Sunday, July 21, 2019

Ahn flings racket into crowd during Berkeley loss

Sixth-seeded Kristie Ahn, a 27-year-old Stanford graduate, said she had
intended to throw her racket to the bottom of the net during her loss to
top-seeded Madison Brengle on Saturday. Photo by Paul Bauman
   BERKELEY, Calif. – As her frustration mounted, Kristie Ahn finally snapped.
   Standing behind the baseline, the 27-year-old graduate of Stanford, across San Francisco Bay from Berkeley, flung her racket high in the air Saturday on the court where Billie Jean King was crowned the girls 18 national champion.
   The racket sailed into the crowd on one sideline, and a man dived to catch it.
   "If it gives you any indication of how my day went, I was aiming for the bottom of the net," the sixth-seeded Ahn said after losing to top seed, fellow American and good friend Madison Brengle 6-1, 6-3 in the semifinals of the $60,000 Berkeley Tennis Club Women's Challenge. "Somehow, my hand caught onto the grip, and (the racket) just went floating away in the crowd unfortunately. Luckily, no one got hurt."
   Chair umpire Carrie Hinueber warned Ahn for unsportsmanlike conduct and turned to International Tennis Federation supervisor Marc Bell, who was sitting the stands, to see if he needed to intervene and possibly default Ahn. Bell shook his head.
   "We check three things," Bell said after the match. "We check the action, intent and result. The intent was not to hurt anybody; the intent was to throw it to the (racket) bag. Nobody got hurt, so the result wasn't really bad. Her action? She's responsible for herself.
   "Any one of these three could be enough to be defaulted. In this case, none of these there were bad enough. The action itself was not so bad. That thing flew very lightly – the rest does not exist."
Madison Brengle complained to the chair umpire but later said it wasn't her de-
cision whether Kristie Ahn should have been defaulted. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Had Ahn hurled the racket on a line into the crowd, that would have been different, Bell noted.
   Ahn went into the crowd to retrieve her racket but said nothing, and play continued.
   On the next changeover, Brengle complained to Hinueber, saying, "This is unacceptable." Brengle, who will play unseeded Mayo Hibi of Japan today at 2:30 p.m., then turned around and glared at Bell.
   After the subsequent doubles final, won by Brengle and Sachia (prounounced SAH-shuh) Vickery, Brengle was asked what was unacceptable.
   "I don't remember. Sorry," she said.
   Did Brengle think Ahn, who did apologize after their match to two fans sitting in the area, should have been defaulted?
   "That's not my call," she said. "That has nothing to do with me."
   Ahn, ranked No. 180 after reaching a career-high No. 105 in January 2018, had survived a grueling baseline battle against unseeded Arina Rodionova, who's No. 206, on Friday and faced the prospect of an even tougher one against Brengle, ranked No. 83 after climbing as high as No. 35 in 2015.
   Then Ahn, a right-hander with a two-handed backhand, bruised her left hand hitting a shot on the first point of the match.
Unseeded Mayo Hibi will play Madison Breng-
le in a rematch of the 2013 Sacramento final,
won by Hibi, then 17, in shocking fashion.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   "It just went downhill from there," she lamented.
   Ahn was victimized by a bad line call in the second game and in the first game of the second set. In the next game, she had control of a point but watched helplessly as Brengle laced a spectacular running forehand passing shot down the line.
   That's when Ahn lost her temper.
   "Maddie obviously is super tough to play," Ahn said. "She gets a lot of balls back and puts you in really uncomfortable situations. I played a really good, solid point and was just unable to execute, and it was just a bit of frustration there.
   "You come out to play regardless of the circumstances, and it's just a bit disappointing that I couldn't mentally get over my demons."
   Ahn was bidding to become the second former Stanford star in the two-year history of the Berkeley tournament to reach the final. Her ex-teammate and close friend, Nicole Gibbs, lost to Sofia Kenin last year. Kenin, a Moscow-born American, is now ranked No. 27 at age 20.
   It was Ahn's second consecutive debacle against Brengle, who leads the head-to-head series 3-0. Ahn vomited on the court and retired with Brengle leading 6-4, 1-0 last August in the final of a $60,000 tournament in hot, humid Landisville, Pa.
   Ahn said she had never thrown a racket into the seats.
   "No, no. I don't really throw my racket to begin with, but when I do, I aim for the bottom of the net or bottom of the fence," she said.
