Novak Djokovic reaches Paris Masters third round

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PARIS — Four-time champion Novak Djokovic overcame a first-set wobble against unheralded Corentin Moutet, beating the 97th-ranked Frenchman 7-6 (2), 6-4 to reach the third round of the Paris Masters on Wednesday.

The top-ranked Serb lost his serve to trail 4-3 and then needed to save two set points in order to hold the ninth game at 5-3 down.

The 16-time Grand Slam winner broke back for 5-5 against his 20-year-old opponent, who entered the main draw as a lucky loser and has never won a title, while Djokovic has 76 in his stellar career.

Djokovic, who lost last year’s final and last won here four years ago, dropped serve again as Moutet broke back to 4-2 in the second set.

But he was untroubled following that, and clinched the victory with a forehand winner down the line on his first match point.

“The overriding feeling is one of disappointment. I had some opportunities,” said Moutet, who drew loud cheers with one audacious shot where he flicked the ball back between his legs and lobbed Djokovic. “I gave everything I had, and the fans helped me with that.”

Djokovic, who stood to applaud that shot, next faces Britain’s Kyle Edmund after he beat 14th-seeded Diego Schwartzman 7-5, 6-3.

Earlier, Dominic Thiem withstood 30 aces from big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic to win 7-6 (5), 5-7, 6-4. The two-time French Open runner-up also saved nine break points out of 10, and then broke Raonic for the first time in the ninth game of the deciding set before serving out the match.

The fifth-seeded Austrian player, who won the Erste Bank Open in Vienna last Sunday for an ATP Tour-leading fifth title this year, next faces Grigor Dimitrov.

Seventh-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas looked more comfortable reaching the third round, serving 13 aces and facing no break points in beating Taylor Fritz 7-6 (3), 6-3. The 21-year-old Greek player next plays Alex de Minaur, a 20-year-old Australian who lost the Swiss Indoors final to Roger Federer on Sunday.

Federer is skipping this tournament, but No. 2 Rafael Nadal was playing later Wednesday in the second round against unseeded Frenchman in Adrian Mannarino.

Another big server went out as 15th-seeded American John Isner – the 2016 runner-up – lost 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4) to Cristian Garin of Chile despite having 25 aces.

Denis Shapovalov of Canada used 14 aces in rallying to beat No. 11 Fabio Fognini 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 and plays No. 6 Alexander Zverev in the third round.

Three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka – seeded 16th – advanced with a 7-6 (3), 7-6 (5) win over Marin Cilic and improved his record to 13-2 against the former U.S. Open champion. He plays either Nadal or Mannarino.

De Minaur upset ninth-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut 7-6 (2), 7-6 (1), while in other second-round matches Dimitrov beat No. 12 David Goffin 7-5, 6-3, and Frenchman Gael Monfils won 6-4, 7-6 (4) against countryman Benoit Paire.

Nadal and Djokovic are vying to finish the year as No. 1.

The 19-time Grand Slam champion Nadal can guarantee it for the fifth time in his career by winning the indoor tournament for the first time.

Djokovic seeks a record-tying sixth year-end finish as No. 1.

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

Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports
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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.”