Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Young Americans Tiafoe, Fritz, Anisimova upset seeds

Frances Tiafoe, right, poses with his trophy after beating fellow
American Noah Rubin to win the $100,000 Stockton (Calif.)
Challenger at age 18 in 2016. Photo by Paul Bauman
   The United States' youth brigade is beginning to make a big impact in Grand Slam tournaments.
   For the second time in three days, a U.S. male prospect ousted a top-10 seed in the Australian Open. Also, 21-year-old Taylor Fritz and 17-year-old Amanda Anisimova knocked off low seeds.
   Frances Tiafoe, who will turn 21 on Sunday, stunned 6-foot-8 (2.03-meter) Kevin Anderson, the fifth seed in Melbourne and runner-up in two of the last five majors, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 today in the second round.
   Anderson led 6-4, 3-0 before Tiafoe "just went to a different place," he told reporters. "I dug insanely deep. ... It's all about competing. Guys are so good, it's just how bad do you really want it? I wanted it real bad."
   Afterward, Tiafoe repeatedly slapped his right biceps and yelled in exultation.
   Anderson, 32, received treatment on his right elbow after the third set.
   On Sunday (California time), 6-foot-11 (2.11-meter) Reilly Opelka, 21, eliminated 6-foot-10 (2.08-meter) John Isner, seeded ninth, in the first round.
   Thomas Fabbiano of Italy beat Opelka 6-7 (17-15), 6-2, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (10-5) in a late second-round match. Opelka pounded 67 aces, the fifth-highest match total ever.
   Fabbiano, only 5-foot-8 (1.73 meters), reached the semifinals of the $100,000 Aptos (Calif.) Challenger last August as the top seed.
   Opelka lost in the first round of back-to-back $100,000 Challengers in Northern California last October as the second seed in Stockton and fourth seed in Fairfield.
   Tiafoe, who won the $100,000 Stockton Challenger in 2016 at 18, reached the third round of a major for the second time. He will face 34-year-old Italian Andreas Seppi, who shocked Roger Federer to reach the fourth round of the 2015 Australian Open.
   Fritz, who won the $100,000 Sacramento and Fairfield Challengers back-to-back at 17 in 2015, topped 30th-seeded Gael Monfils of France 6-3, 6-7 (8), 7-6 (6), 7-6 (5) in 3 hours, 24 minutes.
   "Tiafoe, Opelka and Fritz are the new Big 3," trumpeted ESPN commentator Brad Gilbert, who could have included extremely athletic Michael Mmoh in a Big 4. "That's the future of American men's tennis."
   Fritz will take on the third-seeded Federer, 37, for the second time. Federer, who seeks his third consecutive Australian Open title and seventh overall, beat 5-foot-9 (1.75-meter) Briton Daniel Evans, the Aptos champion in 2016 and runner-up to Stanford graduate Bradley Klahn in 2013, 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-3), 6-3.
   Federer edged Fritz 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 in the second round at Stuttgart on grass in 2016.
   Anisimova, who won her first professional title in the $60,000 Sacramento Challenger in 2017 at 15, crushed 24th-seeded Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine 6-0, 6-2 in 54 minutes. Tsurenko advanced to the U.S. Open quarterfinals last September before losing to eventual champion Naomi Osaka.
   Anisimova will play 11th-seeded Aryna Sabalenka, a 20-year-old Belarusian coached by former Northern California resident Dmitry Tursunov of Russia.
   Meanwhile, fifth seed and Fresno product Sloane Stephens dispatched Timea Babos of Hungary 6-3, 6-1. Stephens, the 2017 U.S. Open champion and 2018 French Open runner-up, will meet 31st-seeded Petra Martic of Croatia.
   Russia's Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who played for the Sacramento Capitals of World TeamTennis at 15 in 2006, took out ninth-seeded Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands 3-6, 6-3, 6-3.
   Sixth-seeded Marin Cilic, a 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) Croat, beat 5-foot-10 (1.78-meter) Mackenzie McDonald, a 23-year-old product of Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area, 7-5, 6-7 (11-9), 6-4, 6-4. McDonald reached the fourth round at Wimbledon last July.
