Davis Cup: Gerard Piqué says new venues will fix scheduling issues

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MADRID — Expanding the Davis Cup Finals to more venues will help attract more fans and avoid some of the late finishes that hurt the revamped event’s first edition.

Madrid was the sole host of the inaugural edition of the restructured Davis Cup Finals in 2019. This time the Spanish capital will co-host the tournament along with the cities of Innsbruck in Austria and Turin in Italy.

The 18-nation men’s tennis competition will take place on hard courts from Nov. 25-Dec. 5. Last year’s event in Madrid was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Barcelona captain Gerard Pique, co-founder of the Kosmos group behind the new Davis Cup Finals, said the changes will give more fans a chance to watch the matches and will help fix some of the problems that affected the first edition.

“Some of the matches ended very late, so we made the decision to go to other cities and to play in 11 days instead of seven,” Pique said at the event’s official launch on Thursday. “The event has been evolving, maturing.”

Organizers had said after the tournament’s first edition that tweaks were needed to improve the new format of the international team event, which for 120 years had been played throughout the year and in different venues around the world. The 2019 competition brought the nations to play in a single week in Madrid.

Organizers had been considering building more courts to help fix the scheduling problems that led to very late finishes in Madrid. The Italy-United States tie was among the many that finished after midnight, ending at 4:04 a.m. local time. Other ties took nearly nine hours to conclude and went well into the later sessions, prompting complaints from players, coaches and fans.

The location of the event in Madrid was changed from the “Caja Magica” tennis complex to the Madrid Arena, which for now is expected to be at 50% capacity because of the pandemic.

“We will see when we can sell more tickets,” Pique said. “I’m optimistic that we will be able to play with nearly full capacity.”

The venue in Innsbruck will be the Olympia-Halle and Turin will stage matches at the Alpitour Arena. Each city will host two of the six groups in the team event. Madrid will stage two groups as well as two quarterfinal series, the semifinals and the final. Innsbruck and Turin will get one quarterfinal each.

Each city will host the country’s national team at the group stage.

The revamped Davis Cup is the result of a 25-year partnership between the International Tennis Federation and Kosmos to make the traditional team competition more attractive and lucrative.

Unseeded Parks beats top-seeded Garcia for her 1st title

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LYON, France — Unseeded American Alycia Parks secured a stunning 7-6 (7), 7-5 upset win over WTA Finals champion Caroline Garcia in the Open Metropole de Lyon final to clinch her first career title.

“I think France has a special part in my heart right now,” Parks said. “I’ll be back next year.”

The 22-year-old Parks, who is ranked 79th, had 15 aces and saved all four break points against the top-seeded Garcia.

Parks secured the only break of a tight contest to win the match.

The fifth-ranked Garcia, a U.S. Open semifinalist last year, was seeking a 12th career title.

“Congrats on a great tournament,” Garcia told Parks in English. “If you keep playing like this for sure you’re going to keep going up (the rankings).”

Parks has a career-best ranking of 75th.

The 29-year-old Garcia, who grew up in Lyon, took time to thank her home crowd – this time in French.

“It means a lot to play here, thanks for being here,” Garcia said. “You supported me from the first point to the last. Thanks for all your encouragement.”

Zhu beats Tsurenko to win Thailand Open

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HUA HIN, Thailand — Zhu Lin of China won her maiden career title after beating Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine 6-4, 6-4 in the final of the Thailand Open.

In a match lasting one hour and 45 minutes, both players exchanged nail-biting baseline rallies before Zhu finally found a way past her determined opponent.

The 29-year-old Chinese player managed a break to go up 5-3 in the first set. Although she was broken to love in the following game, Zhu returned the favor straight back, also to love, to take the opening set in 46 minutes.

The second saw players trade breaks with Zhu eventually securing her first match point at 5-3. She sprayed a shot wide to miss the chance but capitalized on her third in the 10th game with a backhand winner.

“I’m so happy to finally win my first tour title. All the hard work finally paid off,” said the No. 54-ranked Zhu, who will crack the top 50 when the new WTA rankings are updated.

Zhu has started the season strongly, reaching the quarter-finals in Auckland and the last 16 at the Australian Open.

The victory also allowed Zhu to avenge her loss to the Ukrainian at the WTA Dubai Championships back in 2019.

Despite the loss, the No. 136-ranked Tsurenko, 33, will return to the top 100.