   Nor, Ahn said, has she ever been defaulted from a match.
   "I've barely even gotten (warnings), so it's not part of my routine," she said.
   Bell estimated that he has seen a player throw his or her racket into the stands four times in his 32 years as a linesman, chair umpire or supervisor, adding that sometimes nobody is sitting in them. He said he has never seen a player get defaulted for throwing a racket or a fan get hurt by one.
   "I saw a guy throw it out of the stadium on Center Court once," Bell said. "I don't want to say who it was or where. It was maybe seven or eight years ago. Nobody can throw it out of a stadium – the wind caught it."
   Vickery also had a bad day in singles – although nothing compared to Ahn's – at the Berkeley Tennis Club, which has a rich history. It was founded in 1906, and legends Don Budge, Helen Wills Moody, Helen Hull Jacobs and Hazel Hotchkiss Wightman once were members. Fellow International Tennis Hall of Famers Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall, Stan Smith and Arthur Ashe – in addition to King – played in tournaments there.
Second-seeded Sachia Vickery said she wasn't
herself in a 6-3, 6-0 loss to Mayo Hibi. Photo by
Paul Bauman
   The second-seeded Vickery, rebounding from lingering knee and elbow injuries, dropped the last eight games and lost to Hibi, who was born in Japan but has lived in California since she was 2 years old, 6-3, 6-0.
   "I woke up and wasn't really myself," said the 5-foot-4 (1.63-meter) Vickery, 24. "It was just one of those days where I couldn't get anything right. Even in the warmup, I wasn't feeling great. I thought as the match went on it would get better, but it didn't.
   "I haven't played this amount of matches in a row in a while since I have been a little bit injured, so my body was not used to the everyday routine, but she played a good match. Like I said yesterday, she's a tricky opponent to play, especially when you're not 100 percent."
   Still, Brengle and Vickery, playing their second tournament together, defeated Francesca Di Lorenzo from Columbus, Ohio, and Katie Swan of Great Britain 6-3, 7-5 for the doubles title. Both teams were unseeded.
   Brengle, 29, and the 23-year-old Hibi, who has tumbled from a career-high No. 166 in 2016 to No. 302, will meet for the second time. The first was also in the final of a Northern California Challenger as the unseeded Hibi, then 17, shocked the fifth-seeded Brengle, suffering from an intestinal illness, 7-5, 6-0 in Sacramento in July 2013.
   Hibi, who saved nine set points and won the last 12 games of that match, signed a letter of intent that November to attend UCLA but turned pro five months later instead. The Sacramento tournament moved to Berkeley last year.
   Hibi, only 5-foot-5 (1.65 meters) and 121 pounds (55 kilograms), said she's happy with her decision to turn pro but admitted that was not always the case.
   "There was definitely a point of time when I did kind of regret it," she said. "In your career, you have ups and downs. After I turned pro, all the pressure came to me. I was worrying about every single thing – money, I need a coach ...
   "College had been an (option) – if I don't do well enough, I can go to college. Now, I didn't have that anymore. I had so much more responsibility, so much more pressure that sometimes I wish I (had) gone to college.
   "Now I feel different. I feel those experiences also helped me and will help me in the future."
   The Bay Area is a second or third home for Hibi, whose father, Soichi, is a tennis fanatic and sales manager for a branch of a Japanese music company. She lived with her parents in Foster City, near San Francisco International Airport, from age 2 to 4, and her 19-year-old brother, Leo, was born in San Francisco. He is helping Mayo at the Berkeley tournament.
   The Hibis moved from Foster City to the Los Angeles area, first to Rancho Palos Verdes for two or three years and then to Irvine, where they still reside.
   Here are the Berkeley singles and doubles draws.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Ahn survives battle to reach $60K Berkeley semis

Sixth-seeded Kristie Ahn, a 27-year-old Stanford graduate, won
 a fierce baseline battle against unseeded Arina Rodionova, a 29-
year-old Australian from Russia. Photo by Paul Bauman
   BERKELEY, Calif. – The first meeting between Kristie Ahn and Arina Rodionova was memorable.
   Point after point, the veterans traded blistering groundstrokes and made amazing gets on another warm, sunny day at the venerable Berkeley Tennis Club.
   Set after set, Ahn took a lead only for Rodionova to fight back.
