Monday, July 26, 2021

Badosa, entered in San Jose, upsets Swiatek in Olympics

   Spain's Paula Badosa, who's entered in next week's Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose, Calif., ousted No. 6 seed Iga Swiatek, last year's French Open champion at 19, 6-3, 7-6 (4) today in the second round of the Olympics in Tokyo. 
   Badosa, a 23-year-old New York native, reached her first Grand Slam quarterfinal in the French Open in June. 
   Also losing today were No. 3 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus and No. 10 seed Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic.
   Donna Vekic of Croatia defeated Sabalenka, a semifinalist at Wimbledon this month, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (3) in 2 hours, 35 minutes. Vekic trailed 2-4 in the third set. Sabalenka beat Vekic in the San Jose semifinals in 2019 before losing to Zheng Saisai.
   Belgium's Alison Van Uytvanck, the 2016 Stockton (Calif.) Challenger champion, topped Kvitova, a two-time Wimbledon titlist, 5-7, 6-3, 6-0. Van Uytvanck, who had knee surgery in February, won the last 10 games.
   Meanwhile, Ben McLachlan (University of California, Berkeley, 2011-14) and Kei Nishikori of Japan reached the doubles quarterfinals with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over No. 7 seeds Jamie Murray, Andy's older brother, and Neal Skupski of Great Britain. 
   Murray won the first of his 25 tour-level doubles titles in San Jose in 2007. Skupski played for the Sacramento-based California Dream of World TeamTennis in 2015, the squad's only year of existence.
   McLachlan, a New Zealand product who represents his mother's native country, and Nishikori are set to face top seeds Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic of Croatia. Mektic and Pavic have won eight titles this year, including Wimbledon.
   ATP Tour — Sam Querrey, a 33-year-old San Francisco native now living in Las Vegas, leads Peter Gojowczyk of Germany 6-4 in a first-round match suspended by rain in Atlanta. 
   Querrey is playing in the tournament for the first time since reaching the second round in 2014.
   USTA Pro Circuit — No. 7 seed Connor Farren and No. 13 seed William Griffith, Northern California natives and former Pacific-12 Conference standouts, easily advanced to the second (final) round of qualifying in the $25,000 Neitzel Family Open in Champaign, Ill. 

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Opinion: Hall of Fame commits double fault

   Since I'm apparently one of the few Americans who haven't guest-hosted "Jeopardy?," here goes:
   Me: "Start us off, Norman Knowitall."
   Norman: "I'll take Bogus International Tennis Hall of Famers for $1,000."
   Me: "These players have no business being inducted."
   Norman: "Who are Goran Ivanisevic and Conchita Martinez?"
   Me: "Correct!"
   Each of the newly enshrined — ahem — Hall of Famers won a grand total of one Grand Slam singles title and no major doubles crowns. "Immortals" Michael Chang, Yannick Noah and Manuel Orantes also won only one Slam in singles.
   This sad state of affairs is hardly surprising. Standards have fallen, if not disappeared, almost everywhere in society — in the United States, at least. It makes people happy. Meanwhile, institutions crumble.
   What's next? Inducting just a Grand Slam finalist? Semifinalist? 
   Can we agree that the definition of a Hall of Famer is "one of the greatest players ever"? Are you telling me that Ivanisevic, Martinez, Chang, Noah and Orantes belong in the same group as Rod Laver, Pete Sampras, Steffi Graf, Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert? Yeah, right.
   News flash: Tennis greatness is measured in Grand Slam titles. Period. Everything else — Davis Cup/Fed Cup championships, Olympic medals, ATP/WTA Finals titles, appearances in Grand Slam finals, weeks at No. 1 (zero for the Fab Five, by the way), first this or first that — is a bonus.
   It's pretty simple, folks. One Grand Slam singles title makes you a one-hit wonder. Two major singles crowns make you one of the best players of your era. Three make you one of the best ever.
   Double those numbers for doubles, because each player is responsible for half of the team's success and the top singles players don't play.
   Combinations of major singles and doubles titles are allowed. Thus, one Grand Slam singles title and four major doubles crowns make you a Hall of Famer under this formula.
   Mixed doubles doesn't count because few play it. 
   A sport's history is sacred. Enshrining singles specialists with one Grand Slam title defaces tennis history.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Former Pacific star falls in Los Cabos doubles final

