Monday, July 9, 2012

Loaded on men's side, Capitals to open season

No. 13-ranked Mardy Fish, left,  is scheduled to play home
matches for the Sacramento Capitals on Thursday and Friday.
Fish is shown with friend and doubles partner Andy Roddick
at Indian Wells in March. Photo by Paul Bauman

   Losing a player usually hurts a team.
   Not so with Jean-Julien Rojer.
   Although Rojer has some impressive credentials, it turned out to be a lucky break for the Sacramento Capitals when he withdrew from World TeamTennis in May.
   The 30-year-old veteran from the Netherlands Antilles in the Caribbean Sea is ranked 20th in the world in men's doubles after reaching a career-high No. 17 last August. Since the beginning of May, Rojer and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi of Pakistan have won two titles on the ATP World Tour (on clay and grass) and reached the French Open semifinals.
   Also, Rojer was named the WTT Male Rookie of the Year last year after helping the St. Louis Aces edge the Capitals 20-19 in the Western Conference finals. St. Louis, which folded during the offseason, then lost to the undefeated Washington Kastles in the WTT Finals.
   Indeed, Rojer and 40-year-old Mark Knowles, both ex-UCLA stars, would have formed an excellent pair for Sacramento. Knowles was ranked No. 1 in men's doubles at various times from 2002 to 2005 and won the SAP Open in San Jose in February with Xavier Malisse.
   But the Capitals, who open their 27th season today at Boston, drafted Rojer in the second round in March to play singles in addition to doubles. Rojer, who hasn't played singles regularly since 2006, ultimately balked.
   Rojer's defection, though, allowed Sacramento to sign the towering trio of 6-foot-8 Kevin Anderson, 6-6 Sam Querrey and 6-5 Ryan Sweeting to split men's singles and doubles duties with marquee player Mardy Fish.
   All four players have won singles titles on the ATP World Tour, the major leagues of men's tennis. All but Sweeting have been ranked in the top 30 in the world in singles and are accomplished doubles players.
   Sweeting climbed to a career-high No. 64 in singles last year and won the 2005 U.S. Open boys singles title. However, he is 0-5 in doubles on the ATP circuit this year and 7-26 in his career.
   "We're much stronger and happier with our new (men's) lineup," conceded Ramey Osborne, who returned as a Capitals co-owner last winter after 12-year hiatus. " ... It worked out to be a blessing."
   Except for the expense, which Osborne admitted is a "huge" concern.
   "Our salaries are doubled over last year," he said, adding that league rules prohibit him from elaborating.
   Still, Osborne didn't hesitate to sign the 13th-ranked Fish for two matches (Thursday and Friday at 7:35 p.m. at Sunrise Mall), Querrey for five, Anderson for four and Sweeting for three.
   "We wanted to put the best product we could out there," Osborne said.
   Osborne, who will turn 74 on July 20, and Deepal Wannakuwatte bought the team from Bob Cook, a local real estate developer who filed for personal bankruptcy last August. During Osborne's first stint (1988-99), the Capitals won the first three of their record six WTT championships. The team's last title came in 2007 on its home court.   Sacramento finished 8-6 in the 2011 regular season after going 6-8 and missing the playoffs in each of the two previous years. The Capitals' only other losing season, in which they also finished 6-8, came in 1991.
   Knowles, a three-time WTT Male MVP and Fish's coach, will return for his 11th season with the Capitals.
   So will coach Wayne Bryan, the father of doubles stars Bob and Mike Bryan.
   "I have a tremendous amount of respect for (Wayne Bryan), more so than before," Osborne said. "I didn't realize how much time and effort he puts into tennis and the Capitals."
   Sacramento's women are not as strong as its men, which could be especially damaging. It's more difficult for men to break serve and create gaps in the scoring against each other because of their greater power and the abbreviated format in team tennis (no-ad scoring, sets up to five games and tiebreakers at 4-4 in sets).
   Five-foot-10 Yasmin Schnack, a former UCLA All-American ranked No. 145 in doubles and No. 455 in singles, will come back after a solid rookie season with her hometown Capitals. Asia Muhammad, ranked No. 187 in doubles and No. 480 in singles, will play her first full season in WTT after serving as a substitute for Philadelphia in 2009.
   Muhammad and Schnack won the doubles title in the $50,000 USTA Gold River Women's Challenger last month at the Gold River Racquet Club, the Capitals' home during Osborne's first tenure as a co-owner.
   CoCo Vandeweghe, the 20-year-old niece of former NBA star Kiki Vandeweghe, will join the Capitals for their last five regular-season matches and, if they qualify, for the Sept. 14-16 playoffs. Vandeweghe, 6-foot-1, played for Sacramento as a WTT rookie in 2009 and for Boston the past two seasons. She is ranked No. 120 in singles after climbing to a career-high No. 89 in April 2011.
