Spain wins doubles to reach semifinal of Davis Cup Finals

AP Photo
0 Comments

MADRID — Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal both played singles and doubles on Friday, but only the Spaniard was able to lead his team into the last four at the Davis Cup Finals.

Nadal guided Spain to a 2-1 comeback victory over Argentina, while Djokovic couldn’t prevent Serbia from being eliminated after a 2-1 loss to Russia.

Andy Murray didn’t play again on Friday, but Britain made the last four by beating Germany 2-0.

Spain will make its second straight semifinal appearance after Nadal and Marcel Granollers defeated Maximo Gonzalez and Leonardo Mayer 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 in the decisive doubles match in front of a lively and vocal crowd at the Caja Magica center court.

Guido Pella had defeated Pablo Carreno Busta 6-7 (3), 7-6 (4), 6-1 in the first singles, but Nadal had kept Spain in contention with an easy 6-1, 6-2 win over Diego Schwartzman for his 27th straight Davis Cup singles victory.

“It was a must-win match, nothing else mattered,” the top-ranked Nadal said.

Argentina, backed by a boisterous group of fans that at times made more noise than the local Spanish crowd, was hoping to get some payback after it was beaten at home by Spain in the 2008 Davis Cup final, when it was heavily favored against a Spanish team that was without an injured Rafael Nadal. Spain also beat Argentina in the 2011 final played in Sevilla.

Argentina made the semifinals for the last time in 2016, when it won its only Davis Cup title.

SERBIA FALLS

Djokovic defeated Karen Khachanov 6-3, 6-3 to even the score at 1-1, then returned to the court about half an hour later to team with Viktor Troicki in the decisive doubles. They had three match points but lost to Khachanov and Andrey Rublev 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (8).

“It hurts really badly,” Djokovic said. “These kinds of matches happen once in maybe forever. That’s it. The season is done and we’re turning the next page.”

The Russians converted on their first match point to put the team back in the Davis Cup semifinals for the first time since 2008.

“Both teams had a lot of chances,” said Rublev, who won the opening singles against Filip Krajinovic 6-1, 6-2. “It was like a coin toss, and we won this coin toss.”

Russia will next face Canada, which eliminated Australia on Thursday.

Serbia, the 2010 Davis Cup champion, was trying to return to the semifinals for the first time since 2017, when the team lost to eventual champion France.

After his 15th straight Davis Cup singles victory, Djokovic struggled in the doubles, although it was Troicki who squandered most of the chances in the tight tiebreaker, including some during the match points.

“I probably feel the worst ever,” Troicki said. “I never experienced such a moment in my career, in my life. And I let my team down, and I apologize to them.”

Djokovic, who hadn’t played in the Davis Cup since 2017, couldn’t hide his frustration as Serbia trailed in the second set, complaining with the umpire and hitting a ball deep into the stands after losing a point. He also requested medical assistance on his right arm.

Serbia was trying to reach the last four for the fourth time since winning its only Davis Cup title in 2010. It was runner-up once since then, in 2013.

BRITAIN ADVANCES

Britain advanced past Germany thanks to Kyle Edmund’s 6-3, 7-5 win over Philipp Kohlschreiber and Daniel Evans’ 7-6 (6), 3-6, 7-6 (2) victory over Jan-Lennard Struff.

For the second day in a row, captain Leon Smith did not play Murray who, after a comeback victory in the first tie of the group stage, said he was not in his best shape.

“Made the decision last night after talking to the guys,” Smith said. “He could play, but I wouldn’t say he’s in his best condition, as he said to you guys the other day. He says that’s how he’s feeling. So we have to keep talking about it.”

Britain last played in the semifinals in 2016, a year after winning its 10th title.

Nakashima takes first ATP Tour title at San Diego

San Diego Open - Finals
Getty Images
2 Comments

SAN DIEGO – Brandon Nakashima earned his first ATP Tour victory in his hometown, beating friend and fellow Southern Californian Marcos Giron 6-4, 6-4 in the San Diego Open final.

“It’s super-special, something you dream of, but to have it happen in my hometown with all my friends and family here, it’s a moment I’ll never forget,” said Nakashima, who had two previous finals appearances. “I hope there are many more moments like this to come.”

Nakashima, a 21-year-old who grew up in San Diego and trained extensively at the event’s site as a junior, clinched the opening set in only 30 minutes. The second set, filled with lengthy rallies, took nearly an hour.

Giron, the No. 5 seed and former NCAA title winner from UCLA, wasn’t able to fend off Nakashima’s persistent ground strokes and well-placed serves. Nakashima had eight aces, six in the first set.

Serving at 5-4 in the second set, Nakashima tallied the match’s deciding two points when Giron pushed an easy volley into the net, followed by Nakashima’s second-serve ace.

He earned $93,090, about half of what received for reaching the third round of the U.S. Open in early September.

