Taylor Fritz clinches finals spot for U.S. at mixed teams United Cup

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Taylor Fritz produced a composed performance against Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz to clinch a spot for the United States in the final of the United Cup mixed teams tournament.

Fritz stepped onto Ken Rosewall Arena in Sydney with the U.S. holding a 2-0 lead after strong efforts from Jessica Pegula and Frances Tiafoe in the opening singles matches.

Pitted against fellow top 10-ranked rival Hurkacz, the 25-year-old Fritz prevailed 7-6 (5), 7-6 (5) to give the Americans an unassailable 3-0 lead in the semifinal.

The reigning Indian Wells Masters champion has represented America in the Davis Cup but said combining with the country’s best women players enhanced the experience in the new competition.

“I have played with Team USA a lot and I think it is a huge advantage this time having the girls in our team because it just makes the whole team so much stronger,” he said. “I am super excited going into the finals and I think we have been the favorites all week.”

The U.S. awaits the winner of the other semifinal between Italy and Greece in the inaugural 18-nation competition carrying $15 million in prize money.

The Italians lead 2-0 and Greece needs Stefanos Tsitsipas to defeat Matteo Berrettini in their singles matches in Sydney to keep alive its United Cup finals hopes.

In the match between the world’s ninth- and 10th-ranked men, Fritz and Hurkacz initially dictated proceedings on serve. But as the opening set progressed, the games became tighter.

Fritz pushed his Polish rival to deuce on his service game at 4-all but was then forced to save two set points on his own delivery in the following game.

The tiebreaker to decide the set was similarly tight, but a superb backhand from Fritz after a lengthy rally enabled the American to clinch it.

Little separated the two players in the second set either, with neither able to break their rivals serve once again. But once in the tiebreaker, the American again proved more reliable at critical moments.

Fritz had success during rallies targeting the forehand wing of the world No. 10, drawing errors on crucial points. This proved the downfall of Hurkacz, who was clearly angered after making three forehand mistakes in succession to drop a tiebreaker he had led 5-4.

The pair had not played against each other since 2019, when they split matches on grass in England and hard court in Canada, and both men have matured as players since then.

“From four years ago, I am moving so much better, I am returning serve so much better and being aggressive with the forehand . . . and going after shots when it matters,” Fritz said.

“No one could really get through for a (service break) but I think the difference in the tiebreakers is that I served well and put some returns in the court, played some really solid points and didn’t give him anything.”

Mikael Ymer fined about $40K after default for hitting umpire stand with racket

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PARIS — Swedish tennis player Mikael Ymer was docked about $40,000 after being disqualified for smashing his racket against the umpire’s chair at a tournament the week before he competed at the French Open.

An ATP Tour spokesman said Ymer forfeited about $10,500 in prize money and 20 rankings he earned for reaching the second round of the Lyon Open. Ymer also was handed an on-site fine of about $29,000.

The spokesman said the ATP Fines Committee will conduct a review of what happened to determine whether any additional penalties are warranted.

The 56th-ranked Ymer, who is 24 and owns a victory over current No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz, was defaulted in Lyon for an outburst late in the first set against French teenager Arthur Fils last week.

Ymer was upset that the chair umpire would not check a ball mark after a shot by Fils landed near a line. As the players went to the sideline for the ensuing changeover, Ymer smacked the base of the umpire’s stand with his racket twice – destroying his equipment and damaging the chair.

That led to Ymer’s disqualification, making Fils the winner of the match.

After his 7-5, 6-2, 6-4 loss to 17th-seeded Lorenzo Musetti in the first round at Roland Garros, Ymer was asked whether he wanted to explain why he reacted the way he did in Lyon.

“With all due respect, I think it’s pretty clear from the video what caused it and why I reacted the way I reacted. Not justifying it at all, of course,” Ymer replied. “But for me to sit here and to explain? I think it’s pretty clear what led me to that place. I think that’s pretty clear in the video.”

Debutant Stearns beats former champ Ostapenko to reach French Open 3rd round

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PARIS — French Open debutant Peyton Stearns produced the biggest win of her career by defeating former champion Jelena Ostapenko to reach the third round at Roland Garros.

Stearns, a former player at the University of Texas, only turned professional in June last year.

Ostapenko won the 2017 French Open but has since failed to advance past the 3rd round. The 17th-seeded Latvian dropped her serve five times against Stearns and hit 28 unforced errors in her 6-3, 1-6, 6-2 loss.

The 21-year-old Stearns has been climbing the WTA rankings and entered the French Open at No. 69 on the back of an encouraging clay-court campaign.

Third-seeded Jessica Pegula also advanced after Camila Giorgi retired due to injury. The American led 6-2 when her Italian rival threw in the towel.

Only hours after husband Gael Monfils won a five-set thriller, Elina Svitolina rallied past qualifier Storm Hunter 2-6, 6-3, 6-1.

In the men’s bracket, former runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas ousted Roberto Carballes Baena 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-2. The fifth-seeded Greek was a bit slow to find his range and was made to work hard for two sets but rolled on after he won the tiebreaker.

No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz and No. 3 Novak Djokovic are on court later. Alcaraz meets Taro Daniel on Court Philippe Chatrier, where Djokovic will follow against Martin Fucsovics in the night session.