Thursday, October 6, 2011

Blake, 31, to face Sock, 19, in match for the ages

   It will be the past vs. the future in American men's tennis at the $100,000 RelyAid Natomas Racquet Club Challenger.
   Top-seeded James Blake, who turns 32 in December, will face wild card Jack Sock, who turned 19 two weeks ago, today at noon in the quarterfinals of the Sacramento tournament.
   "I could have babysat one of these guys," Blake quipped Thursday after beating Chris Guccione, a 6-foot-7 left-hander from Australia, 6-4, 6-4. "Now I'm the old guy.  It's fun to see the new generation. I remember when I started in these tournaments. It's exciting.
   "He can swing for the fence. He has nothing to lose. I've been in that situation."
   Second-seeded Ivo Karlovic of Croatia and third-seeded Sam Querrey, a San Francisco native living in Las Vegas, also advanced. But sixth-seeded Izak Van der Merwe of South Africa lost to Alex Kuznetsov of Richboro, Pa., and Tampa, Fla., 6-4, 6-2, and seventh-seeded Bjorn Phau of Germany fell to Uladzimir Ignatik of Belarus 6-4, 7-6 (4). 
   Karlovic, the tallest player in the tournament at 6-foot-10, dispatched the shortest, 5-8 Victor Estrella of the Dominican Republic, 6-3, 6-2. They played doubles together in the tournament, losing in the first round to wild cards Nicholas Monroe of Chapel Hill, N.C., and Sock 6-4, 4-6, 15-13.
   Kuznetsov reached the semifinals of the Sacramento Challenger five years ago at 19 years old.
   The United States is guaranteed to have a player in the final, as all four remaining players in the top half of the draw -- Blake, Sock, Kuznetsov and fourth-seeded Bobby Reynolds -- are American.
   The 6-6 Querrey, who fired 19 aces in his 6-7 (4), 7-6 (1), 6-3 victory over veteran left-hander Denis Gremelmayr of Germany, is the only American left in the bottom half. Joining Querrey are Karlovic, Ignatik and 2006 Wimbledon junior boys champion Thiemo de Bakker of the Netherlands.
   Ironically, given their ages, Blake is healthier than Sock entering their first career meeting.
   Blake, ranked a career-high No. 4 in 2006, missed three months last year with chronic tendinitis in his right knee and plummeted to No. 173 in March. But he has rebounded to No. 74 and showed no ill effects against the hard-serving Guccione.
   Sock, meanwhile, sprained his left ankle early in the third set of his second-round victory over Roman Borvanov of Moldova on Wednesday. But Sock won in doubles later that day and again Thursday.
   "I don't worry about the other guy," said Blake, who splits his time between his training base in Tampa and his childhood home of Fairfield, Conn. "If you start playing differently because he's hurt, it's going to affect you negatively. I'm not changing my game."
   Sock, a native of Lincoln, Neb., living in Overland Park, Kan., already has an impressive resume. Six weeks after turning pro in July, he won the U.S. Open mixed doubles title with Melanie Oudin. Last year, he became the first American since Andy Roddick in 2000 to win the U.S. Open junior boys title. This year, Sock became the first player since Donald Young in 2005-06 to win the USTA Boys 18 National Championships two years in a row.
   "He has a ton of talent," said Blake, who has practiced with Sock. "He'll be a great player."
   Ripping his returns, Blake broke Guccione's serve once in each set. Meanwhile, Blake never faced a break point on his own serve, winning 15 of 16 points on his second delivery against the 2010 Sacramento quarterfinalist.
   "It's tough playing Guccione," said Blake, who nevertheless improved to 3-0 lifetime against the red-headed Aussie. "He controls everything when he serves. You have to take chances on his serve.
   "My biggest concern was taking care of  my serve, and I did that really well. He only got to deuce twice.
   "I got a little lucky on his serve. I took advantage of some opportunities and got a couple of breaks. That's all you can ask for."
   ATP World Tour -- No. 1 seeds and former Stanford All-Americans Bob and Mike Bryan breezed to a 6-0, 6-3 victory over Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic and Florian Mayer of Germany in the doubles quarterfinals at the China Open in Beijing.
   The Bryan twins, trying to bounce back from losing in the first round of a Grand Slam for the first time in 10 years, have lost only seven games in two matches in Beijing. They fell to Karlovic and Frank Moser of Germany at the U.S. Open last month. Karlovic and Moser then lost in the second round to Italians Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini.
   WTA tour -- Fourth-seeded Vania King of the Capitals and Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan defeated eighth-seeded Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia and Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland 6-0, 7-5 in the doubles quarterfinals at Beijing.
   King and Shvedova are trying to rebound from a 4-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3) loss to Americans Lizel Huber and Lisa Raymond  in the U.S. Open final.
   ITF Women's Circuit -- Unseeded Yasmin Schnack of Elk Grove and Amanda Fink of Calabasas received a walkover from fourth-seeded Alexandra Mueller of Abington, Pa., and Asia Muhammed of Las Vegas in the quarterfinals of the $50,000 Women's Pro Tennis Classic in Kansas City, Mo.

At Natomas Racquet Club
Second-round singles
   James Blake (1), Tampa, Fla., def. Chris Guccione, Australia, 6-4, 6-4. Alex Kuznetsov, Tampa, Fla., def. Izak Van der Merwe (6), South Africa, 6-4, 6-2. Thiemo de Bakker, Netherlands, def. Pierre-Ludovic Duclos, Canada, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4. Ivo Karlovic (2), Croatia, def. Victor Estrella, Dominican Republic, 6-3, 6-2. Uladzimir Ignatik, Belarus, def. Bjorn Phau (7), Germany, 6-4, 7-6 (4). Sam Querrey (3), Las Vegas, def. Denis Gremelmayr, Germany, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (1), 6-3.
Doubles quarterfinals
   Vasek Pospisil, Canada, and Bobby Reynolds, United States, def. Frederik Nielsen, Denmark, and Travis Parrott (3), Portland, Ore., 7-6 (7), 7-6 (5). Carsten Ball and Chris Guccione, Australia, def. Sanchai Ratiwatana and Sonchat Ratiwatana, Thailand, 7-6 (5), 6-4. Nicholas Monroe, Chapel Hill, N.C., and Jack Sock, Lincoln, Neb., def. John Paul Fruttero, San Jose, and Raven Klaasen, South Africa, 6-3, 3-6, 10-8 tiebreak. Travis Rettenmaier, Los Angeles, and Simon Stadler, Germany, def. Jordan Kerr, Australia, and David Martin (4), Huntington Beach, 6-3, 4-6, 11-9 tiebreak.
Friday's schedule
(Beginning at noon)
Center Court
   Blake (1) vs. Sock, Ignatik vs. Querrey (3), Monroe and Sock vs. Rettenmaier and Stadler.
Court 1
   Reynolds (4) vs. Kuznetsov, De Bakker vs. Karlovic (2), Pospisil and Reynolds vs. Ball and Guccione.

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