Medvedev reaches ATP Finals semifinals, Sinner impresses

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TURIN, Italy — Defending champion Daniil Medvedev clinched his place in the ATP Finals semifinals after beating 2018 champ Alexander Zverev to make it two wins out of two in Turin.

Late entrant Jannik Sinner could join him after storming past Hubert Hurkacz in straight sets in the evening match, just hours after replacing Italian compatriot Matteo Berrettini in the tournament.

Medvedev, who won the U.S. Open in September for his first Grand Slam title, took just over 2 1/2 hours to beat Zverev 6-3, 6-7 (3), 7-6 (6) and move level with the German on a tour-leading 56 wins after a tense tiebreaker in the decisive set.

“Definitely one of the matches to remember,” Medvedev said. “When you win 8-6 in the tiebreak in the third, it was 4-2 for him so I was like OK, he serves a few aces it’s done. I made it 6-4 and I was like OK, that’s my moment now. It’s back to 6-6 … Just an amazing feeling. Not actually much to say about the match, just amazing.”

Medvedev leads Red Group and was assured of his place in the final four after Berrettini pulled out of the tournament. Berrettini retired against Zverev on Sunday with an abdominal injury and although he trained Tuesday he could not recover in time and was replaced by Sinner – the first alternate.

Helped by fast conditions inside the Pala Alpitour, Medvedev served 14 aces and Zverev 18.

Medvedev was in a fight from the start, fending off three break points in his opening two service games but also breaking Zverev to take a 3-0 lead. The world No. 2 went on to win the opening set with a delightful backhand down the line.

Victory looked in good time in the second set as Medvedev dropped only two points in his first five service games. But Zverev held on and saved three break points to force the tiebreaker which the German won.

In the deciding set, Medvedev had to save a break point to prevent Zverev from serving for the match, and he won the tiebreaker on his third match point when Zverev netted a backhand.

Medvedev will face Sinner in the final group match and despite having played a match less than his rivals, the young Italian can still reach the final four.

The 20-year-old Sinner showed no signs of nerves as he won 6-2, 6-2, breaking his opponent’s serve twice in each set and sealing the result when Hurkacz sent a forehand long – much to the delight of the passionate home crowd.

Instead of signing his name on a TV camera lens as most winners do, Sinner wrote: “Matteo sei un idolo” (Matteo you’re an idol).

“I’m playing this tournament for Matteo,” an emotional Sinner said in his on-court interview after the match.

Sinner later revealed he only found out he was definitely replacing Berrettini four hours before the scheduled start of the match.

“Everything happened really quickly, honestly,” Sinner said. “Around 5 p.m. I found out I would be playing. Matteo sent me a message saying ‘go warm-up, good luck and enjoy yourself.’ He’s an incredible person, apart from being a great player.”

French players get life bans for fixing

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LONDON — Two low-ranked French players were banned from the sport for life after being found guilty of match-fixing by a hearing officer.

Jules Okala, a 25-year-old with a career-best ATP ranking of No. 338, and Mick Lescure, a 29-year-old with a top ranking of No. 487, “admitted multiple charges,” the International Tennis Integrity Agency announced.

Neither player is allowed to compete at – or even attend – any sanctioned event again.

Okala was found guilty of seven match-fixing charges and fined $15,000 in addition to the permanent suspension. Lescure was found guilty of eight charges and fined $40,000 on top of the ban.

The punishments come after both players were involved in law enforcement investigations in France and Belgium, according to the sport’s integrity agency.

Ash Barty wins Australia’s top sports award for second time

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Ash Barty’s Australian Open singles title in January was enough to ensure the former top-ranked player won Australia’s most prestigious annual sports award — despite retiring from the game less than two months later.

Barty has been given The Don Award, named after its most accomplished and famous cricketer Don Bradman.

Barty shocked the tennis world in March when she announced her retirement at the age of 25. The three-time major winner was the No. 1-ranked female player at the time of her retirement decision.

The Sport Australia Hall of Fame’s Don Award is given to an athlete or a team “which has provided the most inspiration to the country through performance and example in the past year.”

Barty (2019, 2022) joins Olympic gold medal-winning hurdler Sally Pearson (2012, 2014) and Olympic champion pole vaulter Steve Hooker (2008, 2009) as a multiple winner of the award.

Barty said she had decided before the Australian Open started that it would be her last major tournament.

“This year was certainly my most enjoyable Australian Open . . . because it felt free,” Barty said in a television interview. “I played without consequence, I played like a little kid. In my eyes, there was no pressure. It was just about me trying to redeem myself, in a way, and playing how I’d always wanted to play – go out there and play like the kid that fell in love with sport.”

Barty said she has no plans to return to tennis.

“In my mind there was never going to be a perfect ending, but it was my perfect ending,” Barty said of her retirement. “It was never about finishing on a win or on a really high emotional feeling. It was just about collectively, I felt it was right.

“Now (that decision) has led to nine months of just an incredible life off the court. It’s been amazing.”

Barty married her long-time partner Garry Kissick in late July. She also golfs frequently and is reported to be playing off a handicap of low single figures.