Raducanu says there’s no pressure despite Wimbledon exit

Day Three: The Championships - Wimbledon 2022
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WIMBLEDON, England – Under pressure? You must be joking.

Emma Raducanu, who won last year’s U.S. Open at the age of 18, hasn’t gotten past the second round at a Grand Slam tournament since then.

She lost to Caroline Garcia of France 6-3, 6-3 on Centre Court at Wimbledon.

“There’s no pressure. Like, why is there any pressure? I’m still 19. Like, it’s a joke. I literally won a Slam,” the 19-year-old British player said. “Yes, I have had attention. But I’m a Slam champion, so no one’s going to take that away from me. Yeah, if anything, the pressure is on those who haven’t done that.”

The 10th-seeded Raducanu has dealt with minor injuries recently, including a side strain that forced her to retire from a match at the Nottingham Open two weeks ago. She said she didn’t feel any pain but acknowledged being rusty after playing only “seven hours of tennis in a month.”

“To even compete with these girls at this level and win a round I think is a pretty good achievement,” she said.

Raducanu beat Alison Van Uytvanck 6-4, 6-4 in the first round – also in the main stadium – but ran into a player on a roll on Wednesday. Garcia, who has been ranked as high as No. 4, extended her winning streak to seven matches, which includes the Bad Homburg title in Germany last week for her first tournament win in three years.

“I struggled to find a way through her today,” Raducanu said. “But it’s OK because coming into this I didn’t really have many expectations of myself. Playing on Centre Court again was, again, a really positive experience for me. So, yeah, I can take it going forwards.”

Forward is Flushing Meadows, where last September she went from qualifier to major champion by beating Canadian teenager Leylah Fernandez 6-4, 6-3 in the final.

“Going back to New York, it’s going to be cool because I have got a lot of experiences playing on big courts, playing with people in the stadium, playing with the spotlight on you,” Raducanu said. “I don’t mind that. I mean, for me, everything is learning. I’m embracing every single moment that is thrown at me.”

In her Grand Slam debut at the All England Club last year, Raducanu reached the fourth round as a wild-card entry. She followed up her U.S. Open title with second-round exits at the next two Grand Slam tournaments – the Australian Open and the French Open.

Raducanu had beaten Garcia in three sets at Indian Wells this year in their only other head-to-head match.

“Obviously I learn a little bit some stuff when I played against her in the U.S. and tried to learn from my loss and makes things better,” the 28-year-old Frenchwoman said. “It was different surface today, so it’s very different.”

It’s also easier now to prepare for Raducanu, Garcia said, compared to a year ago when “pretty much no one knew her.”

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

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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.”