   Ahn, a 27-year-old Stanford graduate, finally prevailed 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 in 2 hours, 13 minutes today in the quarterfinals of the $60,000 Berkeley Tennis Club Women's Challenge.
   Ahn led 3-0 in the third set, but Rodionova, a 29-year-old Australian from Russia, got back on serve at 3-4. Rodionova then played an uncharacteristically loose game to trail 3-5, and Ahn held serve at 15 for the match, ending a string of four consecutive breaks.
   "She's an incredible competitor, and we had so many good points," said the 5-foot-5 (1.65-meter) Ahn, seeded sixth. "I just tried to stay as tough as I could and hang in there."
   The unseeded Rodionova, a chiseled 5-foot-6 (1.68 meters), was coming off a 6-7 (5), 7-6 (6), 6-3 victory over Jovana Jaksic, a Serb living in Sacramento, that lasted 2 hours, 56 minutes.
   "If you know Arina, you know she's one of the fittest players out there," said Ahn, who's ranked No. 180 after reaching a career-high No. 105 in January 2018. "She can do that all day, so I tried to stay aggressive but hang in there as well."
   Ahn, a right-hander, again played with her right arm heavily taped to protect a hyperextended elbow. The arm, she said Wednesday, is "much better than it looks."
Arina Rodionova was coming off a three-set victory over Jovana
Jaksic, a Serb living in Sacramento, that lasted almost three
hours. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Both Ahn and Rodionova qualified for Wimbledon this month and lost in the first round. Rodionova also reached the second round of doubles there with Kateryna Kozlova of Ukraine. They lost to eventual runners-up Gabriela Dabrowski of Canada and Yifan Xu of China.
   Ahn, a resident of Englewood Cliffs, N.J., was named after Kristi Yamaguchi, who won the Olympic gold medal in figure skating in 1992, the year Ahn was born.
   Ahn will take on good friend and top seed Madison Brengle, a 29-year-old native of Dover, Del., now based in Bradenton, Fla., on Saturday not before 1:30 p.m.
   Brengle, ranked No. 83 after climbing as high as No. 35 in 2005, beat unseeded Gail Brodsky, a 28-year-old mother of two who grew up in Brooklyn, 6-0 6-4 in 55 minutes. They embraced after their meeting since 2012.
   "We talked about it," Brengle said. "It's been a long time, but we've known each other for so long (since Brengle was 10 or 11), and we're very good friends."
   Brodsky quit tennis in 2012 because of burnout and returned last year.
   Brengle is 2-0 against Ahn. But their first meeting was nine years ago, and Ahn retired from the second one with Brengle leading 6-4, 1-0 in the final of a $60,000 tournament in Landisville, Pa., last August. Ahn vomited on the court in the heat and humidity.
   "(Brengle) has an incredible tennis IQ," Ahn said. "She knows exactly how to play the game and how to play to her strengths. She can read the ball really well."
Second-seeded Sachia Vickery, who beat unseeded
Caroline Dolehide 6-3, 7-5, is the only semifinalist
who hasn't lost a set this week. Photo by Paul Bauman
   But Brengle has a soft, stiff-armed serve because of what she says is incurable hand and arm pain caused by a reaction to an anti-doping blood test at the 2016 U.S. Open. She sued the Women's Tennis Association and International Tennis Federation in April 2018. The WTA and ITF have not publicly commented on the case.
   "Everyone says, 'Oh, attack the serve,' but it's really tricky," Ahn said. "She defends so well, so if you go for too much, you miss. If you don't go for enough, she's right back on you."
   In Saturday's other semifinal, second-seeded Sachia (pronounced SAH-shuh) Vickery, 24, of Miramar, Fla., will face unseeded Mayo Hibi, 23, of Japan at 11 a.m.
   Vickery, only 5-foot-4 (1.63 meters), eliminated unseeded but powerful Caroline Dolehide, a 20-year-old native of Hinsdale, Ill., 6-3, 7-5.
   Hibi, a resident of Irvine in the Los Angeles region, topped fifth-seeded Na-Lae Han, a 27-year-old left-hander from South Korea, 7-5, 6-4 in a matchup of players with an unusual stroke. Hibi has a one-handed backhand, and Han possesses a two-handed forehand.
   Both Vickery, ranked No. 163, and Dolehide, ranked No. 256, have struggled this year after emerging in 2018.
   Vickery reached a career-high No. 73 last July but suffered tears in her knees late last year, came back too soon and hurt her elbow last month.
