Sofia Kenin stops Coco Gauff in Australian Open’s 4th round

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Coco Gauff’s latest history-making Grand Slam run at age 15 ended with a 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-0 loss in the Australian Open’s fourth round to Sofia Kenin on Sunday.

Like Gauff, Kenin is a young – although, at 21, not quite as young – American and she reached her first major quarterfinal with the victory.

In her previous match, Gauff beat Naomi Osaka to become the youngest player in the professional era to defeat the reigning women’s champion at the Australian Open.

But Gauff did not play as well this time, winding up with 48 unforced errors, more than twice as many as Kenin’s 22.

After dropping the opening set, Kenin immediately tilted things her way, breaking in the initial game and never letting that lead slip away.

When it ended, appropriately enough, on a missed backhand by Gauff, Kenin dropped her racket at the baseline and covered her face as tears welled in her eyes.

Just before Gauff announced herself last season by becoming the youngest qualifier in Wimbledon history and beating Venus Williams en route to the fourth round, Kenin strode onto the Grand Slam stage at the French Open by upsetting Serena Williams to get the round of 16 at a major for the first time.

Gauff’s power is impressive. One tiny indication: She slammed a forehand into the net so hard that it dislodged a piece of a sponsor’s white plastic sign.

Kenin can’t copy that. But thanks to her relentless ball-tracking and a bit of in-your-face attitude with a racket in hand, Kenin surged up the WTA rankings from 52nd to 12th in 2019 while winning her first three tour-level singles titles plus a couple in doubles.

Also on Sunday, defending champion Novak Djokovic moved into a quarterfinal against No. 32 Milos Raonic.

Djokovic defeated No. 14 Diego Schwarzman 6-3, 6-4, 6-4. Raonic beat 2014 U.S. Open champion and 2018 Australian Open runner-up Marin Cilic 6-4, 6-3, 7-5 with the help of 35 aces.

Perhaps just as noteworthy: The Canadian produced 30 more aces than Cilic, a big server himself.

Raonic has 59 holds in a row and won all 12 sets he has played so far en route to his third quarterfinal in Melbourne. He was the runner-up at Wimbledon in 2016, but hasn’t been to a Grand Slam semifinal since while dealing with a series of injuries in recent seasons.

“I haven’t gotten to do this much over the last two years,” Raonic said, “so it means a lot to me.”

He has been overshadowed of late by other, younger Canadians: Bianca Andreescu, who won the U.S. Open last year at 19 but missed the Australian Open with a knee injury; and Denis Shapovalov, 20, and Felix Auger-Alissime, 19, who both were seeded among the top 20 men at Melbourne Park but lost in the first round.

At Melbourne Arena, Gauff won the toss, elected to serve and proceeded to hand over a quick break, accumulating four misses, including a backhand that hit the net tape and popped back onto her side. Kenin shouted “Come on!” while the ball was still in the air.

She soon took leads of 2-0 and 4-2, as a tentative Gauff was trying to feel her way into the match. But then Kenin faltered, a bit of inexperience revealing itself when she opted not to challenge a forehand of hers that was called out — and a TV replay showed was in.

That mistake granted Gauff her initial break chance of the afternoon, which Kenin then donated by sailing a forehand long.

Suddenly it was 4-all, and they headed to a tiebreaker, where Kenin blinked first. She had avoided even one double-fault until then, but offered up two as Gauff went ahead 5-2, used a 119 mph (191 kph) serve to set up a forehand winner for 6-2 and, after letting set points slip away, closed it when Kenin netted a backhand.

Gauff repaid the favor in the second set, offering a trio of double-faults in one game – she finished with seven – to get broken and trail 3-1. They would play for more than two hours in total, and Gauff never got back in it.

Also advancing was last year’s runner-up in Melbourne, two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, who was down a set and a break before coming back to defeat No. 22 Maria Sakkari 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-2.

“From the beginning, it was a lot of nerves out there. I didn’t feel the best. I was just, you know, too tight and everything was flying,” Kvitova said.

Eventually, she worked out the issues, began to swing more freely and took control.

Kvitova’s quarterfinal opponent will be No. 1 seed Ash Barty – trying to become the first Australian to win the nation’s Grand Slam tournament since the 1970s – or No. 18 Alison Riske of the United States.

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.