Tuesday, June 15, 2021

France's Humbert edges Querrey in Halle opener

Sam Querrey fell to Ugo Humbert of France in three
close sets today. 2017 photo by Paul Bauman
   Ugo Humbert of France nipped Sam Querrey of Las Vegas 4-6, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5) in 2 hours, 26 minutes today in the first round of the Noventi Open, an ATP 500 tournament on grass in Halle, Germany. 
   The 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) Querrey, a 33-year-old San Francisco native, slugged 14 aces, and Humbert, a 22-year-old left-hander, had 12.
   Querrey reached the Wimbledon semifinals in 2017 and quarterfinals in 2016, stunning two-time defending champion Novak Djokovic in the third round, and 2019.
   ATP Challenger Tour — In the first round of doubles in the €88,520 ($107,340) Moneta Czech Open on red clay in Prostejov, Czech Republic, Alexander Erler and Tristan-Samuel Weissborn of Austria topped No. 4 seeds Max Schnur of New York and Sem Verbeek (University of the Pacific, 2013-16) of the Netherlands 6-4, 4-6 [10-5].
   ITF Women's Tour — In the opening round of doubles in the $100,000 Nottingham (England) Trophy, No. 4 seeds Monica Niculescu and Elena Gabriela Ruse of Romania routed Kristie Ahn, a Stanford graduate playing on her 29th birthday, and Lizette Cabrera of Australia 6-3, 6-0 in 52 minutes.
   In a first-round doubles match in the $25,000 Palmetto Pro Open on hardcourts in Sumter, S.C., 18-year-old identical twins Allura and Maribella Zamarripa of St. Helena in the Napa Valley edged U.S. wild cards Emma Davis and Amy Zhu 6-4, 4-6 [10-8]. 

Monday, June 14, 2021

McDonald advances in Nottingham Challenger

Mackenzie McDonald did not face a break
point in his 6-4, 6-2 win over Antoine Hoang
of France. 2016 photo by Paul Bauman
   Mackenzie McDonald, who was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, defeated Antoine Hoang of France 6-4, 6-2 today in the first round of the €132,280 ($160,315) Nottingham Trophy on grass in England.
   McDonald, only 5-foot-10 (1.78 meters) and 160 pounds (73 kilograms) did not face a break point in the match. The 26-year-old Orlando, Fla., resident, who reached the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2018, is scheduled to play the winner of Tuesday's match between No. 3 seed Andreas Seppi of Italy and lucky loser Zhang Zhizhen of China. 
   ATP Tour — Another Bay Area native, Sam Querrey, teamed with Austin Krajicek of Plano, Texas, to beat German qualifiers Daniel Masur and Rudolf Molleker 6-3, 7-5 in the opening round on grass in Halle, Germany.
   Krajicek and Querrey are set to face No. 1 seeds and reigning Australian Open champions Ivan Dodig of Croatia and Filip Polasek of Slovakia. 
   WTA Tour — Sharon Fichman of Canada and Giuliana Olmos, a 28-year-old product of Fremont in the Bay Area who represents Mexico, ousted No. 2 seeds Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara of Japan 6-4, 6-4 in the first round on grass in Berlin. 
   Fichman and Olmos also defeated Aoyama and Shibahara, a 23-year-old native of Mountain View in the Bay Area, in straight sets in the Italian Open semifinals last month en route to the biggest title of their career. 