   "I wasn't even supposed to play this week," said Vickery, the only semifinalist who hasn't lost a set this week. "I was supposed to be doing another week of rehab."
   Dolehide, 5-foot-10 (1.78 meters), has plunged from a career-high No. 102 last July to No. 256 but reached the singles semifinals and doubles final in a $60,000 tournament in Honolulu last week.
Last year at age 19, Caroline Dolehide played in the main
draw of three Grand Slam tournaments, reaching the sec-
ond round of the French Open, and almost upset Simona
Halep at Indian Wells. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Last year, Dolehide played in the main draw of three Grand Slam tournaments, reaching the second round of the French Open as a qualifier, and advanced to the third round at Indian Wells, coming within a tiebreaker of beating Simona Halep, then ranked No. 1.
   Vickery and Hibi, ranked No. 302 after climbing as high as No. 166 in 2016, have split four career matches. They will meet for the third time this year and second time in five weeks.
   Vickery beat Hibi  6-4, 3-6, 7-5 in the first round of a $100,000 tournament in Manchester, England, last month and 6-3, 6-4 in the opening round of a $25,000 hard-court tourney in the San Diego suburb of Rancho Santa Fe in February.
   Vickery described the 5-foot-5 (1.65-meter) Hibi's game as "frustrating. She makes you work for everything. She doesn't play like anyone else on tour. Her ball is very flat and skiddy. She has kind of an underspin with a continental grip, so the ball comes very differently. She serves-and-volleys, and she chips-and-charges. She has very good hands, so that's something you don't see very often.
   "Playing her on grass is probably anyone's worst nightmare because her game is so suited to it. But I think here with the bouncier courts, I may have a little more time to take her shots. Her balls won't come through as quickly."
   In Saturday's doubles final, Brengle and Vickery will play Francesca Di Lorenzo from Columbus, Ohio, and Katie Swan of Great Britain in a matchup of unseeded teams.
   Brengle and Vickery crushed unseeded Ahn and Catherine Harrison, from Germantown, Tenn., in the Memphis area, 6-1, 6-0 in 54 minutes.
   Di Lorenzo and Swan edged top-seeded Giuliana Olmos, a product of Fremont in the San Francisco Bay Area who plays for Mexico, and Luisa Stefani of Brazil 6-3, 6-7 (2) [11-9].
   Here are the Berkeley singles and doubles draws and Saturday's schedule. Live streaming is available.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Top seed Brengle rallies to beat qualifier in Berkeley

Madison Brengle has altered her serve because of what she
says is incurable hand and arm pain caused by a reaction to
an anti-doping blood test at the 2016 U.S. Open. Photo by
Paul Bauman
   BERKELEY, Calif. – Madison Brengle had a simple explanation for how she beat the French Open runner-up at Wimbledon two weeks ago and almost lost to a qualifier ranked No. 526 today.
   "Everybody's good," Brengle observed. "That's all there is to it."
   After ousting 16th-seeded Marketa Vondrousova in the first round at Wimbledon two weeks ago, the top-seeded Brengle gutted out a 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 victory over 18-year-old fellow American Alycia Parks in the second round of the $60,000 Berkeley Tennis Club Women's Challenge.
   Serving at 0-2 in the second set, Brengle saved eight – yes, eight – break points and held.
   "'Concerned' is the wrong word," Brengle, ranked No. 83 after reaching a career-high No. 35 in 2015, said after her second consecutive match against a U.S. teenage qualifier. "I will go out and compete and give it my best, and whatever happens happens. This is not the be all, end all."
   Why so many break points? That, too, is simple. Brengle, 29, has altered her serve because of what she says is incurable hand and arm pain caused by a reaction to an anti-doping blood test at the 2016 U.S. Open. She sued the Women's Tennis Association and International Tennis Federation in April 2018. The WTA and ITF have not publicly commented on the case.
   Throughout today's match, the explosive Parks jumped all over Brengle's soft, stiff-armed deliveries and rifled returns. Ultimately, though, unforced errors doomed Parks.
   "I kind of lost focus, I guess," said Parks, who easily got discouraged and continually asked her father, Michael Parks, sitting at one end of the court not to comment during the match. "If I (had) stayed focused, I would have (gotten) through that match, for sure."
Alycia Parks, 18, has often been compared to the Williams sisters.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Alycia Parks took the loss philosophically.
