Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Volynets, 18, beats ailing Bouchard, qualifies for Macon

Katie Volynets will try to avenge a narrow loss
to Caroline Dolehide in Berkeley, Calif., last
year. 2019 photo by Paul Bauman
   Katie Volynets, 18, of Walnut Creek in the San Francisco Bay Area led 6-4, 3-0 when top-seeded Eugenie Bouchard, formerly ranked No. 5, retired with an abdominal strain today in the final round of qualifying for the $80,000 Mercer Tennis Classic on hardcourts in Macon, Ga.
   Bouchard, the Wimbledon runner-up to Petra Kvitova in 2014, has improved from No. 224 at the end of 2019 to No. 140. The 26-year-old Canadian reached the final on clay in Istanbul last month as a qualifier and the third round of the French Open, losing to eventual champion Iga Swiatek.
   Volynets, ranked No. 325, will play powerful Caroline Dolehide, a 22-year-old American ranked No. 148, for the second time at 7 a.m. PDT. Dolehide edged Volynets 5-7, 6-2, 7-6 (3) in the opening round of last year's $60,000 Berkeley, Calif., Challenger.  
   After the Dolehide-Volynets match, wild card CiCi Bellis, a 21-year-old product of Atherton in the Bay Area, will meet Lara Arruabarrena of Spain for the first time. Both contests will be streamed live.
   Twelfth-seeded Gabriela Talaba, a 25-year-old left-hander from Romania, advanced to the main draw by demolishing seventh-seeded Ankita Raina of India 6-0, 6-0. Talaba, who won last year's $25,000 Redding, Calif., Challenger, has not lost a game in her last three sets.  She is scheduled to face seventh-seeded Greet Minnen of Belgium.
   Also Wednesday, fourth-seeded Kristie Ahn, a 28-year-old Stanford graduate based in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., will play qualifier Tessah Andrianjafitrimo of France for the first time. In Ahn's last two matches, she has lost to Serena Williams in Grand Slam tournaments.
   Andrianjafitrimo, 22, advanced with a 7-5, 6-7 (5) [10-8] victory over third-seeded Clara Tauson, 17, of Denmark. Tauson stunned 21st-seeded Jennifer Brady, a U.S. Open semifinalist last month, to reach the second round of the French Open as a qualifier before losing to eventual quarterfinalist Danielle Collins.

Murray withdraws from Cologne due to pelvic problem

Andy Murray was named the ATP Comeback Player
of the Year in 2019. File photo by Paul Bauman
   Andy Murray withdrew from this week's ATP Tour event in Cologne, Germany, because of a lingering pelvic problem and could miss the rest of the year, Reuters reported Monday.
   The former world No. 1 returned from a second hip surgery in January 2019 and won Antwerp seven months later. It was his 46th singles title and first since 2017, and he was named the ATP Comeback Player of the Year.
   The first two crowns of Murray's career came in the SAP Open in San Jose, Calif., in 2006 at age 18 and in 2007. The tournament folded after the 125th edition in 2013. 
   Murray, 33, had more hip trouble late last year and returned to the circuit after the long COVID-19 pandemic break. He lost in the second round of the U.S. Open, first round of the French Open and opening round last week, also in Cologne.
   The three-time Grand Slam singles champion said he has tendinitis in his left psoas, the muscle connecting the lower back to the top of the leg. He did not say how long he would be out. 
   Ranked No. 1 in 2016, Murray plunged as low as No. 839 in July 2018. He has climbed to No. 116.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Querrey faces discipline after reportedly fleeing Russia

