Friday, March 9, 2012

Capitals likely to draft two new singles players

   INDIAN WELLS -- Ramey Osborne knows all about building a World TeamTennis champion.
   Even though Sacramento made considerable progress last season, Osborne has his hands full in his first year back as a Capitals owner. The Summer Olympics in London complicate matters.
   Osborne and Deepal Wannakuwatte bought the team last December from real estate developer Bob Cook, who had filed for bankruptcy with debts of $48 million. Under Osborne's previous ownership from 1988 to 1999, the Capitals won the first three of their four straight WTT titles (1997-2000).
   "I forgot how hard it is and how stressful it is," Osborne, the president of a real estate company in the Sacramento suburb of Gold River and a member of the Sacramento Tennis Hall of Fame, said Thursday at the BNP Paribas Open. "I'm 73 years old, and I've never encountered anything with so many moving parts. You have very little control over most of them."
   Half of the regular roster, longtime doubles star Mark Knowles and Sacramento-area resident Yasmin Schnack, will return for the July 9-28 regular season (see schedule below), Osborne said. But he must replace Vania King, the team's foundation since being acquired from the Springfield (Mo.) Lasers in a draft day trade two years ago, for all or part of the season. Also, Osborne said he does not plan to protect Dusan Vemic, 35, in Tuesday's WTT roster draft.
   The Capitals have the seventh pick in the eight-team draft after tying for first place in the Western Conference at 8-6 last season and losing to the St. Louis Aces 20-19 in the conference finals. The Aces folded during the offseason.
   "We hope to find two new singles players," Osborne said. "If we pick up a really good women's doubles player, Yasmin (also) will play singles."    
   The Capitals selected Mardy Fish, the top-ranked American man in the world at No. 8 in the world, in last month's marquee draft. He is scheduled to play home matches for the Capitals on July 12 and 13.
   King, a two-time Grand Slam women's doubles champion and the 2009 WTT Female MVP, said this week at the BNP Paribas Open that she will skip the Capitals' season if she qualifies to play in the Olympics.
   Eligibility for the July 28-Aug. 5 tennis event in London will be based on the June 11 world rankings in singles, doubles and mixed doubles.
   Even if King does not qualify for the Games, the 23-year-old Long Beach product will play only a partial season for the Capitals, Osborne said. He added that he does not know how many of the team's 14 regular-season matches King would play. She missed the first week last season to rest after Wimbledon but finished third among nine regulars in women's singles (33-28 record in games, .541), third of 19 in women's doubles (38-22, .633) and seventh of 19 in mixed doubles (37-30, .552).
   Vemic finished third among 10 regulars in singles (51-45, .531)  but last among 18 in men's doubles (41-54, .432) in 2011, his second season with the Capitals and sixth in WTT. He has not played on the tournament circuit since early last August. Osborne would not say whom the Capitals might draft to replace Vemic.
   Knowles, 40, will return for his 11th season with the Capitals. The former world No. 1 in doubles has won three WTT Male MVP awards. Last year, Knowles oddly finished 17th of 18 regulars in WTT men's doubles (48-62, .436) but eighth of 19 in mixed doubles (56-47, .544). Since then, he was won two doubles titles on the ATP World Tour (both with Xavier Malisse of Belgium), including last month in San Jose.
   Schnack, a 23-year-old Elk Grove resident, performed well as a WTT rookie last year. The former UCLA All-American finished fifth of 19 regulars in women's doubles (59-44, .573) and went 16-15 (.516) filling in for King in women's singles.  
   Also returning for his 11th season with the Capitals will be coach Wayne Bryan, Osborne said.
   King, Querrey advance -- Eighth-seeded Anna-Lena Groenefeld of Germany and King edged Chia-Jung Chuang of Taiwan and Galina Voskoboeva of Kazakhstan 7-5, 3-6, 11-9 tiebreak in the first round as glorious weather returned to Indian Wells.
   King said her regular partner, Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan, did not come to Indian Wells because she's focusing on singles but was not ranked high enough to get into the qualifying draw. They won the Wimbledon and U.S. Open women's doubles titles in 2010 and reached last year's final at Flushing Meadows, losing to Americans Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond 4-6 7-6(5) 7-6(3).
   Groenefeld and Knowles won the Wimbledon mixed doubles crown in 2009.
   King is scheduled to face 13th-seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, a former Capital from Russia, today in the second round of singles. They met in the second round of the Australian Open in January, with King prevailing 5-7, 6-3, 6-4.
   In a battle of 24-year-old Americans, wild card Sam Querrey defeated qualifier Tim Smyczek 7-6 (1), 6-4 on the stadium court in the first round. Querrey, however, is a 6-foot-6 San Francisco native, and Smyczek is a 5-9 Milwaukee product.
   Afterward, the right-handed Querrey pronounced himself "100 percent healthy" after undergoing operations for bone spurs in his right elbow and an umbilical infection last summer and suffering a sore left knee in December and January.
   Ranked No. 85, Querrey said he hopes to return to the top 20 by the end of the year. He reached a career-high No. 17 in January 2011.
   Querrey, who next plays 12th-seeded Nicolas Almagro of Spain, has been working with renowned coach Brad Gilbert of San Rafael in the San Francisco area for the past month.
   "I like what he's talking about," Querrey said. "I'm 6-6, and he wants me to play a big man's game -- big serves, big forehands. 'If the ball's ever in your zone, pop it -- no questions asked.' "
   Hadn't anyone told Querrey that?
   "No," he said.
Home matches at Sunrise Marketplace Stadium, 7:35 p.m.
Monday, July 9 -- At Boston.
Tuesday, July 10 -- At Philadelphia (James Blake plays Freedoms).
Thursday, July 12 -- Vs. Kansas City (Mardy Fish plays for Capitals).
Friday, July 13 -- Vs. Orange County (Fish plays for Capitals).
Saturday, July 14 -- At Orange County (Lindsay Davenport plays for Breakers).
Monday, July 16 -- Vs. New York.
Wednesday, July 18 -- At Washington.
Thursday, July 19 -- At Springfield.
Friday, July 20 -- At Kansas City.
Sunday, July 22 -- Vs. Springfield.
Tuesday, July 24 -- Vs. Orange County (Davenport plays for Breakers).
Wednesday, July 25 -- At Orange County (Davenport plays for Breakers).
Friday, July 27 -- Vs. Philadelphia (Mark Philippoussis plays for Freedoms).
Saturday, July 28 -- Vs. Boston.
Sept. 14-15 -- Conference championships in Charleston, S.C.
Sept. 16 -- WTT Finals.
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