   "I'm not disappointed," she insisted. "I never lose; I learn."
   Parks turned pro at 16. In a Palm Beach (Fla.) Post story last December, Michael Parks said his daughter's game was "too good for college. She's a freak-of-nature athlete."
   Parks has often been compared to Venus and Serena Williams. Like the Williams sisters, Parks is an African-American who skipped the juniors to let her body develop. Like Venus, she's tall (5-foot-11 or 1.80 meters) and slender. They even look alike facially. Like Serena, Parks has a booming serve.
   "Serena called me when I was 7 or 8," Alycia Parks recalled in the Palm Beach Post story. "She was saying positive things and telling me to stick with it. Now that I'm here, I'm sure she's proud. ... "
   Brengle suffered a toe injury during the match but said it didn't bother her.
   "I think I just lost a toenail, but that's fine," she said. "Who needs 'em, right? Just paint them and make believe."
   Brengle is scheduled to play unseeded American Gail Brodsky, a 28-year-old mother of two who quit tennis in 2012 and returned early last year, on Friday at noon. They have split four matches, the last one in 2012.
   Also in the top half of the draw, sixth-seeded Kristie Ahn, a 27-year-old Stanford graduate from Englewood Cliffs, N.J., will face unseeded Arina Rodionova, a 29-year-old Australian from Russia, for the first time at about 2 p.m. Both players qualified for Wimbledon this month and lost in the first round.
Kristie Ahn, a 27-year-old Stanford graduate, serves during
her 7-5, 6-2 victory over Usue Arconada, whose winning
streak ended at 11 matches. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Ahn, ranked No. 180, ended Usue (pronounced OO-sway) Arconada's winning streak at 11 matches, beating the 20-year-old American 7-5, 6-2 to reach the Berkeley quarterfinals for the second consecutive year.
   Ahn, a 5-foot-5 (1.65-meter) right-hander, played with her right arm heavily taped to protect a hyperextended elbow. The arm, she said, is "much better than it looks."
   Rodionova, ranked No. 206, outlasted Jovana Jaksic, a 25-year-old Serb living in Sacramento, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (6), 6-3 in 2 hours, 56 minutes despite committing 10 double faults.
   In the bottom half of the draw, second-seeded Sachia (pronounced Sa-sha) Vickery will play unseeded but powerful fellow American Caroline Dolehide for the first time at about noon.
   Also, fifth-seeded Na-Lae Han of South Korea will take on unseeded Mayo Hibi, who grew up in Irvine in the Los Angeles region but plays for her native Japan, at 10 a.m. Hibi, who also advanced to the Berkeley quarterfinals for the second straight year, is 3-1 against Han.
   Here are the Berkeley singles and doubles draws and Friday's schedule. Live streaming is available. 

Teens Volynets, Ma show promise in Berkeley losses

Katie Volynets, a 17-year-old wild card from Walnut
Creek in the San Francisco Bay Area, celebrates after
winning a point during her 5-7, 6-2, 7-6 (3) loss to
unseeded Caroline Dolehide on Wednesday in the
first round of the $60,000 Berkeley Tennis Club
Club Women's Challenge. Photo by Paul Bauman
   BERKELEY, Calif. – The wave began with CiCi Bellis, now an "old lady" of 20.
   Bellis, who grew up across San Francisco Bay in Atherton, burst onto the international tennis scene at 15 by stunning 12th-seeded Dominika Cibulkova in the first round of the 2014 U.S. Open.
   Bellis reached a career-high No. 35 in 2017 and was named the WTA Newcomer of the Year.
   The right-hander is practicing after undergoing four operations on her right wrist/arm in one year and hopes to return by the U.S. Open, which begins Aug. 26. She has been sidelined since March 2018.
   Now, along come three more promising Northern California teenagers: 17-year-old Katie Volynets  and 16-year-olds Connie Ma, Allura Zamarripa and Maribella Zamarripa. Volynets and Ma, like Bellis, are undersized players from the Bay Area.
   One day after the Zamarripas, identical twins from Saint Helena in the Napa region, narrowly lost to Madison Brengle and Sachia (pronounced Sa-sha) Vickery, seeded 1-2 in singles in the $60,000 Berkeley Tennis Club Women's Challenge, in the first round of doubles, Volynets and Ma showed top-100 potential in opening-round singles losses on Wednesday.
