Maxime Cressy beats John Isner in Hall of Fame semifinals

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NEWPORT, R.I. — Fourth-seeded Maxime Cressy ended John Isner’s 10-match winning streak on Newport’s grass courts, beating the fellow American 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 to advance to the Hall of Fame Open final.

Cressy will face No. 3 seed Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan. Bublik beat Jason Kubler of Australia 6-3, 6-2 in the other semifinal.

The matches were played before former Australian player Lleyton Hewitt was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame during a ceremony on the side courts. Hewitt was elected into the Hall for the 2021 class, but due to travel restrictions because of the COVID-19 pandemic he was unable to travel for last year’s ceremony. There was no class elected for 2022.

In a rematch of the opening round of the Australian Open when Cressy rallied from two sets down to beat the four-time Newport champ, Cressy broke twice in the opening set.

“I personally love to return big serves,” he said. “I love when the ball comes fast to my racket.”

But the strangest point came when Cressy broke to go up 5-3 in the final set.

Cressy hit a lob, Isner, 37, charged the net, but the ball bounced back over to Cressy’s side before the 6-foot-10 Isner could reach it for the game’s final point.

Second-seeded Isner seemed somewhat shocked by the result and there was a long buzz in the stands.

“It was definitely a strange feeling,” Cressy said. “I really did not believe that I broke him at the moment, that the ball did come back on my side. I was like: ‘Did I break?” When I heard it was, I couldn’t believe it. It was hard to move on and really be focused.”

Cressy fell behind 15-40 in the final game before the 1 hour, 51-minute match ended when Isner barely got his racket on a forehand return as the ball bounced away.

Cressy is looking to win his first career ATP title after entering week ranked 41st in the world.

“My goal for this season was to be top 10,” he said. “I really believe the momentum is carrying me that way.”

In the other semi, Bublik, 25, a 2019 Newport finalist, is looking for his second career ATP title after winning at Montpellier this year.

“I think its great to play in any ATP final,” he said. “It’s good for the history, for your own career.”

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.”