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Djokovic overcomes big deficit for French Open crown

Novak Djokovic joined Rod Laver and Roy Emerson as the only men
to win each major tournament at least twice. 2015 photo by Paul Bauman
   As incredible as Novak Djokovic's physical skills are, his mental toughness is at least as impressive.
   The combination has produced probably the greatest player ever.
   Coming off a grueling victory over 13-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal, the top-ranked Djokovic defeated upstart Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-7 (6), 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 today in 4 hours, 11 minutes in the final at Roland Garros in Paris.
   Djokovic, 34, came back from two sets down in a Grand Slam final for the first time and became the first man to win a French Open final after losing the first two sets since Gaston Gaudio of Argentina in 2004. Dominic Thiem also accomplished the feat in the U.S. Open last September.
   "I'm very proud, very happy," Djokovic, who joined Rod Laver and Roy Emerson as the only men to win each major tournament at least twice, told reporters. "I don't want to stop here. Hopefully, I can keep on (winning) here at Roland Garros, at least one or two more times."
   Djokovic claimed his 19th Grand Slam singles title, one short of the record held by Roger Federer, who will turn 40 in August, and Nadal, 35, and moved halfway to the first calendar-year Grand Slam since Laver in 1969. Djokovic defeated Daniil Medvedev in straight sets to win the Australian Open in February.
   Djokovic is 27-23 against Federer and 30-28 against Nadal.
   Djokovic also lost the first two sets against rising star Lorenzo Musetti in the fourth round, making him the first man in the professional era to win a Grand Slam tournament after twice trailing two sets to none, according to the International Tennis Federation. The third set of his 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-2 victory over Nadal was perhaps the most electrifying ever played. 
   The fifth-seeded Tsitsipas, 22, was trying to become the first Greek to win a major singles title. He showed no sign of nerves in the first two sets and fought valiantly until the end.
   "I'd like to thank the Greek fans and my team, who are constantly behind me, for my dreams," Tsitsipas said. "This is a long journey."
   In the fifth set today, Djokovic broke serve to lead 2-1, and Tsitsipas saved two break points to hold for 3-4. Djokovic, serving at 5-4, converted his second championship point. 
   In the opening set, Djokovic saved a set point while serving at 4-5 and broke serve at 15 for 6-5. Tsitsipas broke back at 15 and led 4-0 in the tiebreaker. Djokovic fought back to earn a set point at 6-5, but Tsitsipas reeled off the next three points for the set. 
   Tsitsipas broke serve in the opening game of the second set, went up a double break at 5-2 and closed out the set with an ace. Djokovic then took one of his two allotted locker room breaks and had a talk with himself.
   "There's always two voices inside," he said. "There is one telling you that you can't do it, that it's done, it's finished. That voice was pretty strong after that second set. So I felt that that was a time for me to actually vocalize the other voice and try to suppress the first one that was saying I can't make it. I told myself I can do it. Encouraged myself. I strongly started to repeat that inside of my mind, tried to live it with my entire being."
   Djokovic took a 3-1 lead in the third set on his fifth break point of the game and served out the set. Tsitsipas then took a medical timeout to receive back treatment.
   Djokovic led 4-0 with two service breaks in the fourth set and held on for the victory. 
   Earlier today, Barbora Krejcikova became the first woman to sweep the French Open singles and doubles titles since Mary Pierce in 2000. Krejcikova and fellow Czech Katerina Siniakova, seeded second, beat 14th-seeded Bethanie Mattek-Sands of Phoenix and Iga Swiatek, last year's singles champion at 19, of Poland 6-4, 6-2.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Krejcikova tops ailing ex-Capital for French Open title

