Without Tsitsipas, Greece loses to Poland at ATP Cup

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
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SYDNEY – Greece badly missed Stefanos Tsitsipas in the singles when it was beaten by Poland on the opening day of the 16-team ATP Cup tournament.

The fourth-ranked Tsitsipas had to withdraw with an elbow problem ahead of his match with ninth-ranked Hubert Hurkacz, who went on to beat replacement Aristotelis Thanos 6-1, 6-2 to give Poland an unassailable 2-0 lead after Kamil Majchrzak had defeated Michail Pervolarakis 6-1, 6-4 earlier.

Tsitsipas watched from the team bench, with ice wrapped around his right elbow, as the 1,076th-ranked Thanos was outclassed by Hurkacz.

Greece then gained some consolation when Tsitsipas combined with Pervolarakis in the doubles to overcome Szymon Walkow and Jan Zielinski 6-4, 5-7, 10-8.

Tsitsipas had an operation in late November, with a flare-up a concern ahead of this month’s Australian Open.

“The recovery from my elbow surgery is on track and today was a precautionary step to make sure I make Melbourne,” Tsitsipas said. “We will see day-by-day, match-by-match until then.”

Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman and Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut led their respective teams to comfortable victories earlier on Saturday.

Argentina beat Georgia 3-0, while Spain easily accounted for Chile by the same margin at the tournament being played across two Sydney stadiums.

The 13th-ranked Schwartzman defeated Georgia’s Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-1, 6-2, after compatriot Federico Delbonis won by the same score against Aleksandre Metreveli to give Argentina a 2-0 lead from the singles matches.

Maximo Gonzalez and Andres Molteni then gave the Argentines a clean sweep defeating Georgian pair Saba Pertseladze and Zura Tkemaladze 6-1, 6-2 in the doubles tie to give Argentina a 3-0 win.

Pablo Carreno Busta gave Spain an early lead as he rallied from being a break down in both sets to defeat Chile’s Alejandro Tabilo 6-4, 7-6 (7-4).

Roberto Bautista Agut appeared in excellent form as he disposed of Chile’s Cristian Garin 6-0, 6-3 to seal the tie for Spain.

Alejandro Davidovich Fokina and Pedro Martinez clinched a clean sweep for Spain with a 7-6 (3), 4-6, 10-7 win over Chile’s Tomas Barrios Vera and Tabilo.

Even without Rafael Nadal, whose preparation for the Australian Open has been disrupted by a positive test for coronavirus, Spain showed why they are among the favored teams at the tournament.

“Today was a good start for me, a very solid game, really happy. I like these conditions,” Bautista Agut said.

Serbia, which is without top-ranked Novak Djokovic, beat Norway 2-1. Filip Krajinovic did double duty – teaming with Nikola Cacic to overcome Casper Ruud and Viktor Durasovic 7-6 (3), 6-3 in the decisive doubles match after the two singles matches were split,

The other eight teams begin play Sunday: Russia vs. France, Italy vs. Australia, Canada vs. the United States and Germany vs. Britain.

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.”