019.

He drew all sorts of attention during Week 1 at the U.S. Open. In his third-round victory, fans got on him for angrily snatching and tossing away a towel from a ballperson, then for holding up his middle finger against the side of his face. When they let him hear it at the end of the match, jeering loudly, he basked in it, asking for more noise and sarcastically thanking them. There was a similar display after his next win, too.

On Friday, the stands seemed to have more people pulling for Dimitrov than Medvedev, but once again, that didn’t matter.

At No. 78, Dimitrov was heading in the opposite direction, losing seven of his last eight matches before getting to New York. That’s why a player once ranked as high as No. 3 was down to No. 78, making him the lowest semifinalist at the U.S. Open since 1991, when Jimmy Connors – who was in the stands Friday – was out of the top 150.

Dimitrov sure should have gone up a set early.

He was a point away while leading 6-5 as Medvedev served. But Medvedev played aggressively there, using a big forehand to get to the net and take that point, then turned to his guest box and barked something. The ensuing tiebreaker was filled with errors by both, closing with a forehand into the net by Dimitrov and another that he sailed long.

Truth be told, neither was all that elegant or excellent in that first set.

Yet Medvedev managed to take it, even though Dimitrov dominated pretty much every statistical category. Dimitrov won more points, 43-41. He compiled twice as many total winners, 14-7. He made fewer unforced errors, 18-15.

The second set came down to the last game, when Dimitrov’s inconsistency was again on display. After one spectacular point, which drew a standing ovation, he paused to take a look at a replay on the overhead videoboard. Soon after that, though, he hit a mediocre approach shot that allowed Medvedev to strike a down-the-line backhand passing winner for set point. Dimitrov followed up with a backhand into the net and hung his head.

That made it a two-set lead for Medvedev, a deficit Dimitrov had faced 19 previous times at majors and never overcome. He wasn’t going to on this day, either.

Fernando Verdasco accepts 2-month doping ban

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
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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.”