Sunday, October 2, 2011

Four former top-20 players to play in Sacramento

   Officially, it's the Rely Aid Natomas Racquet Club Challenger.
   Perhaps a better name would be the Comeback Classic.
   Four former top-20 players trying to work their way back up the rankings after major injuries are entered in the $100,000 tourmament that starts Monday in Sacramento. They consist of the top three seeds -- No. 1 James Blake, No. 2 Ivo Karlovic and No. 3 Sam Querrey -- and unseeded Fernando Gonzalez. Querrey and Gonzalez accepted wild cards.
   Blake, ranked a career-high No. 4 in 2006, missed most of the clay-court season last year because of a knee injury and plunged to No. 173 in March. The 31-year-old resident of Tampa, Fla., has fought his way back to No. 74.
   The 6-foot-10 Karlovic, who reached No. 14 in 2008, has followed a similar path. The 32-year-old Croatian missed the last six months of 2010 with an Achilles' injury and plummeted to No. 239 in March. He has climbed back to No. 77.
    Querrey, ranked a career-high No. 17 in January, missed three months this summer after operations for bone spurs in his elbow and an umbilical infection. The San Francisco native, who turns 24 on Friday, has fallen to No. 119.
   Gonzalez, who reached the 2007 Australian Open final to attain a career-high ranking of No. 5, underwent hip surgery last October. The 31-year-old Chilean has dropped to No. 300.
    Natomas qualifying -- The top two seeds lost in the first round of Natomas qualifying Saturday.
   No. 1 Raven Klaasen of South Africa fell to Steve Johnson of Orange 6-1, 6-2. Johnson is coming off two consecutive titles in $10,000 tournaments in Southern California. The reigning NCAA singles champion from USC plans to return for his senior season and a shot at four NCAA team championships.
   No. 2 Alejandro Gonzalez of Colombia lost to Michael Venus of New Zealand 6-4, 6-2. Venus won a $15,000 tournament in Loomis, near Sacramento, last year.
   Former Sacramento State star Kiryl Harbatsiuk of Belarus beat his doubles partner, Boris Nicola Bakalov of Bulgaria, 2-6, 6-2, 6-1. In a matchup of Sacramento-area wild cards, junior player Brandon Sutter defeated Eric Roberson 6-3, 6-2.
   ATP World Tour in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia -- Second-seeded Eric Butorac of Rochester, Minn., and Jean-Julien Rojer of Netherlands Antilles edged fourth-seeded Scott Lipsky of Huntington Beach and Rajeev Ram of Carmel, Ind., 6-3, 6-7 (5), 10-6 in the doubles semifinals of the $850,000 Malaysian Open.
   Lipsky won the doubles title in the inaugural Sacramento Challenger in 2005 with former Stanford teammate David Martin. Ram reached the Sacramento singles final in 2006 and doubles final (with John Isner) in 2008.

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