At Wimbledon, De Groot wins 7th straight wheelchair major

Day Thirteen: The Championships - Wimbledon 2022
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WIMBLEDON, England – With just about every Grand Slam tournament on the calendar, Diede de Groot closes in on compatriot Esther Vergeer’s records in women’s wheelchair tennis.

De Groot won her seventh straight major singles title and fourth overall at Wimbledon by beating Yui Kamiji of Japan 6-4, 6-2 on No. 3 Court.

It was the Dutchwoman’s 15th singles title at one of the four biggest tournaments in tennis, second only to Vergeer’s 21.

“I’m getting pretty close. I know this. But her achievements really stand on itself,” de Groot said. “For 10 years she wasn’t beaten. Those are records that no one’s going to beat.”

De Groot is doing a pretty decent job of trying, though.

She won her first Wimbledon singles title in 2017 in only her second appearance at a major tournament. Overall, she has won 15 major titles in 21 tournaments.

But chasing the legacy of Vergeer isn’t something that motivates her.

“I think if I sort of try and challenge that, I might even end up sad at the end of my career. Even though I had such a big and very impressive career, I’ll be sad because I didn’t beat her record,” de Groot said. “So I’m definitely not really looking at how she was. I think we all have to honor what she did and what she meant to the whole wheelchair tennis community.”

De Groot will be going for a second straight calendar-year Grand Slam at the U.S. Open, a tournament she has won the last four years.

She won’t have much competitive preparation, however.

“Unfortunately due to some circumstances, we don’t have any tournaments in between,” de Groot said. “We don’t have any preparation tournaments, we don’t have anything before U.S. Open. It’s going to be a little bit of a different way going there.”

De Groot isn’t finished yet at Wimbledon anyway. She has reached the doubles final with teammate Aniek Van Koot. They will face Kamiji and Dana Mathewson for that title, which would also be her 15th in women’s doubles.

Playing so many matches on the beautiful green lawns at the All England Club isn’t so easy for wheelchair athletes, however.

“Competing on grass for us is really tough,” de Groot said. “I think where on hard court we push the chair and we reach the end of the court, for grass it’s maybe two meters (yards), maybe not even. It’s a constant effort that you have to put in to keep, keep pushing. That makes it physically very tough.”

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.”