   Formerly considered a doubles specialist, Barbora Krejcikova has a new title.
   Grand Slam singles champion.
   The unseeded Czech capped her stunning run in the French Open with a 6-1, 2-6, 6-4 victory over ailing Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova today in Paris. Afterward, Krejcikova (pronounced Kray-chee-ko-va) looked at the sky in honor of her former coach, countrywoman Jana Novotna, an International Tennis Hall of Famer who died of ovarian cancer at 49 in 2017.
   It was the first Grand Slam singles final for both players. Pavlyuchenkova (the "y" is silent), who will turn 30 on July 2, needed a record 52 attempts to get that far in a major and Krejcikova, 25, only five.
   "I'm just really happy that I was able to handle it mentally," Krejcikova told reporters. "I think that was the biggest key."
  Krejcikova, who saved a match point in her marathon semifinal against Maria Sakkari, became the:
   —Sixth consecutive first-time Grand Slam women's champion at Roland Garros, following (in order) GarbiƱe Muguruza, Jelena Ostapenko, Simona Halep, Ashleigh Barty and Iga Swiatek.
   —Third unseeded winner in Paris in five years, joining Ostapenko and Swiatek.
   —First Czech woman to earn the title since Hana Mandlikova 40 years ago. Czech-born Martina Navratilova, representing the United States, won the last of her two French Open singles crowns in 1984. Navratilova presented Krejcikova with the Coupe Suzanne-Lenglen.
   Krejcikova also extended her winning streak to 12 matches. She won her first WTA singles title in Strasbourg the week before the French Open.
   Krejcikova, who ascended to No. 1 in doubles in 2018, jumped 18 places to a career-high No. 15 in singles and pocketed $1.69 million. The 31st-seeded Pavlyuchenkova, who played for the Sacramento Capitals of World TeamTennis as the world's top junior at 15 in 2006, rose 13 spots to No. 19 and collected $907,880. 
   Pavlyuchenkova, serving for the second set at 5-1, hurt her left leg and lost the game. After having her upper thigh wrapped, she broke back for the set.
   In the third set, Krejcikova broke at love to lead 4-3 and held for 5-3. Pavlyuchenkova then saved two championship points to hold for 4-5.
   Krejcikova earned two more championship points in the next game at 40-15. She double-faulted on the first one, but Pavlyuchenkova then slugged a backhand barely long.
   "I didn't expect that this tournament, this Roland Garros, I'll be in the final," said Pavlyuchenkova, the first Russian Grand Slam finalist in six years. "Physically, I wasn't feeling super great, like ready, 100 percent. Still, because of fighting and believing, you can achieve it. That's probably the most important."
   On Sunday, Krejcikova will try to become the first woman to sweep the singles and doubles crowns at Roland Garros since Mary Pierce in 2000. Krejcikova and countrywoman Katerina Siniakova, the second seeds, will face 14th-seeded Bethanie Mattek-Sands of Phoenix and Swiatek of Poland.
   Krejcikova and Siniakova captured the French Open and Wimbledon in 2018, propelling them to No. 1.
   ATP Tour — No. 3 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime, 20, of Canada defeated Sam Querrey, a 33-year-old San Francisco native, 6-4, 7-5 to reach his second consecutive Mercedes Cup final on grass in Stuttgart, Germany. Auger-Aliassime lost to Matteo Berrettini in the 2019 title match.
   ATP Challenger Tour — Unseeded Christopher Eubanks of Atlanta beat wild card Sam Riffice, a 22-year-old native of Sacramento, Calif., playing in his adopted hometown, 6-3, 7-6 (3) in the semifinals of the $52,080 Orlando (Fla.) Open on hardcourts.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Djokovic outduels Nadal in French Open classic

