Ash Barty back with a tournament win; Russia wins ATP Cup final

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Ash Barty didn’t play competitive tennis in almost a year. It seems like she didn’t miss a beat.

Top-ranked Barty cashed in on her first championship point against Garbine Muguruza in the Yarra Valley Classic and Daniil Medvedev clinched the ATP Cup title for Russia within seconds of each other Sunday as the tuneup tournaments for the Australian Open were culminating the eve of the year’s first major.

After a hectic preparation, which included 14-day quarantines under strict COVID-19 pandemic regulations for the 1,200 or so players, coaches and staff who flew in for the Australian Open, the warmup week of tournaments was being capped with five finals and two semifinals.

Barty kicked it off by claiming her second WTA on home soil – just over a year after her first – with a 7-6 (3), 6-4 win over sixth-seeded Muguruza, the Australian Open runner-up last year.

Barty hasn’t left Australia since the coronavirus outbreak became a global pandemic. Instead of playing the U.S. Open or trying to defend her French Open title, she spent her time practicing, playing golf and doing things like watching her favorite football team win the Australian Football League.

“Absolutely no regrets for me,” Barty said. “I felt like it’s been a challenging 12 months for everyone all across the world. Everyone has been in a very different, unique situation, depending on what country they’re in – even what state here in Australia.

“I feel very fortunate to have had the year that I have had – there was nothing but positive vibes. Now I’m really happy to be back playing tennis with an opportunity to play in front of a crowd here at the Australian Open. It’s really special.”

There were small clusters of spectators at Margaret Court Arena to watch Barty’s final. Still, that’s more of a crowd than most players have been accustomed to seeing at their matches during the pandemic. On Monday, when the Australian Open starts, there’s expected to be up to 30,000 fans at Melbourne Park.

To the crowd on Sunday, Barty said: “For us, this is what makes the magic happen.”

“I’m so grateful you can be here making it extra special for us,” she added. “Seeya next week.”

Muguruza had dropped only 10 games – never more than two in a set – in her previous four straight-set victories at the tournament, including a 6-2, 6-2 quarterfinal win over 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin.

The two-time major winner got the first break of serve to lead 3-1 before Barty broke back. Muguruza broke again and had a chance to serve for the first set, before Barty went on a roll.

The Australian star used her slice backhand and drop shots to keep Muguruza moving around the court, and mixed some powerful forehands with variety – clinching the match with a lob.

Barty will get the day off Monday because the bottom half of the Australian Open women’s draw will be played on the first day, featuring Serena Williams starting another bid for a record 24th Grand Slam singles title, No. 3-ranked Naomi Osaka and No. 2-ranked Simona Halep.

The top half of the men’s draw is set for Monday, with Novak Djokovic starting his quest for a third consecutive Australian Open title with a first-round match against Jeremy Chardy and No. 3-ranked Dominic Thiem, the runner-up here last year, opening against Mikhail Kukushkin.


Elise Mertens beat Kaia Kanepi 6-4, 6-1 to win the Gippsland Trophy title, her sixth tour title and second at the WTA 500 level.

The 25-year-old Belgian has won 27 matches since the tour restarted in August, more than any other player on the women’s circuit in that time.


The WTA Tour decided not to play a final for the Grampians Trophy because of a lack of time, meaning semifinal winners Anett Kontaveit and Ann Li will get equal points as winners.

The tournament was created for the players who had to go into hard lockdown during quarantine and weren’t allowed out of their hotel rooms for practice. It started Wednesday and a full day of play was lost Thursday because of a temporary suspension of matches in all tournaments after a coronavirus scare.

Kontaveit beat Greece’s Maria Sakkari 6-2, 6-3, 11-9 and Li beat fellow American Jennifer Brady 7-6 (5), 6-7 (5) ,10-6.


At Rod Laver Arena, No. 4-ranked Daniil Medvedev improved his winning streak to 14 matches and secured Russia’s 2-0 win over Italy in the ATP Cup final when he beat Matteo Berrettini 6-4, 6-2.

Andrey Rublev had given Russia a commanding start with a 6-1, 6-2 win over Fabio Fognini.