   The appropriately named Volynets, a 5-foot-6 (1.68-meter) wild card from Walnut Creek, fell to unseeded Caroline Dolehide, a 20-year-old native of Hinsdale, Ill., now based in Orlando, Fla., 5-7, 6-2, 7-6 (3) in 2 hours, 34 minutes in the featured evening match.
   Dolehide has plunged from a career-high No. 102 last July to No. 256 but reached the singles semifinals and doubles final in a $60,000 tournament in Honolulu last week.
   Last year, Dolehide played in the main draw of three Grand Slam tournaments, reaching the second round of the French Open as a qualifier, and advanced to the third round at Indian Wells, coming within a tiebreaker of beating Simona Halep, then ranked No. 1.
   Volynets, ranked No. 393, needed some time to put her loss in perspective.
   "Right after the match, it's always difficult to look at it (as encouraging) because it was so close," said Volynets, a rising high school senior who's still deciding whether to attend college or turn pro. "But I can see that my level can be there, so that's definitely encouraging to me."
Connie Ma, a 16-year-old qualifier from Dublin in the Bay Area,
rips a forehand during her 6-3, 6-1 loss to top-seeded Madison
Brengle. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Ma, a 5-foot-4 (1.63-meter), 100-pound (45.4-kilogram) qualifier from Dublin, lost to Brengle, an American ranked No. 83 in the world after reaching a career-high No. 35 in 2015, 6-3, 6-1 in 64 minutes. But Ma held her own in rallies.
   "It was good experience and a good match for me to be able to play someone like her," Ma, ranked No. 732, said after her first match against a top-100 player.
   Volynets, who relies on consistency and mental toughness, ultimately succumbed to the 5-foot-10 (1.78-meter) Dolehide's power, disappointing a vocal group of supporters including Volynets' Ukrainian parents, Andrey and Anna.
   "There's always room for improvement," said Volynets, who recently added renowned Joseph Gilbert of Sacramento to her coaching team. "She's definitely one of the biggest servers I've ever seen. That tells me that I'd also like to improve my return against these huge servers."
   Many of Dolehide's kick second serves bounced above Volynets' head. The match ended when Volynets sailed one of them long.
   In the January/February issue of Tennis Magazine, International Tennis Hall of Famer Tracy Austin wrote of Dolehide: "Her kick serve is already one of the best on tour. She's got so much power but also has all-court abilities, including net coverage. She's still maturing."
   So is Ma. When Brengle was asked if Ma reminds her of herself at 16, Brengle cracked: "No, she's a little more composed than I was at that time."
   Brengle has a soft, stiff-armed serve because of arm pain caused by a long-term reaction to an anti-doping blood test for which she sued the Women's Tennis Association and International Tennis Federation in April 2018. The WTA and ITF have not publicly commented on the case.
   That Brengle has remained in the top 100 says something about her groundstrokes, return of serve and intelligence.
Madison Brengle will face another U.S. teenage
qualifier, 18-year-old Alycia Parks, today at noon
in the second round. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Is her arm OK?
   "It will never be OK," Brengle lamented.
   Also Wednesday:
   –Hailey Baptiste, 17, of Washington, D.C., surprised eighth-seeded Katie Swan of Great Britain 7-5, 6-3. Baptiste is scheduled to face Dolehide in today's featured match not before 5 p.m.
   –Qualifier Alycia Parks, an 18-year-old Venus Williams lookalike from Port St. Lucie, Fla., defeated Giuliana Olmos, a 26-year-old product of Fremont in the Bay Area, 6-2, 6-3. Parks will face Brengle at noon.
   –Sixth-seeded Kristie Ahn, a 27-year-old Stanford graduate, beat qualifier Tara Moore of Great Britain 6-3, 6-3. Ahn will take on unseeded Usue (pronounced OO-sway) Arconada, a 20-year-old American who has won 11 consecutive matches and 18 or her last 19, today at about 2 p.m. Ahn has played Arconada once, winning 6-1, 6-1 in the semifinals of a $25,000 tournament in Rancho Santa Fe in the San Diego area in February.
   –Vickery, 24, of Miramar, Fla., defeated U.S. wild card Maegan Manasse, a 24-year-old former Cal star, 6-4, 6-4.
   –Jovana Jaksic, a 25-year-old Serb who lives in Sacramento, eliminated Natasha Subhash, a 17-year-old wild card from Fairfax, Va., 6-2, 6-4.
