Mladenovic out of U.S. Open due to coronavirus quarantine

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK — The top-seeded women’s doubles team was dropped from the U.S. Open because one of the players, Kristina Mladenovic of France, was issued a quarantine notice by public health officials from the county where her tournament hotel is.

Mladenovic was one of seven players placed under extra restrictions during the tournament after contact tracing determined she potentially could have been exposed to COVID-19 by Benoit Paire, the only entrant to test positive.

The U.S. Tennis Association announced Saturday that it was removing Mladenovic and her partner, Timea Babos of Hungary, saying it was “obligated to adhere to government guidance.”

Mladenovic and Babos were supposed to play their second-round match against Gabriela Dabrowski of Canada and Alison Riske of the U.S., who advanced via walkover.

Mladenovic had been allowed to compete until Saturday, playing two matches in singles – she lost in the second round after blowing a 6-1, 5-1 lead – and winning one in doubles.

And the other half-dozen players found to have contact with Paire also played in the tournament, including No. 32 seed Adrian Mannarino in men’s singles, whose match Friday was delayed for more than 2+ hours until it was determined he could play. He lost.

The USTA said the new quarantine orders arrived after Mannarino’s match and meant those players “identified as having prolonged close contact with the infected player will quarantine in their rooms for the remainder of their quarantine period.”

Mary Ellen Laurain, a spokeswoman for the Nassau County Department of Health, said medical privacy rules prevented her from discussing the cases of individual players. But she said 14-day quarantine orders are issued for any person living or staying in the county, including at hotels, who has had contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

FORZA, BERRETTINI!

No fans are allowed inside the gates at the U.S. Open because of the pandemic, but 2019 semifinalist Matteo Berrettini’s most loyal supporter found a way to offer encouragement Saturday by yelling from outside a fence near Court 17.

After beating No. 30 seed Casper Ruud 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 to return to the fourth round at Flushing Meadows, No. 6 Berrettini was asked whether he was aware of his pal’s attempts to be heard.

“Nobody didn’t hear him,” said Berrettini, a 24-year-old from Rome. “Was really loud today. I think louder than the other days.”

The fan is also Italian and owns the restaurant on Manhattan’s Lower East Side where Berrettini went for dinner most nights during his lengthy stay in New York a year ago. His pal even sat in Berrettini’s guest box during that run, wearing a shirt festooned with the word “Carbonara.”

On Saturday, he was outside the fence, shouting in Italian, saying phrases that mean “Let’s go!” or “Be strong!”

NOT BAD, EH?

Everyone’s been anticipating big things from young Canadians Felix Auger-Aliassime, who is 20 and seeded 15th, and Denis Shapovalov, who’s 21 and seeded 12th – and they’re both still around at this year’s U.S. Open.

What about another player from Canada, Vasek Pospisil? He’s 30, ranked 94th and hadn’t played an official match since February when he arrived at Flushing Meadows.

“To be honest,” Pospisil said, “I wasn’t expecting a lot.”

Well, now Pospisil is into the fourth round for the first time in nine appearances at the U.S. Open, thanks to his upset of No. 8 Roberto Bautista Agut by a 7-5, 2-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 score Saturday. That followed Pospisil’s elimination of another seed, No. 25 Milos Raonic, who just so happens to be from Canada, too.

Pospisil is dealing with an abdominal strain and a thigh strain but hanging in there.

“I think I’m more mature. I’m better at using my energy more (carefully),” said Pospisil, who won the 2014 Wimbledon doubles title with Jack Sock. “As you get older, you figure those things out better.”

Pospisil, who is helping Novak Djokovic start a new association for men’s tennis players, can get to the second Grand Slam singles quarterfinal of his career by beating No. 21 seed Alex de Minaur of Australia next.

Frances Tiafoe lifts Team World to 1st Laver Cup win

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LONDON — The last to arrive, befitting his reputation in the locker room, Frances Tiafoe strutted into the post-match news conference after clinching Team World’s Laver Cup victory over Roger Federer’s star-studded Team Europe and shouted, “Champs are here!”

Then the 24-year-old from Maryland joined his teammates at the table where the silver trophy was resting Sunday night, put down a bottle of water, pulled a Budweiser out of his red jacket and smiled that wide smile of his.

