Gauff eliminated at WTA Finals; Swiatek into semifinals

2022 Miami Open - Day 5
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FORT WORTH, Texas — Tears gathered in Coco Gauff’s eyes as she sat on the WTA Finals sideline during a changeover after giving away a lead in what would become a 7-6 (6), 6-3 round-robin loss to Daria Kasatkina that ended the 18-year-old American’s hopes of reaching the semifinals.

Gauff, who is ranked No. 4, fell to 0-4 in her debut at the season-ending tournament for the best in women’s tennis – 0-2 in singles and 0-2 in doubles with Jessica Pegula. The Floridian was the youngest participant in both events at the WTA Finals since Anna Kournikova in 1999.

“I had a lot of chances. I didn’t play my best tennis today, but a lot to take from it, a lot to learn from it and hopefully do better next time,” Gauff said.

“In both the (singles) matches, I had opportunities. I think I made a lot of unforced errors,” she said. “So I think that’s something that I will have to clean up.”

Earlier Thursday, top-ranked Iga Swiatek beat Caroline Garcia 6-3, 6-2 by taking control with an eight-point run that launched a match-ending stretch in which she grabbed nine of 11 games.

“Pushed me out of my comfort zone,” Garcia said.

Swiatek has won all four sets she’s played so far while dropping a total of just 10 games.

“It’s the last tournament of the season, so I have kind of nothing to lose. I don’t have to worry what I’m going to do next,” Swiatek said. “So, yeah, for sure, I’m giving it 100%, physically and mentally.”

The results mean that Swiatek clinched a semifinal berth and that No. 6 Garcia will face No. 8 Kasatkina on Thursday for the other spot available in their group.

Kasatkina, whose best Grand Slam showing was a semifinal run at the French Open in June, started slowly Thursday, trailing 4-1 against Gauff, who was the runner-up in Paris. But Kasatkina began hitting more shots to Gauff’s forehand, her weaker side, and that paid dividends.

Kasatkina quickly accumulated five of six games to lead 6-5; that was the score when Gauff used a white towel to wipe away tears during a changeover. Gauff briefly righted things, breaking to force a tiebreaker that she led 3-0 and 4-2. But after saving Kasatkina’s initial pair of set points, Gauff relented on the third, putting a forehand into the net to close a 24-stroke exchange.

Gauff began the day 1-16 this season when ceding the first set, while Kasatkina came in 28-0 when claiming it, and those trends did not change.

Swiatek’s victory made her 14-1 against opponents ranked in the top 10 in 2022 – and those 14 wins were all in a row, the longest such single-season unbeaten streak on tour in 15 years.

Garcia is the only WTA Finals entrant who managed to defeat Swiatek this year – at the Poland Open in July, when Garcia was ranked just 45th – and the score was 3-all early Thursday

But Swiatek then raced through the end of that set and went up a break at 2-0 in the second.

Swiatek’s topspin-heavy forehand is probably her most dangerous shot, but her backhand was up to the task on this day – producing passing shots when Garcia went to the net or closing lengthier baseline exchanges with winners – and her serve grew stronger as the match wore on, including finishing with a 108 mph ace.

This was Swiatek’s tour-high 66th win of the year. The 21-year-old from Poland also leads with eight titles, including at the French Open and U.S. Open.

“She was definitely the best this year,” Garcia said. “And she keeps proving it.”

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.