Friday, September 16, 2011

Blake, Gonzalez set to play in Natomas Challenger

   Although they come from different countries, James Blake and Fernando Gonzalez have much in common.
   Both are 31. Both have reached the top five in the world. Both are battling back from injuries. And both are scheduled to play in the $100,000 Natomas/USTA Challenger, Oct. 1-9 at the Natomas Racquet Club in Sacramento.
   Gonzalez, who received a wild card last week, climbed to a career-high No. 5 in the world in January 2007 after finishing as the runner-up to Roger Federer in the Australian Open. The Chilean won the singles silver medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and finished in the top 15 for the fifth consecutive year in 2009. However, he underwent right hip surgery last October and has plunged to No. 297.
   Blake, a three-time Grand Slam singles quarterfinalist, ascended to a career-high No. 4 in 2006 and played a key role on the United States' 2007 Davis Cup championship team. But the Yonkers, N.Y., native, now living in Tampa, Fla., missed 10 weeks in the spring of 2010 with a knee injury and fell to No. 173 last March. He has since climbed back to No. 73.
   Other entrants in the Natomas Challenger include former top-15 player Ivo Karlovic of Croatia, 2005 U.S. Open semifinalist Robby Ginepri of Kennesaw, Ga., and 2007 Sacramento Challenger champion Wayne Odesnik of Weston, Fla.
   Blake, Karlovic (32) and Ginepri (28) are no strangers to Northern California. All have done well in the SAP Open in San Jose.
   Blake reached the singles semifinals in 2003 and 2009 and won the doubles title in 2004 with Mardy Fish. The 6-foot-10 Karlovic came within a tiebreaker of winning the 2007 SAP Open, losing to Andy Murray.  Ginepri advanced to the semis in singles in 2008 and doubles in 2005 with Jan-Michael Gambill.
   Odesnik, 25, returned to action in January after serving a one-year suspension for possession of HGH.
   Also receiving a wild card last week was 18-year-old Jack Sock, who won the U.S. Open mixed doubles title with fellow American Melanie Oudin last week.
   Redding Women's Challenger -- Yasmin Schnack of Elk Grove, a Sacramento suburb, reached the Redding singles quarterfinals for the third time in four appearances.
   The eighth seed and former UCLA All-American defeated doubles partner and ex-USC rival Maria Sanchez of Modesto 7-6 (2), 6-2 in the second round of the $25,000 Oak River Rehab Challenger at Sun Oaks Tennis and Fitness.
   Schnack, 5-10, has a good chance to reach the Redding singles semifinals for the first time when she meets unseeded Yuliana Lizarazo of Colombia today. Schnack then could face top-seeded Camila Giorgi of Italy.
   In the bottom half of the draw, second-seeded Kurumi Nara of Japan will play wild card Allie Will of Boca Raton, Fla., and third-seeded Julia Boserup of Newport Beach will take on sixth-seeded Lauren Davis of Boca Raton. The 5-foot-2 Davis, nine inches shorter than Boserup, has lost only two games in two matches.
   Schnack and Sanchez, the top seeds in doubles, beat Surina de Beer of South Africa and Olga Puchkova of Russia 6-3, 6-2 in the quarterfinals. Schnack is the defending champion with Sacramento native Christina Fusano, who retired two weeks ago.

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