Sinner outlasts McDonald in final set to win Citi Open

Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

WASHINGTON — It felt like Jannik Sinner had the upper hand through almost his entire match against Mackie McDonald.

Finally, after nearly three hours, Sinner could celebrate a victory and a tournament championship.

“When you’re up always with the score and then you cannot close it out, it’s not easy,” Sinner said. “I tried to somehow stay calm and work for my chances.”

Sinner became the first teenager to win an ATP 500 event, beating McDonald 7-5, 4-6, 7-5 to take the Citi Open title. It was a struggle for the fifth-seeded Sinner. McDonald fought off 10 set points before losing the first set, and Sinner failed to convert two match points while up 5-2 in the third.

McDonald rallied to make it 5-all in the final set, but he ultimately fell short. Sinner finally won when McDonald’s backhand went into the net, and he celebrated by holding up his racquet with one hand and a No. 1 sign with the other.

“I dug as deep as I could,” McDonald said during the on-court ceremony afterward. “Obviously, Jannik is a great young player and he pushed me really hard today, and I think I left it all out there.”

Sinner, who turns 20 on Aug. 16, won his third ATP title and second this year. He was the first Italian finalist in this tournament’s 52-year history, and he became the event’s third-youngest champion, behind 18-year-old Andy Roddick in 2001 and 19-year-old Juan Martin del Potro in 2008.

Teenagers had been 0-5 in ATP 500 finals since the category was created in 2009.

“When you see somebody is the youngest or whatever, I don’t put much weight on that,” Sinner said. “You know, there are a lot of players who have done much, much better than me. It’s not about who is the youngest or whatever.

“I just want to improve, working hard.”

McDonald, a 26-year-old American playing in his first ATP final, made Sinner work. The second set was the first that Sinner dropped in this tournament, and after the Italian went up a break early in the third, McDonald battled back.

Sinner broke McDonald’s serve again to end the match.

Although Sinner took the first set, McDonald set the tone for the match by fighting off all those set points. He withstood six of them with Sinner up 5-4, and the other four were at 6-5. McDonald had his serve broken three times in the set, and Sinner had his broken twice.

In the doubles final, Raven Klaasen of South Africa and Ben McLachlan of Japan beat Neal Skupski of Britain and Michael Venus of New Zealand 7-6 (4), 6-4.

Fernando Verdasco accepts 2-month doping ban

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

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
1 Comment

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.”