2-time Wimbledon champ Murray loses to Isner in 2nd round

Day Three: The Championships - Wimbledon 2022
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WIMBLEDON, England – The recurring cries of “Come on, Andy!” at Centre Court meandered somewhere along the continuum from pushing to pleading as two-time champion Andy Murray’s shortest stay at Wimbledon came to a close.

Unable to overcome big John Isner’s big serves, the way he always has in the past, the revered Murray lost in the second round to the 20th-seeded American 6-4, 7-6 (4), 6-7 (3), 6-4 at the All England Club, capping a disappointing afternoon and evening in the grass-court Grand Slam tournament’s main stadium for the locals.

Prior to Murray vs. Isner, the host country’s other leading player, reigning U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu, was eliminated by Caroline Garcia of France 6-3, 6-3.

Asked whether he plans to be back a year from now, the 35-year-old Murray replied: “It depends on how I am physically. If physically I feel good, we’ll try to keep playing. But it’s extremely difficult, with the problems I’ve had with my body the last few years, to make predictions.”

Murray needed multiple operations on his hip and now has an artificial joint. He also recently dealt with an abdominal issue that hampered his preparations last week.

In addition to becoming Britain’s first men’s singles title winner in 77 years at Wimbledon when he claimed the trophy in 2013 – and adding another in 2016 – Murray always had managed to make it to at least the third round in his 13 prior appearances. He lost that early twice, in his 2005 debut and in 2021.

“It’s no secret that I am most definitely not a better tennis player than Andy Murray. I might have been just a little bit better than him today. It was an incredible honor to play him on this court, in front of this crowd,” said the 37-year-old Isner, who won the longest match in tennis history by a 70-68 score in the fifth set at Wimbledon in 2010 and reached the semifinals there in 2018. “At the age I’m at now, I need to relish these moments. This was one of the biggest wins of my career.”

Murray can still hit crisp, clean groundstrokes, and he accumulated merely 13 unforced errors to 39 winners against the 6-foot-10 (2.08-meter) Isner. And Murray can still return about as well as anyone, often getting serves topping 130 mph (210 kph) back over the net. But he could not quite do that enough: Isner hit 36 aces – moving him four away from Ivo Karlovic’s total of 13,728, a record since the ATP began tracking that stat in 1991 – and delivered another 60 unreturned serves across the match’s nearly 3 1/2 hours.

Murray, who entered the day 8-0 against Isner, only managed to obtain two break points. Both came after about a dozen minutes of play, right after Isner broke to go up 2-1 in the opening set.

Isner erased the first with a drop volley winner, part of a tremendous display of deft touch up at the net, where he won the point on 43 of 61 trips forward.

“This is why I still play,” Isner said. “This is why I work hard.”

When the second break chance for Murray arrived moments later, Isner got out of the game this way: 128 mph (206 kph) ace, 126 mph (203 kph) ace, 134 mph (216 kph) service winner.

Murray made things interesting by taking the third-set tiebreaker, celebrating by hopping around and shouting and pumping his right fist while the crowd rose and roared.

But Isner quickly broke to go up 3-2 in the fourth and that, essentially, was that.

How did Isner hold off any chance of a comeback by Murray?

“I served,” Isner said with a laugh. “That’s really all it came down to. I guess I didn’t give him many opportunities to spin his web and get me tangled up in it. If I got embroiled in too many rallies with him, it just wasn’t going to go well for me. I had an incredible serving day and I needed every single bit of it to beat him.”

Next for Isner is a third-round matchup against No. 10 seed Jannik Sinner. Other men who won Wednesday included three-time defending champion Novak Djokovic and No. 5 Carlos Alcaraz, while No. 3 Casper Ruud – the runner-up to Rafael Nadal at the French Open – lost 3-6, 6-2, 7-5, 6-4 to Ugo Humbert, and No. 15 Reilly Opelka was defeated by Tim Van Rijthoven 6-4, 6-7 (8), 7-6 (7), 7-6 (4).

Only four of the top 11 men in the ATP rankings are in the bracket after Day 3.

In addition to No. 10 Raducanu’s exit, No. 2 Anett Kontaveit lost to Juke Niemeier of Germany 6-4, 6-0, and No. 9 Garbine Muguruza, the champion at Wimbledon in 2017 and the French Open in 2016, was beaten by Greet Minnen 6-4, 6-0.

Women’s winners included 2021 runner-up Karolina Pliskova, No. 8 Jessica Pegula, three-time major champion Angelique Kerber and 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko.

Raducanu won the championship at Flushing Meadows in September as an unseeded player who went through qualifying at age 18.

Since then, she’s had a birthday – and has not made it past the second round at a major.

“There’s no pressure. Like, why is there any pressure? I’m still 19. Like, it’s a joke. I literally won a Slam,” Raducanu 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.”

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.”