Bouchard’s bid for Australian Open spot ends in qualifying

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MELBOURNE, Australia — It was in the shadows of the main show courts at Melbourne Park, days before the first Grand Slam tournament of the season is set to begin in earnest, and Eugenie Bouchard’s stay at the Australian Open was over in the last round of qualifying.

The 2014 Wimbledon runner-up, once as high as No. 5 in the rankings, has had a long slide down to No. 211. She’s had to get used to playing away from packed stadium courts. But a constant echo around the arena on Friday presented something new.

The 25-year-old Canadian survived nearly three hours against China’s You Xiaodi in heavy smoke and haze in the first round of qualifying and advanced through a second-rounder against Maddison Inglis in 65 minutes. With a spot in the main draw on the line, though, Bouchard lost 6-4, 6-3 to Martina Trevisan, a 26-year-old Italian who now will make her debut at a Grand Slam tournament.

“Super tough,” Bouchard said of the loss. “It’s last round of qualies. I felt like I was close.”

Bouchard lost seven straight games from 4-4 in the first set before she rallied and got back to 5-3 in the second, getting plenty of encouragement from a small but supportive crowd. Trevisan held her composure, though, and closed with an ace.

Bouchard said the changing wind and left-handed Trevisan’s different spin were tricky. But one distraction, she said, was just odd.

Every hit of the ball, every noise the players made, could be heard again a half-beat later.

After the third game, Bouchard went to chair umpire Carlos Bernardes to talk about the the noise.

“I said, `I don’t know if it’s a speaker, or a TV or what, but I can hear our match, like, half a second after. In the point, I hear us grunting during the point,”‘ she said. “It was weird.”

The echo – from a giant TV somewhere behind the arena – continued until match point.

“That’s, like, never happened to me before,” Bouchard said.

Still, there’s plenty she’s experiencing now as she tries to work her way back. She’s prepared to deal with it.

“Well, life is not a straight line upward,” she said. “I just take the good with the bad. Sometimes you’ve just got to put your head down and grind, so that’s what I’m trying to do.”

In 2014, Bouchard reached a career-high No. 5 ranking after making the semifinals at the Australian Open and French Open and losing the Wimbledon final to Petra Kvitova.

She made it to the quarterfinals in Australia in 2015 and was into the fourth round at the U.S. Open that September, but had to withdraw because of a concussion she sustained after slipping and falling on wet locker room floor.

She reached a settlement with the United States Tennis Association in 2018 but her ranking has continued to fall.

Her health and fitness, she said, are improving.

“Generally I feel good. Today … I felt slow and I didn’t feel that great on court,” Bouchard said. “One of those days when I feel like things weren’t working. I didn’t feel like my usual self on court. But overall, I feel good.”

The smoke that blew over Melbourne earlier in the week caused some of the worst air quality measured in the world on Tuesday, sparking complaints and health concerns from players.

Bouchard had a medical timeout during her win that day, but didn’t think it caused any issues beyond that match.

“Not at all. That match and after that match, I felt bad,” she said. “But the next day, I recovered and felt fine.”

Her short-term aim is just to keep trying to win matches back-to-back, following a drought last year when she had 13 straight losses, including first-round exits at the French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open. She had two wins in Melbourne in qualifying and last week in Auckland, New Zealand, when she beat Caroline Garcia and Kirsten Flipkens before a loss to Amanda Anisimova.

That’s a step in the right direction. Now her focus is on an upcoming tournament on the lower-tier Challenger circuit.

Other qualifiers joining Trevisan in the women’s main draw include Americans Ann Li and Shelby Rogers, Liudmila Samsonova of Russia and Monica Niculescu of Romania.

Ernests Gulbis was among the men who made it out of qualifying, which continues Saturday at Melbourne Park.

U.S. sweeps Uzbekistan, advances to group stage in Davis Cup

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The United States swept its way into the group stage of the Davis Cup Finals, getting the winning point in a 4-0 victory over Uzbekistan from the doubles team of Rajeev Ram and Austin Krajicek.

They beat Sergey Fomin and Sanjar Fayziev 6-2, 6-4, after Tommy Paul and Mackenzie McDonald had won singles matches in Tashkent.

Ram is No. 3 in the ATP Tour doubles rankings and partnered with Joe Salisbury to win the last two U.S. Open men’s doubles titles. But the Americans opted not to use Ram last year in the final round, when they dropped the doubles match in a 2-1 defeat against Italy in the quarterfinals.

Krajicek was making his Davis Cup debut, having reached No. 9 in the doubles rankings late last year.

“They had five great days of preparation, and as anticipated they came out really sharp and got the early break in the first set. And after that it was like two freight trains, there was no stopping them,” interim captain David Nainkin said.

Denis Kudla then beat Amir Milushev 6-4, 6-4.

The winners of the 12 qualifiers being held this weekend advance to the Davis Cup Finals group stage in September, along with reigning champion Canada, 2022 runner-up Australia and wild-card recipients Italy and Spain.

Eight teams will advance to the closing matches of the Davis Cup Finals scheduled for Nov. 21-26 in Malaga, Spain.

In other matches:

France 3, Hungary 2: On indoor hard courts in Tatabanya, Hungary, Ugo Humbert won it for the French with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Fabian Marozsan. Adrian Mannarino had forced the deciding match by beating Marton Fucsovics 7-6 (6), 6-2.

Serbia 4, Norway 0: On indoor hard courts in Oslo, the visitors, playing without top-ranked Novak Djokovic, put away the match when Filip Krajinovic and Nikola Cacic edged Viktor Durasovic and Herman Hoeyeraal 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. Hamad Medjedovic then outlasted Durasovic 6-4, 6-7, 10-4.

Sweden 3, Bosnia 1: On indoor hard courts in Stockholm, Mikael Ymer sent the hosts through by beating Damir Dzumhur 6-1, 1-6, 6-3.

Lesia Tsurenko to face Zhu Lin in Thailand Open final

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HUA HIN, Thailand — Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine reached her first final in four years after the top-seeded Bianca Andreescu retired with a shoulder injury during their semifinal match at the Thailand Open.

Tsurenko, in search of her fifth WTA title, was leading the 2019 U.S. Open champion 7-5, 4-0 when the Canadian stopped playing.

The former world No. 23 fought from 3-5 down to take the first set and reeled off eight straight games before Andreescu retired with a right shoulder problem.

“Bianca is such an amazing player. She is capable of hitting all kinds of shots and gave so much trouble today,” said the 33-year-old Tsurenko, now ranked 136th. “But I was just fighting and I told myself positive things that I can do it. Unfortunately, she had to retire.”

The Ukrainian last lifted a WTA trophy in Acapulco in 2018 and hasn’t been to a final since Brisbane in 2019.

She will face Zhu Lin of China in the final.

“She had some good wins in the Australian Open,” Tsurenko said. “She is one of the dangerous players in this tournament. She is going to give a good fight.”

In the all-Chinese semifinal earlier, Zhu benefited from a barrage of unforced errors from Wang Xinyu and prevailed 6-2, 6-4 for her first WTA final.

The world No. 54 player, who reached the last 16 at the Australian Open in January, relied on her solid baseline game to force errors.

“It was very windy, so I tried to be patient and keep my first serves in,” said the 29-year-old Zhu, who will team up with Wang in the doubles final against Hao-Ching Chan and Fang-Hsien Wu of Taiwan.