   Here are the Berkeley singles and doubles draws and today's schedule. Live streaming is available.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

25 years after debut in Oakland, Venus to play in S.J.

Venus Williams, shown last year in San Jose, plans to return this month at age 39.
Photo by Mal Taam
   In 1994, Venus Williams made her professional debut indoors in Oakland at 14 years old.
   A quarter of a century later, Williams plans to return to the Bay Area to compete in the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic.
   Williams will play the featured evening match on Tuesday, July 30, at 7 p.m., officials announced Tuesday. The tournament is scheduled for July 29-Aug. 4 at San Jose State.
   The Bay Area practically has been a third home to Williams, who grew up in Compton in the Los Angeles region and lives in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. She will make her 15th appearance in the tournament, which moved to Stanford in 1997 and San Jose last year. Williams reached the Stanford final eight times, winning in 2000 and 2002, and the San Jose quarterfinals in 2018.
   Williams won the last of her seven Grand Slam singles titles in 2008 at Wimbledon. She was diagnosed with Sjogren's Syndrome, an incurable energy-sapping disease, in 2011.
   Williams becomes the third former world No. 1 to enter the Silicon Valley Classic, joining two-time Grand Slam champions Victoria Azarenka and Garbine Muguruza.
   The field also includes seventh-ranked Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, No. 10 Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, 17-year-old U.S. sensation Amanda Anisimova, 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia, defending champion Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania and 2018 runner-up Maria Sakkari of Greece.
   Sabalenka is coached by Dmitry Tursunov, a former longtime Northern California resident from Russia.
   International Tennis Hall of Famers Andy Roddick and Michael Chang and former top-10 players James Blake and Mark Philippoussis will play a one-night tournament as part of the Invesco Series on Saturday, Aug. 3.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

16-year-olds take spotlight in $60K Berkeley tourney

Little Connie Ma, 16, of Dublin in the San Fran-
cisco Bay Area, qualified in Berkeley for the
second year in a row. Photo by Paul Bauman
   BERKELEY, Calif. – Today was Kids Day at the $60,000 Berkeley Tennis Club Women's Challenge.
   No, a horde of ragamuffins wasn't running amok and making a – ahem – racket.
   Four 16-year-old Northern Californians played on a beautiful day at the former home of International Tennis Hall of Famers Don Budge and Helen Wills Moody, one in the last round of singles qualifying and three in the first round of main-draw doubles.
   Only Connie Ma, the singles player, won, but the doubles team of identical twins Allura and Maribella Zamarripa put up a fight against a formidable pair. So did Makenna Thiel for a set.
   Ma, a 5-foot-4 (1.63-meter), 100-pound (45.4-kilogram) resident of nearby Dublin, outplayed China's Xiaodi You, seeded third in qualifying, 6-4, 7-6 (4) to reach the main draw for the second consecutive year.
   Ma lost to eighth-seeded Mayo Hibi, who grew up in Irvine in the Los Angeles area and plays for her native Japan, 6-0, 6-3 in the first round in 2018. Hibi was ranked No. 187 at the time.
   Ma's reward this time? A matchup against top-seeded Madison Brengle on Wednesday after the 10 a.m. encounter between eighth-seeded Katie Swan of Great Britain and 17-year-old Hailey Baptiste of Washington, D.C.
   Brengle, ranked No. 83 after reaching a career-high No. 35 in 2015, will be the 732nd-ranked Ma's first top-100 opponent. The winner will play another qualifier, either Giuliana Olmos, a product of nearby Fremont who plays for Mexico, or Alycia Parks, an 18-year-old professional from Port St. Lucie, Fla.
   You, ranked No. 293, also advanced to the main draw when third-seeded Sofya Zhuk, a Russian who won the Wimbledon girls singles title at 15 in 2015, withdrew.
Identical twins Allura Zamarripa, left, and Maribella Zamarripa,
16, of Saint Helena in the Napa region, pushed Madison Brengle
and Sachia Vickery, seeded 1-2 in singles, in the first round of
doubles. Photo by Paul Bauman
   The Zamarripas, wild cards from Saint Helena in the Napa region, lost to American veterans Brengle and Sachia Vickery, seeded second in singles, 6-7 (5), 6-2 [10-5].