Sem Verbeek returns serve in doubles in the 2016 Stockton (Calif.) Challenger.
Verbeek starred at the University of the Pacific in Stockton. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Hans Hach Verdugo of Mexico and John Isner of the United States beat Hunter Reese of Knoxville, Tenn., and Sem Verbeek (University of the Pacific, 2013-16) of the Netherlands 5-7, 6-2 [10-4] tonight in the Mifel Open, an ATP 250 hardcourt tournament in Los Cabos, Mexico.
   Both teams were unseeded. Reese, 28, and Verbeek, 27, played in their first ATP final, together or separately.
   The 6-foot-10 (2.08-meter) Isner, 36, made his pro debut in a $15,000 Futures tournament in the Sacramento, Calif., suburb of Shingle Springs in 2007 and won the singles title. Hach Verdugo took the doubles crown in the 2018 Tiburon Challenger in the San Francisco Bay Area with Luke Saville of Australia. 
   In the Los Cabos singles final, top-seeded Cameron Norrie of Great Britain dominated unseeded Brandon Nakashima, 19, of San Diego 6-2, 6-2 for his first ATP title.
   Norrie, who won back-to-back Northern California Challengers in Tiburon and Stockton in 2017, will rise only one notch to a career-high No. 29. 
   Olympics — In the first round of doubles, Belinda Bencic and Viktorija Golubic of Switzerland stunned No. 2 seeds Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara of Japan 6-4, 6-7 (5) [10-5] on a hardcourt in Tokyo. Shibahara, 23, was born in Mountain View in the Bay Area, starred at UCLA and lives in Rancho Palos Verdes in the Los Angeles area.
   Paula Badosa and Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain eliminated Giuliana Olmos and Renata Zarazua of Mexico 6-2, 6-7 (4) [10-7]. Olmos, 28, was born in Austria, grew up in Fremont in the Bay Area and played at USC.
   Sorribes Tormo earlier ousted top-ranked Ashleigh Barty, coming off her Wimbledon title, 6-4, 6-3 in the opening round of singles. Badosa, 23, reached the singles quarterfinals of the French Open and the fourth round at Wimbledon this year. 
   ATP Challenger Tour — Dennis Novikov of San Jose, Calif., won his third Cary (N.C.) Challenger title and second straight in doubles.
   Top-seeded Novikov and Christian Harrison of Bradenton, Fla., outclassed unseeded Petros Chrysochos of Cyprus and Michail Pervolarakis of Greece 6-3, 6-3 on a hardcourt in the $52,080 Atlantic Tire Championships.
   Novikov won his ninth Challenger doubles championship, first of the year and first with Harrison. Novikov won the Cary doubles title last November with Teymuraz Gabashvili of Russia and took the singles title in 2015.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Ex-Pacific star Verbeek reaches first ATP doubles final

Sem Verbeek, playing with Jose Chamba Gomez, serves
during the 2016 Stockton (Calif.) Challenger. Verbeek
starred at the University of the Pacific in Stockton.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Hunter Reese of Knoxville, Tenn., and Sem Verbeek (University of the Pacific, 2013-16) of the Netherlands reached their first ATP Tour doubles final tonight, defeating San Francisco Bay Area natives Mackenzie McDonald and Sam Querrey 6-4, 7-6 (3) on a hardcourt in Los Cabos, Mexico.
   Entering the week, Reese and Verbeek, a 6-foot-4 (1.93-meter) left-hander, owned a combined four tour-level match wins, according to atptour.com. Unseeded, they edged top seeds Luke Bambridge and Ken Skupski of Great Britain in the first round on Tuesday.
   Querrey won the last of his 11 ATP singles titles in Los Cabos in 2017.
   Reese, 28, and Verbeek, 27, will face unseeded Hans Hach Verdugo of Mexico and John Isner of Dallas on Saturday.
   Olympics — Rebecca Peterson of Sweden eliminated Mayar Sherif (Fresno State, 2015-16) of Egypt 7-5, 7-6 (1) in the first round on hardcourts in Tokyo.
   In the opening round of men's doubles, Americans Rajeev Ram, a volunteer assistant coach at the University of California, Berkeley, and Frances Tiafoe edged No. 6 seeds Karen Khachanov and Andrey Rublev of Russia 6-7 (3), 7-6 (5) [12-10]. In 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Ram won the silver medal in mixed doubles with Venus Williams.
   Ben McLachlan (Cal, 2011-14) and Kei Nishikori of Japan downed Joao Sousa and Pedro Sousa of Japan 6-1, 6-4.
   ATP Challenger Tour — In the doubles semifinals of the $52,080 Atlantic Tire Championships on hardcourts in Cary, N.C., top seeds Christian Harrison of Bradenton, Fla., and Dennis Novikov of San Jose, Calif., beat unseeded Lukas Lacko of Slovakia and Ramkumar Ramanathan of India 7-5, 6-3.
   The teams had played only one match total this week. Harrison and Novikov drew a first-round bye, and Lacko and Ramanathan received two walkovers.
   Novikov won the Cary singles title in 2015 and the doubles crown last year with Teymuraz Gabashvili of Russia.
   Harrison and Novikov, both 27, are set to meet unseeded Petros Chrysochos of Cyprus and Michail Pervolarakis of Greece on Saturday at 11 a.m. PDT (live stream).  
   USTA Pro Circuit — Wild card Cannon Kingsley, an Ohio State All-American from Northport, N.Y., beat qualifier William Griffith, a former Cal standout from Fresno, Calif., 6-3, 6-2 in the quarterfinals of the $15,000 Edwardsville (Ill.) Futures on hardcourts.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