   The Sam Querrey saga suddenly reads like a spy novel.
   The 33-year-old San Francisco native reportedly fled Russia with his wife and 8-month-old son after all three tested positive for the coronavirus.
   The ATP Tour called the incident "a serious breach of protocol," adding that "breaches of protocol can jeopardize an event's ability to operate and have repercussions on the rest of the tour. In accordance with the ATP's Code of Conduct, we are taking this matter extremely seriously, and an investigation is underway."
   Querrey, ranked 49th, was forced to withdraw from this week's St. Petersburg Open after testing positive. He and his family were instructed to quarantine for 14 days at the luxurious St. Petersburg Four Seasons hotel. So far, no problem. 
   But then, according to freelance tennis writer Ben Rothenberg, a Russian health official said a doctor would examine the family and if they showed symptoms, they could be forced to be hospitalized.
   Querrey, who now lives in Las Vegas, said nyet to that and hired a private jet to whisk him and his family to a nearby European country, where they are staying at an AirBNB.
   Rothenberg, who has written for The New York Times, tweeted that Querrey "is still entered in further events in what remains of the 2020 ATP calendar, including the Paris-Bercy Masters, and plans to stay in Europe for that. Entirely likely, though, that he will face some sort of disciplinary action that will take him out of that event (and more?)."
   Querrey, who reached a career-high No. 11 in February 2018, is 0-4 since the professional tours resumed in August after the pandemic halted play for almost five months. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Querrey reportedly tests positive; Giraldo retires at 32

Officially, Sam Querrey withdrew from the St. Petersburg
Open because of "illness." Photo courtesy of mvtpr.com
   An unidentified player, reportedly Sam Querrey, was removed from the St. Petersburg Open draw after testing positive for the coronavirus.
   Although the ATP Tour did not confirm that the 33-year-old San Francisco native was the player in question, he withdrew from the tournament because of "illness," according to the draw.
   The ATP Tour said the player is in isolation and asymptomatic.
   The 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) Querrey, now based in Las Vegas, is 0-4 since the ATP Tour resumed in August following a five-month hiatus caused by the pandemic.
   Giraldo retires — Santiago Giraldo, a thoughtful Colombian who peaked at No. 28 in the world rankings in 2014, announced his retirement from professional tennis last week at 32.
   "I started at 15, and now at almost 33, I've decided to say thank you and put a full stop at the end of this journey," Giraldo, who won two Challenger singles titles in Northern California, said on atptour.com. "I did the best I could, and I gave everything I have.
   "I remember that curious, unique, explorative and rebellious boy who left home at just 12 years of age, carrying only his rackets and his dreams, until he arrived here today. I don't regret anything I did."
   Giraldo, 6-foot-2 (1.88 meters) and only 166 pounds (75 kilograms), played in two ATP Tour singles finals, losing to Tommy Robredo at Vina del Mar, Chile, in 2011, and Kei Nishikori at Barcelona in 2014. Giraldo's biggest wins came against then-No. 8 Andy Murray at Madrid in 2014 and then-No. 10 Marin Cilic at Geneva in 2015. All four tournaments were on clay.
   Giraldo won 10 Challenger singles titles, the last one coming in Fairfield, Calif., in 2016. Before his first-round match in Fairfield, Giraldo placed a tennis ball with a smiley face drawn on it on the chair next to his to remind himself "how lucky I am ... in everything in my life," he said then. Giraldo also hoisted the trophy in Sacramento, Calif., in 2009.
   After taking some time to relax, Giraldo plans to coach and hopes to become Colombia's Davis Cup captain eventually. 

Monday, October 12, 2020

Nadal, Swiatek head French Open honor roll

   Results of French Open finals (seedings in parentheses):
   Men's singles — Rafael Nadal (2), Spain, def. Novak Djokovic (1), Serbia, 6-0 6-2, 7-5.
   Women's singles — Iga Swiatek, Poland, def. Sofia Kenin (4), United States, 6-4, 6-1.
   Men's doubles — Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies (8), Germany, def. Mate Pavic, Croatia, and Bruno Soares (7), Brazil, 6-3, 7-5.
   Women's doubles — Timea Babos, Hungary, and Kristina Mladenovic (2), France, def. Alexa Guarachi, Chile, and Desirae Krawczyk (14), United States, 6-4, 7-5.
   Boys singles —Dominic Stephan Stricker (7), Switzerland, def. Leandro Riedi (8), Switzerland, 6-2, 6-4.
   Girls singles — Elsa Jacquemot (3), France, def. Alina Charaeva, Russia, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2.
   Boys doubles — Flavio Cobolli, Italy, and Dominic Stephan Stricker (3), def. Bruno Oliveira and Natan Rodrigues (8), Brazil, 6-2, 6-4.
   Girls doubles — Eleonora Alvisi and Lisa Pigato, Italy, def. Maria Bondarenko and Diana Shnaider (5), Russia, 7-6 (3), 6-4. 

