Bianca Andreescu’s comeback stalls with loss at Australian Open

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Former U.S. Open champion Bianca Andreescu’s comeback from injury stalled Wednesday at the Australian Open when she became the latest top-10 player to be beaten by crafty veteran Hsieh Su-wei of Taiwan.

Andreescu’s power was no match for Hsieh’s shotmaking in a second-round upset, 6-3, 6-2.

Andreescu beat Serena Williams in the final at the 2019 U.S. Open but sat out all of 2020 because of a knee injury. She said she felt rusty but healthy this week.

“I definitely have to get back in the groove of things,” said Andreescu, who was seeded eighth. “I don’t feel at my best on the court, for sure, but I’m super happy I’m finally back after being off for so long. It’s such an amazing feeling being back and doing what I love.”

Williams followed Andreescu onto the court at Rod Laver Arena and had only 11 unforced errors as she swept Nina Stojanovic 6-3, 6-0.

“I wasn’t thinking so much in the second set as I was in the first,” Williams said. “I kind of just let go and see what happened.”

Andreescu, a 20-year-old Canadian, seemed befuddled by the 35-year-old Hsieh’s unorthodox game, which includes a two-handed forehand and an unpredictable mix of pace and placement.

“She can literally redirect any single ball you give her,” Andreescu said. “She can change the rhythm. I can change the rhythm too, but she’s on another level, at least today.”

It didn’t help that Andreescu served poorly, losing 17 of 23 points on her second serve. She was broken six times and fell to 1-3 in the second round at Grand Slams, with the lone win coming during her run to the U.S. Open title.

Hsieh is ranked 71st and has a history of inconsistency. But she’s 8-2 against top 10 players, including two wins over the reigning world No. 1 — Simona Halep at Wimbledon in 2018, and Naomi Osaka at Miami in 2019.

“It’s strange – I normally feel more excited to play with better players,” Hsieh said.

Another Canadian mounting a comeback also lost. Rebecca Marino, a former top-40 player competing in a major tournament for the first time in eight years, was beaten by No. 19-seeded Marketa Vondrousova 6-1, 7-5.

Marino had been sidelined with depression and then a serious foot injury.

Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, the 2019 Australian Open runner-up, lost to Sorana Cirstea 6-4, 1-6, 6-1. Garbine Muguruza, the Australian Open runner-up last year, defeated Liudmila Samsonova 6-3, 6-1.

Ann Li, a 20-year-old American, reached the third round for the second major in a row by beating Alize Cornet 6-2, 7-6 (6). No. 7-seeded Aryna Sabalenka eliminated Daria Kasatkina 7-6 (5), 6-3.

In men’s play, qualifier Aslan Karatsev of Russia nearly shut out Egor Gerasimov, 6-0, 6-1, 6-0. No. 8 Diego Schwartzman and No. 20 Felix Auger-Aliassime were among the seeded men to advance.

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.