Sunday, February 5, 2012

New Zealand has tennis tradition, too; new rankings

   Leftovers from our group's trip to Australia and New Zealand:
    —New Zealand can't approach much larger Australia's rich tennis history, but it does have a tradition in the sport.
   On the men's side, Tony Wilding of Christchurch won Wimbledon from 1910 to 1913 before he was killed in World War I in 1915. Onny Parun of Wellington reached the 1973 Australian Open final, losing to John Newcombe in four sets, and Chris Lewis of Auckland advanced to the 1983 Wimbledon final, in which he was drubbed by John McEnroe 6-2, 6-2, 6-2.
   New Zealand's top active man is Michael Venus, 24, of Auckland at No. 356 in the world. The former LSU All-American won a Futures title in Loomis, a suburb of Sacramento, in 2010.
   Among women, Belinda Cordwell of Wellington reached No. 17 in the world in 1989. Currently, Marina Erakovic of Auckland leads New Zealand players at No. 54. The Croatia native, who will turn 24 on March 6, knocked off top seed and defending champion Victoria Azarenka in the second round of last year's Bank of the West Classic at Stanford before losing in the quarterfinals. Azarenka won the Australian Open last week for her first Grand Slam singles title and wrested the No. 1 ranking from Caroline Wozniacki.
   Also, the ATP World Tour and WTA hold Australian Open warmup tournaments in Auckland every January.
    —On the drive from our hotel to catch a flight from Auckland to Los Angeles on Tuesday, our driver said Australia and New Zealand "have a love-hate relationship."
   Australia, covered by desert in the interior, is about the size of the continental United States and has a population of 22.8 million. New Zealand, situated 900 miles southeast of its rival across the Tasman Sea, is about the size of California with a population of 4.4 million.
   "When the Sky Tower was built (from 1994 to 1997)," Colin explained, "Auckland made sure it was a little taller than the Sydney Tower. When Australia beats in New Zealand in anything, it's all over the newspapers in Australia. But when New Zealand beats Australia, there's nothing."
    —A chalkboard outside a pub in downtown Auckland invited passers-by to watch the Super Bowl live on Monday, Feb. 6, at 12:30 p.m. Auckland is 18 hours ahead of Indianapolis, the site of the game.
    —Doubles specialist Mark Knowles, who completed his 10th season with the Sacramento Capitals of World TeamTennis last July, missed the Australian Open for only the second time since 1993.
   Knowles, a 40-year-old Bahamian with three young children, decided to start his ATP World Tour season in the SAP Open, Feb. 13-19 at HP Pavilion in San Jose. The former world No. 1 has reached the Australian Open doubles final four times in 18 appearances, winning in 2002 with former longtime partner Daniel Nestor of Canada.
   Knowles sat out the 2010 Australian Open because of a torn calf muscle, ending his streak of Grand Slam tournaments played at 48.
    —I have a weakness for spare ribs, so I ordered them at the Alice May Restaurant in Franz Josef, New Zealand, and again the next night at the Ballarat Trading Company in Queenstown. Both times, the ribs were good but not great.
   The following night, we had dinner at the Flame Bar and Grill in Queenstown. Guess what the chalkboard outside the restaurant said. "Best ribs in New Zealand."
   Uh oh. Now what do I do? I went with the rib-eye steak, and a fellow Sacramentan in our party of four got the steak/ribs combination. He was kind enough to give me a spare rib slathered with a sweet, tangy sauce.
   The chalkboard was right. Oh well.
    —One day, we had lunch at a Mexican fast-food restaurant on the Auckland pier. The cashier's name tag said she was from California, so I asked her where and awaited the inevitable reply of "Los Angeles." Instead, she said, "Sacramento." I almost choked on my burrito.
   The cashier said she took a year off after graduating from college to travel around the world.
  Blake, Tomic withdraw — American James Blake (knee) and Australian Bernard Tomic (leg) withdrew from the SAP Open.
   Blake, 32, has fallen from a career-high No. 4 in the world in 2006 to No. 59. He reached the semifinals in San Jose in 2003 and 2009, won the doubles title there in 2004 with Mardy Fish and was the runner-up to 6-foot-10 Ivo Karlovic of Croatia in the Sacramento Challenger last October.
   The 6-5 Tomic, ranked 34th in the world at 19 years old, advanced to the Wimbledon quarterfinals last year and the fourth round of this year's Australian Open. He lost to Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, respectively.
  Sanchez, Schnack crowned — Fourth-seeded Maria Sanchez of Modesto and Yasmin Schnack of the Sacramento area won the doubles title in the $25,000 Del Mar Financial Partners Inc. Open in the San Diego suburb of Rancho Santa Fe.
   Sanchez and Schnack edged unseeded Irina Buryachok and Elizaveta Ianchuk, both of Ukraine, 7-6 (4), 4-6, 10-8 tiebreak in the final.
   As singles qualifiers, Sanchez reached the quarterfinals and Schnack the second round.
  New rankings — Following are this week's world rankings of professional players with Northern California ties (change from last week in parentheses):
    Bob Bryan, 1998 NCAA doubles champion from Stanford -- No. 1 in doubles (no change), unranked in singles.
    Mike Bryan, 1998 NCAA doubles champion from Stanford -- No. 1 in doubles (no change), unranked in singles.
    John Paul Fruttero, Cal All-American in 2001 and 2002 -- No. 114 in doubles (-1), unranked in singles.
    Kiryl Harbatsiuk, three-time Big Sky Conference MVP (2009-11) at Sacramento State -- No. 768 in singles (-1), No. 1,247 in doubles (-3).
   Mark Knowles, Sacramento Capitals of World TeamTennis (2001-07, 2009-11) -- No. 64 in doubles (-3), unranked in singles.
    Scott Lipsky, 2002 NCAA doubles runner-up from Stanford -- Career-high No. 24 in doubles (+4), unranked in singles.
    David Martin, 2002 NCAA doubles runner-up from Stanford -- No. 147 in doubles (-12), No. 761 in singles (-1).
    Conor Niland, 2006 Pacific-10 Conference Player of the Year and two-time All-American at Cal -- No. 321 in singles (-35), unranked in doubles.
    Sam Querrey, San Francisco native -- No. 89 in singles (+6), No. 39 in doubles (-3).
    Dmitry Tursunov, Folsom resident -- No. 49 in singles (-6), No. 212 in doubles (-9).
    Dusan Vemic, Capitals (2010-11) -- No. 653 in doubles (-150), No. 1,502 in singles (+11).
    Jimmy Wang, Folsom resident -- No. 264 in singles (+11), No. 581 in doubles (-56).
    Vania King, Capitals (2010-11) -- No. 6 in doubles (no change), No. 59 in singles (+7).
    Raquel Kops-Jones, 2003 NCAA doubles champion from Cal -- No. 39 in doubles (-3), No. 727 in singles (-4).
    Maria Sanchez, Modesto resident -- No. 270 in doubles (-2), No. 696 in singles (no change).
    Yasmin Schnack, Elk Grove resident, Sacramento Capitals of World TeamTennis (2011) -- No. 192 in doubles (-11), No. 393 in singles (+20).

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