Iga Swiatek, Coco Gauff drawn into same group at WTA Finals

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FORT WORTH, Texas – A season ago, Iga Swiatek only qualified for the WTA Finals with a couple of weeks to spare. She was the fifth of eight players to get into the season-ending event for women’s tennis, a situation she found stressful.

What about in 2022? Swiatek was so dominant throughout the year that she booked her spot in September, the first to do so. And when play begins, Swiatek will be the top seed after holding the No. 1 ranking since April and leading the tour in titles (eight) and match wins (64).

Swiatek, a 21-year-old from Poland, heads the Tracy Austin Group that was determined by the draw Friday night, joined by Coco Gauff, Caroline Garcia and Daria Kasatkina. The Nancy Richey Group will be Ons Jabeur, Jessica Pegula, Maria Sakkari and Aryna Sabalenka.

The singles and doubles fields both were split into two groups of four for the round-robin portion of the WTA Finals, which will be contested on an indoor hard court.

The top two finishers in each group will advance to the semifinals.

In doubles, the Rosie Casals Group is Pegula and Gauff, Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova, Xu Yifan and Yang Zhaoxuan, and Desire Krawczyk and Demi Schuurs; the Pam Shriver Group is Gabriela Dabrowski and Giuliana Olmos, Veronika Kudermetova and Elise Mertens, Lyudmyla Kichenok and Jelena Ostapenko, and Anna Danilina and Beatriz Haddad Maia.

Pegula and Gauff are the first pair of women entered in both singles and doubles at the WTA Finals since Serena and Venus Williams did it in 2009. No. 3 Pegula and No. 4 Gauff are also the first two American women both ranked in the top four since the Williams sisters in 2010.

Jabeur, Pegula, Gauff and Kasatkina are all appearing at the event for the first time. Since 2000, only twice were there more WTA Finals participants making their singles debuts: In 2001, five women were in the field for the first time, and last year, six were.

The WTA Finals are returning to the United States for the first time since 2005 after the tour moved it out of China for the second year in a row.

The 2021 WTA Finals originally were supposed to be held in Shenzhen, China, but were moved to Guadalajara, Mexico, amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Then, late last year, the tour said that it would not have any tournaments in China in 2022 because of concerns about the safety of Peng Shuai, a Grand Slam doubles champion who accused a former government official in that country of sexual assault.

Davis Cup: Australia beats Croatia 2-1 to reach final

Day Four - Davis Cup Finals 2022
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MALAGA, Spain – Australia had to fight back twice to reach its first Davis Cup final in 19 years after beating Croatia 2-1 on Friday.

Lleyton Hewitt’s team recovered from losing the first singles. Then the Australian doubles pair battled back from a set down in the decider.

Australia won its 28th and last title in 2003. It has finally got back to the final.

“I am so proud. Australia has a really rich history in this competition,” said Hewitt, who played a record 43 Davis Cup ties for Australia from 1999-2018.

“We have been fortunate to win it all on a number of occasions a long time ago. And I know what it meant to me as a player to play a final, and I am glad these guys can play it.”

Borna Coric put Croatia ahead by beating Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-4, 6-3, but Alex de Minaur leveled after defeating Marin Cilic 6-2, 6-2 to send it to the doubles.

Jordan Thompson and Max Purcell then secured the semifinal win against Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic by 6-7 (3), 7-5, 6-4.

“This is what this team is about, that never-say-die attitude,” De Minaur said.

Canada will face Italy on Saturday in the other semifinal.

In the opener, Kokkinakis struck 11 aces, but Coric was able to break him once in each set.

“On my serve, I felt like it was an ace or he put it back on my toes,” Kokkinakis said.

Cilic, who was on the Croatia team that won the title in 2018, committed 10 double faults. That erratic serve helped De Minaur break Cilic four times and level his head-to-head record with the former U.S Open winner at two wins each.

Thompson and Purcell bettered the more experienced pair of Mektic and Pavic, both ranked in the top 10 in doubles. Thompson and Purcell combined for 13 aces, broke the Croats twice, and never dropped a service game to come back after losing the first-set tiebreaker.

Two-time winner Croatia was the runner-up last year.

“It proved too difficult on the court today,” Cilic said. “(But) for us it has been a great year again after the finals last year to reach the semis.”

The final is on Sunday on the indoor court in Malaga.

Italy beats U.S. to reach Davis Cup semifinal with Canada

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MALAGA, Spain — Italy beat the United States in a doubles decider to advance to the Davis Cup semifinals for the first time in eight years.

Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini defeated Tommy Paul and Jack Sock 6-4, 6-4 to secure a 2-1 win for Italy after the teams split the singles matches.

Bolelli and Fognini broke once in each set to set up a semifinal against Canada, which beat Germany 2-1.

Earlier, Lorenzo Sonego used his big serve to defeat Frances Tiafoe 6-3, 7-6 (7) and give the Italians a 1-0 lead. Taylor Fritz pulled the U.S. level after beating Lorenzo Musetti 7-6 (8), 6-3.

The U.S. holds a record 32 Davis Cup trophies, but its last one came in 2007 under the previous format of best-of-five matches played in host countries instead of the revamped event where the final eight teams gather in one spot for a week of tennis. The American team led by captain Mardy Fish came to Spain with high hopes that it could break that dry spell.

“I have wanted to win this thing for a very long time as a player and captain,” Fish said. “It is not going to happen this year and it stinks. We are going home without the trophy, which is a bummer.”

Italy, whose only Davis Cup title came in 1976, won without its top two players as Jannik Sinner has an injured finger and Matteo Berrettini is recovering from a foot problem.

Sonego, ranked No. 45, struck 17 aces and never ceded a service game to Tiafoe. Sonego clinched the win after Tiafoe netted a forehand following a long rally to end the second-set tiebreaker.

No. 19-ranked Tiafoe, who reached the U.S. Open semifinals in September, won their only previous meeting at the Paris Masters just over three weeks ago.

This time Sonego took the initiative, Tiafoe said.

“A couple of weeks ago I was playing very aggressive, running him around, hitting much harder. Today, he was,” Tiafoe said.

Sonego saved two set points while serving at 6-5 in the second set to force the tiebreaker. He said he drew on the loud Italian fans who showed up to support him in Spain, which is home to more than 250,000 Italians.

“I am really proud of my team and of this unbelievable crowd, it looks like we are in Italy. They support us from the beginning,” said Italy captain Filippo Volandri.

Fritz hit 12 aces and had one break to beat the No. 23-ranked Musetti for a second time after defeating him at Wimbledon in June.

Canada’s Denis Shapovalov rebounded from losing his opening singles match to help clinch the winning point in doubles against Germany.

Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff, ranked 152nd, beat the No. 18-ranked Shapovalov 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (2) in the opener. Felix Auger-Aliassime kept Canada’s hopes alive with his 7-6 (1), 6-4 victory over Oscar Otte, sending it to doubles.

Shapovalov then teamed up with Vasek Pospisil to beat Kevin Krawietz and Tim Puetz 2-6, 6-3, 6-3.

A Croatia team led by Marin Cilic advanced to the other semifinal after beating a Spain side that was missing Rafael Nadal and No. 1-ranked Carlos Alcaraz.

Croatia will face Australia in the other semifinal.