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Nadal dominates Djokovic for 13th French Open crown

Rafael Nadal equaled Roger Federer's men's record of 20 Grand Slam singles titles.
2017 photo by Mal Taam
   It was hardly surprising that Rafael Nadal tied Roger Federer's men's record of 20 Grand Slam singles titles today.
   The way he did it was another matter, especially in the first two sets.
   Nadal, ranked second, dismantled Novak Djokovic, ranked first, 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 in 2 hours, 41 minutes to win his fourth consecutive French Open title and mind-boggling13th overall. 
   Djokovic, who ranks third with 17 Grand Slam singles crowns, double-faulted to give Nadal a 6-5 lead in the third set. Nadal then held serve at love, finishing with an ace.
   "In terms of these records, of course I care," Nadal told reporters. "I am a big fan of the history of sport in general. I respect that a lot. For me, it means a lot to share this number with Roger, no? But let's see what's going on when we finish our careers. We keep playing."
Rafael Nadal improved to 100-2 in the French Open. 2017 photo
by Mal Taam
   It was Nadal's most lopsided Grand Slam victory in the storied rivalry, eclipsing his 7-5, 6-4, 6-2 triumph in the semifinals of the 2007 French Open. It was also the biggest rout in a Roland Garros final since Nadal overwhelmed Stan Wawrinka 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 only three years ago.
   Today's outcome, however, was not entirely shocking. Nadal crushed Federer 6-1, 6-3, 6-0 in the 2008 French Open final and blanked Djokovic in the first set for the second straight match on clay. Nadal downed Djokovic 6-0, 4-6, 6-1 in last year's Italian Open final. 
   Nadal became the first player in the Open Era, which began in 1968, to win one of the Grand Slam tournaments four times without losing a set. He also did so at Roland Garros in 2008, 2010 and 2017.
   Djokovic breezed in his first four matches of the tournament before defeating 17th-seeded Pablo Carreno Busta in four sets in a 3-hour, 10-minute quarterfinal and fifth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas in five sets in a 3-hour, 54-minute semifinal. In the latter encounter, Djokovic held a match point serving at 6-3, 6-2, 5-4.
   Djokovic, 33, leads the 34-year-old Nadal 29-27 in the head-to-head series. Nadal, though, improved to 7-1 in the French Open and 3-0 in Roland Garros finals against Djokovic.
   Overall, Nadal is 100-2 in the French Open, falling to Djokovic in the 2015 quarterfinals and Robin Soderling in the fourth round in 2009.
   Nadal salvaged his year with a vintage performance. He lost to Dominic Thiem in the Australian Open quarterfinals, skipped the U.S. Open because of coronavirus concerns and, in his only French Open tuneup tournament, lost to Diego Schwartzman for the first time in 10 meetings in the quarters.
   "I played at an amazing level of tennis, no?" Nadal said of today's final. "For two sets and a half, I played great. I can't say another thing. Is impossible to have this score against him without playing great."
Novak Djokovic fell to 37-2 this year, including his
default from the U.S. Open, and 1-4 in French Open
finals. File photo by Paul Bauman
   Djokovic fell to 37-2 this year, including his default from the U.S. Open, and 1-4 in French Open finals. He committed 52 unforced errors to only 14 for Nadal. Djokovic often resorted to drop shots, to no avail against the fleet Spaniard.
   "I was probably rushing a bit much, trying to play shorter points," lamented Djokovic, who seemed fine physically. "I probably wasn't constructing the points well. That reflected on the result. But that was also caused by him, by his amazing defense. He was getting a lot of balls back."
   Djokovic was bidding to become the first man in the Open Era to win every Grand Slam title at least twice. Federer has won one French Open crown, and Nadal has captured one Australian Open title.
   Federer, 39, missed the U.S. Open and French Open after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee twice this year. He plans to return in 2021.
   Women's doubles final — Second-seeded Timea Babos of Hungary and Kristina Mladenovic of France won the title for the second consecutive year, beating 14th-seeded Alexa Guarachi, a native of Fort Walton Beach, Fla., who plays for Chile, and Desirae Krawczyk, who was born in Palm Desert, Calif., 6-4, 7-5.
   Krawczyk won the doubles title in the 2017 Sacramento (Calif.) Challenger with Giuliana Olmos, who was born in Austria, grew up in Fremont in the San Francisco Bay Area and plays for Mexico. 

