Monday, January 20, 2020

Stephens loses in Australian Open, falls to 0-3 this year

Sloane Stephens, a 26-year-old Fresno, Calif., product, came within two points
of victory against Zhang Shuai. 2016 photo by Mal Taam
   Sloane Stephens' slump continued early today in the Australian Open.
   Seeded 24th, the Fresno, Calif., product fell to 0-3 this year with a 2-6, 7-5, 6-2 loss to Zhang Shuai of China in the first round in Melbourne. Stephens came within two points of victory while serving at 5-4 in the second set.
   "She's not in top physical condition to play her brand of tennis," Tennis Channel commentator Martina Navratilova said. "She has to decide if she wants to play."
   The match was a virtual replay of Zhang's 2-6, 7-6 (2), 6-2 win over Stephens in the opening round of the 2018 Australian Open. That extended Stephens' losing streak to eight after her 2017 U.S. Open title.
   At least Zhang, who will turn 31 on Tuesday, has a high ranking at No. 35. Stephens lost to No. 201 Arina Rodionova 6-2, 6-2 last week and No. 129 Liudmila Samsonova in three sets two weeks ago.
   Zhang, meanwhile, reached the singles and doubles finals in Hobart last week, losing to Elena Rybakina and with Peng Shuai to Nadiia Kichenok and Sania Mirza.
   Stephens, 26, suffered her second consecutive loss in the opening round of a Grand Slam tournament. She fell to Anna Kalinskaya, a qualifier ranked No. 127, 6-3, 6-4 in the U.S. Open last August.
   Stephens has not reached a quarterfinal in any tournament since losing at that stage in last year's French Open. Ranked as high as No. 3 in July 2018, she will drop three spots to No. 30.
   Stephens began playing tennis at 9 at the Sierra Sport and Racquet Club in Fresno. She moved to Boca Raton, Fla., two years later.
   Late tonight or early Tuesday, CiCi Bellis, a 20-year-old San Francisco native who grew up in nearby Atherton, is scheduled to play Tatjana Maria, a 32-year-old mother from Germany, in the first round of the Australian Open.
   It will be Bellis' first Grand Slam match in two years. She had four operations, three on her right wrist and one on her right elbow, during a 19-month layoff that ended last November.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Querrey ousts 25th-seeded Coric in Australian Open

Sam Querrey, a 32-year-old San Francisco native,
has a good chance to reach the third round of the
Australian Open. That would equal his best result
in Melbourne. File photo by Paul Bauman
   Sam Querrey, a 32-year-old San Francisco native, surprised 25th-seeded Borna Coric of Croatia 6-3 6-4, 6-4 today in the first round of the Australian Open in Melbourne.
   The 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) Querrey had 18 aces and only one double fault. He won 82 percent of the points on his first serve (41 of 50) and 65 percent on his second (17 of 26).
   Coric, 23, shocked No. 4 Dominic Thiem two weeks ago in the round-robin phase of the inaugural ATP Cup in Sydney.
   Querrey has a good chance to reach the third round in Melbourne, which would equal his best result in 14 career appearances there. He will play 5-foot-9 (1.75-meter) Ricardas Berankis, a 29-year-old Lithuanian, in the second round. Berankis defeated Roberto Carballes Baena of Spain 6-4, 6-2, 6-2.
   Querrey, who now lives in Las Vegas, has not lost more than four games in a set in two matches against Berankis. They will meet for the first time since 2013. The winner likely will face eighth-seeded Matteo Berrettini, a U.S. Open semifinalist last September.
   Also today, 30th-seeded Daniel Evans of Great Britain topped Mackenzie McDonald, a 24-year-old product of Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area, 3-6, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 in a matchup of undersized players. Evans is 5-foot-9 (1.75 meters) and 165 pounds (75 kilograms); McDonald is 5-foot-10 (1.78 meters) and 160 pounds (73 kilograms).
   McDonald had right hamstring surgery in June and missed the rest of the year. He reached the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2018.
   On the women's side, eighth-seeded Serena Williams began her quest for a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title with a 6-0, 6-3 victory over Anastasia Potapova, 18, of Russia in 58 minutes.   
   Williams, a 38-year-old part-time Silicon Valley resident, next will meet Tamara Zidansek, a 22-year-old Slovenian, for the first time. Zidansek, ranked 64th, beat wild card Na-Lae Han of South Korea 6-3, 6-3.
   Kristie Ahn, a 27-year-old Stanford graduate from Englewood Cliffs, N.J., lost to former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki 6-1, 6-3.
   Ahn reached the fourth round of last year's U.S. Open. Wozniacki, who won her only Grand Slam title in the 2018 Australian Open, announced last month that she will retire after this year's tournament in Melbourne.
   No. 24 seed Sloane Stephens, a 26-year-old Fresno, Calif., product, is scheduled to play Zhang Shuai of China early Friday. Both players broke through in the Australian Open, with Stephens reaching the 2013 semifinals at 19 and Zhang advancing to the 2016 quarterfinals at 27.
   Zhang lost in the singles and doubles finals in Hobart last week. Stephens is 0-2 this year, falling to No. 129 Liudmila Samsonova of Russia in three sets in Brisbane and to No. 201 Arina Rodionova of Australia 6-2, 6-2 in Adelaide.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Cal alum McLachlan retains Auckland doubles title

