Bublik cuts short Wawrinka’s return to tour after injury

Getty Images
1 Comment

MONACO — Alexander Bublik cut short Stan Wawrinka’s return to the tour, defeating the Swiss 3-6, 7-5, 6-2 in the first round of the Monte Carlo Masters in his first singles in 13 months.

Wawrinka started off confidently against the Kazakh, winning the first set with ease. He staved off three set points in the second to hold for 5-5 but appeared tired. In the decisive third, Bublik pulled ahead early and wrapped up the match in just over two hours.

Wawrnika, 37, last competed on tour in March 2021 when he lost his opening match at the Qatar Open. He’s had two surgeries on his left foot since then and months of difficult recovery.

“I’m still far away from where I want to be, but I think I’m in the right direction,” Wawrinka said. Despite “a tough loss” to No. 35-ranked Bublik, the Swiss said it felt good to be on the court, packed with spectators, and playing for real points.

“It was much better than what I was expecting,” Wawrinka said.

Still, the physical and mental fatigue made him consider he might have returned to the tour too soon. He has not lined up other tournaments but intends to spend more time on practice.

“I need a lot more … and I need to work hard on my tennis and my physical condition,” Wawrinka said.

Marin Cilic of Croatia overwhelmed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-2, 6-2, turning the Frenchman’s opening match in Monaco into his final clay-court appearance in a Masters event.

Tsonga, 36, announced last week he will retire after the French Open, hoping to put the final touches on an injury-plagued career in front of his home crowd.

A crowd of Tsonga’s loyal fans cheered him on in the principality but he was no match for the No. 22-ranked Cilic, who breezed to victory.

Tsonga was disappointed he wasn’t more competitive.

“I’m sad because it was my last Monte-Carlo. It’s not always easy, but that’s it,” he said. “Maybe I have been on the tour for too long, but I do have some experience.”

The French Open starts on May 22 in Paris.

Tsonga reached a career-high ranking of No. 5 in 2012, but has dropped to No. 220 following his latest lengthy injury layoff. That means he can’t enter the main draw at Roland Garros automatically through his ranking, and will have to rely on being granted a wild card by organizers.

Other winners included Sebastian Korda of the United States, Fabio Fognini and Jannik Sinner of Italy, Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain and Hubert Kurkacz of Poland.

U.S. sweeps Uzbekistan, advances to group stage in Davis Cup

Getty Images
1 Comment

The United States swept its way into the group stage of the Davis Cup Finals, getting the winning point in a 4-0 victory over Uzbekistan from the doubles team of Rajeev Ram and Austin Krajicek.

They beat Sergey Fomin and Sanjar Fayziev 6-2, 6-4, after Tommy Paul and Mackenzie McDonald had won singles matches in Tashkent.

Ram is No. 3 in the ATP Tour doubles rankings and partnered with Joe Salisbury to win the last two U.S. Open men’s doubles titles. But the Americans opted not to use Ram last year in the final round, when they dropped the doubles match in a 2-1 defeat against Italy in the quarterfinals.

Krajicek was making his Davis Cup debut, having reached No. 9 in the doubles rankings late last year.

“They had five great days of preparation, and as anticipated they came out really sharp and got the early break in the first set. And after that it was like two freight trains, there was no stopping them,” interim captain David Nainkin said.

Denis Kudla then beat Amir Milushev 6-4, 6-4.

The winners of the 12 qualifiers being held this weekend advance to the Davis Cup Finals group stage in September, along with reigning champion Canada, 2022 runner-up Australia and wild-card recipients Italy and Spain.

Eight teams will advance to the closing matches of the Davis Cup Finals scheduled for Nov. 21-26 in Malaga, Spain.

In other matches:

France 3, Hungary 2: On indoor hard courts in Tatabanya, Hungary, Ugo Humbert won it for the French with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Fabian Marozsan. Adrian Mannarino had forced the deciding match by beating Marton Fucsovics 7-6 (6), 6-2.

Serbia 4, Norway 0: On indoor hard courts in Oslo, the visitors, playing without top-ranked Novak Djokovic, put away the match when Filip Krajinovic and Nikola Cacic edged Viktor Durasovic and Herman Hoeyeraal 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. Hamad Medjedovic then outlasted Durasovic 6-4, 6-7, 10-4.

Sweden 3, Bosnia 1: On indoor hard courts in Stockholm, Mikael Ymer sent the hosts through by beating Damir Dzumhur 6-1, 1-6, 6-3.

Lesia Tsurenko to face Zhu Lin in Thailand Open final

Getty Images
1 Comment

HUA HIN, Thailand — Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine reached her first final in four years after the top-seeded Bianca Andreescu retired with a shoulder injury during their semifinal match at the Thailand Open.

Tsurenko, in search of her fifth WTA title, was leading the 2019 U.S. Open champion 7-5, 4-0 when the Canadian stopped playing.

The former world No. 23 fought from 3-5 down to take the first set and reeled off eight straight games before Andreescu retired with a right shoulder problem.

“Bianca is such an amazing player. She is capable of hitting all kinds of shots and gave so much trouble today,” said the 33-year-old Tsurenko, now ranked 136th. “But I was just fighting and I told myself positive things that I can do it. Unfortunately, she had to retire.”

The Ukrainian last lifted a WTA trophy in Acapulco in 2018 and hasn’t been to a final since Brisbane in 2019.

She will face Zhu Lin of China in the final.

“She had some good wins in the Australian Open,” Tsurenko said. “She is one of the dangerous players in this tournament. She is going to give a good fight.”

In the all-Chinese semifinal earlier, Zhu benefited from a barrage of unforced errors from Wang Xinyu and prevailed 6-2, 6-4 for her first WTA final.

The world No. 54 player, who reached the last 16 at the Australian Open in January, relied on her solid baseline game to force errors.

“It was very windy, so I tried to be patient and keep my first serves in,” said the 29-year-old Zhu, who will team up with Wang in the doubles final against Hao-Ching Chan and Fang-Hsien Wu of Taiwan.