   Half of Sacramento's regular roster in 2011, Vania King and Dusan Vemic, did not return after two years with the team. King, the 2009 WTT Female MVP for Springfield (Mo.), tried to make the U.S. Olympic team but fell short and will play on the regular tour instead. The Capitals chose not to bring back the flashy but inconsistent Vemic, who turned 36 last month.
   Visiting marquee players will be ex-Capital Lindsay Davenport, formerly ranked No. 1 in singles and doubles, of the Orange County Breakers on July 24 and two-time Grand Slam singles runner-up Mark Philippoussis of Philadelphia on July 27.
   Federer regains top ranking -- Roger Federer returned to No. 1 in the world Monday for the first time in two years after winning his record-tying seventh Wimbledon singles title.
   Federer, who had been No. 3, defeated Andy Murray 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 Sunday to tie the mark held by William Renshaw of the late 1800s and Pete Sampras. Federer also tied Sampras' record of 286 weeks at No. 1.
   At 30 years and 335 days, Federer is the second-oldest man to hold the No. 1 ranking. Andre Agassi was 33 years and 131 days old when he returned to the top in June 2003.
   Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal each dropped one spot to No. 2 and No. 3, respectively.
   Wimbledon -- Second-seeded Mike Bryan and Lisa Raymond of the United States won the Wimbledon mixed doubles title Sunday, defeating fourth-seeded Leander Paes of India and Elena Vesnina of Russia 6-3, 5-7, 6-4.
   It was the third Grand Slam mixed doubles title for Bryan, who won the 1998 NCAA men's doubles crown as a Stanford sophomore with twin brother Bob, and Raymond. They won the 2002 U.S. Open and 2003 French Open.
   Paes and Vesnina also lost in the Australian Open final, falling to Horia Tecau of Romania and Bethanie Mattek-Sands of Phoenix. Paes has won six Grand Slam mixed doubles titles, the last one coming two years ago at Wimbledon with Cara Black of Zimbabwe. 
   Bank of the West Classic at Stanford -- Wild card Jana Juricova, making her professional debut after finishing her eligibility at Cal, upset fourth-seeded Alexa Glatch of Newport Beach 6-4, 2-6, 6-2 Sunday to advance to the main draw of the Bank of the West Classic.
   Juricova, who won the 2011 NCAA singles title at Stanford and the 2009 NCAA doubles crown with Mari Andersson, will meet eighth-seeded Marina Erakovic of New Zealand on Tuesday in the first round.
   Erakovic reached the Bank of the West quarterfinals as a qualifier last year, stunning top seed and defending champion Victoria Azarenka in the second round. Azarenka proceeded to win the Australian Open in January for her first Grand Slam title 
   Vandeweghe, seeded second in qualifying, lost to fifth-seeded Noppawan Lertcheewakarn of Thailand 2-6, 6-2, 7-5 in the last round but advanced to the main draw when Bojana Jovanovski of Serbia withdrew with an undisclosed injury. Vandeweghe will face unseeded Melinda Czink of Hungary in tonight's second match.
   Among Saturday's first-round losers in qualifying were Raquel Kops-Jones, the 2003 NCAA doubles champion with Cal teammate and Sacramento native Christina Fusano, and current Stanford players Kristie Ahn and Ellen Tsay.
  Women's Challenger in Denver -- Qualifier Nicole Gibbs, who swept the NCAA singles and doubles titles in May as a Stanford sophomore, subdued unseeded Julie Coin of France 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 to win the $50,000 Colorado International.
   It was the 19-year-old Gibbs' first Challenger singles crown. She won the singles championship at a $10,000 tournament in Mexico City at 14 in 2007 and the doubles title at a $50,000 event in Raleigh, N.C., in 2010 with Ahn.
   Gibbs, a wild card in the Bank of the West Classic, will play Lertcheewakarn, the 2009 Wimbledon girls champion, on Tuesday for the right to play top seed and defending champion Serena Williams late Wednesday afternoon. Williams, who won her fifth Wimbledon singles title Saturday, received a first-round bye. 
   Men's Challenger in Winnetka, Ill. -- Unseeded Americans Devin Britton and Jeff Dadamo, the singles finalists in last month's Sacramento Challenger, beat top-seeded Australians John Peers and John-Patrick Smith 1-6, 6-2, 10-6 tiebreak to capture the doubles title of the $50,000 Nielsen Pro Tennis Championships.
   Britton, the 2009 NCAA singles champion as a freshman at Mississippi, saved two match points to beat Dadamo, who won last year's NCAA doubles crown as a senior at Texas A&M, 2-6, 7-6 (6), 6-2 at the Park Terrace Swim & Tennis Club.
