Barty repeats as Miami champ when Andreescu retires

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MIAMI — Ash Barty pushed a forehand winner into the open court as her opponent, Bianca Andreescu, laid on her back in the far corner, injured yet again.

With that, the Miami Open final was decided.

Andreescu limped through 11 more points before she retired, crying, shaking her head and trailing 6-3, 4-0.

The No. 1-ranked Barty won her second successive Miami title Saturday, and the Australian was already in control of the match when Andreescu turned her right foot while hitting a forehand and sprawled to the hard court. Barty hit one more shot to win the point, and play continued.

But during the ensuing changeover, a trainer taped Andreescu’s foot, and after another game the injury-plagued Canadian reluctantly called it quits.

“I really do feel for Bianca,” Barty said. “She has had such a rough trot with injuries in the past.”

Andreescu was again tearful at the start of her postmatch news conference, when she explained that her trainer convinced her to retire rather than risk further injury.

“I didn’t want to stop,” she said. “I trusted him, and I knew it was the best decision.”

The tournament was the first in the United States for the 20-year-old Andreescu since she won the 2019 U.S. Open. She sat out 2020 because of injuries and the coronavirus pandemic and now faces another possible layoff.

“I’m going to see what’s up with my foot, and start visualizing the healing process if it’s something bad,” Andreescu said.

On Sunday, 19-year-old Italian Jannik Sinner will try to become the youngest men’s champion in tournament history when he plays No. 26-seeded Hubert Hurkacz of Poland. Each is seeking the biggest title of his career.

Barty made her own breakthrough by winning the 2019 Miami championship. The tournament was canceled last year at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Five other women have earned consecutive Miami titles: Stefanie Graf, Monica Seles, Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, Venus Williams and Serena Williams.

“I shouldn’t belong with that group,” Barty said with a smile. “I haven’t earned the right to be on a list with those champions. They’re genuine champions and legends, and I feel very privileged to be mentioned in that sentence.”

The match between Barty and Andreescu was their first, and a potential friendly rivalry looms. Barty dominated from the start of the final with her strong serve and all-court game.

“She doesn’t play like a lot of the players on tour,” Andreescu said. “She likes to mix it up, like me. That’s not fun to play against. I guess I’m getting a taste of my own medicine.”

Barty was playing outside of Australia for the first time since February 2020, and she arrived in Miami after a trip that took 45 hours because of two canceled flights.

“I said to my coach when we got here, it can only get better from here,” she said.

It did. Barty was one point from defeat in her opening match against Kristina Kucova, but she gained momentum from there and will keep her No. 1 ranking next week.

With the pandemic limiting travel, the 2019 French Open champion heads into the clay court season expecting to remain away from home for months.

“It’s a great start for us,” Barty said. “I’m looking forward to what will hopefully be a big season for us, and hopefully we can play some really good tennis.”

Because the pandemic reduced tournament revenue and severely limited attendance, the champion received $300,110, compared with the $1.35 million Barty won in 2019. Only 750 fans were allowed on the grounds per session.

Nakashima takes first ATP Tour title at San Diego

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SAN DIEGO – Brandon Nakashima earned his first ATP Tour victory in his hometown, beating friend and fellow Southern Californian Marcos Giron 6-4, 6-4 in the San Diego Open final.

“It’s super-special, something you dream of, but to have it happen in my hometown with all my friends and family here, it’s a moment I’ll never forget,” said Nakashima, who had two previous finals appearances. “I hope there are many more moments like this to come.”

Nakashima, a 21-year-old who grew up in San Diego and trained extensively at the event’s site as a junior, clinched the opening set in only 30 minutes. The second set, filled with lengthy rallies, took nearly an hour.

Giron, the No. 5 seed and former NCAA title winner from UCLA, wasn’t able to fend off Nakashima’s persistent ground strokes and well-placed serves. Nakashima had eight aces, six in the first set.

Serving at 5-4 in the second set, Nakashima tallied the match’s deciding two points when Giron pushed an easy volley into the net, followed by Nakashima’s second-serve ace.

He earned $93,090, about half of what received for reaching the third round of the U.S. Open in early September.

Nakashima, who was ranked No. 69 on the ATP Tour, moved up to 48, his highest ranking in nearly three years on tour. Despite the loss, Giron moved up to 53 from 58.

Not only was the singles title claimed by an American, the doubles title also taken by an American duo as the second-seeded pair of Nathaniel Lammons and Jackson Withrow defeated Australians Jason Kubler and Luke Saville 7-6 (5), 6-2.

The $612,00 event was held at Barnes Tennis Center, which next hosts the $757,900 WTA 500 San Diego Open, Oct. 8-16. That will feature 16 of the world’s top-ranked 20 women pros, led by No. 1 Iga Swiatek.

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.”