Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Volynets, 16, earns first main-draw win in pro tourney

Katie Volynets is interviewed by Tony Acosta of the Stockton
(Calif.) Record during the Stockton Women's 60K two weeks
ago. In the background is Volynets' father Andrey. Photo by
Paul Bauman
   Katie Volynets, a 16-year-old amateur from Walnut Creek in the San Francisco Bay Area, upset another former collegiate All-American today for her first victory in the main draw of a professional tournament.
   Volynets, a 5-foot-6 (1.68-meter) qualifier playing in her fourth pro tourney, dismissed Anna Danilina, a 23-year-old Moscow native who plays for Kazakhstan, 6-2, 6-3 in the first round of the $25,000 McLeod for Health Florence (S.C.) Open on hardcourts.
   Danilina, 5-foot-10 (1.79 meters), reached the quarterfinals of the 2017 and 2018 NCAA Division I Singles Championships in her last two years at Florida.
   Volynets ousted Dutchwoman Arianne Hartono, this year's NCAA singles champion as a senior at Mississippi, on Tuesday in the final round of qualifying.
   Volynets is scheduled to play Emina Bektas, a 25-year-old wild card from Indianapolis, on Thursday. Bektas, a former Michigan All-American, eliminated top-seeded Kristie Ahn, a 26-year-old Stanford graduate, 7-5, 2-3, retired on Tuesday.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

NorCal's Volynets, 16, stuns NCAA champion Hartono

Katie Volynets, playing in the Stockton (Calif.) Women's
60K two weeks ago, defeated reigning NCAA Division I
singles champion Arianne Hartono 2-6, 7-6 (3), 6-1 in the
final round of qualifying for a $25,000 hardcourt tourna-
ment in Florence (S.C.). Photo by Paul Bauman 
   Katie Volynets, 16, of Walnut Creek in the San Francisco Bay Area shocked 14th-seeded Arianne Hartono, the reigning NCAA Division I singles title champion, 2-6, 7-6 (3), 6-1 today in the final round of qualifying for the $25,000 McLeod for Health Florence (S.C.) Open.
   Hartono, from the Netherlands, won the NCAA crown as a Mississippi senior in May. She and Volynets are 5-foot-6 (1.68 meters).
   Volynets is scheduled to play Anna Danilina, a 23-year-old former Florida All-American from Moscow who plays for Kazakhstan, on Wednesday in the first round of the main draw of the hardcourt tournament.
   Volynets, an amateur, is playing in her fourth professional tournament. She has qualified in three of them, including the Stockton (Calif.) Women's 60K two weeks ago, but has yet to win a main-draw match in one.
   In Volynets' first pro tourney, at 15 in June 2017 on a hardcourt in $25,000 Sumter, S.C., she defeated Brazil's Luisa Stefani, an NCAA semifinalist in 2016 and quarterfinalist this year (losing to Hartono) for Pepperdine.
   Volynets, a junior at Clayton Valley Charter High School in Concord, said in Stockton that she has scholarship offers from all the top tennis schools in the nation, including NCAA defending champion Stanford and Cal, but hasn't decided if she will attend college.
   "I'm just testing the pro circuit right now," she said.
   Volynets won the prestigious Easter Bowl at Indian Wells in April and reached the quarterfinals of the USTA Girls 18 National Championships in San Diego in August.
   Last year, Volynets advanced to the U.S. Open girls quarterfinals in her first junior Grand Slam and won the USTA Girls 18 National Clay Court Championships in Memphis, Tenn.
   In 2016, Volynets became the first girl to win the 16s in the Eddie Herr International Championships and Orange Bowl in the same year. The tournaments were held in consecutive weeks on hard courts in Bradenton, Fla., and on clay in Plantation, Fla., respectively.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

After mulling retirement, Fratangelo fabulous in Fairfield

Bjorn Fratangelo poses with tournament officials and his check for $14,400
after winning the $100,000 NorthBay Healthcare Men's Pro Championship
in Fairfield, Calif. From left to right are NorthBay Healthcare President & CEO
B. Konard Jones, Solano Community College District Superintendent-President
Celia Esposito-Noy, Fratangelo, tournament chairman Jay Shoemaker and tour-
nament director Phil Cello. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Note to readers: If you enjoy my coverage of Northern California tennis, please donate on my homepage. Even $5 of $10 will help. Here's why I need your support. Thank you.
