Swiatek wins 36th match in a row, Nadal also advances at Wimbledon

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WIMBLEDON, England — From the red clay of the French Open to the green grass of Wimbledon, the wins keep coming for Iga Swiatek.

The top-seeded Pole won her opening match on Centre Court, beating Croatian qualifier Jana Fett 6-0, 6-3.

The victory was Swiatek’s 36th in row and includes all seven matches she played at this year’s French Open in winning her second title at Roland Garros. It’s the longest winning streak on the women’s tour since 1997, when Martina Hingis won 37.

“It’s my first match on grass this season, so I knew it’s going to be tricky,” Swiatek said on court. “I’m just figuring out how to play here and trying to implement all the stuff that we were practicing on.”

The men’s champion at Roland Garros also won at Wimbledon. Rafael Nadal defeated Francisco Cerundolo 6-4, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 in the first round a few hours after Swiatek finished her match.

Swiatek is the woman to beat. She won five tournaments before heading to Paris in May, earning consecutive titles in Doha, Indian Wells, Miami, Stuttgart and Rome.

Swiatek, again wearing a pin with the colors of Ukraine on her hat, started out like she left off in her last match at the French Open. But she went down 3-1 in the second set before recovering.

“The second set, at the beginning I lost my focus a little bit and she used that pretty well,” Swiatek said.

Coco Gauff, who lost to Swiatek in this year’s French Open final, also won her opening match. The 11th-seeded American beat Elena-Gabriela Ruse of Romania 2-6, 6-3, 7-5.

Gauff got the go-ahead break in the third set at 5-5 on her sixth break point of the game when Ruse double-faulted.

In her two previous appearances at the All England Club, Gauff reached the fourth round.

Barbora Krejcikova, who won the French Open in 2021 to split Swiatek’s two titles there, also advanced to the second round. The 13th-seeded Czech defeated Maryna Zanevska of Belgium 7-6 (4), 6-3.

No. 4 Paula Badosa, No. 5 Maria Sakkari, No. 12 Jelena Ostapenko, No. 16 Simona Halep of Romania and No. 25 Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic also advanced. Both Halep and Kvitova are former champions at the All England Club.

Among the seeded player to lose was Olympic champion Belinda Bencic. The 14th-seeded Swiss player lost to Qiang Wang of China 6-4, 5-7, 6-2.

No. 18 Jil Teichmann of Switzerland, No. 20 Amanda Anisimova of the United States and No. 27 Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan also lost.

Like Swiatek, Nadal was also playing for the first time since Paris, where he won his men’s record 22nd Grand Slam singles title. And because of the pandemic and his left-foot injury, he said he hadn’t played on grass since 2019, when he reached the semifinals at the All England Club.

The two-time Wimbledon champion is attempting to win his third consecutive Grand Slam tournament, but his foot is a question mark.

“Every day is a test and today has been one of these important tests,” Nadal said on court. “I know at the beginning of the tournament especially, and the difficult circumstances that I arrived here, the victory is the most important thing because that gives me the chance to practice tomorrow again and to have another match in two days.”

Also in the men’s draw, No. 18 Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria retired from his match with an apparent injury. He was leading Steve Johnson of the United States 6-4, 2-5 when he stopped.

No. 12 Diego Schwartzman of Argentina, No. 15 Reilly Opelka of the United States, No. 17 Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain and unseeded Nick Kyrgios of Australia also won.

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

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.”