NorCal native, NCAA champ Riffice loses in $52K Cary

No. 2 seed Prajnesh Gunneswaran of India beat wild card Sam
Riffice in straight sets to reach the quarterfinals in Cary, N.C.
2018 photo by Paul Bauman
   No. 2 seed Prajnesh Gunneswaran, a 31-year-old left-hander from India, defeated Sam Riffice, a 22-year-old wild card originally from Sacramento, Calif., 6-2, 6-4 today in the second round of the $52,080 Atlantic Tire Championships on hardcourts in Cary, N.C. 
   Gunneswaran reached the Cary final last November and the semifinals of the $100,000 Tiburon (Calif.) Challenger in 2017.
   Riffice, now based in Orlando, Fla., won the NCAA singles title in May as a University of Florida junior after helping the Gators capture the team championship.
   Riffice also lost in the Cary doubles quarterfinals. The unseeded pair of Riffice and Ulises Blanch of Orlando fell to top seeds Christian Harrison of Bradenton, Fla., and Dennis Novikov of San Jose, Calif., 6-3, 7-5. 
   Novikov won the Cary singles title in 2015 and the doubles crown last year with Teymuraz Gabashvili of Russia. 
   ATP Tour — At least one player with strong ties to Northern California will reach the doubles final in Los Cabos, Mexico.
   Wild cards and San Francisco Bay Area natives Mackenzie McDonald and Sam Querrey are scheduled to play unseeded Hunter Reese of Knoxville, Tenn., and Sem Verbeek (University of the Pacific, 2013-16) of the Netherlands in Friday's semifinals. Querrey won the singles title in 2017. 
   Reese and Verbeek edged top seeds Luke Bambridge and Ken Skupski of Great Britain in the first round on Tuesday. Querrey won the singles title in 2017.
   USTA Pro Circuit — Qualifier William Griffith, a former University of California, Berkeley standout from Fresno, Calif., topped No. 7 seed Dusty Boyer, a native of Grand Forks, N.D., 4-6, 7-6 (6), 6-1 to reach the quarterfinals of the $15,000 Edwardsville (Ill.) Futures on hardcourts.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Doubles star to return to Bay Area after long absence