   FAIRFIELD, Calif. -- Bjorn Fratangelo was so discouraged over the summer that he considered retiring early like his namesake.
   Three months later, the unseeded American cradled the trophy in the $100,000 NorthBay Healthcare Men's Pro Championship after outplaying eighth-seeded Alex Bolt of Australia 6-4, 6-3 today at Solano Community College.
Unseeded Bjorn Fratangelo of Orlando, Fla., beat No. 8 seed Alex Bolt of
Australia 6-4, 6-3 for his first Challenger singles title in 2 1/2 years. Photo
 by Paul Bauman
   "I'm feeling a lot better than I was three months ago," Fratangelo crowed after winning his third Challenger singles title and first in 2 1/2 years. "If somebody had told me in June I'd win a Challenger, I probably would have laughed and thought you were crazy. It's really special right now. It's probably my most emotional win.
   "If I'm going to be honest, I wasn't sure in the summertime if I was going to continue to play. I had a lot of doubts and a lot of things going wrong, and I just wasn't enjoying tennis. To turn this around like I have, I'm really proud of myself and my team."
   Bjorn Borg retired at 26 in 1983 after training fanatically for 10 years and winning 11 Grand Slam singles titles. Fratangelo's future also looked promising when he won the French Open boys singles title in 2011. He climbed as high as No. 99 in June 2016 but has been in the 100s ever since.
   After struggling this summer, Fratangelo hired Andres Alarcon as his new coach and has won 14 of his last 18 matches, all on the Challenger circuit, equivalent to Triple A in baseball.
   "I started off pretty poorly in the beginning of the year," groaned Fratangelo, a Pittsburgh native now based in Orlando, Fla. "Just when things were looking up in the clay-court season, I tore my quad. Sitting at home made me a bit miserable. I had a lot of negative thoughts that were bringing me down. Then when I finally was healed, there wasn't really much excitement to get back on the court, and it showed. I think I went 0-8 or 0-9. I just wasn't myself. I wasn't tanking but wasn't competing how I normally compete.
Alex Bolt, a Clark Gable lookalike, addresses
the crowd after the final. Photo by Paul Bauman
   "There were a lot of problems that I had to address. Luckily, I had a lot of help from my family, my new coach, and (USTA coaches) Troy Hahn and Nicolas Todero to get back on track, so I owe a lot of this to them. I wouldn't be here right now without their support and help because it was a really tough time period."
   Fratangelo elaborated on his negativity and lack of motivation. 
   "You feel like your career gets stuck," he moaned. "I was around 100 for three years, you feel like you do everything you can to improve, and things aren't happening. After three, three-and-a-half years of that, I finally cracked a little bit once I got hurt and had time to sit back. It was hard. There were a lot of rough days. I wasn't the easiest person to be around for a while, but I've changed everything, and I think I'm back to normal, maybe better than ever. Hopefully I can take this form and this attitude into the rest of my career."
   Fratangelo continued playing because "ultimately, it's what I do. I'm a tennis player. I've been doing it my whole life. Just because I wasn't enjoying playing, it doesn't necessarily mean I don't enjoy the sport. I love tennis, I love to watch tennis, I love to play. Maybe at that time, I was enjoying just playing more than I was competing. But I think I got my competitiveness back. I'm very lucky to do this, but sometimes it takes a land mine to prove that to yourself."
   Both Fratangelo and the left-handed Bolt, a Clark Gable lookalike with his dark features and thin mustache, are 6-foot (1.83-meter) 25-year-olds with two-handed backhands. Even their rankings are almost identical. Fratangelo leaped 20 places to No. 138 with the title, and Bolt jumped 16 spots to a career-high No. 139.
   Bolt, a two-time Australian Open doubles quarterfinalist who qualified for Wimbledon in singles this year, was the third Australian and second Aussie left-hander to fall to Fratangelo in the NorthBay Healthcare tournament. Fratangelo eliminated John-Patrick Smith 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 in the first round to avenge a three-set loss to the lefty in the second round of the $100,000 Tiburon (Calif.) Challenger two weeks ago and ousted top-seeded Jordan Thompson 6-1, 6-4 in the quarterfinals.
