Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Schnack turns match around in Redding

   REDDING -- One of tennis' many allures is how quickly a match can turn around.
   Consider Yasmin Schnack's first-round encounter in the $25,000 Oak River Rehab Challenger.
   Seeded eighth, the 23-year-old Elk Grove resident trailed 5-2 in the first set against lucky loser Yolande Leacock, the only ranked player from the Caribbean islands of Trinidad and Tobago at No. 925 in the world.
   Schnack then reeled off 11 straight games to win 7-5, 6-0 Tuesday at Sun Oaks Tennis and Fitness.
    "I got off to a really slow start," the former UCLA All-American conceded. "I told myself, 'Fight for every point and make her win it. I was giving it to her. Give her credit -- she played well. But I took a couple deep breaths and said, 'Get some balls in the court and see what she can do.' "
   Unlike most players, Schnack is comfortable at the net.
   "I definitely wanted to go out playing super aggressively, come to the net and put pressure on her, but I was going for too much," the 5-foot-10 Schnack said. "I slowed it down a little bit. I was still aggressive but with a greater margin of error. I played smarter tennis."
   Schnack will meet her doubles partner and former USC rival, Maria Sanchez of Modesto, on Thursday in the second round.
   "I hate it when the draw is like that," said Schnack, seeded first with Sanchez. "It will definitely be a battle. She's a great player, but that's what we come out here for -- to battle for titles."
   Schnack is making her fourth appearance in the tournament. She has reached the singles quarterfinals twice, as a 17-year-old amateur and last year in her professional debut. She also won the 2010 doubles title with Sacramento native Christina Fusano, who retired two weeks ago.
   "This is the closest (USTA Pro Circuit) tournament to Sacramento," said Schnack, whose parents, William and Candida, attended Tuesday's match. "It's nice that my family can come here. It's a treat for me.
   "I love this place. I've always done well here, and everyone is so friendly. I don't have one bad thing to say about this place."
   Schnack, last year's Pacific-10 Conference Women's Player of the Year and a member of UCLA's 2008 national championship team, has skyrocketed more than 200 places in the singles world rankings this year to No. 379 and to No. 223 in doubles.
   She came within a match tiebreaker of her first Grand Slam appearance, falling in the mixed doubles final of last month's U.S. Open National Playoffs with Eric Roberson of Sacramento to Fusano and former Stanford All-American David Martin.
   Schnack said she has enjoyed her first year as a pro.
   "I've experienced a lot, and my game has improved. It's very tough on the circuit, grinding and traveling from tournament to tournament. My goal is to play in the Grand Slams, and I'm getting pretty close. I've gone to different countries and experienced different cultures. I'm very happy at this stage of my life. I can't imagine doing anything else," Schnack said.
   Schnack considers playing for the Sacramento Capitals of World TeamTennis in July as the highlight of her brief career. She finished fifth among 19 regulars in women's doubles, sixth among 15 part-time players in women's singles and eighth among 24 part-timers in mixed doubles.
   "It was so much fun," Schnack said. "I learned a lot from my teammates, and playing former No. 1s (Martina Hingis and Serena Williams) was a tremendous opportunity. I hope I get the opportunity to play team tennis next year, and it would be even better to play for the Capitals again."
    Schnack faced Hingis and Williams in consecutive matches, losing 5-1 and 5-0 in singles, respectively, but winning in women's doubles against Hingis and in mixed doubles against Williams.
   "Both were very intimidating, but they have different game styles," Schnack said. "I got killed by Serena, but just being on the court with her was a great experience. Martina is very solid. She takes everything early and takes time away from you. She's not overpowering, but she's very smart."
   After a rough start Tuesday, Schnack showed her intelligence, too.
   Men's Futures -- Seeded seventh in singles and second in doubles, former Sacramento State star Kiryl Harbatsiuk lost in the opening round of each event at the $10,000 Pomona Valley Hospital USTA Pro Circuit Event in Claremont.
   The native of Minsk, Belarus, fell to Darian King of Barbados 7-6 (4), 5-7, 6-3, then teamed with Boris Nicola Bakalov of Bulgaria in a 6-3, 3-6, 13-11 tiebreak loss to Jeremy Hunter Nicholas of the United States and Javier Pulgar-Garcia of Spain.  

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