Russia didn’t lose a singles match during the group stage or the playoffs, and is the second team to win the ATP Cup after Novak Djokovic led Serbia to the inaugural title last year.


Dan Evans captured his first ATP title by beating third-seeded Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-2, 6-3 in the Murray River Open final.

It was another step on the career ladder for Evans, who wasted three match points the last time he reached a final.

“My team has been there through some not so good times, so thanks for that,” he said.

He is seeded 30th for the Australian Open and will face fellow British player Cameron Norrie in the first round.

The 20-year-old Auger-Aliassime is still seeking his first title, having lost all seven finals he has contested on the ATP tour.


Fourth-seeded Jannik Sinner beat compatriot Stefano Travaglia 7-6 (4), 6-4 to win the Great Ocean Road Open, earning the 19-year-old Italian back-to-back titles on tour following his victory at Sofia late last year.

Sinner was going to have to recover quickly, with a first-round match against No. 11-seeded Denis Shapovalov at the Australian Open on Monday.

Debutant Stearns beats former champ Ostapenko to reach French Open 3rd round

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PARIS — French Open debutant Peyton Stearns produced the biggest win of her career by defeating former champion Jelena Ostapenko to reach the third round at Roland Garros.

Stearns, a former player at the University of Texas, only turned professional in June last year.

Ostapenko won the 2017 French Open but has since failed to advance past the 3rd round. The 17th-seeded Latvian dropped her serve five times against Stearns and hit 28 unforced errors in her 6-3, 1-6, 6-2 loss.

The 21-year-old Stearns has been climbing the WTA rankings and entered the French Open at No. 69 on the back of an encouraging clay-court campaign.

Third-seeded Jessica Pegula also advanced after Camila Giorgi retired due to injury. The American led 6-2 when her Italian rival threw in the towel.

Only hours after husband Gael Monfils won a five-set thriller, Elina Svitolina rallied past qualifier Storm Hunter 2-6, 6-3, 6-1.

In the men’s bracket, former runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas ousted Roberto Carballes Baena 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-2. The fifth-seeded Greek was a bit slow to find his range and was made to work hard for two sets but rolled on after he won the tiebreaker.

No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz and No. 3 Novak Djokovic are on court later. Alcaraz meets Taro Daniel on Court Philippe Chatrier, where Djokovic will follow against Martin Fucsovics in the night session.

Jabeur bounces back at French Open, Ruud and Andreeva advance

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PARIS — Ons Jabeur got a do-over on Court Philippe Chatrier at the French Open and won this time.

A year after her first-round exit, the No. 7 seed Jabeur beat Lucia Bronzetti 6-4, 6-1 to help erase some bad memories and answer questions about a recent calf injury.

The Tunisian, a crowd favorite in Paris, smiled and expressed relief in not repeating last year’s mistake, when she lost to Magda Linette of Poland.

“I’m very happy to win my first match on Philippe Chatrier – because I’ve never won here,” Jabeur said on court about the clay-court tournament’s main stadium.

Now she can focus on trying to win her first major. She was runner-up at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open last year.

The 28-year-old Jabeur has also battled injuries this season. She had knee surgery after the Australian Open, and was then sidelined with a calf injury. She had stopped playing against top-ranked Iga Swiatek at the clay-court tournament in Stuttgart, Germany, in late April and then pulled out of the Madrid Open.

“It was a very difficult period for me after Stuttgart,” said Jabeur, adding that she’s beginning to find her rhythm.

Jabeur struck 27 winner’s to Bronzetti’s seven, though with 24 unforced errors she’ll have room to improve.

Mirra Andreeva had a memorable Grand Slam debut by dominating Alison Riske-Amritraj 6-2, 6-1. Andreeva’s older sister – 18-year-old Erika – was facing Emma Navarro later in the day.

Later, Swiatek gets her French Open title defense started against Cristina Bucsa, who is ranked 70th.

On the men’s side, No. 4 seed Casper Ruud beat qualifier Elias Ymer 6-4, 6-3, 6-2, to remind the higher-profile tournament favorites that he was runner-up to Rafael Nadal last year at Roland Garros.