Alex Bolt leaps into a backhand in the final. Photo
by Paul Bauman
   Bolt, meanwhile, outlasted countryman Thanasi Kokkinakis, who stunned Roger Federer in March, 7-5, 3-6, 6-4 in the first round, edged 22-year-old wild card Collin Altamirano of Sacramento 7-6 (6), 6-7 (3), 7-6 (5) in the second round in the match of the tournament and ousted second-seeded Lloyd Harris, the champion of last week's $100,000 Stockton (Calif.) Challenger, in the quarterfinals.
  A near-capacity crowd of about 250 people turned out for the final on a gorgeous 80-degree (26.7 Celsius). Fratangelo broke serve once in the first set and twice in the second, saved the only break point against him and won a phenomenal 18 of 21 points (86 percent) on his second serve.
   Bolt, who was seeking his third career Challenger singles title and second this year, took a medical timeout for an abdominal problem after the first set but showed no discomfort during the match.
   "He has a strong lefty game, so it was tricky at first returning serve," said Fratangelo, who has reached the second round of a Grand Slam tournament twice and took a set off Novak Djokovic at Indian Wells in 2016. "But once I got comfortable, I started to find my stride. Maybe he was ailing a little bit today, but I'm just happy to get the win."
   Bolt said afterward that he might be in a little pain "but I don't think that's the reason I lost. Bjorn was lights out from the get-to. Every time there was a big point, he stepped up. He played the big points better than I did. That's why he came away with a win today."
   Ironically, Fratangelo rather than Bolt complained about several line calls and chair umpire Roger Pennington. In the third game of the match, Fratangelo groused at Pennington: "I'm going to try really hard not to get upset with you today."
   After Bolt's backhand cross-court passing shot in the corner was called good on break point against him at 2-2 in the second set, Fratangelo dropped his racket in disbelief and fumed at Pennington, "This is where I get upset."
Top-seeded Sonchai Ratiwatana, left, of Thailand and Christopher
Rungkat of Indonesia won the doubles title. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Bolt saved four break points in that game before losing the fifth one on a slice approach that landed just wide. He was broken again in the final game, losing three consecutive points from 15-15. Bolt double-faulted for 15-40, then couldn't reach a cross-court backhand at the net.
   Fratangelo was still angry about the officiating after the match.
   "I wasn't happy with the calls, and I'm going to let people know about it," he grumbled.
  Fratangelo improved to 2-1 (1-1 on hardcourts) against Bolt and pocketed $14,400 for the title to give him $995,229 for his career. Bolt collected $8,480 for a total of $607,326.
   Top-seeded Sanchai Ratiwatana of Thailand and Christopher Rungkat of Indonesia won the doubles title, beating unseeded Harri Heliovaara of Finland and Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland 6-0, 7-6 (9).
   Ratiwatana, 36, and the 5-foot-9 (1.75-meter), 150-pound (68-kilogram) Rungkat, 28, played in their second final in two weeks. They lost to Darian King of Barbados and Noah Rubin of Long Island, N.Y., in nearby Stockton.
   Ratiwatana normally plays with his twin Sonchat.
   "It's school back in Thailand, so he wanted to spend time with his daughter," Sonchai explained. "He has a 6-year-old girl. Before these three tournaments (Tiburon, Stockton and Fairfield), we played many, many weeks. He wanted a little bit of time at home."
   Laaksonen, 26, was born in Finland to a Finnish mother and Swiss father.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Rejuvenated Fratangelo to face Aussie in Fairfield final

Unseeded Bjorn Fratangelo routed sixth-seeded Casper Ruud, a 19-year-old
Norwegian, 6-2, 6-2 today to reach the final of the $100,000 Fairfield (Calif.)
Challenger at Solano Community College. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Note to readers: If you enjoy my coverage of Northern California tennis, please donate on my homepage. Even $5 or $10 will help. Here's why I need your support. Thank you.
   FAIRFIELD, Calif. -- Bjorn Fratangelo reached a low point after losing in the first round of a $75,000 Challenger in Winnetka, Ill., in July.
