Amelie Mauresmo becomes French Open’s first female director

Getty Images
2 Comments

Two-time major champion Amelie Mauresmo was appointed as tournament director of the French Open on Thursday, replacing Guy Forget and becoming the first woman to hold the position.

Forget, whose contract was to expire at the end of the year, resigned this week, citing communication issues with new French tennis federation president Gilles Moretton.

The 42-year-old Mauresmo, who was inspired to play tennis after watching Yannick Noah win the 1983 French Open, became the first player from France – male or female – to reach No. 1 in the modern era, on Sept. 13, 2004. She was No. 1 for 39 weeks in her career.

“This tournament has made me dream since my early days, has created a vocation in me,” Maursemo told a press conference on Thursday.

But she was never able to emulate Noah’s feat of winning on the clay at Roland Garros, failing to go beyond the quarterfinals at the Grand Slam tournament in Paris, where she struggled to withstand the pressure in front of her home crowd.

Mauresmo, whose backhand delighted tennis aficionados around the world, also won the Fed Cup with France in 2003 and the WTA Tour championship in 2005. She won the Olympic silver medal in Athens in 2004.

After her playing career, Mauresmo coached one of the top men’s players, Andy Murray. She was also France’s Fed Cup women’s team captain and did TV commentary work during Roland Garros this year.

Mauresmo is the second woman to be appointed as a Grand Slam director after Stacey Allaster, the U.S. Open’s tournament boss.

“Yes, I am very proud to be the first woman director of Roland Garros, but I also believe that it is necessary to emphasize why I am here, other (reasons) than my gender,” Mauresmo said. “I would like this question to be no longer relevant today. We need to aim and move toward something more egalitarian, regardless of gender. It doesn’t matter what gender you are, it’s just what skills you have.”

Mauresmo’s contract runs to 2024, the French federation said.

Forget had been running the tournament at Roland Garros since 2016. He was a former tennis player who achieved a career-best ranking of No. 4 in the early 1990s.

Stade Roland Garros had undergone a major facelift during Forget’s tenure, with the addition of a retractable roof on Court Philippe Chatrier and the building of a stunning new court surrounded by greenhouses filled with exotic plants.

Under Forget’s leadership, the French Open also introduced night sessions this year.

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.”