Murray in tears after beating Paire at Queen’s Club

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LONDON — Former world No. 1 Andy Murray defeated Benoit Paire 6-3, 6-2 on Tuesday at The Queen’s Club grass-court tournament, dispatching the Frenchman in 65 minutes for his first match victory in more than a year.

It was Murray’s first grass-court match in three years and he felt right at home, converting all three break points and never facing one himself.

Murray hadn’t played on grass since Eastbourne in 2018. His last match was a March loss to No. 8 Andrey Rublev of Russia and his last match win came in the first round of the 2020 U.S. Open, where he came back from two sets down to narrowly defeat Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan.

After beating Paire, the often-injured Murray, who has undergone two hip surgeries, had to pause to gain his composure before speaking.

“I love playing tennis,” he said, shaking his head as the crowd stood and cheered. “Sorry. Obviously, competing is why you put in all the hard work. The last few years I have not got to do that as much as I would have liked. Great that I’m out here and able to compete again.”

Murray was sidelined for much of the past two seasons and had not played on the ATP Tour since Rotterdam 14 weeks ago. He had won both of his previous meetings with Paire, including at Wimbledon in 2017.

The popular 34-year-old British star has won this tournament a record five times (2009, 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2016). His victory coupled with ones by Daniel Evans, wild-card entry Jack Draper and Cameron Norrie marks the first time that four British singles players have won a match at Queen’s since 2005, the year Murray made his debut. Tim Henman, Jamie Delgado and Greg Rusedski also won that year.

In other matches Tuesday, top-seeded Matteo Berrettini held off fellow Italian Stefano Travaglia 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4) in the Queen’s Club debut for both players; second-seeded Denis Shapovalov of Canada eked out a 7-6 (6), 7-6 (6) win over qualifier Aleksandar Vukic of Australia; British No. 1 Daniel Evans topped Australian Alexei Popyrin 6-4, 6-4; Alex de Minaur of Australia came back to defeat Laslo Djere of Serbia 3-6, 6-3, 6-4; Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan rallied past Jeremy Chardy of France 6-4, 3-6, 6-3; American Frances Tiafoe defeated Aljaz Bedene of Slovenia 4-6, 6-3, 6-4; Marin Cilic of Croatia held off Austrian qualifier Sebastian Ofner 6-2, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (4); and Fabio Fognini of Italy defeated Yen-Hsun Lu of Taiwan 6-4, 7-6 (3).

Murray, a two-time champion at Wimbledon, which starts in two weeks, will face Berrettini on Wednesday.

“Am I playing tomorrow?” Murray deadpanned. “I was hoping for a day off. It will be a great test for me. I’ll need to play one more level up from today if I want to do well.”

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.”