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.

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.