   Fratangelo had been playing well in clay-court tournaments on the ATP World Tour, the major leagues of men's tennis, in the spring when he tore a quadriceps muscle while leading by a set in the first round of qualifying in Madrid.
Eighth-seeded Alex Bolt of Australia celebrates
during his victory over fifth-seeded Adrian Men-
endez-Maceiras of Spain. Photo by Paul Bauman
   After sitting out for one month, Fratangelo lost three consecutive matches on grass in Europe, fell in the second round of Wimbledon qualifying and lost early on a hardcourt in the Chicago suburb of Winnetka.
   With his motivation sagging, Fratangelo hired Andres Alarcon as his new coach. Fratangelo continued to struggle through U.S. Open qualifying but since then has gone 13-4. Unseeded, he routed sixth-seeded Casper Ruud, a 19-year-old Norwegian, 6-2, 6-2 in 65 minutes today to reach the final of the $100,000 NorthBay Healthcare Men's Pro Championship at Solano Community College.
   "It was a tough first, really, three-quarters of the year," said Fratangelo, a Pittsburgh native now based in Orlando, Fla. "I'm starting to find my stride now, so hopefully I can take this form into the rest of the year and on to next year.
   "I have a lot more clarity in myself and my game. (Alarcon) has really been able to help me and get through to me in a positive way and also with some tactical things on the court. We're really starting to click right now, and it's showing."
    Alarcon has helped Fratangelo primarily with his mental approach.
   "He's more confident on the court," said Alarcon, a 48-year-old U.S. citizen from Ecuador. "He's getting more excited playing; he has more motivation. That's the main thing I'm working with him on. His tennis is there. He's in a good place now."
   Alarcon added that Fratangelo, a semifinalist in the ATP grass-court tournament in Newport, R.I., last year, "put the work in. If you put the work in, it's easy to get back where you belong."
Casper Ruud reached the second round of the Australian Open
(in his Grand Slam debut) and French Open this year. Photo
by Paul Bauman
   Fratangelo, who was named after Bjorn Borg, will face eighth-seeded Alex Bolt of Australia on Sunday not before 2 p.m. in a matchup of 6-foot (1.83-meter) 25-year-olds. Bolt, a left-hander, led fifth-seeded Adrian Menendez-Maceiras of Spain 7-5, 6-6 (5-0) when the 32-year-old Menendez-Maceiras retired with a right leg injury.
   It will be Fratangelo's first final since losing to U.S. veteran Tim Smyczek in a $75,000 indoor tournament in Champaign, Ill., last November.
   Fratangelo, ranked No. 158, and Bolt, ranked a career-high No. 155, have split two career matches, both in 2015. Bolt won 6-3, 6-2 on a hardcourt, and Fratangelo prevailed 6-4, 7-6 (5) on clay.
   Fratangelo, who beat current world No. 7 Dominic Thiem to win the 2011 French Open boys singles title and climbed to a career-high No. 99 in June 2016, rifled serves and groundstrokes against Ruud and never faced a break point in their first career meeting. From 2-2 in the opening set, Fratangelo broke serve four consecutive times to lead 6-2, 4-0 as Ruud's father, former top-40 player Christian Ruud, watched from the stands.
   Fratangelo, who ousted top-seeded Jordan Thompson of Australia 6-1, 6-4 on Friday, said the 137th-ranked Casper Ruud, who reached the second round of the Australian Open (in his Grand Slam debut) and French Open this year, "is a very good counterpunching but also attacking player, more of a clay-court style. I knew from the get-go I had to be offensive and take him off his game a little bit, and, again, I think I did it to perfection."
Adrian Menendez-Maceiras retired with a leg injury
while trailing 0-5 in a second-set tiebreaker. Photo
by Paul Bauman
   Very little separated Bolt, a two-time Australian Open doubles quarterfinalist, and Menendez-Maceiras, a world-class grunter ranked No. 132, until the tiebreaker in their first career encounter. Bolt saved two consecutive break points with aces to hold for 6-5 in the first set and then recorded the only break of the match, at love, as Menendez-Maceiras appeared to lose focus after repeatedly complaining about line calls.
