2021 Wimbledon runner-up Matteo Berrettini out with COVID-19

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WIMBLEDON, England – Matteo Berrettini, last year’s runner-up at Wimbledon, dropped out of the grass-court Grand Slam tournament hours before he was scheduled to play his first-round match, saying that he tested positive for COVID-19.

The eighth-seeded Berrettini became the second high-profile player to pull out of the men’s draw within the first two days because of the illness caused by the coronavirus, joining 2014 U.S. Open champion and 2017 Wimbledon finalist Marin Cilic, who was seeded 14th.

Players are not required by the tournament to get checked for COVID-19 this year; both Berrettini and Cilic said they got tested because they wanted to after having symptoms.

An All England Club spokesperson did not respond to questions about what the level of concern is about COVID-19 at the event or whether additional measures were being taken to prevent spread of the virus, but did say in an email that organizers have been working with the British public health agency and local authorities.

After being canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic, then setting up a bubble-type environment and restricting attendance in 2021 to try to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Wimbledon has returned to normal in every way, with no mask-wearing requirement, full crowds and the famous Queue back in action.

“For the most part, I feel like it’s OK that players are doing it themselves. I mean, I feel like that’s the regulations in the government now: If you feel symptoms, test. That’s what I would do if I felt any COVID symptoms; I would test,” said 18-year-old American Coco Gauff, the runner-up at the French Open this month.

“I think it’s also good now that we don’t have to test every day or every other day. I don’t want to go back to that. Not being scared to be tested, but it’s also a hassle,” said Gauff, who won her first-round match Tuesday. “With the vaccines and everything, we kind of know that the viral load is low and it’s very hard to transfer if you’re a vaccinated individual.”

Berrettini spent time practicing with 22-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal on Centre Court last week and also crossed paths there with Novak Djokovic, who beat Berrettini in last year’s final at Wimbledon.

After winning his first-round match Tuesday, Nadal did not sound too concerned.

“Difficult to be a close contact when you are outside, when you are practicing. … For the moment I am feeling great, no problems at all,” Nadal said. “Main thing is I feel very sorry for him because he was playing fantastic.”

The All England Club announced Berrettini’s withdrawal, and he posted about it on Instagram, saying that he was “heartbroken” and has been isolating “the last few days” after experiencing flu-like symptoms.

The men’s bracket already is missing six of the top 11 in the ATP rankings: No. 1 Daniil Medvedev ( ban on Russians ), No. 2 Alexander Zverev (ankle surgery), No. 8 Andrey Rublev (ban on Russians), No. 9 No. Felix Auger-Alissiame (lost Tuesday), No. 10 Hubert Hurkacz (lost Monday) and No. 11 Berrettini.

Berrettini was supposed to play 44th-ranked Cristian Garin in the first round on Tuesday. Berrettini was replaced in the field by Elias Ymer, who lost in qualifying and then lost to Garin.

Berrettini was considered a title contender for Wimbledon, both because of last year’s run to his first Grand Slam final at the All England Club before losing to Djokovic – and because of his recent form on grass.

“I mean, he is definitely (one of the) top two, three players in the world on grass in the last three years. I mean, his results are testament to that,” Djokovic said on Monday about Berrettini. “Probably, this is his favorite surface. For his game, it’s the most suitable surface. So there is a lot of expectations on his side that he should go far in this tournament.”

The 26-year-old Berrettini, who relies on big serves and big forehands, won two tuneup tournaments on the surface this month, going 9-0 at Stuttgart, Germany, and Queen’s Club in London.

That was how he returned to action after being sidelined since March because of an operation on his right hand.

In all, since the start of 2019, he is 32-3 on grass. Two of those three losses came against six-time Wimbledon winner Djokovic and eight-time champion Roger Federer.

“I have no words to describe the extreme disappointment I feel,” he said. “The dream is over for this year, but I will be back stronger.”

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

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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.”