No. 2 Daniil Medvedev into 3rd Grand Slam final at U.S. Open

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NEW YORK — Daniil Medvedev twice was a point from finding himself tied at a set apiece in his U.S. Open semifinal against Felix Auger-Aliassime.

The No. 2-seeded Medvedev surged out of that tight spot, beat a mistake-prone Auger-Aliassime 6-4, 7-5, 6-2 and now is headed to his third Grand Slam final.

“A strange match, a little bit, in the second set, where I think everybody felt like it’s going to be one-set-all, and you never know where the match is going to go,” said Medvedev, who trailed 5-2 in the second. “Managed to save the set points. He missed one volley; I made one good point. And the match turned around completely.”

That, Medvedev told the crowd, figured to be “a great match, so I advise everybody to see it.” He planned to watch it himself after having some dinner delivered.

Medvedev, a 25-year-old from Russia, was the runner-up to Novak Djokovic at Melbourne Park in February and to Rafael Nadal at Flushing Meadows in 2019. This was Medvedev’s third consecutive trip to the U.S. Open semifinals.

“I don’t think I played my best today,” said Medvedev, who has only dropped one set so far through six matches over the past two weeks, “but I’m really happy to be in the final.”

The 12th-seeded Auger-Aliassime is a 21-year-old from Canada who is coached by Nadal’s uncle, Toni, and was appearing in a major semifinal for the first time.

Maybe the newness of it all affected him. Surely, Medvedev’s play did, too.

Auger-Aliassime finished with 39 unforced errors – including 10 double-faults, three in the opening game alone – and just 17 winners.

Compare that to Medvedev’s numbers, built with behind-the-baseline court coverage and slick strokes: 37 winners, 25 unforced errors.

“I had to play my best level – and even better – if I wanted to get a chance to win today. I didn’t do it long enough,” said Auger-Aliassime, who was presented by the U.S. Tennis Association with its 2021 Sportsperson Award trophy.

Troubled by Medvedev’s precise serving, Auger-Aliassime finally earned a break point more than an hour in, and a double-fault handed over a 4-2 lead, which quickly became 5-2. But when Auger-Aliassime served for that set at 5-3, he couldn’t get over the line, even after going up 30-love and 40-30.

“The only thing I was thinking: `Don’t make an ace on the line, please, and I’m going to make you play,”‘ Medvedev said afterward.

Twice, Auger-Aliassime held a set point. Twice, he did not come through, most disconcerting when he missed what should have been a routine forehand volley, slapping it into the net. A bad backhand ultimately gave away that game.

Then, in the next game, Medevev said this is what was on his mind: “I have to just do everything at my best, even more than before, because that’s the moment where I could break him mentally. And that’s what happened.”

More mistakes – among them, a double-fault – contributed to Auger-Aliassime getting broken at love to trail 6-5. Medvedev then held to cap a five-game run and claim a two-set lead.

The match was 1 1/2 hours old and, essentially, over.

“Against a player like that, you don’t really have room for mistakes, room for losing your focus, which I did at the end of the second,” Auger-Aliassime said. “He took advantage of it and I didn’t get another chance after that.”

Medvedev is in search of a first Grand Slam title. Djokovic, meanwhile, is trying to win a 21st overall title from the sport’s four most important tournaments, which would break the men’s career mark she shares with Nadal and Roger Federer.

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.”