   After Bolt held for 2-1 in the second set, Menendez-Maceiras took a medical timeout to have his leg treated. He did not appear to hurt the leg in the match but favored it after taking the timeout.
   Bolt, who came within two points of losing to 22-year-old wild card Collin Altamirano of Sacramento in the second round, pounded 12 aces and won 39 of 43 points (91 percent) on his first serve.
   "Against a guy like Adrian, it's always going to be a tough battle," said Bolt, who won a $75,000 tournament in Zhuhai, China, in March for his second career Challenger title. "He's always going to fight until the last point. Unfortunately for him, he was battling a bit of an injury.
   "I felt my level was very high in the first set and dropped off a little bit in the second set. I feel I can keep that level high tomorrow for a long period of time."
   Here are the Fairfield singles and doubles draws and Sunday's schedule. The tournament is being streamed live.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Top two seeds fall in $100K Fairfield quarterfinals

Unseeded Bjorn Fratangelo of Orlando, Fla., beat top seed
Jordan Thompson of Australia 6-1, 6-4 in the quarterfinals
of the Fairfield (Calif.) Challenger. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Note to readers: If you enjoy my coverage of Northern California tennis, please donate on my homepage. Even $5 or $10 will help. Here's why I need your support. Thank you.
   FAIRFIELD, Calif. -- Facing Bjorn Fratangelo after playing on Thursday night was a bad combination for Jordan Thompson.
   The unseeded Fratangelo upended the top-seeded Thompson 6-1, 6-4 this afternoon in the quarterfinals of the $100,000 NorthBay Healthcare Men's Pro Championship at Solano Community College.
   In tonight's late match, eighth-seeded Alex Bolt of Australia eliminated second-seeded Lloyd Harris of South Africa 6-3, 6-4.
   Fratangelo, 25, of Orlando, Fla., improved to 3-0 against Thompson, a 24-year-old Australian, after winning twice on clay. Both are 6-foot (1.83-meter) former top-100 players who have had success on the ATP World Tour, the major leagues of men's tennis.
   Even though Thompson's current and career-high rankings (No. 105 and No. 63 in February 2017, respectively) exceed Fratangelo's (No. 158 and No. 99 in June 2016, respectively), Fratangelo has more firepower with his booming serve and whipping forehand.
   "I knew I had to be really solid, so I think I did that to a T," said Fratangelo, who was named after Bjorn Borg and won the 2011 French Open boys singles title, beating current world No. 7 Dominic Thiem. "We had played a couple times, and I've always done well. I knew what I had to do and executed well."
   Whereas Fratangelo defeated Dominik Koepfer of Germany in straight sets in 75-degree (23.9 Celsius) weather on Thursday afternoon, Thompson outlasted hard-hitting Maxime Janvier of France on a bone-chilling night in a match that ended at 9:56 p.m. Thompson returned to the court 16 hours later to take on Fratangelo in 87-degree (30.6 Celsius) heat.
Jordan Thompson played in radically different conditions
from Thursday night. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Fratangelo, who reached the semifinals of an ATP grass-court tournament in Newport, R.I., last year, conceded that the scheduling might have favored him.
   "(The conditions) are probably a little bit faster than what he had last night, but he's a tremendous athlete and fit as hell, so I don't think that bothered him at all," Fratangelo said.
   Actually, it did. So did the short turnaround.
   "Last night, it was cold and very slow; today it's hot and fast -- completely different conditions," moaned Thompson, who shocked then-No. 1 Andy Murray on grass in June 2017 and underwent a tonsilectomy late last year. "You finish a late match, and you get no time to recover."   
   After Fratangelo dominated the first set, he fought back from 0-40 to hold for 2-1 in the second set. Thompson overcame a 15-40 deficit to hold for 4-4 and saved two match points while serving at 4-5. But then he slugged a cross-court backhand wide and sailed a forehand long to end the match.
   Fratangelo won 22 of 27 points (81 percent) on his first serve and 12 of 19 (63 percent) on his second delivery, and saved all three break points against him.
   "He was playing well," Thompson said. "He didn't miss any balls in the first set. I did my best to adapt and nearly got there. It wasn't to be."
