Rublev overcomes Tsitsipas to reach ATP semis in Turin

atp finals
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TURIN, Italy — Andrey Rublev rallied to upset second-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas and reached the final four of the ATP Finals.

Rublev won 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 to reach the semifinals for the first time. He will face third-seeded Casper Ruud.

Novak Djokovic plays Taylor Fritz of the United States in the other semifinal. The five-time champion will have to recover swiftly after a grueling dead rubber victory over Daniil Medvedev that lasted more than three hours.

“On the physical side, I’m not worried because . . . worry just depletes you of the vital energy you need,” Djokovic said. “If something happens tomorrow in a good or bad way, it happens, and I have to deal with it then.

“I’m going to do everything I possibly can today with my physio, with myself, with my team in order to get the good rest, the good recovery . . . I’ve had many cases in my life before where I managed to recover very quickly. Hopefully that’s going to be the case again.”

Djokovic is aiming to equal Roger Federer’s record six titles at the elite, season-ending event. Djokovic’s last title was in 2015.

With a win and a loss apiece in the group, it was a winner-takes-all match for Rublev and Tsitsipas.

Rublev threw his racket down in frustration after losing a game on his serve early in the opening set. But he was all smiles at the end as he crouched down seemingly in disbelief when Tsitsipas hit a return into the net to hand him the match.

“I didn’t give up. I kept fighting and playing,” Rublev said. “I lost my emotions a bit when I lost a stupid game at 40-0 in the first set.

“But then I just kept fighting. I thought I would have chances if I just gave my best. I managed to turn the match around and I am happy to be in the semis.”

After starting strong, Tsitsipas faded and made errors including a double fault in the penultimate game to give Rublev his second break of the final set and leave him serving for the match.

Earlier, Djokovic clearly pushed himself to the limits as he beat the already-eliminated Medvedev to maintain his perfect record in the tournament.

Though he was already through to the semifinals, Djokovic was playing for pride and ranking points, plus the chance to earn $4.7 million if he wins the trophy undefeated in Turin.

He was visibly shaking during changeovers in the third set as he battled to win 6-3, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (2).

Medvedev broke in the ninth game of the deciding set to leave him serving for the match but Djokovic broke straight back and went on take the tiebreaker.

“I don’t think that a limit exists,” Djokovic said. “It’s really in your head. It’s really about perspective and approach and your perception of how you see things in that given moment.

“Of course, when you’re going through physical struggles, it affects the game, it affects how you feel mentally, it affects your body language. But I think the biggest battle, as I’ve said before, is always the inner battle.”

Fernando Verdasco accepts 2-month doping ban

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
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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

Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports
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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.”