   Wild cards Thiel, a resident of neighboring Piedmont playing on her home courts, and former UCLA All-American Chanelle Van Nguyen fell to fourth-seeded Pei Hsuan Chen and Fan-Hsien Wu of Taiwan 6-2, 6-4.
   Both main-draw singles seeds in action today lost. Arina Rodionova, an Australian veteran ranked 206th, ousted fourth-seeded Francesca Di Lorenzo, an American ranked 153rd, 6-4, 7-5.
   Di Lorenzo, a 21-year-old left-hander from Columbus, Ohio, who won the 2017 NCAA doubles title as an Ohio State sophomore, led 3-0 in the first set and had a set point in the second set.
   Japan's Hiroko Kuwata ranked 271st, eliminated seventh-seeded Zoe Hives, an Australian ranked 201st, 6-3, 6-4. 
   Ma wore down You mentally with outstanding defense and consistency.
   "It was clear," Ma said. "You could tell she was getting kind of frustrated. She was spraying balls wide that she usually wouldn't, and some of the calls kind of made her frustrated, too."
   There was late drama, though. Ma served for the match at 6-4, 5-4 but was broken when she made a rare error, slugging a cross-court backhand wide.
   When asked if she got tight serving for the match, Ma paused and said, "Um, maybe a little, but I think more of the problem was that the sun is in your eyes over there, so you have to adjust your toss. It is what it is. Obviously, you can't control the sun."
Makenna Thiel, 16, playing on her home courts, and Chan-
elle Van Nguyen tested fourth-seeded Pei Hsuan Chen and
Fang-Hsien Wu of Taiwan in the opening round of doubles.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   After You held for 6-5, Ma saved two set points and forced a tiebreaker. You double-faulted to give Ma a 4-1 lead, and Ma laced a forehand winner to go up 6-2 with four match points. She converted the third one when You slugged a backhand down the lie that smacked the tape and bounced back.
   The Zamarripas, who won back-to-back doubles titles in $15,000 clay-court tournaments in Florida last month, charged the net, volleyed impressively and pinned Brengle and Vickery on the baseline for much of their match.
   Brengle has a soft, stiff-armed serve because of arm pain caused by a long-term reaction to an anti-doping blood test for which she sued the Women's Tennis Association and International Tennis Federation. The WTA and ITF have not publicly commented on the case. Vickery had her own serving woes in the first set.
   But the Zamarripas relaxed a bit after winning the first set, while Brengle and Vickery increased their intensity and used their experience.
   "They raised their level a little bit, but I feel like our focus was a little off," Maribella Zamarripa said. "Something happened. It's ups and downs. You can't always control them."
   Fortunately, Maribella is right-handed, and Allura is a lefty. Otherwise, it would be almost impossible to tell them apart. Guess who their idols are.
   "Definitely the Bryan brothers," Allura asserted. "We took a couple pictures with them. I always remember that, and we're just hoping to be like them one day."
   Added Maribella: "I would say so, since they're lefty-righty, mirror (images) – who else to idolize? They've won so many Slams. It's very encouraging."
   So was the Zamarripas' performance today.
   Here are the Berkeley qualifying draw, singles and doubles main draws, and Wednesday's schedule. Live streaming is available.

Top seed Brengle has favorable draw in $60K Berkeley

Madison Brengle poses with the trophy after winning the
$60,000 Stockton (Calif.) Challenger last October. Photo
by Paul Bauman
   Top-seeded Madison Brengle on Monday received the best possible draw for someone adjusting from Wimbledon's grass to U.S. hard courts.
   Maybe.
   The 29-year-old American, ranked No. 83, will play a qualifier, whose identity will be determined today, on Wednesday in the first round of the $60,000 Berkeley Tennis Club Women's Challenge.
   The downside for Brengle is the qualifier will have played two matches in Berkeley, allowing her to adapt to the conditions, while Brengle plays only doubles today. The final round of qualifying begins at 10 a.m. today. 
   But assuming Brengle wins in the first round, she will play another qualifier on Thursday in the second round. 
   Brengle, who won the $60,000 Stockton (Calif.) Challenger last October, stunned 16th-seeded Marketa Vondrousova in the first round at Wimbledon before falling to Karolina Muchova, who went on to reach the quarterfinals. Vondrousova advanced to the French Open final last month at age 19, losing to Ashleigh Barty.
   Here are the Berkeley qualifying draw, singles and doubles main draws, and today's schedule. Live streaming is available.
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