Daniil Medvedev limps to 3rd-round win at Miami Open

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MIAMI — Daniil Medvedev could barely walk, much less run. He could still serve, though.

The top-ranked Medvedev held his final two service games despite being hobbled by cramps and beat Alexei Popyrin 7-6 (3), 6-7 (7), 6-4 in the third round at the Miami Open.

Medvedev said the victory brought a special sort of satisfaction.

“Winning a Grand Slam final in straight sets doesn’t feel the way I felt after the match point today,” he said with a grin. “A match to remember for sure.”

Medvedev failed to convert three match points in the second set after taking a 5-2 lead. An hour later the Russian was still playing, and on a humid afternoon with temperatures in the mid 80s, he paid a price.

He broke in the final set for a 4-3 lead, but by then he was limping around the court.

“I felt like my legs were not following me anymore,” Medvedev said. “The only thing I was thinking about is not to fall down, because if you fall down, I don’t think I would be able to get up. There were a few moments I just wanted to lay down and say, `OK, it’s over.’ That’s the thing I couldn’t accept myself to do.”

To keep rallies short, Medvedev began hitting high-risk shots, and made enough of them – serves especially – to close out the 2 1/2-hour match.

When Popyrin misfired on a backhand on the final point, Medvedev shuffled to the net with a smile that turned into a wince.

“My serve saved me,” Medvedev said. “Thanks a lot to my serve.”

Also advancing was No. 18-seeded John Isner, the only former Miami champion in the men’s field. On the women’s side, No. 2 Naomi Osaka advanced with a walkover, but No. 4 Sofia Kenin lost to No. 27 Ons Jabeur 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.

Popyrin, a 21-year-old Australian ranked 86th, second-guessed himself for not making Medvedev move more at one juncture. But Popyrin credited his good friend and practice partner for closing out the win.

“I saw he couldn’t walk at all,” Popyrin said, “but he was bombing 120-mph serves. He was definitely struggling out there. Props to him that he was able to serve it out.”

Medvedev said he felt fine two hours after the match, aside from soreness in his legs, and expects no issues going forward. He’ll have two days to recover before his fourth-round match.

Isner never had a break-point opportunity and won anyway, which is the kind of feat typical of Isner. The big American with the big serve hit 16 aces and edged No. 11-seeded Felix Auger-Aliassime 7-6 (5), 7-6 (5).

That made it four consecutive sets Isner has won by tiebreaker against Auger-Aliassime in Miami. The score when they met in the 2019 semifinal was 7-6 (3), 7-6 (4).

In the rematch, neither player had a break point, which meant the outcome was determined by a handful of shots. Isner likes such matches – sometimes.

“I enjoy it when I win,” he said. “It’s frustrating when you lose a match that comes down to point here or there, and a lot of times that’s how it is for me. I could very easily be talking now as a loser and be going home.”

Said Auger-Aliassime: “I guess 6 and 6 is a pretty common score against John. It slipped out of my hands. It was a close one.”

Osaka advanced to the fourth round at Miami for the first time in her career when qualifier Nina Stojanovic withdrew from their match shortly before the scheduled start because of a right thigh injury.

Osaka, ranked No. 2, has won 22 consecutive matches since her most recent defeat in February 2020, and she earned her fourth Grand Slam title at the Australian Open last month. But in Miami, where she is making her fifth appearance, she has previously made early exits.

She’ll next face No. 16 Elise Mertens, who won a seesaw match against No. 22 Anett Kontaveit, 6-2, 0-6, 6-2. No. 29 Jessica Pegula defeated No. 6 Karolina Pliskova for the third time this year, 6-1, 4-6, 6-4.

In other men’s play, No. 7 Roberto Bautista Agut rallied past No. 31 Jan-Lennard Struff 4-6, 6-3, 6-2. Bautista Agut will face Isner next.

“I’m going to have to play well if I’m going to have any chance of beating him,” Isner said. “He’s too solid if I don’t.”

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.”