Top-ranked Alcaraz loses to Auger-Aliassime at Davis Cup

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BARCELONA, Spain — Carlos Alcaraz’s biggest fans had flocked see the world’s new top-ranked player in his homecoming to Spain.

Instead, they witnessed Felix Auger-Aliassime beat their new idol before staying on the hard court to secure a second victory in doubles and help Canada score a 2-1 upset win over Spain in the Davis Cup group phase.

Alcaraz lost 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-2 to a superb Auger-Aliassime, who endured the partisan crowd and tilted the match at Valencia his way after the 19-year-old Spaniard dug deep to claim the first-set tiebreaker.

“Felix is a beast. Physically and mentally, Felix is one of the best in the world,” Alcaraz said after his first match since winning the U.S. Open last weekend to become the youngest man to rise to the top of the ATP rankings.

“I didn’t come in very good physical condition,” he added. “It was a very tough day, but I have to say congratulations to him because he played an unbelievable game.”

As the pavilion roared for Alcaraz, Auger-Aliassime coolly responded by surgically placing shot after shot exactly where he wanted. He dominated on his serve with 16 aces and eventually broke Alcaraz late in the second set and twice in the third.

“He is the world No. 1 and big credit to him for that, but today I think I was a little bit better in the third set,” the 13th-ranked Auger-Aliassime said. “I wasn’t going to let my team down with my fighting spirit.”

Roberto Bautista gave Spain the first point after he fought back for a 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 win against Vasek Pospisil.

With no time to recover, Auger-Aliassime and Pospisil showed no sign of being worn down when they came from behind to beat Marcel Granollers and Pedro Martinez 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 in the decider.

Canada next plays Serbia, while Spain faces South Korea to determine which two advance to the quarterfinals in November in the southern Spanish city of Malaga.

Spain beat Serbia 3-0 while Alcaraz was resting after jetting home from New York where he won his first Grand Slam singles title after a grueling run that included three consecutive five-set victories.

Before the Davis Cup tie, Alcaraz was busy signing autographs and posing for photos after practice. He received the biggest applause when the Spain team was presented and he was introduced as the “new world No. 1.”

After the match, he didn’t focus on the loss, but rather the joy he got from being back home.

“I wanted to come back to Spain, I mean to share this moment to be No. 1 and to be U.S. Open champion with all my people,” Alcaraz said.

After Spanish fans had to stay up practically all night to watch his matches at the U.S. Open due to the time difference, this was the first chance many of his supporters had to watch him play at home since May when he won the Madrid Open. Alcaraz beat Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev in the capital in what many saw as Nadal passing the torch to his Spanish successor.

Red and yellow flags were draped over railings at the pavilion, including one with the name of Alcaraz’s home region, Murcia, painted in big black letters. Valencia, on the Mediterranean coast, is about 2 1/2 hours north of Alcaraz’s hometown of El Palmar, population 24,000.

Alcaraz had only one previous meeting with Auger-Aliassime, at the 2021 U.S. Open quarterfinals when the Spaniard had to retire due to injury.

While Alcaraz arrived from a tiring two weeks in the U.S., Auger-Aliassime played singles and doubles to help Canada beat South Korea in their Davis Cup opener.

Unable to touch Auger-Aliassime’s serve, Alcaraz summoned more cheers from the stands, which included his parents. He pumped his fist toward captain Sergi Bruguera and personal coach Juan Carlos Ferrero after hard-won points.

That proved enough for Alcaraz to eke out the first-set tiebreaker after Auger-Aliassime’s untimely errors.

But Auger-Aliassime never lost the initiative. Canada captain Frank Dancevic jumped out of his court-side seat to cheer when Auger-Aliassime finally broke Alcaraz late in the second set. The Canadian poured it on.

The Netherlands advanced after beating Andy Murray’s Britain 2-1 in Glasgow. The result also meant the United States advanced from Group D.

Germany and Australia advanced from Group C after the Germans beat Belgium 2-1, while Italy defeated Argentina 2-1 in Bologna in Group A.

Nakashima takes first ATP Tour title at San Diego

San Diego Open - Finals
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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.”