Naomi Osaka says she’ll donate Cincinnati prize money to Haiti

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MASON, Ohio — In addition to donating prize money to relief efforts in Haiti following a deadly earthquake, tennis star Naomi Osaka said she plans to do more.

“I feel like I’m not really doing that much,” Osaka said on Monday. “I’m trying to figure out what I can do. The prize money thing was the first thing I thought I could do that would raise the most awareness. I guess that is the reason I announced it.”

A 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck the region on Saturday, with an estimated death toll of 1,400.

On Saturday night, Osaka tweeted her decision to donate her prize money from this week’s U.S. Open tune-up tournament in Ohio.

Osaka, who has a Haitian father and Japanese mother, has an opening-round bye in Cincinnati. She will face the winner of Tuesday’s match between Coco Gauff and qualifier Hsieh Su-Wei.

When asked about Haiti during Monday’s news conference, Osaka became emotional and had to step away for a few minutes before returning to answer more questions.

Haiti is also dealing with the fallout from last month’s assassination of president Jovenel Moise, and now the effects of a tropical storm which is hampering earthquake recovery efforts.

“It’s really scary,” Osaka said. “I see the news every day, and honestly the earthquake was kind of close to my parents’ school there, so I’m honestly not really sure how that’s doing and I haven’t seen any pictures or video of it yet.”

Osaka, who is ranked No. 2 in the world, won her second career Australian Open earlier this year, but withdrew from the French Open and Wimbledon because of mental health concerns.

“It was something I needed to do for myself,” Osaka said. “I was a little bit embarrassed to go out because I didn’t know if people were looking at me in a different way. The biggest eye-opener was going to the Olympics and having other athletes come up to me and say that they were really glad that I did what I did. I’m proud of what I did.”

Osaka also said she reached out to U.S. Olympic gymnast Simone Biles, who withdrew from the U.S. women’s team final in Tokyo for her own mental health needs.

“I sent her a message,” Osaka said. “I also wanted to give her space because I know how overwhelming it can feel.”

Osaka, who lit the Olympic cauldron in the opening ceremony in Tokyo, said she took time off after returning and said she’s motivated to do well in Cincinnati after having to withdraw from last year’s event with a hamstring injury.

The Western & Southern Open is considered a tune-up for the US Open, which begins Aug. 30 in New York.

“I felt like I played well in Tokyo,” Osaka said. “But there was still some decisions that I didn’t make that well, so I just wanted to get that feeling back because I honestly haven’t played many matches this year. I guess I’ll see how well I do in this tournament and sort of lead it on from there into New York.”

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.”