Canada’s Auger-Aliassime, Shapovalov ousted in Toronto

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
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TORONTO — Wimbledon quarterfinalist Felix Auger-Aliassime and countryman Denis Shapovalov were ousted from the National Bank Open in their native Canada on Wednesday.

Auger-Aliassime lost his first match, falling 7-5, 6-4 to Dusan Lajovic. Shapovalov dropped a 6-1, 6-4 decision to American Frances Tiafoe.

Auger-Aliassime, who’s from Montreal, was the ninth seed in the tournament and had a bye into the second round. He was coming off an opening-round loss at the Tokyo Olympics.

“I just played a lot of tennis, even though I didn’t win a lot of matches at the Olympics or the last week,” Auger-Aliassime said. “There’s a lot of traveling, a lot of practices, a lot of balls hit and maybe that’s taken a bit of a toll on me, too. I don’t know.”

Shapovalov came into the tournament as the No. 5 seed with a bye through the first round.

“Obviously it’s not an ideal performance, so I’m definitely not too happy,” Shapovalov said after his second round loss.

“(Tiafoe) has a lot of matches under his belt under these conditions and he was the better player today. It was obvious,” said Shapovalov, the world No. 10. “I just didn’t feel comfortable ever in the match and you could see he was comfortable. . It’s always tough to go up against guys like this.”

Tiafoe will face France’s Gael Monfils in the third round on Thursday after the tournament’s No. 11 seed beat John Millman of Australia 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

No. 4 seed Andrey Rublev of Russia, seventh-seeded Hubert Hurkacz of Poland, No. 8 Diego Schwartzman of Argentina, 10th seed Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain and American John Isner also won their matches Wednesday to advance, as did Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia, who upset 12th-seeded Alex de Minaur of Australia.

In the women’s event in Montreal, Canadian wild card Rebecca Marino continued her run by beating Paula Badosa 1-6, 7-5, 6-4.

The 30-year-old Marino upset No. 16 seed Madison Keys in the first round.

Marino had a career-high ranking of No. 39 in 2011, but stepped away from the sport for nearly five years to battle depression. She’s currently ranked 220th.

“Any time you can beat a girl who’s in the top 100, top 50, it’s something to feel good about, particularly as I’m building my ranking back up,” Marino said of beating Badosa, who is ranked 31st.

Marino will face Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus in the round of 16 on Thursday.

Sabalenka, the tournament’s No. 1 seed, edged American wild card Sloane Stephens 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-4 on Wednesday.

Canadian Bianca Andreescu will also be back in action Thursday, facing either No. 13 seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia or Russia’s Daria Kasatkina in the round of 16.

No 4 Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Rebulic, No. 11 Maria Sakkari of Greece and Coco Gauff, the 15th-seeded American, all won to advance on Wednesday, while Britain’s Johanna Konta ousted third-seeded Ukarainian Elina Svitolina.

American Danielle Collins upset No. 6 Simona Halep of Romania, and Jessica Pegula of the U.S. got by 10th-seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

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.”