Sunday, October 7, 2012

Blake, Zverev reach Sacramento Challenger final

Second-seeded James Blake held off unseeded Bobby
Reynolds 6-2, 7-6 (3) in a semifinal matchup of Americans
in their 30s. Photos by Paul Bauman
   SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- James Blake won't have to face 6-foot-10 Ivo Karlovic's booming serve this time.
   But Mischa Zverev is no picnic, either.
   Blake and Zverev, veterans of the elite ATP World Tour who have rebounded from injuries, reached the final of the $100,000 RelyAid Natomas Challenger with straight-set victories Saturday at the Natomas Racquet Club.
   The second-seeded Blake held off unseeded Bobby Reynolds 6-2, 7-6 (3) in a matchup of Americans in their 30s. Blake, the oldest player in the singles draw at almost 33, won the first three points of the tiebreaker. Reynolds, who turned 30 in July, took the next three before surrendering the last four, including two on double faults (one on match point).
   The unseeded Zverev, a 25-year-old Moscow-born German, dismissed Daniel Kosakowski, a 20-year-old wild card from Downey in the Los Angeles area, 6-2, 6-2. The final game of the first set lasted 30 points and about 20 minutes. Zverev saved seven break points and finally held serve on his sixth game point.
   Zverev ended Kosakowski's winning streak at 13 matches, including a first-round upset of top-seeded Benjamin Becker and titles in two $10,000 Futures tournaments in consecutive weeks.
Unseeded Mischa Zverev ended 20-year-old wild card
Daniel Kosakowski's winning streak at 13 matches.
   Kosakowski, who was playing in his first Challenger semifinal, turned pro in June 2011 after winning a $15,000 Futures tournament 10 minutes down the freeway from Natomas at the Park Terrace Swim & Tennis Club in south Sacramento.
   Blake lost to Karlovic 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 in last year's Natomas final. Karlovic fired 23 aces in the match, faced only one break point and won all 20 points on his serve in the last set, including 12 aces.
   Karlovic played in the Japan Open in Tokyo on the ATP World Tour this week, falling to top-seeded Andy Murray in the first round. Blake shed no tears over Karlovic's absence.
   "He's never fun to play," Blake said earlier this week. "He takes the racket out of your hands. Any guy who  can make it all about them and not about you is not fun to play. But he's a good guy, and I hope he does well overseas."
   Blake, ranked 97th after reaching a career-high No. 4 in 2006, combines blazing speed and explosive shotmaking. Zverev, who's 168th after climbing to a career-best No. 45 in 2009, has an excellent all-around game. The left-hander is one of the few serve-and-volleyers left in professional tennis and a steady baseline player.
   Both players are fit after long battles with injuries. Blake was plagued by tendinitis in his right knee last year and early this year. Zverev broke his right wrist in 2009 and two ribs in 2010 in falls on the court and developed a hernia later in 2010.          
   They often practice together at Saddlebrook Resort in Tampa, Fla., but have met only once in an official match. Zverev won 6-3, 6-3 in the second round of the Guadeloupe Challenger on a hardcourt in March.
    "Maybe he wasn't playing his best, but that week I just played incredible tennis up to the final," said Zverev, who won all four of his matches in straight sets before losing to David Goffin of Belgium 6-2, 6-2 in the final. "That was one of those weeks where you just close your eyes and everything goes well.
   "It doesn't mean anything. (Today) is going to be a different day. I don't think it's going to be that easy again."
   Blake agreed.
   "I definitely think I've improved since then," he said. "I'm moving a lot better. Back then, my knee was still bothering me. I wasn't able to move the way I know I need to to get in position to be aggressive.
   "He was really dictating play that match, so this time I need to be the one dictating. I need to be the one being a little more aggressive and taking it to him and not letting him set up and take his rips."
   The Blake-Zverev match will follow the All-American doubles final. Devin Britton and Austin Krajicek, a distant relative of 1996 Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek, will take on former University of Tennessee teammates Tennys Sandgren and Rhyne Williams at 1 p.m. Both teams are unseeded.         

$100,000 RELYAID NATOMAS CHALLENGER - SACRAMENTO, CA, USA
SEPT. 29 - OCT. 7, 2012
RESULTS - SATURDAY, OCT. 6, 2012
Singles - Semifinals
[2] [WC] J Blake (USA) d B Reynolds (USA) 62 76(3)
M Zverev (GER) d [WC] D Kosakowski (USA) 62 62

Doubles - Semifinals
[WC] T Sandgren (USA) / R Williams (USA) d A Kuznetsov (USA) / M Zverev (GER) 64 64


ORDER OF PLAY - SUNDAY, OCT. 7, 2012
STADIUM start 1:00 pm
[WC] T Sandgren (USA) / R Williams (USA) vs D Britton (USA) / A Krajicek (USA)
M Zverev (GER) vs [2] [WC] J Blake (USA)

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