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Sensational Swiatek, 19, drubs ailing Kenin to win crown

American Sofia Kenin confers with her Russian father and coach, Alex,
during the 2018 Berkeley (Calif.) Challenger. Photo by Paul Bauman 
   Iga Swiatek has a long way to go to match her idol Rafael Nadal's dominance in the French Open.
   That's probably impossible, but she's off to an impressive start.
   Not only did the unseeded Swiatek (pronounced Shvee-ON-tek) win the title at 19, she did so in the most convincing fashion in memory in women's Grand Slams, capping her stunning march with a 6-4, 6-1 victory over ailing Sofia Kenin today in Paris.
   Swiatek did not lose a set in seven matches, surrendering only 28 games (2.0 per set) and never more than five in a set. She dismissed 15th-seeded Marketa Vondrousova, a Czech left-hander who reached last year's final at Roland Garros before undergoing left-wrist surgery, 6-1, 6-2 in 63 minutes in the opening round and thrashed top-seeded Simona Halep, the 2018 champion, by the same score in 68 minutes in the fourth round.  
   Swiatek became the first Polish player, male or female, to capture a major title, the youngest woman to win the French Open since Croatia's Iva Majoli at 19 in 1997 and the first woman to take the crown without losing a set since Justine Henin earned the last of her four Roland Garros titles in 2007.
   Henin twice won the French Open without dropping a set, losing 38 games in 2007 and 39 games in 2006. 
   Nadal, a 12-time French Open champion playing best-of-five-set matches, will try to win the title without losing a set for the fourth time when he faces top-ranked Novak Djokovic, the 2016 champion, on Sunday.
   Nadal has dropped an average of 2.6 games per set, winning two tiebreakers. Twice, he has lost fewer than 2.0 games per set en route to the title, 1.84 games (also never more than four) in 2017 and 1.95 in 2008.
   Both Nadal and Swiatek won their first Roland Garros crown shortly after turning 19, Nadal in his first appearance in 2005 and Swiatek in her second.
   Swiatek had struggled since the pro tours resumed in August after a five-month, pandemic-induced hiatus. In her three tournaments before the French Open, she lost in the first round of the Western & Southern Open on hardcourts in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., to qualifier Christina McHale, the third round of the U.S. Open to eventual runner-up Victoria Azarenka, and the first round of the Italian Open on clay to qualifier Arantxa Rus. 
   In the French Open, though, Swiatek took advantage of the absences of world No. 1 and defending champion Ashleigh Barty (coronavirus concerns) and three-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka (hamstring injury). Also, three-time Roland Garros winner Serena Williams, 39, withdrew before her second-round match because of an Achilles tendon injury suffered in her semifinal loss to Azarenka in the U.S. Open.
   Because of the pandemic, the French Open was postponed from late May and early June, and only 1,000 fans were allowed daily. That's 1,000 more than were admitted each day at the U.S. Open. Spectators bundled up in parkas, and many players wore long sleeves and tights. 
   Swiatek, who will soar 37 places to a career-high No. 17 on Monday, conceded in an NBC interview that winning the French Open "was a surprise. It's really funny because after preseason and during the COVID break, I was playing so well that I thought I may actually win a Grand Slam right now because the top players aren't here and it's a big opportunity for underdogs. But when I started the U.S. swing, I realized that maybe this is not the best way to approach tournaments and my expectations were too high. So right now I just focused on playing tennis, and actually I made it. It's amazing what a proper mindset can do."
   Sports psychologist Daria Abramowicz, who celebrated her birthday today, has helped Swiatek with that. 
   "I always wanted to work with a psychologist because I had this belief that it's like a big part of the game," Swiatek said this week. "But my parents weren't as open to that as I was."
   Swiatek, whose father was an Olympic rower, graduated from high school in the spring and gave herself a "gap year" to play professional tennis. If she didn't succeed, she would go to college. Swiatek will probably stick with tennis for a while. By winning the French Open, she added $1.88 million to her career prize money of $1.1 million. It beats working at McDonald's. 