Nakashima, who was ranked No. 69 on the ATP Tour, moved up to 48, his highest ranking in nearly three years on tour. Despite the loss, Giron moved up to 53 from 58.

Not only was the singles title claimed by an American, the doubles title also taken by an American duo as the second-seeded pair of Nathaniel Lammons and Jackson Withrow defeated Australians Jason Kubler and Luke Saville 7-6 (5), 6-2.

The $612,00 event was held at Barnes Tennis Center, which next hosts the $757,900 WTA 500 San Diego Open, Oct. 8-16. That will feature 16 of the world’s top-ranked 20 women pros, led by No. 1 Iga Swiatek.

Frances Tiafoe lifts Team World to 1st Laver Cup win

Getty Images
3 Comments

LONDON — The last to arrive, befitting his reputation in the locker room, Frances Tiafoe strutted into the post-match news conference after clinching Team World’s Laver Cup victory over Roger Federer’s star-studded Team Europe and shouted, “Champs are here!”

Then the 24-year-old from Maryland joined his teammates at the table where the silver trophy was resting Sunday night, put down a bottle of water, pulled a Budweiser out of his red jacket and smiled that wide smile of his.

Performing with the same infectious showmanship and crunch-time success he displayed en route to his first Grand Slam semifinal at the U.S. Open earlier this month, Tiafoe staved off four match points and came back to beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 1-6, 7-6 (11), 10-8, giving Team World its first triumph in five editions of an event founded by Federer’s management company.

“I don’t like losing,” said Federer, a 20-time major champion whose final match before retirement was a loss alongside Rafael Nadal in doubles against Tiafoe and Jack Sock on Friday night. “It’s not fun. It just leaves not the best taste.”

When Tsitsipas put a forehand into the net to end Sunday’s contest – and the three-day competition – Tiafoe dropped his racket and fell to his back on the court, where teammates piled atop him. After getting on his feet, Tiafoe cupped a hand to his ear, asking spectators for more noise, then pointed to his chest and yelled, “I’m him! I’m him!”

“When it becomes a circus out here, and I’m just using the crowd and acting like a little kid and having a bunch of reactions … I end up playing really well and I start building momentum off it,” Tiafoe said. “I’m able to play and function in that better than my opponents, it seems.”

Using the nickname other players gave Tiafoe to reflect the way he embraces big moments, Team World captain John McEnroe said: “Frances is `Prime Time.’ He loves this stuff.”

McEnroe had been 0-4 while leading his squad against his former playing rival, Team Europe captain Bjorn Borg; both indicated they would be back for the 2023 Laver Cup in Vancouver, but that might be their last go-round.

This one served as a celebration of Federer and the 41-year-old Swiss star’s career.

Tiafoe responded with a quip when asked whether he might owe Federer some form of “I’m sorry” for beating him in his finale or for defeating his team, which also included Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray for a total of 66 major singles titles. That, incidentally, is 66 more than Team World, a collection of 20-somethings (Sock turned 30 on Saturday).

“”I’m not going to apologize to him. He’s got a lot to apologize for after the last 24 years – after beating everybody on the tour,” said Tiafoe, who went 0-3 against Federer in singles head-to-head. “I will say thank you for having me in this amazing event, what he’s done for the game. He’s a class act. Happy to know him, happy to call him a friend, happy to call him a colleague, and best wishes in his second act. But I will not apologize.”

Team Europe entered Sunday at O2 Arena with an 8-4 lead; the first team to 13 points would win.

Each match on Day 3 was worth three points, and Team World went ahead thanks to a pair of victories by Felix Auger-Aliassime, a 22-year-old from Canada. He beat Djokovic 6-3, 7-6 (3), after partnering with Sock to edge Murray and Matteo Berrettini 2-6, 6-3, 10-8 in doubles.

Tiafoe then made it 13-8, but it wasn’t easy.

He went a tournament-record 8-0 in tiebreakers at Flushing Meadows this month and was just as resilient Sunday.

“It’s been a long time that Frances has been playing the big guys close and losing a lot of close battles. It’s great to see lately he’s been winning,” said Taylor Fritz, an American who is the same age as Tiafoe and has known him for years. “It’s about time that he steps up and the matches go the other way. Today was a joke.”

That’s because Tiafoe was a single point from losing to Tsitsipas four times in their second-set tiebreaker, but somehow got through that. Then, at 4-all in the concluding match tiebreaker – first to 10, win by two – Tiafoe sprinted from behind the baseline to near the net and barely got to a drop shot by Tsitsipas, somehow lunging to flick an angled winner.

While most of the 16,365 fans went wild, Tiafoe went around the net and stood still, hands on his hips, relishing the atmosphere.

“We put him in the slot that he was in today for a reason,” said Team World’s Tommy Paul, another 24-year-old American, “and he stepped up for us, big time.”