No. 1 Barty, top U.S. Open women win easily after Ida delays

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NEW YORK – About the only problems No. 1 seed Ash Barty and other top players encountered at the U.S. Open came in the delays trying to get to Flushing Meadows in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida’s remnants blowing through the Northeast a night earlier.

Barty, a two-time major champion including at Wimbledon in July, Tokyo Olympic gold medalist Belinda Bencic, double Wimbledon title winner Petra Kvitova and other seeded women including No. 14 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, No. 17 Maria Sakkari, No. 23 Jessica Pegula and No. 28 Anett Kontaveit all won in two sets to get to the third round.

Advancing in straight sets in men’s play during the day session: Summer Games gold medalist and 2020 U.S. Open runner-up Alexander Zverev and No. 22 seed Reilly Opelka of the U.S.

The most-anticipated match on the schedule was to come at night, when No. 1 Novak Djokovic took his 22-match Grand Slam winning streak into Arthur Ashe Stadium against 121st-ranked Tallon Griekspoor of the Netherlands. Djokovic is trying to complete the first calendar-year Grand Slam in men’s tennis since Rod Laver in 1969 and is bidding to break the men’s mark of 20 career major titles he shares with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

With the sun out and nary a cloud around, play in second-round matches on the outer courts was pushed back from 11 a.m. to noon to allow the U.S. Tennis Association time to clean up downed tree branches and other scattered debris and make sure everything was ready for competition on Day 4 of the year’s last Grand Slam tournament.

Once all was ready to go, it was just a matter of players’ transportation navigating traffic delays caused by road closures and vehicles that were abandoned overnight; a trip from Manhattan to Queens that normally might take 30-45 minutes took 1 1/2 hours or longer for some.

“We had to do a full assessment of the grounds and making sure the courts were playable and that Hawk-Eye (electronic line-calling) would function,” USTA spokesman Chris Widmaier said.

He said that while the forecast called for heavy rain Wednesday night, New York police did not advise the USTA to cancel the evening session during a routine twice-daily briefing.

Eventually, the National Weather Service office in New York declared flash flood emergencies in the region, subway stations and tracks became so flooded that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority suspended all service and New York City put in place a travel ban until 5 a.m. Thursday for all non-emergency vehicles.

“Trying to grasp what was happening here on-site was quite unbelievable, and I know that there has been a lot of flash flooding and a lot of people in trouble. Hopefully a lot of people from site got home safely, and New Yorkers in general were able to get home, because it was quite a wild storm. It did wreak some havoc; obviously there was a later start today, I think, because of, obviously, the damage to the site,” Barty said.

“It took us a while to get in this morning, but we kind of allowed for that time,” she added, “expecting there would be a little bit more of an issue than just a normal commute coming in.”

She delivered 11 aces and accumulated 19 break points, converting five, on the way to a 6-1, 7-5 win against 18-year-old Tauson of Denmark.

The only seeded woman to exit in the afternoon was No. 24 Paula Badosa, who was eliminated by Varvara Gracheva 6-4, 6-4.

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.”