   Ben McLachlan (Cal, 2011-14) of Japan won his second consecutive Auckland doubles title today, this time with Luke Bambridge of Great Britain.
   In a matchup of unseeded teams, Bambridge and McLachlan defeated Marcus Daniell of New Zealand and Philipp Oswald of Austria 7-6 (3), 6-3. Bambridge and McLachlan did not lose a set in their four matches.
   McLachlan, 27, was born and raised in New Zealand but plays for his mother's native country,
   "It means a lot to win this tournament," McLachlan said on atptour.com. "I grew up watching this tournament and was a ball kid here. To be able to do this in front of my parents, my brother and friends is awesome."
   This was McLachlan's fifth tour-level doubles title and first with Bambridge. McLachlan won last year's Auckland title with Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany.
   Bambridge captured the doubles title in the $100,000 Fairfield (Calif.) Challenger in 2017 with David O'Hare of Ireland.
   In an all-French singles final in Auckland, unseeded Ugo Humbert edged fifth-seeded Benoit Paire 7-6 (2), 3-6, 7-6 (5) for his first ATP Tour title.
   Humbert, a 21-year-old left-hander, became the first Frenchman to win the crown. He ousted second-seeded Denis Shapovalov and fourth-seeded John Isner en route to the final.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Serena could face Osaka in Australian Open showdown

Serena Williams will try again to tie Margaret Court's record of 24 Grand Slam
singles titles. 2018 photo by Mal Taam
   Eighth-seeded Serena Williams, a part-time Silicon Valley resident, could face third seed and defending champion Naomi Osaka in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open.
   The winner could play top-ranked Ashleigh Barty in the semifinals.
   The singles draws for the year's first Grand Slam tournament, which will begin Sunday (California time) in Melbourne, was held late Thursday night.
   Osaka, 22, is 2-1 against Williams, 38. Osaka stunned Williams 6-2, 6-4 in the tumultuous 2018 U.S. Open final, but Williams gained revenge with a 6-3, 6-4 victory in the Toronto quarterfinals last August.
   Williams drew Anastasia Potapova, an 18-year-old Russian ranked 90th, in the first round of the Australian Open. Potapova made her French Open debut last year, ousting former world No. 1 Angelique Kerber 6-4, 6-2 in the opening round before losing to eventual runner-up Marketa Vondrousova in the second round.
   Williams still seeks her 24th Grand Slam singles title, which would tie Margaret Court's record. Williams won her last major title in the 2017 Australian Open, had her first child in September that year and suffered life-threatening complications. She has played in four Grand Slam finals since then, losing each in straight sets.
   Osaka, meanwhile, has not reached a Grand Slam quarterfinal since winning her second consecutive major title last year in Melbourne.
   In other first-round Australian Open matchups:
   –No. 24 seed Sloane Stephens, who grew up in Fresno, Calif., will meet Zhang Shuai. Both players broke through in the Australian Open, with Stephens reaching the 2013 semifinals at 19 and Zhang advancing to the 2016 quarterfinals at 27. Zhang will play in Friday's singles and doubles finals in Hobart.
   –Kristie Ahn, a 27-year-old Stanford graduate, will try to end the singles career of former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki. Wozniacki, who won her only Grand Slam title in the 2018 Australian Open, announced last month that she will retire after this year's tournament in Melbourne.
   –CiCi Bellis, a 20-year-old San Francisco native who grew up in nearby Atherton, will play Tatjana Maria, 32, of Germany. It will be Bellis' first Grand Slam match since she lost to 30th-seeded Kiki Bertens in the first round of the 2018 Australian Open. Bellis had three operations on her right wrist and one on her right elbow during a 19-month layoff that ended last November.
   –Another San Francisco native, 32-year-old Sam Querrey, will take on 25th-seeded Borna Coric of Croatia. Coric, 23, shocked then-No. 4 Dominic Thiem last week in the round-robin phase of the inaugural ATP Cup in Sydney.
   –Mackenzie McDonald, a 24-year-old product of Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area, will face 30th-seeded Daniel Evans of Great Britain for the first time in a matchup of undersized players. McDonald is 5-foot-10 (1.78 meters) and 160 pounds (73 kilograms); Evans is 5-foot-9 (1.75 meters) and 165 pounds (75 kilograms). McDonald had right hamstring surgery in June and missed the rest of the year.
   Australian Open qualifying – Harriet Dart of Great Britain beat 15th-seeded Nicole Gibbs (Stanford, 2011-13) 6-2, 6-3 early today in the second round.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Klahn loses in first round of Aussie Open qualifying