   Kenin, a 21-year-old American born in Moscow, seemed to lack her trademark competitiveness from the outset of the final, possibly because of a left-thigh problem. She failed to chase a cross-court backhand and weak drop shot early in the match and rarely used her own sensational drop shot. In the second set, Kenin had her left thigh retaped twice.
   The fourth-seeded Kenin, who will rise two spots to equal her career high of No. 4, said Swiatek "obviously played a really good match. She's really hot right now, playing some really great tennis. I'm not going to use this as an excuse, but my leg obviously was not the best. It's obviously disappointing."
   Swiatek's title was no fluke, according to NBC commentators John McEnroe and Mary Carillo.
   "I'll be amazed if she doesn't win a lot more majors," said McEnroe, an International Tennis Hall of Famer who lost the 1984 French Open final to Ivan Lendl after leading two sets to none. "I'd like to see her play on hardcourts and see what adjustments she makes on grass — unfortunately Wimbledon wasn't played this year — but she's got all the goods."
   Added Carillo, who won the French Open mixed doubles title with McEnroe in 1977: "She's going to be hosting trophies for a while now." 
   Swiatek, who also reached the doubles semifinals with Czech-born American Nicole Melichar, became the third surprising women's champion in the last four Grand Slam tournaments. Bianca Andreescu of Canada won last year's U.S. Open at 19, and Kenin captured the Australian Open early this year at 20. But at least they were seeded — Andreescu 15th and Kenin 14th.
   Swiatek's title was reminiscent of unseeded Jelena Ostapenko's in the 2017 French Open two days after the Latvian turned 20. Ostapenko, however, survived five three-set matches, including in the last four rounds.
   Swiatek wore all white during the French Open as if playing at Wimbledon, where she won the girls singles title 2018. Swiatek met Kenin for the first time professionally but defeated her 6-4, 7-5 in the third round of the French Open girls event in 2016. Kenin then won Northern California Challengers in Sacramento that year at 17, Stockton in 2017 and Berkeley in 2018.
   Swiatek reached the final in Lugano, Switzerland, on clay on the WTA Tour and the round of 16 of the French Open last year and the fourth round of the Australian Open this year.
   Kenin, meanwhile, had never advanced to the quarterfinals of a tour-level clay-court tournament before this year's French Open, although she did stun Williams in the third round at Roland Garros last year
   Like Swiatek, Kenin lost her first match in her only French Open tuneup. Kenin, however, fell 6-0, 6-0 to Azarenka in the Italian Open. In a tribute to Kenin's mental toughness, she rebounded in Paris, surviving four three-set matches and eliminating seventh-seeded Petra Kvitova, a two-time Wimbledon champion, 6-4, 7-5 in the semifinals.
   The 5-foot-9 (1.76-meter) Swiatek showed no sign of nerves in her first Grand Slam final, bolting to a 3-0 lead with her powerful, compact groundstrokes. Kenin rallied for 3-3, but Swiatek won nine of the last 11 games. 
   Swiatek had 25 winners and 17 unforced errors overall versus 10 and 23, respectively, for Kenin.
   Nadal would be proud.
   Men's singles final — Nadal will try to tie Roger Federer's men's record of 20 Grand Slam singles titles on Sunday at 6 a.m. PDT (NBC). Djokovic, meanwhile, can pull within one Slam of Nadal. 
   Djokovic, 33, is 29-26 against Nadal, 34, but the Spaniard owns advantages of 17-7 on clay (8-7 in the last 15 encounters), 6-1 in the French Open and 2-0 in Roland Garros finals (both in four sets).
   Nadal is 99-2 (not counting a walkover loss) in the French Open, falling to Djokovic in the 2015 quarterfinals and Robin Soderling in the fourth round in 2009.
   Nadal seeks his fourth consecutive French Open title. Djokovic has won Roland Garros once in four finals, completing a career Grand Slam there in 2016
   Men's doubles final — Eighth-seeded Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies of Germany won their second consecutive French Open title, beating seventh-seeded Mate Pavic of Croatia and Bruno Soares of Brazil 6-3, 7-5. Pavic and Soares won the U.S. Open last month.
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