First for Jabeur as she reaches quarterfinals in Australia

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Ons Jabeur is the first Arab woman to make it to a Grand Slam singles quarterfinal, and she’s proud to lead the way.

“I’m trying to inspire many young generations back home either in Tunisia or the Arabic world, especially in Africa, which is amazing,” she said. “I’ve been practicing in Tunisia from the age of 3.” She added, smiling: “I’m a 100% Tunisian product.”

The 78th-ranked Jabeur beat 27th-ranked Wang Qiang, who upset 23-time major winner Serena Williams in the previous round, 7-6 (4), 6-1 on Sunday. The 25-year-old Jabeur will play American Sofia Kenin on Tuesday in the final eight. Jabeur said she had plenty of scholarship offers to go to college in the U.S., but “I wanted to really go pro directly.”

She attended tennis academies in Belgium and France but she decided that returning to Tunisia was a “good option.”

A French Open junior champion in 2011, Jabeur expected quick success on on the elite tour.

“It was a little bit frustrating just after the juniors because I was expecting to go better,” she said. “So many players I played with in juniors, I see them, they’re like top 50, top 20.”

She’s on her way up the rankings now, after making the last eight in the season’s first major. She’s gaining attention with each match in Australia, and keeping her family awake.

“I called my mom right away, she was really, really happy,” Jabeur said of her win over Wang. “My father as well, I think he was crying. Also my two brothers, the one in Germany and the one in France. The family, everyone was behind me. They couldn’t go back to sleep again.

“I’m happy that I have this support because we’ve been through rough times – now it’s finally paying off.”

DJOKOVIC’S FAMILY FAVORITE?

Novak Djokovic is one of Serbia’s favorite sons. But is he his son’s favorite player? Apparently, it’s still up for debate.

Djokovic has has won 16 major titles, including a record seven in Australia, and is into the quarterfinals of a major for the 46th time – second only to Roger Federer. He recently pulled tens of thousands of Serbian fans to stadiums in Brisbane and Sydney as he helped his country win the inaugural ATP Cup team tournament.

His 5-year-old Stefan has started playing tennis – he also likes martial arts and football – and father and son practice together sometimes. Asked about Stefan’s tennis development, Djokovic said: “He likes to play with me, and with his best friend. He doesn’t like to play with too many other people.”

Asked who Stefan’s favorite is, not even the 32-year-old Djokovic was sure.

“He still hasn’t expressed who his favorite player is. I hope I’ll be working on becoming his favorite player.”

ON COURT

Margaret Court game to Rod Laver Arena, and was seated in a row with the man they call Rocket during Novak Djokovic’s match on Australia Day. The two tennis greats are celebrating Grand Slam milestones in back-to-back years.

Last year, Laver celebrated the 50th anniversary of his calendar-year Grand Slam – his second – in 1969. He also won all four of the tennis majors in 1962.

Court is marking 50 years since her first Grand Slam. Court won all four majors in 1970 during a dominant sequence when she captured eight titles in nine majors, starting with the Australian Open in 1969 and finishing with the Australian Open in ’71.

She holds the all-time record for most Grand Slam singles titles with 24, one more than Serena Williams, including 11 after the beginning of the professional era. She also holds the record for most Grand Slam titles with 64, including titles in in singles, doubles and mixed doubles at the same major twice.

While her tennis achievements are unquestionable, some of Court’s views since becoming an ordained minister in 1991 and founding a Pentecostal church in Perth four years later have been divisive.

Tennis Australia confirmed last November it plans to honor the 50th anniversary of the 1970 Grand Slam, but stressed that Court’s anti-gay views “do not align with our values of equality, diversity and inclusion.”

Court caused controversy in 2017 by saying the devil was to blame for young people questioning their sexuality and wrote a public letter urging Australians to vote against same-sex marriage. Since then, same-sex marriage has since been legalized in Australia.

Maureen Connolly in 1953 and Steffi Graf in 1988 are the only two other women to have won all four Grand Slams in the calendar year.

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.”

Australia beats Croatia 2-1 to reach Davis Cup final

Day Four - Davis Cup Finals 2022
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MALAGA, Spain – Australia had to fight back twice to reach its first Davis Cup final in 19 years after beating Croatia 2-1.

Lleyton Hewitt’s team recovered from losing the first singles. Then the Australian doubles pair battled back from a set down in the decider.

Australia won its 28th and last title in 2003. It has finally got back to the final.

“I am so proud. Australia has a really rich history in this competition,” said Hewitt, who played a record 43 Davis Cup ties for Australia from 1999-2018.

“We have been fortunate to win it all on a number of occasions a long time ago. And I know what it meant to me as a player to play a final, and I am glad these guys can play it.”

Borna Coric put Croatia ahead by beating Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-4, 6-3, but Alex de Minaur leveled after defeating Marin Cilic 6-2, 6-2 to send it to the doubles.

Jordan Thompson and Max Purcell then secured the semifinal win against Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic by 6-7 (3), 7-5, 6-4.

“This is what this team is about, that never-say-die attitude,” De Minaur said.

Canada will face Italy on Saturday in the other semifinal.

In the opener, Kokkinakis struck 11 aces, but Coric was able to break him once in each set.

“On my serve, I felt like it was an ace or he put it back on my toes,” Kokkinakis said.

Cilic, who was on the Croatia team that won the title in 2018, committed 10 double faults. That erratic serve helped De Minaur break Cilic four times and level his head-to-head record with the former U.S Open winner at two wins each.

Thompson and Purcell bettered the more experienced pair of Mektic and Pavic, both ranked in the top 10 in doubles. Thompson and Purcell combined for 13 aces, broke the Croats twice, and never dropped a service game to come back after losing the first-set tiebreaker.

Two-time winner Croatia was the runner-up last year.

“It proved too difficult on the court today,” Cilic said. “(But) for us it has been a great year again after the finals last year to reach the semis.”

The final is on Sunday on the indoor court in Malaga.