   Viktor Troicki of Serbia completed a 6-4, 6-2 victory over 22nd-seeded Bradley Klahn, a Stanford graduate from Los Angeles, tonight in the first round of Australian Open qualifying in Melbourne.
   The match had been suspended by rain Tuesday night with Troicki, who reached a career-high No. 12 in 2011, leading 6-4, 4-1.
   Troicki, 33, evened his career record against Klahn, a 29-year-old left-hander, at 1-1. Klahn won 7-5, 6-3 in the opening round of qualifying in Montreal last August.
   Another former NCAA singles champion from Stanford, 15th-seeded Nicole Gibbs, is scheduled to meet Harriet Dart of Great Britain for the first time early Thursday morning (California time) in the second round of Australian Open qualifying.
   Gibbs reached the third round of the 2017 Australian Open, equaling her best Grand Slam result. She lot to second seed and eventual champion Serena Williams 6-1, 6-3. It's Williams' last major title.
   Dart made her Australian Open debut last year, qualifying before losing 6-0, 6-0 to 2008 champion Maria Sharapova in the opening round.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Klahn trails in suspended Aussie Open qualifying match

Bradley Klahn, a 29-year-old Stanford graduate, trails Viktor
Troicki of Serbia 6-4, 4-1 in the first round of Australian Open
qualifying. 2018 photo by Paul Bauman
   Viktor Troicki of Serbia served at 6-4, 4-1 against 22nd-seeded Bradley Klahn, a 29-year-old Stanford graduate from Los Angeles, tonight in the first round of Australian Open qualifying when the match was suspended by rain in Melbourne.
   The rain was welcome as Australia has been ravaged by deadly wildfires, blanketing Melbourne in smoke.
   Troicki, 33, and Novak Djokovic won the deciding doubles match against Spain in the final of the inaugural ATP Cup on Sunday night in Sydney. In 2010, Troicki gave Serbia its first Davis Cup championship with a singles victory against France.
   Both Troicki and Klahn have tumbled in the rankings because of back problems.
   Troicki, ranked as high as No. 12 in 2011, has plunged to No. 159. He missed three months in 2018 with a lower-back injury.
   Klahn, the 2010 NCAA singles champion, had back surgery for the second time in 2015. He is ranked No. 131 after reaching a career-high No. 63 in 2014.
   Klahn played in the main draw of all four Grand Slam tournaments for the second time last year, advancing to the second round of the U.S. Open. In the first round of the Australian Open, he led Hyeon Chung of South Korea two sets to none before falling 6-4 in the fifth set.
   Chung reached the semifinals of the 2018 Australian Open, ousting Djokovic in straight sets in the round of 16.

Gibbs advances in Australian Open qualifying

No. 15 seed Nicole Gibbs, who starred at Stanford, beat
Cristina Bucsa of Spain 6-0, 2-6, 7-5 in the first round of
Australian Open qualifying. 2018 photo by Paul Bauman
   No. 15 seed Nicole Gibbs (Stanford, 2011-13) defeated Cristina Bucsa of Spain 6-0, 2-6, 7-5 early today in the first round of Australian Open qualifying in Melbourne.
   The 26-year-old Gibbs, ranked No. 123, had 19 winners and 26 unforced errors to 28 and 55, respectively, for the 22-year-old Bucsa, ranked No. 167.
   Heavy smoke from Australia's massive wildfires blanketed Melbourne. One player, Dalila Jakupovic of Slovenia, retired after dropping to her knees and suffering a coughing fit while leading Stefanie Voegele of Switzerland 6-4, 5-6. Eugenie Bouchard of Canada also had breathing problems but won.
   Gibbs, who won three NCAA titles at Stanford (two in singles and one in doubles), is playing in her second Grand Slam tournament since undergoing surgery for a rare cancer in the roof of her mouth last May 17. As a qualifier, she lost to fourth-seeded Simona Halep 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 in the first round of the U.S. Open.
   Gibbs reached the third round of the 2017 Australian Open, equaling her best Grand Slam result. She lost to second seed and eventual champion Serena Williams 6-1, 6-3. It's Williams' last major title.
   Gibbs is scheduled to face Harriet Dart, 23, of Great Britain for the first time on Wednesday (California time). Dart, ranked No. 169, eliminated Elitsa Kostova of Bulgaria 6-4, 6-1.
   Dart played in the main draw of three Grand Slam tournaments last year, advancing to the third round at Wimbledon before losing to top-ranked Ashleigh Barty of Australia 6-1, 6-1.
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