Fifth-seeded Adrian Menendez-Maceiras of Spain
beat JJ Wolf, a 19-year-old wild card from Cincin-
nati, 6-0, 6-4. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Both Harris, 6-foot-4 (1.93 meters), and Bolt qualified for a Grand Slam tournament this year, losing in the first round of the main draw, and own career-high rankings of No. 113 and No. 155, respectively.
   Bolt, a 25-year-old left-hander and two-time Australian Open doubles quarterfinalist, saved all eight break points against him against the 21-year-old Harris, who was playing for the fourth consecutive week. He qualified in Chengdu, China, on the ATP tour two weeks ago and stunned 32-year-old Gael Monfils, who climbed to a career-high No. 6 in 2016, in the first round before losing to eventual champion Bernard Tomic in a third-set tiebreaker. Harris then won the $100,000 Stockton (Calif.) Challenger.
   "It was difficult," Harris said regarding fatigue against Bolt, who came within two points of losing to wild card Collin Altamirano of Sacramento in the second round, on a mercifully warmer night. "I have played a lot of matches in the last month, but he was better on the night -- what can I say?"
   Fratangelo is scheduled to meet sixth-seeded Casper Ruud, a 19-year-old Norwegian, for the first time on Saturday not before 2 p.m. Ruud, the son of former top-40 player Christian Ruud, crushed Germany's Sebastian Fanselow, playing in the Fairfield quarterfinals as a qualifier for the second consecutive year, 6-1, 6-0 in 48 minutes.
   The 6-foot (1.83-meter) Ruud, ranked No. 137, won 23 of 26 points (88 percent) on his first serve and never faced a break point. Fanselow, a 26-year-old former Pepperdine All-American, double-faulted six times, won only three of 18 points (17 percent) on his second serve and lost all five break points against him.
   After Fratangelo and Ruud square off, Bolt will meet fifth-seeded Adrian Menendez-Maceiras of Spain for the first time. The 32-year-old Menendez-Maceiras, ranked No. 132, defeated JJ Wolf, a 19-year-old wild card from Cincinnati, 6-0, 6-4.
   Menendez-Maceiras, a quarterfinalist at the inaugural New York Open as a qualifier in February, survived all three break points against him. Wolf, a junior at Ohio State who ousted ailing third seed Noah Rubin on Thursday, converted only 46 percent of his first serves.
   Here are the Fairfield singles and doubles draws and Saturday's schedule. The tournament is being streamed live.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Wolf, 19, ousts No. 3 seed to reach first Challenger QF

JJ Wolf, a 19-year-old wild card, surprised third-seeded Noah Rubin 6-3, 6-2
today in the second round of the $100,000 Fairfield (Calif.) Challenger.
Photo by Cornelia Grimes 
   Note to readers: If you enjoy my coverage of Northern California tennis, please donate on my homepage. Even $5 or $10 will help. Here's why I need your support. Thank you.
   FAIRFIELD, Calif. -- Dean O'Brien of South Africa had just left the trainer's room before his doubles match today when a reporter approached him.
   "Are you JJ?" the reporter asked.
   "I wish I was," quipped O'Brien, 28.
   JJ Wolf, a promising 19-year-old wild card from Cincinnati, displayed a powerful serve and forehand during his 6-3, 6-2 victory over the third seed, ailing Noah Rubin of Long Island, N.Y., in the second round of the $100,000 NorthBay Healthcare Pro Championship at Solano Community College.
   Wolf, a 6-foot (1.83-meter) junior at Ohio State, won a preposterous 24 of 25 points on his first serve and never faced a break point as he reached a quarterfinal on the Challenger circuit, equivalent to Triple A in baseball, for the first time.
   Playing Challengers, Wolf said, "is just a great opportunity for me. I'm just enjoying every minute out here and trying to get better and not worrying about winning or losing too much, just working on my game."
   On Monday in Tulsa, Okla., Wolf became the first Ohio State player to win the singles title in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association All-American Championships. He flew to the San Francisco Bay Area that night.
   "I got in a couple good warmup matches for this," Wolf said. "I'm playing solid tennis trying to get my game better for the future."
