Without Alcaraz, Spain beats Serbia 3-0 in Davis Cup Finals

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No Carlos Alcaraz, no problem for Spain.

In front of a partisan home crown at Valencia, Spain cruised to a 3-0 win over Serbia in the Davis Cup Finals to move top of its group.

The top-ranked Alcaraz had arrived in Valencia the previous day but skipped the opening round, which was taking place only three days after the Spanish teenager won the U.S. Open. He did appear during the national anthems, much to the crowd’s delight.

Sunday’s victory over Casper Ruud saw the 19-year-old Alcaraz become the youngest man to lead the ATP computerized rankings since they began in 1973.

But Albert Ramos Vinolas rallied to beat Laslo Dere 2-6, 7-6 (5), 7-5 in the opening rubber that lasted just under three hours. And Roberto Bautista Agut prevailed 7-6 (5), 7-6 (5) over Miomir Kecmanovic to secure victory.

The crowd roared in delight and Bautista Agut sunk to his knees after placing a backhand out of Kecmanovic’s reach after 2 hours, 15 minutes.

“The best experiences of my life playing tennis have been in this competition,” Bautista Agut said. “Today I really enjoyed playing in front of the Spanish crowd in Valencia, next to my home town.

“I’m exhausted because it was a tough match and we have a lot of work to do this week.”

Marcel Granollers and Pedro Martinez beat Nikola Cacic and Dusan Lajovic 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-2 in the doubles to complete the whitewash of Serbia, which is without Novak Djokovic.

Granollers and Bautista Agut were part of Spain’s victorious Davis Cup team in 2019.

Three other venues – Bologna in Italy, Hamburg, Germany and Glasgow, Scotland – are hosting group-stage matches ahead of the single-venue quarterfinals that will be played in the southern Spanish city of Malaga in November.

In Group D, in Glasgow, Andy Murray had a disappointing return to Davis Cup action as the United States won a tight contest against Britain.

Tommy Paul gave the Americans the early lead when he beat Dan Evans 6-4, 4-6, 6-4. The tie appeared to be heading the Americans’ way when Cameron Norrie lost the opening set of the second singles in 45 minutes, but Norris recovered to beat Taylor Fritz 2-6, 7-6 (2), 7-5.

Murray teamed in the doubles with Joe Salisbury for only his second Davis Cup appearance since 2016 but the duo were beaten 5-7, 6-4, 7-5 by Jack Sock and Rajeev Ram in a match that ended at 1 a.m.

“We were playing against one of the biggest legends of the game, playing in his home county,” Sock told the BBC. “It was an electric atmosphere. We stuck it out and got the win.”

The Americans play Kazakhstan in their next match on Thursday while Britain takes on the Netherlands.

“It’s tough, it’s 1 a.m. on a Thursday and we’ve got to go again in 13 hours,” U.S. stand-in captain Bob Bryan said. “Kazakhstan won’t be any easier.”

In Group C in Hamburg, a home crowd helped propel Germany to its first win over France since 1938.

Jan-Lennard Struff put Germany in front with a 6-4, 2-6, 7-5 victory over Benjamin Bonzi, after the Frenchman failed to convert two match points. But Adrian Mannarino evened the tie with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Oscar Otte.

However, Kevin Krawietz and Tim Putz maintained their perfect Davis Cup record as a pairing by defeating Nicolas Mahut and Arthur Rinderknech 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (1) to end a run of eight straight defeats for Germany against France.

The hosts also won in Group A, in Bologna, as Italy beat top-ranked Croatia 3-0.

Lorenzo Mussetti eased past Borna Gojo 6-4, 6-2 before Matteo Berrettini rallied to beat Borna Coric 6-7 (4), 6-2, 6-1. Fabio Fognini and Simone Bolelli also had to recover from a set down to see off Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (3).

Gojo, Mektic and Pavic were all part of the Croatia team that lost to Russia in last year’s final. Croatia also won the Davis Cup in 2018.

Russia will not be able to defend its title from last year after being banned from international team competitions because of the nation’s invasion of Ukraine.

Nakashima takes first ATP Tour title at San Diego

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SAN DIEGO – Brandon Nakashima earned his first ATP Tour victory in his hometown, beating friend and fellow Southern Californian Marcos Giron 6-4, 6-4 in the San Diego Open final.

“It’s super-special, something you dream of, but to have it happen in my hometown with all my friends and family here, it’s a moment I’ll never forget,” said Nakashima, who had two previous finals appearances. “I hope there are many more moments like this to come.”

Nakashima, a 21-year-old who grew up in San Diego and trained extensively at the event’s site as a junior, clinched the opening set in only 30 minutes. The second set, filled with lengthy rallies, took nearly an hour.

Giron, the No. 5 seed and former NCAA title winner from UCLA, wasn’t able to fend off Nakashima’s persistent ground strokes and well-placed serves. Nakashima had eight aces, six in the first set.

