David McCracken

Sports News Desk Editor at NBC Sports

Gauff, Pegula put U.S. up 2-0 vs. Austria in BJK Cup qualifier

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Coco Gauff enjoyed playing in front of family and friends in a Billie Jean King Cup qualifier in her hometown of Daytona Beach, Florida, teaming with Jessica Pegula – who also lives nearby – to give the United States a 2-0 lead over Austria.

The No. 6-ranked Gauff, the runner-up at last year’s French Open, beat Julia Grabher 6-1, 6-3, before No. 3 Pegula defeated Sinja Kraus 6-0, 7-5. At No. 78, Grabher is the only member of Austria’s roster ranked inside the WTA’s top 150.

The best-of-five-match contest continues Saturday with up to two matches in singles and one in doubles. If the Americans win any one of those, they’ll clinch a spot in the 12-nation BJK Cup finals from Nov. 7-12.

There are nine qualifiers being held around the world on Friday and Saturday, including Canada hosting Belgium. Leylah Fernandez, the 2021 U.S. Open runner-up, gave Canada a 1-0 edge with a 6-0, 6-3 victory over Yanina Wickmayer. Canada’s Rebecca Marino faced Belgium’s Ysaline Bonaventure at night.

Earlier on Day 1, Barbora Krejcikova helped put the Czech Republic ahead of Ukraine 2-0 at Antalya, Turkey, then announced she would be donating her prize money to help earthquake relief efforts in the country hosting the matches.

A magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck parts of Turkey and Syria in February, killing more than 50,000 – the vast majority in Turkey – and leaving millions homeless.

“It’s very sad, and I would like to help the young tennis players that lost everything,” said Krejcikova, the 2021 French Open singles champion and owner of a career Grand Slam in doubles. “I have friends among the Turkish players who connected me with the Turkish federation. They have a project that they are planning to do, and I am honored I can help somewhere.”

She earned her first career BJK Cup singles victory, 6-4, 6-3 over Katarina Zavatska, after 2019 French Open runner-up Marketa Vondrousova defeated Marta Kostyuk 6-2, 6-1.

The countries were supposed to play each other in Ukraine, but the matches were moved because of the war there that began when Russia invaded in February 2022.

In other results: Reigning Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina got past Weronika Falkowska 6-3, 6-4, before Yulia Putintseva topped Australian Open semifinalist Magda Linette 7-5, 6-3, to give host Kazakhstan a 2-0 edge against Poland; Caroline Garcia won in three sets and Alizé Cornet won in two – every set in each match went to a tiebreaker – to put France ahead 2-0 at Britain; Sara Sorribes Tormo’s 6-0, 6-0 blanking of Fernanda Contreras Gomez helped Spain grab a 2-0 lead against visiting Mexico; Italy leads host Slovakia 2-0; Romania is up 2-0 against host Slovenia; and Germany and visiting Brazil are tied at 1-all.

The nine countries that win Saturday will join reigning champion Switzerland, 2022 runner-up Australia and one wild-card recipient at the finals.

Kvitova upends Rybakina for women’s Miami Open title

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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Twelfth-seeded Petra Kvitova won the Miami Open in her 13th appearance, beating seventh-seeded Elena Rybakina with a marathon tiebreaker in a 7-6 (14), 6-2 victory.

The 33-year-old Kvitova, 10 years older than her opponent, snapped Rybakina’s 13-match winning streak and halted her bid to win the Sunshine Double (Indian Wells and Miami Open).

In winning with will, stalwart defense and one sensational forehand winner on the dead run that electrified the crowd in the second set, the lefty Kvitova captured her 30th WTA singles title and first one since 2018 in Madrid.

After Rybakina hit a forehand long on match point, Kvitova raised her arms and put her hands to her head. She was broken just once in the match. It was her 41st career WTA Finals appearance but first final in Miami. She also will vault into the Top 10.

“I take it as a positive I can still play with the best,’’ said Kvitova who earned a $1.26 million first prize. “I take pride, even at my age, I could win big tournaments.’’

Kvitova, who is from the Czech Republic, disagreed with the announcement Wimbledon would accept Russian players this year. Rybakina, the reigning Wimbledon champion, is from Moscow but represents Kazakhstan.

