Ash Barty pulls out Sydney event, heads straight to Melbourne

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After winning both the singles and doubles titles at the Adelaide International, top-ranked Ash Barty has decided she doesn’t need any more tournament action before the Australian Open.

Barty announced  that she’d travel directly from Adelaide to Melbourne Park and skip the Sydney Tennis Classic.

Geographically, that makes sense — it’s much easier to get directly from Adelaide to Melbourne. But from a career standpoint, having a week off to fine-tune ahead of the first Grand Slam tournament of the year is more important.

“It’s been an extraordinary week. We’ve been able to play lots of matches in singles and doubles,” Barty said. “We’ve had plenty of court time, which is great.”

Nick Kyrgios also pulled out of the Sydney tournament after contracting the coronavirus, placing him in doubt for the Australian Open.

“I just want to be open and transparent with everyone, the reason I have had to pull out of Sydney is because I tested positive for COVID,” Kyrgios posted on Instagram. “I am feeling healthy at the moment with no symptoms.”

Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova beat Arantxa Rus 3-6, 7-6 (4), 7-5 at the Sydney tournament.

At the Adelaide International 2 tournament, Australian qualifier Alexsandar Vukic beat sixth-seeded Alexander Bublik 7-6 (5), 6-2.

The 25-year-old Barty has two Grand Slam singles titles – the 2019 French Open and last year’s Wimbledon – but she dearly wants to win a major on home soil.

No Australian woman has won the title since Chris O’Neill in 1978. That’s a 44-year drought, and one that Barty hears about all the time.

Her best finish at Melbourne Park was in 2020, when she lost in the semifinals to eventual champion Sofia Kenin. She reached the quarterfinals last year.

Barty won the Adelaide International singles title for the second time in three years, 6-3, 6-2 over Elena Rybakina. She won the doubles with her Billie Jean King Cup teammate Storm Sanders.

It was Barty’s first tournament since losing in the third round at the U.S. Open in September to American Shelby Rogers. But she hardly looked rusty in Adelaide, beating Coco Gauff, Kenin and 2020 French Open winner Iga Swiatek en route to the title.

“I feel good leading up to an Australian Open,” said Barty, who has been a prolific winner on the women’s tour since the start of 2019, winning 11 of the 32 tournaments she has contested.

There are joint ATP-WTA tournaments this week in Adelaide and Sydney ahead of the Australian Open.

There were six tournaments decided, with Canada winning the ATP Cup team event in the final over Spain.

Elsewhere, top-seeded Rafael Nadal beat American Maxime Cressy, 7-6 (6), 6-3 at Melbourne and another American, Amanda Anisimova, beat Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus 7-5, 1-6, 6-4 to win her second WTA title.

Second-seeded Simona Halep beat Veronika Kudermetova 6-2, 6-3 to win the WTA 500 event in Melbourne. In the Adelaide International men’s final, Gael Monfils beat Karen Khachanov 6-4, 6-4.

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.”