Andy Murray tumbles out of 2021 U.S. Open against Tsitsipas

Elsa/Getty Images
1 Comment

NEW YORK — Andy Murray tumbled to the ground on his artificial hip, losing his balance in sweat-soaked shoes and leaving splotches on Arthur Ashe Stadium’s blue court from his soggy clothing.

Murray muttered to himself, as he often does. He yelled toward his team about needing new footwear. Soon enough Monday, a second-set tiebreaker had slipped away, too, against No. 3 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas.

In an entertaining contest featuring plenty of the smart play, hard hustling and clutch serving that carried Murray to the U.S. Open championship nearly a decade – and a pair of hip operations – ago, he did not quite have enough to come out ahead after almost five hours in high heat and humidity.

Rattled by a lengthy delay before the final set, Murray wound up losing to the much younger Tsitsipas 2-6, 7-6 (7), 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 as the year’s last Grand Slam tournament got underway with fans in the stands a year after they were banned because of the coronavirus pandemic.

With exits for Murray and 2014 champion Marin Cilic, who stopped playing because of an injury in the fifth set against Philipp Kohlschreiber, the only man left in the draw after Day One with even one Grand Slam title is No. 1 Novak Djokovic.

He will debut Tuesday night as he tries to break a tie for the men’s mark of 20 majors with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal and become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to complete a calendar-year Grand Slam.

Monday night’s schedule in Ashe included No. 2 Daniil Medevev and two-time U.S. Open champion Naomi Osaka, who was set to make her return to Slam action after pulling out of the French Open for a mental health break.

Earlier Monday, there were victories for 2017 champion Sloane Stephens, who edged Madison Keys 6-3, 1-6, 7-6 (7) in a rematch of their final four years ago; multiple Grand Slam title winners and former No. 1s Angelique Kerber, Simona Halep and Garbine Muguruza; 2020 runner-up Victoria Azarenka and 17-year-old American Coco Gauff.

“It almost brings me to tears,” the 21st-seeded Gauff said after advancing to face Stephens with a 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 comeback against Magda Linette, “because I missed playing in front of this crowd so much.”

Spectators were let in at 100% capacity and some complained of delays getting in, which the U.S. Tennis Association said were largely caused by the time it took to inspect bags at the entry gates.

The USTA added that checking for proof of vaccination required to attend the event this year went smoothly and did not contribute in a significant way to long lines.

And those lucky enough to be in Ashe rose and roared in unison when Murray smacked a forehand winner to claim the third set. He raised his right hand overhead and leaned forward as he shouted, “I’m not … done! Let’s go!”

But it was Tsitsipas who wasn’t finished. He got treatment from a trainer on his left foot after that set, then headed off the court following the fourth for a bathroom break that bothered Murray.

After he got broken right away and fell behind 2-0 in the fifth, Murray complained aloud, saying: “It’s never taken me that long to go to the toilet. Ever.”

Ultimately, the physical nature of the match against just-turned-23 and French Open finalist Tsitsipas, with the humidity at 70% and the temperature in the low-80s Fahrenheit (high 20s Celsius), required a bit more than the 34-year-old from Scotland could give. He is a former No. 1 who won Wimbledon twice in addition to his 2012 title in New York, but he has been sidetracked by a series of injuries.

Given his age and health history, it was remarkable that Murray was out there at all, let alone coming close to becoming, at No. 112 this week, the lowest-ranked man to upset an opponent in the top three at the U.S. Open since the computerized ATP rankings began in 1973.

After a third-round exit at Wimbledon early last month, Murray sounded rather glum about his future, frustrated that his body wasn’t well enough to allow him to practice as much as he’d like to be properly competitive. On Saturday, Murray opined that taking on Tsitsipas would be “a good, good test for me to see kind of where my game’s at.”

He seemed to pass that test. He much rather would have won.

Fernando Verdasco accepts 2-month doping ban

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

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.”