Two players out of Western & Southern Open after COVID contact

Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports
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Two players, Argentina’s Guido Pella and Bolivia’s Hugo Dellien, said their fitness trainer tested positive for COVID-19 and that is why they were dropped from the tennis tournament that will precede the U.S. Open at its Flushing Meadow site.

Pella and Dellien posted separate videos on Instagram after the Western & Southern Open announced Wednesday that two players – who the tournament’s statement did not identify – were placed under quarantine and removed from the tournament field after being exposed to someone who tested for the illness caused by the coronavirus.

The Western & Southern Open normally is held in Cincinnati but was moved to New York this year as part of an unusual doubleheader of sorts with the U.S. Open because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Qualifying is scheduled to begin Thursday for the tuneup event; the Grand Slam tournament is slated to begin Aug. 31.

The U.S. Tennis Association announced Tuesday that one person — who it did not name but said is not a player — came up positive out of the 1,400 COVID-19 tests administered since last week as part of the protocols for the controlled environment for the two tournaments. That person tested positive on a second test after arrival and was told to isolate for 10 days.

Pella and Dellien both said that was their trainer, Juan Manuel Galvan.

Pella said the trio was together in Miami together last week, preparing for the return to competition after a hiatus caused by the pandemic.

The 30-year-old Pella was a quarterfinalist at Wimbledon last year, has a career-best ranking of No. 20 and is currently No. 35. He would have been in the main draw at the Western & Southern Open.

The 27-year-old Dellien reached the second round round at the 2019 U.S. Open in his tournament debut. He’s been ranked as high as No. 72 and is No. 94 now, which would have put him in qualifying for the Western & Southern Open.

Wednesday’s statement from that tournament said contact tracing “determined that two players have been in close and prolonged contact” with the person who tested positive and noted that the players were not experiencing symptoms.

“We expected this to happen,” USTA CEO Mike Dowse said about the initial positive test during a conference call with reporters Tuesday. “Mathematically, we expected to have a positive, if not more than one. So we did anticipate this and we have put very specific protocol in place to prevent this from spreading broadly. … Our No. 1 priority is to take care of this person first, and secondly to prevent the spread from going any further.”

Fernando Verdasco accepts 2-month doping ban

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
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LONDON – Former top-10 player Fernando Verdasco accepted a voluntary provisional doping suspension of two months after testing positive for a medication for ADHD, the International Tennis Integrity Agency announced.

Verdasco, who turned 39 this month, said he was taking methylphenidate as medication prescribed by his doctor to treat ADHD but forgot to renew his therapeutic use exemption for the drug. The integrity agency said Verdasco has now been granted an exemption by the World Anti-Doping Agency moving forward.

He tested positive at an ATP Challenger tournament in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in February.

The integrity agency said in a news release that it “accepts that the player did not intend to cheat, that his violation was inadvertent and unintentional, and that he bears no significant fault or negligence for it,” and so what could have been a two-year suspension was reduced to two months.

Verdasco will be eligible to compete on Jan. 8.

The Spaniard is a four-time Grand Slam quarterfinalist, reaching that stage most recently in 2013 at Wimbledon, where he blew a two-set lead in a five-set loss to eventual champion Andy Murray.

Verdasco reached a career-best ranking of No. 7 in April 2009 and currently is No. 125.

Auger-Aliassime, Shapovalov give Canada 1st Davis Cup title

Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports
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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.”