   Smith, a qualifier who recently completed his eligibility after an All-America career at Tennessee, won his first Challenger singles title. He saved two match points to nip seventh-seeded Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (3) for his third victory over a top-200 player in the tournament. 
  Trivia time -- Not only have the last two NCAA women's champions in singles come from Stanford or Cal, so have the last four in doubles.
   Since Andersson and Juricova triumphed in 2009, Stanford teams have prevailed: Hilary Barte and Lindsay Burdette in 2010, Barte and Mallory Burdette in 2011, and Mallory Burdette and Gibbs this year.
CALENDAR 
   Today -- WTA, Bank of the West Classic, Stanford, first round, 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. www.bankofthewestclassic.com.
   World TeamTennis, Sacramento Capitals' season opener at Boston, 4 p.m., http://www.saccaps.com/.
   West Coast Junior Championships, quarterfinals and semifinals, Rio del Oro Racquet Club, 119 Scripps Dr., Sacramento, www.norcal.usta.com.
   Tuesday -- WTA, Bank of the West Classic, Stanford, first round, 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. www.bankofthewestclassic.com.
   Capitals at Philadelphia, 4 p.m. http://www.saccaps.com/.
   West Coast Junior Championships, finals, Rio del Oro Racquet Club, 119 Scripps Dr., Sacramento, www.norcal.usta.com.
   Wednesday -- WTA, Bank of the West Classic, Stanford, second round, 11 a.m. and not before 8 p.m. Exhibition match, Pete Sampras vs. Michael Chang, 7 p.m. www.bankofthewestclassic.com. 
   Thursday -- WTA, Bank of the West Classic, Stanford, second round, 11 a.m. and not before 8 p.m. Exhibition match, Sampras vs. Jim Courier, 7 p.m. www.bankofthewestclassic.com.
    2012 Northern California Tennis Hall of Fame Brunch and Induction Ceremony (Nick Saviano, Andrea Norman, Steve Cornell and Martha Downing), Stanford, Pac 12 Plaza/Cardinal Plaza, 10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., tickets $75 each at http://www.acteva.com/booking.cfm?bevaid=230538. 
   Capitals' home opener (with Mardy Fish) vs. Kansas City, Sunrise Marketplace Outdoor Pavilion, Sunrise Mall in Citrus Heights, 7:35 p.m., www.saccaps.com.
   Friday -- WTA, Bank of the West Classic, Stanford, quarterfinals, noon and 7 p.m. Exhibition match, Chang vs. Courier, not before 8 p.m. www.bankofthewestclassic.com.
   Capitals (with Fish) vs. Orange County, Sunrise Marketplace Outdoor Pavilion, Sunrise Mall in Citrus Heights, 7:35 p.m., http://www.saccaps.com/.
   Saturday -- WTA, Bank of the West Classic, Stanford, semifinals, 1 and 7 p.m. www.bankofthewestclassic.com.
   Capitals at Orange County, 7 p.m.
   Sunday -- WTA, Bank of the West Classic, Stanford, singles final at 1 p.m., doubles final to follow. www.bankofthewestclassic.com.
   July 16 -- Capitals (with Sam Querrey) vs. New York, Sunrise Marketplace Outdoor Pavilion, Sunrise Mall in Citrus Heights, 7:35 p.m., http://www.saccaps.com/.
   July 18 -- Capitals at Washington, 4:10 p.m.
   July 19 -- Capitals at Springfield, 5:05 p.m.
   July 20 -- Capitals at Kansas City, 5:35 p.m.
   July 22 -- Springfield at Capitals (with Querrey, Vandeweghe), Sunrise Marketplace Outdoor Pavilion, Sunrise Mall in Citrus Heights, 7:35 p.m., http://www.saccaps.com/.
   July 24 -- Orange County (with Lindsay Davenport) at Capitals (with Kevin Anderson, Vandeweghe), Sunrise Marketplace Outdoor Pavilion, Sunrise Mall in Citrus Heights, 7:35 p.m., http://www.saccaps.com/.
   July 25 -- Capitals (with Vandeweghe) at Orange County, 7 p.m.
   July 27 -- Philadelphia (with Mark Philippoussis) at Capitals (with Anderson, Vandeweghe), Sunrise Marketplace Outdoor Pavilion, Sunrise Mall in Citrus Heights, 7:35 p.m., http://www.saccaps.com/.
   July 28 -- Boston at Capitals (with Anderson, Vandeweghe), Sunrise Marketplace Outdoor Pavilion, Sunrise Mall in Citrus Heights, 7:35 p.m., http://www.saccaps.com/.
   July 28-Aug. 5 -- OLYMPIC TENNIS TOURNAMENT, Wimbledon, www.london2012.com.

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