Shapovalov, Auger-Aliassime keep Canada in semifinal hunt at ATP Cup

January 4, 2022
Shapovalov, Auger-Aliassime keep Canada in semifinal hunt at ATP Cup
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Daniil Medvedev and Roman Safiullin won their singles matches before combining to win the doubles Tuesday to give defending champion Russia a sweep of Australia and first place in Group B at the ATP Cup.

In the night session, Dan Evans gave Britain an early lead over Canada by beating Denis Shapovalov 6-4, 6-4, but Felix Auger-Aliassime defeated Cameron Norrie 7-6 (4), 6-3 and then combined with Shapovalov to beat Jamie Murray and Joe Salisbury 6-4, 6-1 in the deciding doubles match.

“I am happy to keep the team alive, but the work is not done,” Auger-Aliassime said from Sydney.

The group winner will be decided Thursday when Germany plays Canada and the United States faces Britain.

The four group winners in the 16-team Australian tournament advance to the semifinals on Friday and Saturday, with the final scheduled for Sunday.

Russia is 2-0 in the tournament but still must beat Italy on Thursday in a rematch between last year’s finalists to ensure it advances to the semifinals.

Safiullin opened the night session with a 7-6 (6), 6-4 win over James Duckworth. Medvedev beat Alex De Minaur 6-4, 6-2 to secure Russia’s victory before the doubles.

4-way tie in Group C

“We fight when we play for our country, to the last point,” Medvedev said.

Italy rebounded from its upset loss to Australia last Sunday to sweep France, with Jannik Sinner beating Arthur Rinderknech 6-3, 7-6 (3) and Matteo Berrettini defeating Ugo Humbert 6-4, 7-6 (6) in the singles matches.

For Berrettini, it was a confidence-boosting win following a loss to de Minaur over the weekend. Humbert was coming off an upset win over U.S. Open champion Medvedev.

All four teams in Group C have 1-1 records after Germany beat the United States.

Jan-Lennard Struff withstood 34 aces in a 7-6 (7), 4-6, 7-5 win over John Isner to give Germany the lead and Alexander Zverev sealed his team’s victory, on his fifth match point, with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Taylor Fritz.

Isner and Fritz combined for a 6-0, 6-3 win over Kevin Krawietz and Tim Puetz in the doubles, earning the Americans a point that could prove important in determine the group winners.

Germany lost to Britain 2-1 in its tournament opener, and the Americans swept Canada 3-0.

Djokovic gets green light for Aussie Open

Novak Djokovic will get a chance to defend his Australian Open title after receiving a medical exemption to travel to Melbourne, ending months of uncertainty about his participation because of the strict COVID-19 vaccination requirements in place for the tournament.

The top-ranked Djokovic wrote on Instagram on Tuesday he has “an exemption permission” to travel to Australia.

Djokovic, who is seeking a record 21st Grand Slam singles title, has continually refused to reveal if he is vaccinated against the coronavirus. The Victoria state government has mandated that all players, staff and fans attending the Australian Open must be fully vaccinated unless there is a genuine reason why an exemption should be granted.

Australian Open organizers issued a statement later Tuesday to confirm Djokovic will be allowed to compete at the tournament, which starts on Jan. 17, and is on his way to Australia. He earlier withdrew from Serbia’s team for the ATP Cup, which started last weekend in Sydney.

“Djokovic applied for a medical exemption which was granted following a rigorous review process involving two separate independent panels of medical experts,” the statement said. “One of those was the Independent Medical Exemption Review Panel appointed by the Victorian Department of Health. They assessed all applications to see if they met the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunization guidelines.”

Tennis Australia said the process included the redaction of personal information to ensure privacy for all applicants, meaning Djokovic was not obliged to make his exemption public.

The decision announced Tuesday will be widely debated in a city which endured months of strict lockdowns and harsh travel restrictions at the height of the pandemic.

The 34-year-old Djokovic has won nine of his 20 major titles at the Australian Open. He shares the men’s record for most majors with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Osaka beats Cornet to open season

Naomi Osaka is back in a place where she’s won two of her four Grand Slam singles titles and she’s feeling good vibes after some time off trying to rediscover her love for the game.

The Australian Open champion opened her 2022 season with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 win over Alize Cornet on Tuesday in one of the Summer Set of tournaments in Melbourne.

Osaka was returning to Rod Laver Arena for the first time since winning the Australian Open title in February. It was also her first tour-level match since a third-round loss to Leylah Fernandez at the U.S. Open in September.

After that loss, Osaka said: “I honestly don’t know when I’m going to play my next tennis match.”

She also took time off earlier last year, a mental health break that began when she withdrew from the French Open before her second-round match. She also sat out Wimbledon, then returned for the Tokyo Olympics, where she lit the cauldron during the opening ceremony.

After her opening win in Melbourne, Osaka said she’d set herself one major goal for this year: to enjoy the game.

After taking time to hang out with friends and family, she said slowly started to regain the feeling of love for the game.

“It’s not like it ever completely went away but it got overshadowed by a lot of emotions that I was feeling just by constantly playing year after year,” Osaka said.

Former No. 1 Andy Murray eliminated

Jessica Pegula, the top seed in the other women’s Summer Set tournament in Melbourne, lost to Irina-Camelia Begu 7-6 (6), 6-3 in the first round.

Pegula, who reached the quarterfinals at last year’s Australian Open, led 5-3 and had set points before Begu rallied for victory.

On the men’s side, Facundo Bagnis beat former No. 1 Andy Murray 6-3, 5-7, 6-3, saving 11 of 13 break points. He will next play third-seeded Grigor Dimitrov. Murray, a five-time finalist at the Australian Open, received a wild-card entry to play at the season’s opening major.

In Adelaide, 2020 French Open champion Iga Swiatek opened her Adelaide International title defence with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Daria Saville, who was known as Daria Gavrilova before her recent marriage.

In earlier matches:

  • American teenager Coco Gauff beat Ulrikke Eikeri of Norway 6-2, 6-1 to set up a second-round match against top-ranked Ash Barty.
  • 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin beat Lucia Bronzetti 7-5, 7-5.
  • Anastasia Gasanova beat eighth-seeded Elina Svitolina 5-7, 6-4, 6-3.
  • Two-time Australian Open winner Victoria Azarenka ousted fourth-seeded Paula Badosa 6-3, 6-2 in a night match.

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