   Wolf will meet fifth-seeded Adrian Menendez-Maceiras, a 32-year-old Spaniard, on Friday. Menendez-Maceiras, ranked No. 132, beat former top-40 player Thiemo de Bakker, a 30-year-old Dutchman, 6-4, 6-3.
   In the other quarterfinal in the top half of the draw, top-seeded Jordan Thompson of Australia will play unseeded Bjorn Fratangelo of Orlando, Fla.
   Thompson, ranked No. 105 after reaching a career-high No. 63 in February 2017, beat hard-hitting Maxime Janvier of France 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-0 in a matchup of semifinalists in last week's $100,000 Stockton (Calif.) Challenger. The 6-foot-4 (1.93-meter) Janvier, 21, was breathing heavily on a cold night.
   Fratangelo, who was named after Bjorn Borg, defeated Germany's Dominik Koepfer, the runner-up in the indoor $100,000 San Francisco Challenger in February, 7-5, 6-3 to reach the Fairfield quarterfinals for the second consecutive year.
   Koepfer, a former All-American at Tulane in New Orleans, argued vociferously about a line call while serving at 5-5 in the first set and appeared to be justified. He then lost the game.
   Wolf already has cracked the top 500 at No. 499 and owns a victory over a top-100 player. He knocked off No. 86 Jozef Kovalik of Slovakia in the first round of qualifying in Wolf's hometown Western & Southern Open on the ATP World Tour, the major leagues of men's tennis, in August. Wolf then lost to No. 92 Marius Copil of Romania.
   "He's a good player," Rubin, a 22-year-old product of the John McEnroe Tennis Academy in New York, said of Wolf. "He's young, he's up and coming, hits the ball very clean, so I'm excited to see where he goes."
Noah Rubin praised JJ Wolf but complained of headaches and dizziness.
Photo by Cornelia Grimes
   The 5-foot-9 (1.75-meter) Rubin, who reached the singles quarterfinals and won the doubles title in Stockton, complained of headaches against Wolf.
   "I don't really get headaches too often," said Rubin, who had no aces and five double faults after the match played in 70-degree (21.1 Celsius) weather. "I think exhaustion took place. My coach (Carlos Benatzky) didn't really want me to play this tournament. I wanted to because it was just an hour away (from Stockton).
   "In the second or third game, I was just like, 'I'm not really moving to the left.' I was kind of seeing a few balls (at once). There was just a lot of dizziness going on. It's just one of those things that takes place. I just need a week without a racket and see what I can do at the end of the year."
   In steamy Washington on the ATP tour over the summer, Rubin toppled 6-foot-11 (2.11-meter) John Isner for his first top-10 win before losing to 20-year-old Russian phenom Andrey Rublev in the third round.
   "This is the first (year) I've been healthy," said Rubin, ranked a career-high No. 125. "I've never really experienced a full year before and don't know what it really encompasses mentally and physically. That being said, it's fortunate I had a successful summer. Most tournaments, I was playing three matches minimum. It's taken a lot out of me.
   "Today was just a mixture of being mentally exhausted and (getting) headaches. I was doing my best, but it felt like his serve was coming at me 180 (mph). I couldn't see anything. It was just one of those things."
   Rubin wore a Minnesota Wild (NHL) sweatshirt as he spoke after the match.
   "My girlfriend goes to vet school in Minnesota," he explained. "I'm a huge hockey fan. It's probably the only sport I really follow, and (the Wild) is a great team. The (New York) Islanders aren't doing so well, and it's fun to watch a really exciting team."
   Here are the Fairfield singles and doubles draws and Friday's schedule. The tournament is being streamed live.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Aussie Bolt edges NorCal's Altamirano in thriller

Eighth-seeded Alex Bolt of Australia edged wild card
Collin Altamirano of Sacramento 7-6 (6), 6-7 (3), 7-6 (5)
today in the second round of the $100,000 Fairfield (Calif.)
Challenger. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Note to readers: If you enjoy my coverage of Northern California tennis, please donate on my homepage. Even $5 or $10 will help. Here's why I need your support. Thank you.
   FAIRFIELD, Calif. -- Some players want it more than others.
   Alex Bolt and Collin Altamirano belong in the first group.
