Medvedev beats Zverev to win his 1st Paris Masters final

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Once Daniil Medvedev found a way to counter Alexander Zverev’s huge serve, his metronome-like rhythm clicked in and he counterattacked clinically to win the Paris Masters for the first time.

Medvedev’s 5-7, 6-4, 6-1 victory Sunday gave him his eighth career title and third at a Masters event.

“I managed to stay really strong, be there all the time,” the third-seeded Russian said. “Putting pressure on him all the time, raising my level step by step, and finally he broke.”

Medvedev’s style of play is unspectacular – and not “wild” as Zverev put it afterward.

But what he does well is relentlessly chip away with flat, uneeringly accurate strokes, punctuated by sudden accelerations of speed and whipped, fizzing forehands that always seem to land just in. Zverev, like many others before him, soon became exasperated and momentum quickly shifted.

“I’m really trying to make my opponent crazy,” Medvedev said with a wry smile in his post-match interview.

It was just his second win against the fourth-seeded Zverev in seven matches. His previous victory against the imposing German was also in a Masters final last year in Shanghai.

“I think it’s not easy for guys to play against me when I play like this,” Medvedev said. “Of course it’s tough to compare with the Shanghai final, where I was on top of him all of the match. Here it was a really tight match where both could be the winners.”

It was Medvedev’s first final and title of the year, while Zverev was playing in his third straight final after winning back-to-back tournaments in Cologne, Germany.

Before leaving court, Zverev wanted to make one final comment.

“Lastly,” he said, “A lot of people are trying to wipe a smile off my face … I’m still smiling under this mask.”

Zverev did not elaborate when asked to specify what he meant in his post-match news conference.

“I mean, just a lot of,” Zverev started to say, before reaching for his cell phone ringing in his pocket. “For a professional athlete there are always going to be people who try to wipe the smile off your face. So they can keep trying. I’m still smiling.”

During the tournament Zverev again denied accusations of domestic abuse made by a former girlfriend Olga Sharypova, who said the German tennis player tried to strangle her with a pillow before last year’s U.S. Open.

The contest between first-time finalists here and the last two U.S. Open runners-up went with serve – and with no break points – until Zverev broke Medvedev in the 12th game to take the opening set.

When Medvedev hit a forehand long on that point, Zverev let out a loud roar that pierced the silence at a Bercy Arena left empty by the coronavirus pandemic.

“After the first set I didn’t know actually what to do, because I had zero break points,” Medvedev said. “I didn’t feel good returning his serve.”

Medvedev’s machine-like accuracy from the baseline induced a loose shot from Zverev in the ninth game of the second set when he hit long from the back of the court. Medvedev’s pinpoint returning is among the best on the ATP Tour, and affected Zverev’s confidence as he won only 57% of points on first serve compared to 75% for Medvedev.

Medvedev clinched the second set with his 13th ace, then took control when Zverev padded a weak forehand into the net and was broken to love. After Zverev missed four break-point chances in the next game, he was punished when Medvedev broke for a 3-0 lead.

“At the end of the second set I was tired. I was dead. The third set was always going to be very difficult for me,” Zverev said. “Once you get a little bit tired against him, he wears you down. He wears you down even more. He makes you run, he makes you move.”

Medvedev clinched the victory on his second match point when Zverev double-faulted for the third time in the match.

They could meet again at the season-ending ATP Finals in London from Nov. 15-22.

“I’m happy with my tennis,” Zverev said. “I just need to maybe recover a little bit.”

Last year in London, Medvedev led Rafael Nadal 5-1 in the final set with the Russian having a match point. But a third-set meltdown ended in a tormenting defeat which taught him a lot.

“I knew I had to leave it behind. Just learn from it and learn how, if you’re up 5-1 and you lose even your serve on 5-2, you should not go crazy because you are still up,” the 24-year-old Medvedev said. “I have been working on my mental strength for a long time.”

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.”