Novak Djokovic became the first player to beat Rafael Nadal twice in the French
Open. 2017 photo by Mal Taam
   In a match featuring perhaps the most breathtaking set ever played, Novak Djokovic overcame a terrible start to achieve the toughest feat in tennis.
   Beating Rafael Nadal in the French Open.
   The top-ranked Djokovic subdued the third-seeded Rafael Nadal 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-2 in a 4-hour, 11-minute semifinal today in Paris.
   "It was for sure the most beautiful match I've played here in Paris," Djokovic said on court in French after ending Nadal's four-year reign at Roland Garros.
   Nadal, attempting to become the oldest man to win the French Open at 35, fell to 105-3 at Roland Garros. Djokovic, 34, became the first player to beat him twice there. Now-retired Robin Soderling of Sweden is the other.
   Nadal has won the French Open 13 times, the most by anyone in a Grand Slam tournament. He remains tied with Roger Federer with a record 20 Grand Slam singles titles.
   Djokovic will try to win his 19th major and second French Open crown on Sunday against Stefanos Tsitsipas, a first-time Grand Slam finalist, on Sunday at 6 a.m. PDT (NBC).
   Nadal won the first five games of today's match in what looked like a replay of his 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 victory over Djokovic in last October's French Open final. Suddenly, however, the Serb found his game.
   The third set, in particular, was filled with spectacular shotmaking by both players. Djokovic served for the set at 5-4, Nadal saved a break point to hold for 6-5, and Djokovic survived a set point in the next game with a gutsy backhand drop shot. 
   Nadal led 2-0 in the fourth set before his left ankle apparently started bothering him. After Djokovic held for 3-2, Nadal had the tape sliced off the ankle. It didn't help.
   Djokovic improved to 30-28 overall, 8-19 on clay and 2-7 in the French Open against Nadal.
   The all-time greats "never should have met in the semifinals," bellowed NBC commentator Mary Carillo. 
   The French Open seeded players strictly by rankings. Therefore, No. 2 Daniil Medvedev, who had been 0-4 at Roland Garros, was placed at the bottom of the draw instead of Nadal or Djokovic.
   Tsitsipas, 22, outlasted No. 6 seed Alexander Zverev of Germany 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3 in 3 hours, 37 minutes to become the first Greek to reach a Grand Slam final and the youngest man to do so since Andy Murray in the 2010 Australian Open.
   Tsitsipas, who had been 0-3 in major semifinals, overcame a 0-40 deficit in the opening game of the fifth set. Zverev, 24, escaped four match points serving at 2-5, but Tsitsipas converted his fifth match point with an ace out wide.
   Last November, Zverev denied domestic abuse allegations.
   Djokovic is 5-2 (3-0 on clay) against Tsitsipas. They will meet for the third consecutive time on clay. Djokovic prevailed 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 in the Italian Open quarterfinals last month and 6-3, 6-2, 5-7, 4-6, 6-1 in the French Open semifinals eight months ago.
   Meanwhile, Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic could become the first woman since Mary Pierce in 2000 to sweep the singles and doubles titles. Krejcikova and countrywoman Katerina Siniakova, the second seeds and 2018 champions, routed unseeded Magda Linette of Poland and Bernarda Pera, a Croatia-born American, 6-1, 6-2 in the semifinals.
   Krejcikova, unseeded in singles, is scheduled to meet 31st-seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia on Saturday at 6 a.m. (NBC). Both will play in their first Grand Slam singles final.
   ATP Tour — Unseeded Sam Querrey continued to take advantage of a favorable draw, topping promising Dominic Stephan Stricker, an 18-year-old wild card from Switzerland, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (4), 6-3 in the quarterfinals of the Mercedes Cup on grass in Stuttgart, Germany.
   Querrey, a 33-year-old San Francisco native, played qualifiers in the first two rounds. He reached his first semifinal since Eastbourne on grass in June 2019, going on to lose to Taylor Fritz in the final.
   ATP Challenger Tour — Wild card Sam Riffice, a 22-year-old native of Sacramento, Calif., beat Ulises Blanch 6-1, 7-5 in the quarterfinals of the $52,080 Orlando (Fla.) Open on hardcourts. Both players are based in Orlando.
   As a junior at the University of Florida, Riffice helped the Gators win their first NCAA men's team title and added the singles crown last month.
   Another Sacramento native, third-seeded Jenson Brooksby, withdrew from his quarterfinal against qualifier Nicolas Mejia of Colombia because of a right arm injury.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Krejcikova saves MP, will face ex-Capital for title in Paris