   In the first round of men's doubles, fourth seeds and ex-Stanford stars Bob and Mike Bryan beat Australian wild cards Alex Bolt and Marc Polmans 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-1). Bolt and Polmans reach the singles final in Fairfield and Stockton, respectively, last October.
   Americans Ryan Harrison and Sam Querrey, a 31-year-old San Francisco native, downed 16th-seeded Robin Haase and Matwe Middelkoop of the Netherlands 7-5, 4-6, 6-3.
   Sixth-seeded Raven Klaasen of South Africa and Michael Venus of New Zealand eliminated Bradley Klahn, a 28-year-old Stanford graduate from Los Angeles, and Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.
   Kukushkin lost to Marcos Baghdatis, the 2006 Australian Open runner-up to Federer, in the 2014 Aptos final.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Stanford grad, up two sets to none, falls to Chung

Bradley Klahn, playing in the $100,000 San Francisco Chal-
lenger last February, lost to No. 24 seed Hyeon Chung 6-7 (5),
6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 in the first round of the Australian Open.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Bradley Klahn was on his way to a big upset and his first main-draw victory in the Australian Open.
   But South Korea's Hyeon Chung, the 24th seed and a surprise semifinalist in Melbourne last year, beat the 28-year-old Stanford graduate 6-7 (5), 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 in 3 hours, 37 minutes today.
   Klahn, who underwent his second operation for a herniated disc in 2015, had his back treated during the third set.
   Klahn, a 6-foot (1.83-meter) left-hander, finished with 22 aces, 58 winners and 84 unforced errors. Chung, 22, had 10 aces, 34 winners and 35 unforced errors.
   Meanwhile, Sam Querrey's slump continued with a 5-7, 7-6 (6), 6-3, 6-1 loss to Pierre-Hugues Herbert of France. Querrey, a 31-year-old San Francisco native, has tumbled from a career-high No. 11 last February to No. 49.
   Serena Williams, seeded 16th, dismantled Tatjana Maria of Germany 6-0, 6-2 in a 49-minute matchup of neighbors in Palm Beach, Fla., and mothers.
   Williams, who also has a residence in Silicon Valley, seeks her eighth Australian Open title and a record-tying 24th Grand Slam crown in singles. She will face Canadian Eugenie Bouchard, the Wimbledon runner-up in 2014 to Petra Kvitova.
   Venus Williams, a two-time Australian Open runner-up (2003 and 2017), eliminated 25th-seeded Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania 6-7 (3), 7-6 (3), 6-2.
   Venus Williams, 38, has a long history in Northern California. She made her WTA debut in Oakland at 14 in 1994, won two titles in the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford (2000 and 2002) and reached the final there six times (1998, 1999, 2004, 2005, 2009 and 2016).
   Buzarnescu, a 30-year-old left-hander with a long history of injuries, won the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic, which replaced the Bank of the West Classic, last August in San Jose.
   Top-ranked Simona Halep avoided a second consecutive loss to Kaia Kanepi of Estonia in the first round of a Grand Slam tournament, prevailing 6-7 (2), 6-4, 6-2. It was Halep's first match win since she reached the Cincinnati final last August.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Stephens ends Aussie Open drought; Isner, Murray lose

Reilly Opelka, serving during his first-
round loss in the $100,000 Stockton
(Calif.) Challenger last October, ousted
ninth seed and fellow U.S. giant John
Isner today in the opening round of the
Australian Open in Melbourne. Photo
by Paul Bauman
   Sloane Stephens won her first match in the Australian Open in five years today, beating fellow American Taylor Townsend 6-4, 6-2 in Melbourne.
   Stephens, a 25-year-old Fresno product now based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., lost in the first round of the Australian Open in 2015, 2016 and 2018. She missed the 2017 tournament because of foot surgery but won the U.S. Open nine months later for her first Grand Slam title.
   Townsend, a 22-year-old left-hander, played for the Sacramento Capitals of World TeamTennis in 2013, the team's final year of existence.
   Stephens, seeded fifth, is scheduled to play Timea Babos of Hungary on Tuesday (California time). Babos, also 25, defeated Tunisia's Ons Jabeur, the 2011 French Open girls singles champion, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3).
