Andy Murray reaches 2nd round at Sydney Tennis Classic

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SYDNEY — Five-time Australian Open finalist Andy Murray advanced to the second round of the Sydney Tennis Classic by beating Viktor Durasovic 6-3, 6-1.

Murray entered the tournament with a wild card and has also been handed one for next week’s Australian Open. Since he last reached the Australian Open final in 2016, when he lost to Novak Djokovic, the 34-year-old Murray has only made it past the first round once at Melbourne Park.

Recurring hip injuries have meant he has played only one of the past four Australian Opens. The former No. 1-ranked player is now 135th.

The three-time Grand Slam champion forced Durasovic into numerous errors.

“I was hoping to get the matches in Melbourne,” Murray said, referring to a first-round loss last week. “That didn’t happen but thankfully Tennis Australia gave me the wild card to play here. I’m very grateful for that and hopefully I can be here for a few more days.”

Murray will next face 23rd-ranked Nikoloz Basilashvili for a place in the quarterfinals.

Also in Sydney, U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu lost to ninth-seeded Elena Rybakina 6-0, 6-1. The 19-year-old Raducanu had delayed the start of her season, withdrawing from the Melbourne Summer Set last week following her bout with COVID-19.

Olympic champion Belinda Bencic made a successful but “wobbly” start to the 2022 season in her first match since being struck down by COVID-19. Bencic beat Brazilian qualifier Beatriz Haddad Maia 6-3, 6-2 to advance to the second round in Sydney.

“I was struggling a little bit, getting to practice after COVID because the pulse was getting up and the fatigue was still there,” Bencic said. “I think I still have room to feel better and my fitness has to get better. I still feel a little bit wobbly.”

At the Adelaide International, second-ranked Aryna Sabalenka lost another first-round match at an Australian Open tune-up tournament to a much lower-ranked opponent.

Sabalenka lost Rebecca Peterson of Sweden 5-7, 6-1, 7-5. Peterson came into the match ranked No. 395. Last week in the opening round of the first Adelaide International tournament, Sabalenka lost to 100th-ranked Kaja Juvan 7-6 (6), 6-1.

In other first-round matches in Adelaide, Madison Brengle beat Anastasia Potapova 7-5, 4-6, 6-1 and fourth-seeded Tamara Zidansek defeated Heather Watson 2-6, 6-2, 7-6 (4).

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

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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.”