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who played for the
Sacramento Capitals of World TeamTennis at 15
in 2006, reached a Grand Slam final in a record
 52 attempts. 2017 photo by Paul Bauman
   Saving a match point, unseeded Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic outlasted No. 17 seed Maria Sakkari of Greece 7-5, 4-6, 9-7 in 3 hours, 18 minutes today in the French Open semifinals in Paris.
   Krejcikova (pronounced Kray-chee-ko-va) survived a match point serving at 3-5 in the third set and needed five match points over two games to subdue Sakkari, the runner-up in the inaugural Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose, Calif., in 2018.
   Krejcikova, who won her first WTA singles title in Strasbourg the week before the French Open, extended her winning streak to 11 matches. She will face No. 31 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia for the first time on Saturday at 6 a.m. PDT (NBC). Both are first-time Grand Slam singles finalists.
   "I just think it's going to be a lot of fun," Krejcikova, ranked No. 33 in singles and No. 7 (formerly No. 1) in doubles, told reporters. "I'm just really going to enjoy it because I was never expecting to actually be this far during the tournament. I'm just going to have fun and enjoy and fight until the end."
   Pavlyuchenkova (pronounced Pav-loo-chen-ko-va), who played for the Sacramento Capitals of World TeamTennis as the world's top junior at 15 in 2006, beat unseeded Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia 7-5, 6-3.
   It took Pavlyuchenkova, who will turn 30 on July 2, 52 attempts to reach her first Grand Slam final and Krejcikova, 25, only five.
   "I had my own long special road," said Pavlyuchenkova, the first woman to play more than 50 majors before reaching her first final. "Everybody has different ways. I'm just happy I'm in the final. Trying to enjoy.
   "I think about (winning a Grand Slam tournament) all the time. Been thinking about it since I was a junior, since I was a little kid, since I started playing tennis. That's what you're playing for. That's what you want. It's been there in my head forever."
  Krejcikova also will play in the doubles semifinals with countrywoman Katerina Siniakova on Friday. They won the French Open and Wimbledon in 2018.
   ATP Tour — Taking advantage of a creampuff draw, Sam Querrey reached his first quarterfinal since October 2019. The 33-year-old San Francisco native, playing a qualifier for the second straight match, beat James Duckworth of Australia 6-4, 7-6 (7) in the Mercedes Cup on grass in Stuttgart, Germany.
   In the first round of doubles, German wild cards Andre Begemann and Dustin Brown edged third-seeded Raven Klaasen of South Africa and Ben McLachlan (University of California, Berkeley, 2011-14) of Japan 6-4, 3-6 [10-8].
   ATP Challenger Tour — In the doubles quarterfinals of the $52,080 Orlando (Fla.) Open on hardcourts, Darian King of Barbados and Jason Kubler of Australia downed 22-year-old wild cards Oliver Crawford of Spartanburg, S.C., and Sam Riffice, a native of Sacramento, Calif., 6-4, 7-6 (4).

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Sakkari stuns defending champ; Nadal, Djokovic to meet