Performing with the same infectious showmanship and crunch-time success he displayed en route to his first Grand Slam semifinal at the U.S. Open earlier this month, Tiafoe staved off four match points and came back to beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 1-6, 7-6 (11), 10-8, giving Team World its first triumph in five editions of an event founded by Federer’s management company.

“I don’t like losing,” said Federer, a 20-time major champion whose final match before retirement was a loss alongside Rafael Nadal in doubles against Tiafoe and Jack Sock on Friday night. “It’s not fun. It just leaves not the best taste.”

When Tsitsipas put a forehand into the net to end Sunday’s contest – and the three-day competition – Tiafoe dropped his racket and fell to his back on the court, where teammates piled atop him. After getting on his feet, Tiafoe cupped a hand to his ear, asking spectators for more noise, then pointed to his chest and yelled, “I’m him! I’m him!”

“When it becomes a circus out here, and I’m just using the crowd and acting like a little kid and having a bunch of reactions … I end up playing really well and I start building momentum off it,” Tiafoe said. “I’m able to play and function in that better than my opponents, it seems.”

Using the nickname other players gave Tiafoe to reflect the way he embraces big moments, Team World captain John McEnroe said: “Frances is `Prime Time.’ He loves this stuff.”

McEnroe had been 0-4 while leading his squad against his former playing rival, Team Europe captain Bjorn Borg; both indicated they would be back for the 2023 Laver Cup in Vancouver, but that might be their last go-round.

This one served as a celebration of Federer and the 41-year-old Swiss star’s career.

Tiafoe responded with a quip when asked whether he might owe Federer some form of “I’m sorry” for beating him in his finale or for defeating his team, which also included Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray for a total of 66 major singles titles. That, incidentally, is 66 more than Team World, a collection of 20-somethings (Sock turned 30 on Saturday).

“”I’m not going to apologize to him. He’s got a lot to apologize for after the last 24 years – after beating everybody on the tour,” said Tiafoe, who went 0-3 against Federer in singles head-to-head. “I will say thank you for having me in this amazing event, what he’s done for the game. He’s a class act. Happy to know him, happy to call him a friend, happy to call him a colleague, and best wishes in his second act. But I will not apologize.”

Team Europe entered Sunday at O2 Arena with an 8-4 lead; the first team to 13 points would win.

Each match on Day 3 was worth three points, and Team World went ahead thanks to a pair of victories by Felix Auger-Aliassime, a 22-year-old from Canada. He beat Djokovic 6-3, 7-6 (3), after partnering with Sock to edge Murray and Matteo Berrettini 2-6, 6-3, 10-8 in doubles.

Tiafoe then made it 13-8, but it wasn’t easy.

He went a tournament-record 8-0 in tiebreakers at Flushing Meadows this month and was just as resilient Sunday.

“It’s been a long time that Frances has been playing the big guys close and losing a lot of close battles. It’s great to see lately he’s been winning,” said Taylor Fritz, an American who is the same age as Tiafoe and has known him for years. “It’s about time that he steps up and the matches go the other way. Today was a joke.”

That’s because Tiafoe was a single point from losing to Tsitsipas four times in their second-set tiebreaker, but somehow got through that. Then, at 4-all in the concluding match tiebreaker – first to 10, win by two – Tiafoe sprinted from behind the baseline to near the net and barely got to a drop shot by Tsitsipas, somehow lunging to flick an angled winner.

While most of the 16,365 fans went wild, Tiafoe went around the net and stood still, hands on his hips, relishing the atmosphere.

“We put him in the slot that he was in today for a reason,” said Team World’s Tommy Paul, another 24-year-old American, “and he stepped up for us, big time.”

Sonego beats Bublik at Moselle Open to win 1st title of 2022

Winston-Salem Open - Day 5
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METZ, France – Lorenzo Sonego clinched his first title of the season by beating Alexander Bublik 7-6 (3), 6-2 in the Moselle Open final.

The 27-year-old Italian did not drop a set all tournament as he won the third title of his career and first on hard courts.

The unseeded Sonego recovered from 0-40 down in the fifth game of the match and secured victory when the seventh-seeded Bublik sent a backhand return long.

He then danced on court as he celebrated a perfect tournament where he also beat defending champion Hubert Hurkacz in the semifinals.

Sonego’s win will move him up 21 places in the ATP rankings and into 44th place.