   Stephens and Babos know each other well, having won three of four major girls doubles titles in 2010.
   Stephens made her first big splash in the 2013 Australian Open, stunning Serena Williams to reach the semifinals before losing to eventual champion Victoria Azarenka.
   Meanwhile, Reilly Opelka's first main-draw victory in a Grand Slam tournament was a big one — in more ways than one.
   The 6-foot-11 (2.11-meter) Opelka ousted 6-foot-10 (2.08-meter) John Isner, seeded ninth, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (6), 6-7 (4), 7-6 (5) in an all-American matchup. Isner blasted 47 aces, and Opelka had 40.
   Opelka lost in the first round of back-to-back $100,000 Challengers in Northern California last October as the second seed in Stockton and fourth seed in Fairfield.
   Five-time runner-up Andy Murray played his last match in the Australian Open -- if not his career -- losing 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-7 (4), 6-2 to 22nd-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain.
   The 31-year-old Murray, who won the first two of his 45 tour-level singles titles in San Jose (2006-07), announced Friday that he will retire by Wimbledon because of chronic hip pain.
   Bautista Agut won his ninth career ATP singles title two weeks ago in Doha, stunning top-ranked Novak Djokovic in the semifinals.
   Mackenzie McDonald, a 23-year-old product of Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area, defeated Andrey Rublev, a promising 21-year-old Russian rebounding from a stress fracture in his lower back, 6-4, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4. McDonald, only 5-foot-10 (1.78 meters) and 160 pounds (73 kilograms), next will face sixth-seeded Marin Cilic, who's 6-foot-6 (1.98 meters).
  McDonald, ranked No. 81, is making his second appearance in the Australian Open. He lost to third-seeded Grigor Dimitrov 8-6 in the fifth set in the second round last year as a qualifier.
   ATP Challenger Tour -- Bernardo Saraiva, a 25-year-old former University of San Francisco star from Portugal, won his first Challenger doubles title.
   Unseeded Maxime Cressy, a 6-foot-7 (2.01-meter) American originally from France, and Saraiva beat second-seeded Robert Galloway and Nathaniel Lammons of the United States 7-5, 7-6 (3) in the final of the $54,160 Columbus Challenger.
   In the $54,160 Canberra (Australia) Challenger, third-seeded Marcelo Demoliner of Brazil and Hugo Nys of France topped unseeded Andre Goransson of Sweden and Sem Verbeek of the Netherlands 3-6, 6-4 [10-3] for the crown. Goransson and Verbeek played at Cal and Pacific, respectively.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Berkeley champion Kenin earns first WTA singles title

Sofia Kenin, playing in Berkeley last July, routed Anna Karo-
lina Schmiedlova 6-3, 6-0 today to win the Hobart (Australia)
International. Photo by Paul Bauman
   You might say Sofia Kenin is in good form entering the Australian Open.
   Ditto for Ben McLachlan.
   One week after claiming her first WTA doubles title, Kenin did the same in singles.
   The 20-year-old American routed Anna Karolina Schmiedlova of Slovakia 6-3, 6-0 in 71 minutes today to win the Hobart (Australia) International.
    McLachlan, a 26-year-old former Cal star, and Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany beat third-seeded Raven Klaasen of South Africa and Michael Venus of New Zealand 6-3, 6-4 to capture the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand.
   McLachlan, a New Zealand native who plays for his mother's native Japan, and Struff reached the Australian Open semifinals last year in their first tournament together.
   In the Auckland singles final, unseeded Tennys Sandgren of Gallatin, Tenn., topped wild card Cameron Norrie, a New Zealand product who plays for Great Britain, 6-4, 6-2.
   Sandgren, a surprise quarterfinalist in last year's Australian Open, avenged a 6-2, 6-3 loss to Norrie in the final of the $100,000 Tiburon (Calif.) Challenger in 2017. The left-handed Norrie also won the $100,000 Stockton (Calif.) Challenger the following week, beating Darian King of Barbados.
   Kenin reeled off the last nine games against Schmiedlova in a matchup of unseeded players to become the first American champion in Tasmania since Amy Frazier in 2004. Kenin and Eugenie Bouchard of Canada won last week's women's ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand.
