Defending champ Barbora Krejcikova loses to French foe in 1st round

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PARIS — Barbora Krejcikova arrived at the French Open as the defending champion in singles and doubles. She also was coming off a three-month absence from the tour because of an injured right elbow, so even her own expectations were rather modest.

Krejcikova was right to be apprehensive – as she became only the third woman in the professional era to exit in the first round at Roland Garros a year after earning the trophy.

The second-seeded Krejcikova got off to a terrific start before everything fell apart in a 1-6, 6-2, 6-3 loss to Diane Parry, a 19-year-old from France who is ranked 97th and entered the day with a 1-5 career record in Grand Slam matches.

“It was difficult. I mean, I expected it’s going to be difficult, and it was,” said Krejcikova, who wiped away tears at her news conference. “I think overall, tennis-wise, it wasn’t that bad. I think physically, it was a little worse.”

In 2021, she was unseeded in Paris, was participating in singles at a Grand Slam tournament for only the fifth time and previously had won only one tour-level singles title of any sort.

Krejcikova said her elbow was not the issue.

Instead, it was the lack of recent match play that led to an inability to get to shots quickly enough, and she faded as she “hit the wall” and “just collapsed,” in her words.

Parry received raucous backing from spectators shouting for her at Court Philippe Chatrier, where the noise echoed under the retractable roof pulled shut because of rain.

“It’s a dream for me. It was always a dream to play on this court, with the French crowd to support me. They clearly pushed me to victory today,” Parry said. “I’m the happiest person right now.”

The partisan crowd booed Krejcikova after she took a lengthy break to head to the locker room and change clothes before the third set.

This was Krejcikova’s first match since February and the rust showed.

The only other women to lose in the first round a year after winning the title at Roland Garros were Anastasia Myskina in 2005 and Jelena Ostapenko in 2018 – both of whom, like Krejcikova, had been surprising champions.

Since the professional era began in 1968, Krejcikova is just the seventh reigning women’s champion to be bounced in the first round at all of the Grand Slam tournaments.

Against Parry, Krejcikova double-faulted on the match’s very first point, and then looked every bit someone ready to display her best tennis. The next 15 points in a row went Krejcikova’s way as she raced to a 4-0 lead.

“It’s never easy to start on this kind of court against the defending champion,” Parry said. “You can get a bit tight, which happened in the first set. But then I managed to relax.”

Did she ever.

After Krejcikova wrapped up that opening set, things turned around as Parry played more confidently.

Krejcikova’s mistakes mounted: By the end, she had accumulated 45 unforced errors, 19 in the third set alone. Parry finished with 26 in all.

“I have to start somewhere, so it’s a pity that it had to be here, and I didn’t have any other matches,” Krejcikova said, “but I think it’s good way to move forward.”

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.”