Friday, February 17, 2012

Former champ Stepanek, Russell ousted in San Jose

   Age caught up with two 33-year-olds Thursday in the SAP Open.
   In the second round at HP Pavilion in San Jose, fourth-seeded Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic lost to Steve Darcis of Belgium 7-6 (4), 7-6 (2), and Michael Russell of Houston fell to Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan 6-2, 6-2.
   Stepanek swept the 2009 SAP Open singles and doubles titles, teaming with Tommy Haas of Germany, and lost to Andy Roddick in the 2008 singles final. But Stepanek has not won a singles match in San Jose since 2009, losing in the first round in 2010, skipping last year's event and drawing a first-round bye this year. He won his first Grand Slam title last month, pairing with Leander Paes of India in men's doubles at the Australian Open.
   Russell, seven months older than Stepanek, is the oldest player in this year's singles draw. He lost to Istomin in the second round of the SAP Open for the second consecutive year after falling 7-6 (7), 7-6 (4) in 2011.
   Istomin reached the San Jose semifinals in 2010 and quarterfinals last year, losing to Fernando Verdasco of Spain each time. Verdasco, the 2010 champion and 2011 runner-up, did not return this year.
   In Thursday night's featured match, 19-year-old Ryan Harrison saved two match points and beat fellow American Robby Ginepri, a 29-year-old wild card, 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (0). Harrison won the last 10 points of the two-hour, eight-minute battle.
   Highlighting today's quarterfinals will be the first career meeting between Canada's Milos Raonic, the No. 3 seed and defending champion, and South Africa's Kevin Anderson, the No. 6 seed. Both are tall (Anderson is 6-8 and Raonic 6-5) with booming serves,  ranked in the 30s (Raonic is No. 32 and Anderson No. 35) and possibly headed to the top 10.
   Anderson, though, is four years older at 25. He starred at Illinois for three years, whereas Raonic turned pro out of high school.
   “It’ll come down to just a few opportunities,” Anderson told reporters about today's matchup. “Service game is going to be a big focus, so hopefully I’ll be able to serve well and capitalize on a few opportunities.”
   Also in the top half of the draw, Harrison will meet qualifier Dimitar Kutrovsky of Bulgaria. In the bottom half, No. 2 seed Roddick will take on Istomin, and fifth-seeded Julien Benneteau of France will play Darcis.
   Roddick, a three-time SAP Open champion, is still recovering from a partially torn tendon in his right hamstring and twisted his right ankle during his second-round victory over 19-year-old American qualifier Denis Kudla on Wednesday night.
   In the doubles quarterfinals, fourth-seeded Mark Knowles of the Bahamas and Xavier Malisse of Belgium dispatched James Cerretani of Reading, Mass., and Matthew Ebden of Australia 6-3, 6-2. The 40-year-old Knowles, a longtime Sacramento Capitals star in World TeamTennis, won the 2001 SAP Open doubles title with former Capitals teammate Brian MacPhie.
   Ex-Cal star reaches doubles semis -- Raquel Kops-Jones, a former NCAA doubles champion from Cal, and fellow Californian Abigail Spears defeated Vera Dushevina of Russia and Shahar Peer of Israel 6-0, 7-6 (5) in the quarterfinals of the $2,168,400 Qatar Total Open in Doha.
   Sanchez stuns top seed -- Qualifier Maria Sanchez of Modesto recorded her first victory over a top-100 player when she shocked top-seeded Irina Falconi of Atlanta 6-2, 7-5 to reach the quarterfinals of the $25,000 City of Surprise (Ariz.) Women's Tennis Classic.
   Falconi is ranked No. 100 after climbing to a career-high No. 73 last October. Sanchez, a 22-year-old former USC All-American, jumped from No. 699 to a career-high No. 605 this week. She beat her doubles partner, qualifier Yasmin Schnack of Elk Grove in the Sacramento area, 6-3, 6-1 in the first round.
   Sanchez and Schnack, seeded fourth in doubles, will meet top-seeded Wan-Ting Liu and Shuai Zhang of China in today's semifinals.
   Former Sac State standout eyes return -- Ex-Sacramento State star Kiryl Harbatsiuk hopes to return to the Futures circuit next month after a long bout with the flu, Sac State director of tennis Bill Campbell said.
   Harbatsiuk, a 24-year-old native of Minsk, Belarus, is training in Sacramento. He has not played in a tournament since the first week of November.
   Stanford women rise to No. 1 -- The Stanford women replaced Florida at No. 1 in the nation after beating the Gators 5-2 Sunday at Stanford in a rematch of the past two NCAA team finals. The Cardinal had been No. 2.
   No. 3 Allie Will of Florida defeated No. 5 Nicole Gibbs 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 at No. 1 singles. Stanford's Kristie Ahn, playing for the first time since suffering an ankle injury last May, beat Alex Cercone 2-6, 7-5, 1-0 (4) at No. 4 singles.   
  Stanford won the 2010 NCAA title but, playing without then-No. 15 Ahn, lost to Florida 4-3 last year as the Gators snapped the Cardinal's NCAA-record 184-match home winning streak.  

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