   Bolt, a 25-year-old Australian left-hander, and Altamirano, a 22-year-old Sacramentan, battled fiercely for 2 hours, 50 minutes today in the second round of the $100,000 NorthBay Healthcare Men's Pro Championship.
   Ultimately, the eighth-seeded Bolt prevailed 7-6 (6), 6-7 (3), 7-6 (5), as a breezy afternoon turned into a frigid evening at Solano Community College, to reach the quarterfinals.
   With the 6-foot-2 (1.88-meter) Altamirano serving at 5-5 in the decisive tiebreaker, he sailed a backhand long. Then the 6-foot (1.83-meter) Bolt, a two-time Australian Open doubles quarterfinalist who finished with 15 aces, pounded a service winner to end the marathon.
   "He's a good competitor," said Altamirano, a wild card ranked No. 306 in his first full year as a professional. "He won that match for that reason. Credit to him. That's why he won (Monday); that's why he is where he is."
   Bolt, ranked a career-high No. 155, beat childhood friend Thanasi Kokkinakis 7-5, 3-6, 6-4 in 2 hours, 16 minutes in the first round. Kokkinakis stunned Roger Federer in the second round in Miami in March and won the $100,000 Aptos (Calif.) Challenger in August. Aptos is a two-hour drive south of Fairfield.
   Bolt will play second-seeded Lloyd Harris of South Africa on Friday. Harris outlasted American qualifier Tommy Paul 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 in tonight's late match before a handful of hardy souls, breaking serve in the final game with a brilliant backhand cross-court passing shot.
   Harris, who won last week's $100,000 Stockton (Calif.) Challenger, also beat former top-40 player Donald Young 7-5 in the third set on Tuesday.
Collin Altamirano expressed frustration between points
but showed great mental toughness during them. Photo
by Paul Bauman
   Both Bolt and Altamirano qualified for Grand Slam tournaments this year, losing in the first round at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, respectively.
   But whereas Bolt is businesslike on the court, Altamirano -- boyish-looking with a mop of dark hair -- is very emotional. Altamirano frequently yelled in frustration during today's match, made wisecracks to himself, gestured to his coach, Joseph Gilbert, in the stands and directed a running commentary at Gilbert. Yet when the points started, Altamirano showed great mental toughness.
   "Yeah, that's Collin," Gilbert, the founder and owner of the JMG Tennis Academy at the Arden Hills Club & Spa in Sacramento, said with a laugh. "Well, he's so competitive. Once he lets the emotion out, he re-engages in the competing.
   "He's fighting that battle of emotion versus competitiveness. That's a battle he always fights. You can see him look toward me with it a lot, but I thought today was actually pretty good, all things considered. His emotions got to him a little bit, but not too bad. I thought he stayed engaged in the match the whole time."
   The 6-foot-5 (1.96-meter) Harris shocked 32-year-old Frenchman Gael Monfils, who has dropped from a career-high No. 6 in 2016 to No. 37, two weeks ago in Chengdu, China, for his first victory on the elite ATP World Tour.
   Paul, one of only three Americans to win the French Open boys singles titles (with John McEnroe and Bjorn Fratangelo) since the Open era began in 1968, reached ATP quarterfinals in Atlanta and Washington in consecutive weeks last year. The right-hander missed 4 1/2 months early this year with a right-elbow injury.
   Also advancing to the quarterfinals were sixth-seeded Casper Ruud of Norway and qualifier Sebastian Fanselow of Germany.
   Ruud, the 19-year-old son of former top-40 player Christian Ruud, defeated American JC Aragone, Altamirano's doubles partner at Virginia, 6-1, 7-6 (4).
   Ruud reached the second round of the Australian Open in his Grand Slam debut and the French Open, both times as a qualifier, this year. Altamirano and Aragone helped Virginia win the NCAA title in all three of their years there (2015-17).
   Fanselow, a 26-year-old former Pepperdine All-American who also advanced to last year's Fairfield quarterfinals as a qualifier, beat Lucas Miedler of Austria 6-4, 6-1.
   Here are the Fairfield singles and doubles draws and Thursday's schedule. The tournament is being streamed live.
Please help defray travel expenses
$
Thanks for your donation!