Serving at 5-4 in the second set, Nakashima tallied the match’s deciding two points when Giron pushed an easy volley into the net, followed by Nakashima’s second-serve ace.

He earned $93,090, about half of what received for reaching the third round of the U.S. Open in early September.

Nakashima, who was ranked No. 69 on the ATP Tour, moved up to 48, his highest ranking in nearly three years on tour. Despite the loss, Giron moved up to 53 from 58.

Not only was the singles title claimed by an American, the doubles title also taken by an American duo as the second-seeded pair of Nathaniel Lammons and Jackson Withrow defeated Australians Jason Kubler and Luke Saville 7-6 (5), 6-2.

The $612,00 event was held at Barnes Tennis Center, which next hosts the $757,900 WTA 500 San Diego Open, Oct. 8-16. That will feature 16 of the world’s top-ranked 20 women pros, led by No. 1 Iga Swiatek.

Frances Tiafoe lifts Team World to 1st Laver Cup win

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LONDON — The last to arrive, befitting his reputation in the locker room, Frances Tiafoe strutted into the post-match news conference after clinching Team World’s Laver Cup victory over Roger Federer’s star-studded Team Europe and shouted, “Champs are here!”

Then the 24-year-old from Maryland joined his teammates at the table where the silver trophy was resting Sunday night, put down a bottle of water, pulled a Budweiser out of his red jacket and smiled that wide smile of his.

Performing with the same infectious showmanship and crunch-time success he displayed en route to his first Grand Slam semifinal at the U.S. Open earlier this month, Tiafoe staved off four match points and came back to beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 1-6, 7-6 (11), 10-8, giving Team World its first triumph in five editions of an event founded by Federer’s management company.

“I don’t like losing,” said Federer, a 20-time major champion whose final match before retirement was a loss alongside Rafael Nadal in doubles against Tiafoe and Jack Sock on Friday night. “It’s not fun. It just leaves not the best taste.”

When Tsitsipas put a forehand into the net to end Sunday’s contest – and the three-day competition – Tiafoe dropped his racket and fell to his back on the court, where teammates piled atop him. After getting on his feet, Tiafoe cupped a hand to his ear, asking spectators for more noise, then pointed to his chest and yelled, “I’m him! I’m him!”

“When it becomes a circus out here, and I’m just using the crowd and acting like a little kid and having a bunch of reactions … I end up playing really well and I start building momentum off it,” Tiafoe said. “I’m able to play and function in that better than my opponents, it seems.”

Using the nickname other players gave Tiafoe to reflect the way he embraces big moments, Team World captain John McEnroe said: “Frances is `Prime Time.’ He loves this stuff.”

McEnroe had been 0-4 while leading his squad against his former playing rival, Team Europe captain Bjorn Borg; both indicated they would be back for the 2023 Laver Cup in Vancouver, but that might be their last go-round.

This one served as a celebration of Federer and the 41-year-old Swiss star’s career.

Tiafoe responded with a quip when asked whether he might owe Federer some form of “I’m sorry” for beating him in his finale or for defeating his team, which also included Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray for a total of 66 major singles titles. That, incidentally, is 66 more than Team World, a collection of 20-somethings (Sock turned 30 on Saturday).

“”I’m not going to apologize to him. He’s got a lot to apologize for after the last 24 years – after beating everybody on the tour,” said Tiafoe, who went 0-3 against Federer in singles head-to-head. “I will say thank you for having me in this amazing event, what he’s done for the game. He’s a class act. Happy to know him, happy to call him a friend, happy to call him a colleague, and best wishes in his second act. But I will not apologize.”

Team Europe entered Sunday at O2 Arena with an 8-4 lead; the first team to 13 points would win.

Each match on Day 3 was worth three points, and Team World went ahead thanks to a pair of victories by Felix Auger-Aliassime, a 22-year-old from Canada. He beat Djokovic 6-3, 7-6 (3), after partnering with Sock to edge Murray and Matteo Berrettini 2-6, 6-3, 10-8 in doubles.

Tiafoe then made it 13-8, but it wasn’t easy.

He went a tournament-record 8-0 in tiebreakers at Flushing Meadows this month and was just as resilient Sunday.

“It’s been a long time that Frances has been playing the big guys close and losing a lot of close battles. It’s great to see lately he’s been winning,” said Taylor Fritz, an American who is the same age as Tiafoe and has known him for years. “It’s about time that he steps up and the matches go the other way. Today was a joke.”

That’s because Tiafoe was a single point from losing to Tsitsipas four times in their second-set tiebreaker, but somehow got through that. Then, at 4-all in the concluding match tiebreaker – first to 10, win by two – Tiafoe sprinted from behind the baseline to near the net and barely got to a drop shot by Tsitsipas, somehow lunging to flick an angled winner.

While most of the 16,365 fans went wild, Tiafoe went around the net and stood still, hands on his hips, relishing the atmosphere.

“We put him in the slot that he was in today for a reason,” said Team World’s Tommy Paul, another 24-year-old American, “and he stepped up for us, big time.”