Sania Mirza, left, and Martina Hingis meet the press after winning the doubles
title at Indian Wells in 2015. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Sania Mirza, formerly ranked No. 1 in doubles, plans to return to the San Francisco Bay Area for the first time in 13 years.
   The 34-year-old Indian is set to play doubles in next month's Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose, tournament officials announced today.
   Mirza, who is only a runner-up finish in the French Open from earning a career Grand Slam in women's doubles, took 2018 and 2019 off to have her first child with husband Shoaib Malik. 
   Mirza leads active players with 42 career tour-level doubles titles, including the 2007 Bank of the West Classic crown at Stanford with Shahar Peer of Israel. Mirza also reached the 2007 singles final at Stanford, losing to Anna Chakvetadze of Russia.
   The doubles field for the Silicon Valley Classic, Aug. 2-8 at San Jose State University, also includes former doubles world No. 1s Bethanie Mattek-Sands of Phoenix, Latisha Chan of Chinese Taipei and Kveta Peschke of the Czech Republic. 
   Peschke, 46, has won both Mubadala doubles titles, in 2018 with Chan and 2019 with Nicole Melichar, a Czech-born American.
   The team of Mattek-Sands, ranked No. 13 in the doubles, and countrywoman Desirae Krawczyk, ranked No. 18, heads the acceptance list for the tournament, which will mark 50 years of women's tour tennis in the Bay Area. Krawczyk has won the last two Grand Slam mixed doubles titles.
   ATP Tour — In the first round of doubles on clay in Gstaad, Switzerland, alternates Zizou Bergs of Belgium and Tallon Griekspoor of the Netherlands dispatched No. 4 seeds Andre Goransson (University of California, Berkeley, 2014-17) of Sweden and Frederik Nielsen of Denmark 6-3, 6-4.
   At Wimbledon in 2012, Nielsen and Jonathan Marray of Great Britain became the only wild cards in the tournament's 144-year history to capture the men's doubles title. Three years later, Nielsen won Northern California Challengers in Tiburon and Fairfield with Johan Brunstrom of Sweden.
   In Los Cabos, Mexico, Brandon Nakashima, 19, of San Diego upended No. 4 seed and 2017 champion Sam Querrey, a 33-year-old San Francisco native, 6-3, 6-4 in the second round on hardcourts.
   ATP Challenger Tour — In the opening round of doubles in the $52,00 Atlantic Tire Championships on hardcourts in Cary, N.C., Orlando, Fla., residents Ulises Blanch and Sam Riffice, a Sacramento, Calif., native, outplayed Boris Arias of Bolivia and Gonzalo Villanueva of Argentina 6-1, 7-5 in a matchup of unseeded teams. 
   Riffice won the NCAA singles title as a Florida junior in May after helping the Gators capture the team championship.
   USTA Pro Circuit — Qualifier William Griffith, a former Cal standout from Fresno, Calif., beat Nathan Ponwith of Scottsdale, Ariz., 7-5, 6-4 in the first round of the $15,000 Edwardsville (Ill.) Futures on hardcourts. Ponwith completed his eligibility at Arizona State in May.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Qualifier Escobedo ousts seed McDonald in Los Cabos

Ernesto Escobedo improved to 4-0 against fellow Cali-
fornia native Mackenzie McDonald. 2019 photo by
Paul Bauman
   In a matchup of California natives and former top-70 players, qualifier Ernesto Escobedo eliminated No. 8 seed Mackenzie McDonald 6-3, 6-4 in the first round of the ATP hardcourt tournament in Los Cabos, Mexico.
   The 182nd-ranked Escobedo, a lifelong Los Angeles-area resident, improved to 4-0 against the 106th-ranked McDonald, who was born and raised in Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area. Each previous match was close.
   Escobedo, 25, earned his first main-draw victory in three attempts in Los Cabos. McDonald, 26, made his tournament singles debut. On Monday night, McDonald and San Francisco native Sam Querrey reached the doubles quarterfinals as wild cards. 
   In the 2017 Fairfield Challenger near San Francisco, McDonald won the first of his three titles at that level, and the top-seeded Escobedo lost in the first round to former Stanford star Bradley Klahn.    
   Also in first-round doubles in Los Cabos, Hunter Reese of Knoxville, Tenn., and Sem Verbeek (University of the Pacific, 2013-16) of the Netherlands edged No. 1 seeds Luke Bambridge and Ken Skupski of Great Britain 7-6 (4), 6-7 (4) [10-8].
   Bambridge won the Fairfield doubles title in 2017 with David O'Hare of Ireland. 
   ATP Challenger TourSam Riffice, a 22-year-old wild card and Sacramento native, outlasted Tatsuma Ito, 33, of Japan 6-7 (3), 6-4, 7-5 in 2 hours, 44 minutes in the first round of the $52,080 Atlantic Tire Championships on hardcourts in Cary, N.C.
   Riffice won the NCAA singles title as a Florida junior in May and helped the Gators capture the team championship.
   USTA Pro Circuit — No. 6 seed William Griffith, a former University of California, Berkeley standout from Fresno, Calif., beat No. 14 seed Joshua Howard-Tripp of South Africa 4-6, 6-2 [10-3] in final-round qualifying for the $15,000 Edwardsville (Ill.) Futures on hardcourts.
   No. 3 qualifying seed Kyle Seelig, a former Ohio State star from Hatfield, Pa., eliminated Ethan Quinn, 17, of Fresno 6-4, 6-3.
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