Maria Sakkari ousted defending champion Iga Swiatek today in the
French Open quarterfinals. Sakkari reached the final of the inaugural
Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose, Calif., three years ago.
2019 photo by Paul Bauman
   Not only will the French Open women's singles draw produce a first-time Grand Slam champion for the sixth consecutive year, it will have two first-time major finalists. 
   Both oddities were assured when No. 17 seed Maria Sakkari, 25, of Greece ousted No. 8 seed and defending champion Iga Swiatek, 20, of Poland 6-4, 6-4 today in Paris. 
   "I don't want to get too excited because I don't have a day off tomorrow," said Sakkari, the runner-up in the inaugural Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose, Calif., in 2018. "I still have to play, stay focused. But it's a big achievement, for sure. I'm enjoying, as I said on court, my tennis and myself.
   "I have people around me saying it was going to come. You know, they were right. I was impatient, telling them, 'When and when and when?' It actually came this week, so I'm happy about it."
   Meanwhile, Rafael Nadal, 35, and Novak Djokovic, 34, are scheduled to renew their storied rivarly on Friday at about 9 a.m. PDT (Tennis Channel) in a rematch of last year's French Open final, which the Spaniard won 6-0, 6-2, 7-5.
   Sakkari, the highest remaining seed, is set to meet unseeded Barbora Krejcikova, also 25, of the Czech Republic on Thursday at 6 a.m. (Tennis Channel). Krejcikova (pronounced Kray-chee-ko-va) saved five set points in the first set of her 7-6 (6), 6-3 victory over 17-year-old Coco Gauff of Delray Beach, Fla. 
   Krejcikova is 2-0 (1-0 on clay) against Sakkari. 
   The coronavirus pandemic changed Krejcikova's perspective.
   "Just seeing that there are also other things in the world that actually are happening, are just tougher and more difficult than just me playing tennis and losing, or me just playing tennis," said Krejcikova, ranked No. 33 in singles and No. 7 (formerly No. 1) in doubles. "I go and I play tennis, and I lose, but there are actually people that are losing their lives. I just felt more like, 'Well, just relax because you are healthy. Just appreciate this and enjoy the game.'"
   Krejcikova also is set to play in the women's doubles semifinals with countrywoman Katerina Siniakova on Friday. They won Roland Garros in 2018.
   In Thursday's first semifinal at 6 a.m. (Tennis Channel), No. 31 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 29, of Russia is slated to play unseeded Tamara Zidansek, 23, of Slovenia for the first time. Pavlyuchenkova (pronounced Pav-loo-chen-ko-va) played for the now-defunct Sacramento Capitals of World TeamTennis at 15 in 2006.
   The third-seeded Nadal subdued 10th-seeded Diego Schwartzman of Argentina 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-0, and the top-seeded Djokovic held off ninth-seeded Matteo Berrettini of Italy 6-3, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 7-5.
   Djokovic is 29-28 overall against Nadal, who leads 19-7 on clay with a five-match winning streak and 3-0 in French Open finals.
   Nadal has won Roland Garros 13 times, the most by anyone in a Grand Slam tournament. Djokovic earned his only French Open crown five years ago over Andy Murray.
   If Nadal claims his fifth French Open championship in a row (for the second time), he will break the record of 20 Grand Slam men's singles titles he shares with Roger Federer.
   In Friday's first men's semifinal at 6 a.m. (Tennis Channel), No. 5 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, 22, of Greece is set to play No. 6 seed Alexander Zverev, 24, of Germany. Tsitsipas leads the head-to-head series 5-2 (1-0 on clay), but Zverev won the last meeting 6-4, 7-6 (3) in the Acapulco final on a hardcourt in March.
   Last November, Zverev denied domestic abuse allegations.
   ATP TourSam Querrey, a 33-year-old San Francisco native, defeated qualifier Altug Celikbilek of Turkey 6-4, 6-1 in the first round of the Mercedes Cup on grass in Stuttgart, Germany.
   Querrey, now based in Las Vegas, had been 0-3 since early February. He has plunged from a career-high No. 11 in February 2018 to No. 67.
   ATP Challenger Tour — Sacramento, Calif., natives Jenson Brooksby and Sam Riffice reached the quarterfinals of the $52,080 Orlando (Fla.) Open on hardcourts.
   Brooksby, 20, dismantled Jason Kubler of Australia 6-3, 6-1 to improve to 21-2 in Challengers since turning pro in December.
   Riffice, a 22-year-old wild card playing in his adopted hometown, dispatched Roberto Cid Subervi of the Dominican Republic 6-2, 6-2 to reach his first Challenger singles quarterfinal.
   Riffice also advanced to the doubles quarterfinals with former University of Florida teammate Oliver Crawford, 22, of Spartanburg, S.C. The wild cards topped second-seeded Dennis Novikov of San Jose, Calif., and Goncalo Oliveira of Portugal 6-2, 4-6 [10-4] in the opening round.
   Last month as a junior at Florida, Riffice helped the Gators win their first NCAA men's team title and added the singles crown.
   In the first round of doubles on red clay in the €66,640 ($81,157) Bratislava (Slovakia) Open, Malek Jaziri of Tunisia and Blaz Rola of Slovenia eliminated Max Schnur of New York and Sem Verbeek (University of the Pacific, 2013-16) of the Netherlands 6-3, 7-5.
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