   "I feel in great form, and I'm really proud of myself," Kenin, who won the inaugural $60,000 Berkeley Tennis Club Challenge last July for her third title in Northern California in three years, told reporters. "I'm so happy with my start and will try to keep the momentum going."
   Kenin did not lose a set in the tournament, upsetting top-seeded Caroline Garcia of France 6-3, 6-2 in the first round, seventh-seeded Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium 7-5, 7-5 in the quarterfinals and sixth-seeded Alize Cornet of France 6-2, 6-4 in the semifinals.
   Kenin also dismissed Garcia 6-3, 6-3 on grass in Mallorca in June for her first victory over a top-10 player and her first berth in a WTA semifinal.
   Kenin will make her top-40 debut on Monday, jumping from No. 56 to No. 37. She is scheduled to play Veronika Kudermetova, a 21-year-old Russian qualifier, in the first round of the Australian Open on Monday (California time). Kenin was born in Moscow and moved to the United States as a young child.
   It will be Kenin's second main-draw appearance in Melbourne. She lost to 12th-seeded Julia Goerges of Germany 6-4, 6-4 in the opening round last year.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Murray, two-time San Jose champ, says he'll retire soon

Andy Murray, troubled by a nagging hip injury, said he will
retire after Wimbledon at the latest. The upcoming Australian
could be his last tournament. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Andy Murray, who won the first two of his 45 tour-level titles in San Jose, announced Thursday that he will retire after Wimbledon this year at the latest.
   Hobbled by a hip injury since June 2016, Murray said the Australian Open could be his last tournament. Play is scheduled for Sunday (California time) through Jan. 27.
   "I spoke to my team, and I told them, 'I cannot keep doing this,' " Murray, who underwent hip surgery last January, said in an emotional news conference in Melbourne. "I needed to have an end point because I was sort of playing with no idea when the pain was going to stop. I felt like making that decision.
   "I said to my team, 'Look, I think I can get through this until Wimbledon.' That's where I would like to stop playing. But I am also not certain I am able to do that."
   Murray, 31, has won three Grand Slam singles titles and two Olympic gold medals in singles. He ended British droughts of 77 years by winning Wimbledon in 2013 and 79 years by clinching a victory over Belgium in the 2015 Davis Cup final. Murray reached No. 1 in the world in November 2016.
   The last match of Murray's career could come Sunday against 22nd-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain in the first round of the Australian Open, in which Murray is a five-time runner-up.
   Bautista Agut won his ninth career ATP title last week in Doha, stunning top-ranked Novak Djokovic in the semifinals.
   Murray went 10-0 in the now-defunct SAP Open in San Jose, winning the title in 2006 at 18 years old and the following year. He also won the Challenger in Aptos, a 45-minute drive south of San Jose, in 2005 at 18.
   Brad Gilbert, a lifelong San Francisco Bay area resident, coached Murray for 16 months in 2006 and 2007.
   Australian Open draw -- No. 16 seed Serena Williams, who has a residence in Silicon Valley, could face top-ranked Simona Halep or Venus Williams in the fourth round.
   Serena, who hopes to tie Margaret Court's record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles, also could meet Naomi Osaka in the semifinals in a rematch of the controversial 2018 U.S. Open final, won by the then-20-year-old Japanese upstart.
   In the other half of the women's draw, No. 5 seed and Fresno product Sloane Stephens could play No. 2 seed and 2016 champion Angelique Kerber in the quarterfinals.
   Three men with Northern California connections are unseeded.
   Sam Querrey, a 31-year-old San Francisco native, will meet Pierre-Hugues Herbert of France in the first round. The winner will play either No. 24 seed and 2018 semifinalist Hyeon Chung of South Korea or left-hander Bradley Klahn, a 28-year-old Stanford graduate.
   Mackenzie McDonald, a 23-year-old product of Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area, will play Andrey Rublev, a promising 21-year-old Russian rebounding from a stress fracture in his lower back.
   Australian Open qualifying -- No. 3 seed Viktorija Golubic of Switzerland defeated ex-Stanford star Nicole Gibbs 6-3, 7-6 (3) to earn a main-draw berth.