A past Wimbledon champion, the 6-foot Kvitova won the first-set epic tiebreaker 16-14 on her fifth set point. A suddenly shaky Rybakina hit a forehand long to end the 22-minute tiebreaker; she had been undefeated at 7-0 in tiebreakers in 2023.

“The tiebreaker was going to decide the whole match,’’ Kvitova said. “The tiebreaker – oh, by God – was the longest in my career. I won the tiebreaker so emotionally I was on the better side. You could see the balls after the tiebreak. They were big fluffy balls.″

Rybakina, who won at Indian Wells, admitted to fatigue after the tiebreaker from the travel. The women’s tour will shortly head to Europe for the claycourt season.

“The second set I think overall it was not easy after the first set,’’ Rybakina said. “I think the second she was also more free to hit, to maybe risk a bit more. I think that in the second I just didn’t stay disciplined and was a bit rushing.’’

The set lasted 66 minutes during which each player held serve until 4-4 then exchanged service breaks. Rybakina finished with 10 aces for the first set while setting the record for most aces in a WTA Tournament, smashing Madison Keys’ mark. Rybakina, who had 12 aces total for the match, finished the tournament with 69 for the tournament.

Kvitova broke Rybakina in second game of the second set with a backhand winner on the service return to go up 2-0 and the streak was soon over for Rybakina.

“Maybe if the first set had gone my way it would’ve been different,’’ Rybakina said. “Because I was physically tired and that’s why I didn’t have discipline.

The men’s singles final is Sunday and pits Jannik Sinner, coming off his semifinal upset of defending Miami Open champion Carlos Alcaraz, against Daniil Medvedev.

Medvedev has won 23 of 24 matches and beat Sinner in the Finals last month in Rotterdam. Sinner, the 10th seed from Italy, is 0-5 against Medvedev and coming off a physical, three-set, three-hour war with Alcaraz that ended late Friday night.

In the men’s doubles final, Santiago Gonzalez and Edouard Roger-Vasselin beat Austin Krajicek and Nicolas Mahut 7-6 (4), 7-5.

Tiafoe, Medvedev reach Indian Wells semifinals; Gauff out

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INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Frances Tiafoe defeated 10th-seeded Cameron Norrie 6-4, 6-4 to reach the semifinals of the BNP Paribas Open.

The 14th-seeded American ended the 2021 champion’s eight-match winning streak to earn his first semi berth in a Masters 1000 tournament.

“Super happy about today,” Tiafoe said on court. “I’ve been playing really well all week. Let’s keep it going.”

Tiafoe hit 22 winners and had just nine unforced errors. He punctuated the victory, which was briefly interrupted by rain, by serving a love game.

“I played really quick, really close to the baseline and I was pressuring him a lot,” Tiafoe said. “I didn’t allow him to extend points and I was being super active with my feet, being really aggressive.”

Tiafoe hasn’t dropped a set in four matches during the tournament. Next, he’ll play No. 5 Daniil Medvedev, who beat Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-3, 7-5.

Medvedev won his 18th consecutive match and improved to 23-2 this year. He hurt his right ankle in a three-set win over Alexander Zverev a day earlier.

“When I warmed up it was hurting pretty bad,” Medvedev said. “But I knew I was going to play.”

But his woes weren’t over. He fell on the court and opened a cut on his thumb in the sixth game of the second set. The cut was bandaged during a medical timeout.

Medvedev broke Davidovich Fokina at love to go up 6-5 before serving out the victory. Medvedev won 12 of the last 14 points.

On the women’s side, No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka won the final seven games of the match in defeating sixth-seeded Coco Gauff 6-4, 6-0 in the quarterfinals. Sabalenka improved to 16-1 this year, including her run to the Australian Open title.

Sabalenka said it took four days to come down from the high of winning her first major.

“Like straight after the title, we went back to the hotel and all my team was drunk,” she said, laughing. “I don’t know how many liters they drink that day. There was the most funny and memorable moment. Everyone was so stressed during that weeks, I think it was normal to have a little drink. I didn’t drink.”

Gauff earned just nine return points and had no break points against Sabalenka.

“She didn’t give me any free points and I think I was also giving away free points and not hitting the ball as deep as I need to,” Gauff said. “Especially when you’re playing her, you’ve got to get the ball deep.”