Barty leads fresh faces into Western & Southern finals

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MASON, Ohio – Top-ranked Ash Barty will make her first Western & Southern final appearance Sunday.

Just like everybody else.

No. 76 Jil Teichmann will meet Barty in the women’s final. Olympic gold medalist Alexander Zverev will face No. 7 Andrey Rublev in the men’s final after the seventh-ranked Rublev rallied to upset No. 2 and top-seeded Daniil Medvedev, 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 on Saturday in the first men’s semifinal.

The fifth-ranked, third-seeded Zverev shook off stomach issues that prompted a a visit from medical personnel during a third set changeover to outlast No. 3 and second-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (4).

The tournament finals berths are the first for all four.

Teichmann, a wild-card entry who already had upset No. 2 Naomi Osaka and No. 12 Belinda Bencic, dumped No. 4 and fifth-seeded Karolina Pliskova , 6-2, 6-4, to set up a match against the reigning Wimbledon champion.

The 25-year-old Barty used a strong service game to survive a challenge from No. 22 Angelique Kerber and reach the women’s final with a 6-2, 7-5 semifinal win, also on Saturday.

“I really like it,” the left-handed Teichmann said. “It’s a nice challenge – center court, playing the world No 1 in a final. I’ll just go for it.”

The turning point for Rublev came on Medvedev’s serve in the eighth game of the third set, which featured eight deuces and five break points.

“That was a turning point for both of us because it (is) so humid and so hot,” Rublev said. “We had many long rallies, and I could feel Daniil was tired because he made some mistakes he doesn’t usually make. I felt like that was the moment for both of us. I felt like if I won, I would have a good chance to win the match because Daniil would be more down. In the end, I won that crazy game.”

Medvedev, the 2019 champion and 2020 runner-up to Novak Djokovic, overcame a run-in with a television camera, but he couldn’t get past his fellow Russian. Rublev won for the first time in five meetings with Medvedev and on Sunday will meet the winner of the match between second-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas and third-seeded Alexander Zverev.

Medvedev ran into a courtside camera while chasing down a shot in the third game of the second set. The right-hander then kicked the camera before being treated for an injury to his left hand during the changeover.

He also received treatment on his right forearm before the sixth game of the third set.

Barty ripped 12 aces to the 33-year-old Kerber’s one while double-faulting just once to three by Kerber in a rematch of their Wimbledon semifinal.

“I think I did a pretty good job with my service games,” Barty said. “I served well and got some cheap points. Angie is a hell of a returner, one of the best in the game, and I wanted to take that away.”

“She has so much confidence right now,” Kerber said of Barty. “She plays so well. Her serve is good. It’s a big weapon from her, and she’s playing tricky as well. She knows where to put the ball and how to play the moment. That’s why she is where she is.”

Pliskova missed a chance at a rematch of this year’s Wimbledon final.

“I felt like I didn’t play my best tennis today, but her game is not comfortable to play against,” Pliskova said of Teichmann. “She’s a lefty. She was serving great. She was playing confident and fast.”

Fernando Verdasco accepts 2-month doping ban

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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.”