   Gibbs led 3-0 (two service breaks) in the second set and served for the set at 6-5. She reached the second round or better in the Australian Open main draw for the last four years, losing to eventual champion Serena Williams in the third round in 2017.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Fish named Davis Cup captain; no ex-Stanford clash

Mardy Fish warms up between sets during a Sacramento
Capitals home match in 2013. Photo by Paul Bauman 
   Mardy Fish, the runner-up in the 2009 SAP Open in San Jose and a former Sacramento Capital in World TeamTennis, was named the captain (coach) of the United States Davis Cup team today.
   Fish replaces Jim Courier, who stepped down in September after eight years.
   "It is something that is a dream job for me, something I won't take for granted," Fish, 37, said during a conference call. "To be the next Davis Cup captain is incredibly humbling."
   Fish retired in 2015 after battling an irregular heartbeat and severe anxiety. He competed in the Davis Cup from 2002 to 2012, won the singles silver medal in the 2004 Athens Olympics and reached a career-high No. 7 in 2011.
   Fish lost to Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic in the final of the 2009 SAP Open and played part-time for the Capitals in 2012 and 2013.
   The SAP Open ended a 125-year run in Northern California in 2013. The Capitals announced in February 2014 that they were moving to Las Vegas after 28 years in Sacramento and folded the following month.
   The Davis Cup will enter a new era this year. Instead of rounds being played months apart each year, an 18-team tournament is scheduled for Nov. 18-24 in Madrid.
   Australian Open qualifying -- Nicole Gibbs won't have to play a friend and former teammate for a berth in the main draw in Melbourne.
   The 18th-seeded Gibbs beat Paula Ormaechea of Argentina 7-5, 6-2 in the second round of qualifying, but Kristie Ahn lost to third-seeded Victorija Golubic of Switzerland 6-4, 6-4.
   Gibbs and Ahn played No. 1 and 2, respectively, on Stanford's 2013 NCAA championship team.
   Golubic, ranked No. 104, is 3-1 (2-1 on hard courts) against Gibbs, ranked No. 127. They last met in September, with Golubic winning 6-4, 6-2 in the second round of qualifying in Wuhan, China, on the WTA tour on an outdoor hard court.
   College rankings -- The NCAA defending champion Stanford women are No. 1 in the year's first rankings, and the Cardinal men are No. 10. Neither the Cal men nor women cracked the Top 25.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Ex-Stanford teammates could meet for Aussie Open spot

Nicole Gibbs, playing in the $60,000 Berkeley Tennis
Club Challenge last July, could face former Stanford
teammate Kristie Ahn for a berth in the Australian
Open main draw. Photo by Paul Bauman
   It will take an upset, but friends and former Stanford teammates Nicole Gibbs and Kristie Ahn could meet for a berth in the Australian Open main draw.
   Gibbs and Ahn -- who played No. 1 and 2, respectively, on Stanford's 2013 NCAA championship team -- won their first-round qualifying matches in straight sets today in Melbourne.
   The 18th-seeded Gibbs, a 25-year-old resident of Venice in the Los Angeles area, beat Elitsa Kostova of Bulgaria 6-4, 6-2. Ahn, 26, of Boca Raton, Fla., dismissed Gabriella Taylor of Great Britain 6-1, 6-1 in 62 minutes.
   On Wednesday (California time), Gibbs will play Paula Ormaechea of Argentina, and Ahn will face third-seeded Viktorija Golubic of Switzerland. The winners will meet for a spot in the main draw.
   Gibbs, ranked No. 127, and the 26-year-old Ormaechea, ranked No. 235, have split two career matches. Ormaechea won 6-2, 6-1 on a clay court in 2014, and Gibbs triumphed 6-2, 6-3 on a hard court in 2012. The 26-year-old Golubic, ranked No. 104, and Ahn, ranked No. 210, will meet for the first time.
   Gibbs, the runner-up in the inaugural $60,000 Berkeley Tennis Club Challenge last July, has reached the second round or better in the Australian Open main draw for the past four years. She advanced to the third round in 2017, losing to eventual champion Serena Williams 6-1, 6-3.
   Ahn seeks her second main-draw berth in Melbourne. As a wild card there last year, she lost to 20th-seeded Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic 6-1, 7-5 in the first round.
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