Defending champ Sandgren wins first round match in Auckland

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AUCKLAND, New Zealand — Defending champion Tennys Sandgren of the United States is into the second round of the ASB Classic, beating New Zealand doubles specialist Michael Venus 6-4, 6-3.

Sandgren won his maiden ATP title in Auckland last year, beating Briton Cameron Norrie in the final. He looked strong on Monday with 15 aces in a 70-minute win. Venus is ranked 10th in the world in doubles but was playing his first singles match since a Davis Cup tie in 2018.

Sandgren broke Venus in the third game of the first set but dropped serve in the next game. At 4-5, 30-30 Venus made two unforced errors which handed the first set to the American.

Sandgren broke Venus in the fourth game of the second set and held on comfortably.

In other first-round matches on Monday, Brazilian qualifier Thiego Montiero beat last year’s runner-up Norrie 7-6 (3), 6-2.

Sixth-seeded Hubert Hurkacz of Poland, who beat world No. 4 Dominic Thiem at the ATP Cup last week and is seen as one of the tour’s rising stars, advanced to the second round with a 7-5, 6-3 win over Lorenzo Sonego.

The top four seeds at the tournament, Fabio Fognini of Italy, Denis Shapovalov of Canada, Karen Khachanov of Russia and John Isner of the United States, are not in action until the second round.

Fognini became top seed when Russia’s Daniil Medvedev withdrew after playing in the ATP Cup semifinals.

Isner is a two-time champion in Auckland and is looking to the tournament to again give him a strong start to the year.

“I’ve won it twice and my first ever ATP win was here in Auckland so I definitely have great memories here,” he told reporters. “Throughout my career I’ve come here a lot, I’ve played some great tennis here and I’m looking forward to hopefully playing some good tennis again.”

Alcaraz loses to Goffin in 1st match as No. 1

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ASTANA, Kazakhstan — Carlos Alcaraz’s first match as the No. 1-ranked player ended with a straight-set loss to David Goffin at the Astana Open.

The 19-year-old Spaniard lost 7-5, 6-3 in his first tour match since winning the U.S. Open and capturing the No. 1 ranking.

“David was playing really, really well. To come back to competition is never easy,” Alcaraz said. “It’s really tough for me, for my confidence.”

Alcaraz came from 5-2 down to level the first set at 5-5, only to be broken again by his Belgian opponent.

“When you play against the World No. 1 on a big stage, big crowd, the fire inside gives you so much power to play your best tennis because you don’t have any choice,” Goffin said. “You have to fight and give your best and that was the case today.”

Second-seeded Daniil Medvedev and No. 3-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas both avoided similar upsets. Medvedev beat Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain 6-3, 6-1 and Tsitsipas ousted Kazakhstan’s Mikhail Kukushkin 6-3. 6-4.

Kasatkina knocks out Raducanu at Agel Open

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OSTRAVA, Czech Republic — Fifth-seeded Daria Kasatkina defeated 2021 U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu 7-5, 6-4 to advance to the second round of the Agel Open.

Kasatkina was playing her first match since losing in the first round of the U.S. Open and will next face Ekaterina Alexandrova.

Sixth-seeded Belinda Bencic of Switzerland rallied to eliminate former top-five player Eugenie Bouchard of Canada 6-7 (7), 6-1, while Aliaksandra Sasnovich upset eighth-seeded Jelena Ostapenko 6-2, 6-2.

American qualifiers Alycia Parks and Catherine McNally both advanced. Parks upset Czech Karolina Pliskova 6-0, 7-6 (3) and McNally eased past Anna Blinkova 6-1, 6-2 at the indoor hardcourt event in the Czech eastern city of Ostrava.