Denis Shapovalov tops Jannik Sinner in Australia

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MELBOURNE, Australia — It was getting close to 1 a.m., and 19-year-old Jannik Sinner was getting tired.

Hitting against Rafael Nadal for two weeks and being on a 10-match winning streak that included back-to-back titles on the ATP Tour had conditioned the young Italian well.

But winning a title the day before his Australian Open first-round match against 21-year-old, No. 11-seeded Denis Shapovalov was a stretch too far.

Shapovalov took a medical time out for treatment on his left shoulder after dropping serve to surrender the fourth set, following a long and animated discussion with the chair umpire about a bathroom stop.

He returned to break Sinner’s serve and held on to win 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4, after saving a breakpoint in the last game, in a 3-hour, 55-minute marathon on Margaret Court Arena that ended at 12:49 a.m. local time.

That ended the first day of the year’s first major, one that both players and ardent tennis fans will remember.

“Definitely today was just, I think, incredible tennis from both of us,” Shapovalov said. “Honestly, Jannik is super talented. He’s such an amazing player. You know, he’s a great guy, great worker. I’m sure he’s going to be a very, very tough opponent in the future.”

For Sinner, it was an early end to his fifth major and an up-and-down month Down Under. Even at the end, he had a chance to force another game. He saved a match point and then earned a breakpoint when Shapovalov double-faulted at deuce, but his attempted passing shot to win it sailed just wide.

Since losing to Nadal in the French Open quarterfinals, Sinner has collected his first two ATP titles back-to-back. He was the youngest to do that since Nadal in 2005 and there’s high expectations he’ll win more.

Sinner said after beating fellow Italian Stefano Travaglia 7-6 (4), 6-4 in a two-hour final at the Great Ocean Road Open on Sunday that his experience was not only about winning: “Sometimes losing matches, important matches, can help you maybe even more, especially when you are young.”

He’s learned a lot in the last month, which has included a 14-day hotel quarantine and then a crammed schedule in the tuneup tournaments, which included having to play twice on one day and having to save match points in the semifinals.

After taking the loss against Shapovalov, he was circumspect.

“I don’t think it hurt me, to be honest,” he said of his hectic week. “Obviously, I started to feel a bit tired after, but I think I can learn many things from that. I’m already looking forward to playing the next tournament with the right mentality.”

And then there’s the long-term benefit of his time this month in Australia with 20-time major winner Nadal.

“It’s a big, big lesson,” he said. “The reason why we came here was to practice with Rafa for two weeks, because I think he can give me many things about how to stay on court with the right mentality.

“Even today it’s, for me, mentally tough losing here in the fifth, but it’s going to be a lesson.”

Shapovalov, at 21 and in the relatively rare position of being the older guy on court, admitted his experience proved to be the difference.

“I was able to kind of rest the last couple of days, and he’s had to play some difficult, very difficult matches – he played yesterday literally the final,” Shapovalov said. “It’s definitely never easy before a Grand Slam, but for sure it was in my head and definitely gave me a little bit of confidence. You know, I did feel like I was probably the fresher guy on the court.”

That situation will be reversed in the second round when he meets veteran Australian qualifier Bernard Tomic, who got an easier ride through when Yuichi Sugita retired because of injury while down a break in the third set.

Mikael Ymer fined about $40K after default for hitting umpire stand with racket

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PARIS — Swedish tennis player Mikael Ymer was docked about $40,000 after being disqualified for smashing his racket against the umpire’s chair at a tournament the week before he competed at the French Open.

An ATP Tour spokesman said Ymer forfeited about $10,500 in prize money and 20 rankings he earned for reaching the second round of the Lyon Open. Ymer also was handed an on-site fine of about $29,000.

The spokesman said the ATP Fines Committee will conduct a review of what happened to determine whether any additional penalties are warranted.

The 56th-ranked Ymer, who is 24 and owns a victory over current No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz, was defaulted in Lyon for an outburst late in the first set against French teenager Arthur Fils last week.

Ymer was upset that the chair umpire would not check a ball mark after a shot by Fils landed near a line. As the players went to the sideline for the ensuing changeover, Ymer smacked the base of the umpire’s stand with his racket twice – destroying his equipment and damaging the chair.

That led to Ymer’s disqualification, making Fils the winner of the match.

After his 7-5, 6-2, 6-4 loss to 17th-seeded Lorenzo Musetti in the first round at Roland Garros, Ymer was asked whether he wanted to explain why he reacted the way he did in Lyon.

“With all due respect, I think it’s pretty clear from the video what caused it and why I reacted the way I reacted. Not justifying it at all, of course,” Ymer replied. “But for me to sit here and to explain? I think it’s pretty clear what led me to that place. I think that’s pretty clear in the video.”

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.