Medvedev ends Djokovic’s bid for year Grand Slam at U.S. Open

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NEW YORK — A game from the end of his bid for what would have been the first calendar-year Grand Slam in men’s tennis since 1969, Novak Djokovic covered his face with a towel, hiding his tears during a changeover.

For 27 Grand Slam matches in 2021, on hard courts, clay courts and grass, Djokovic could not be deterred, could not be beaten. Needing one more victory, in the U.S. Open final against Daniil Medvedev, to complete a season sweep of major titles and to claim the record 21st of his career, Djokovic could not come through.

Outplayed by someone using a similar style to his own, Djokovic came up just short of those two historic milestones, losing 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 to first-time major champion Medvedev at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

The No. 1-ranked Djokovic had been sublime at the sport’s four most important tournaments, enduring the burdens of expectations and pressure over the past seven months and, in New York, the past two weeks.

He beat Medvedev in the Australian Open final in February, then added titles at the French Open in June and Wimbledon in July.

But Djokovic, a 34-year-old from Serbia, couldn’t get to 28-0. He simply was far from his best on this particular day.

He made mistakes, 38 unforced errors in all. He wasn’t able to convert a break chance until it was too little, too late, going just 1 for 6. He showed frustration, too, destroying his racket by pounding it three times against the court after one point, drawing boos from the crowd of 25,703 and a code violation from chair umpire Damien Dumusois.

A lot of Djokovic’s issues had to do with the No. 2-ranked Medvedev, who used his 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) frame to chase down everything and respond with seemingly effortless groundstrokes – much the way Djokovic wears down foes – and delivered pinpoint serving. Medvedev won 20 of his first 23 service points, establishing a pattern.

He finished with 16 aces and 38 winners in all, 11 more than Djokovic. After overcoming multiple double-faults on match point, Medvedev finally finished the job, then toppled over to the court on his side.

Djokovic reached his record-equaling 31st Grand Slam final with six victories on the hard courts of Flushing Meadows. But he could not quite get the last one he needed.

He remains tied with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal with 20 major titles.

And the last man to complete a true Grand Slam by going 4 for 4 at the majors in a single season remains Rod Laver, who did it twice – in 1962 and 1969 – and was in the stands Sunday. The last woman to accomplish the feat was Steffi Graf in 1988.

Instead, Djokovic joins Jack Crawford in 1933 and Lew Hoad in 1956 as men who won a year’s first trio of Grand Slam tournaments and made it all the way to the U.S. Open final before losing.

Djokovic came out a bit cold Sunday, double-faulting in each of his initial two service games and mixing in enough groundstroke miscues — bowing his head or rolling his eyes after some — that 12 minutes in, Medvedev was a point from a second break and a 3-0 lead. Djokovic eventually used a couple of aces at 117 mph and 124 mph to hold there, but it was Medvedev who stole the show in the early going.

This was the fifth consecutive match in which Djokovic dropped the first set – and 11th in Grand Slam play this year – but unlike in the other instances, he could not come back to win.

Djokovic got to love-40 in Medvedev’s first service game of the second set but did not come through on any of those break points. On the third, Djokovic put a sliced backhand in the net, then pounded his racket against his left thigh — one, two, three, four times, perhaps as disappointed in his footwork as anything.

Thousands in the audience tried to boost him by chanting his nickname, “No-le! No-le! No-le!” After some of Medvedev’s faults, some in the stands would applaud, considered poor form in tennis and repeatedly admonished with a “please” from Dumusois.

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

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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.”