Friday, October 5, 2012

Pilot Zverev hopes his career is taking off again

Germany's Mischa Zverev, a private pilot, beat Tennys
Sandgren 6-2, 6-4 in the quarterfinals of the $100,000
RelyAid Natomas Challenger. Photo by Paul Bauman
   SACRAMENTO, Calif. — After encountering much turbulence during the past three years, Mischa Zverev is cruising this week at the $100,000 RelyAid Natomas Challenger.
   Zverev, who received a pilot's license in August, soared past 21-year-old American Tennys Sandgren  6-2, 6-4 Friday in a quarterfinal matchup of unseeded players at the Natomas Racquet Club.
    On Thursday evening, the 25-year-old Moscow-born German rented a plane at Sacramento Executive Airport with two guests and stopped in Placerville, Rancho Murieta and Cameron Park before returning to Sacramento.
   "Wherever I go, I try to rent a plane and fly around a little bit," Zverev, who speaks English like a native, said enthusiastically. "That's a really nice airport in Placerville. It's right on top of a hill, and it drops right in front of the runway and right behind it, so you feel like you take off into the horizon. There are no trees, nothing in front of you.
   "Right after you pass the runway, you go down a little bit because there's a huge drop, and then you take off. It reminded me of the James Bond movie ("The Spy Who Loved Me"). I'm planning on doing something again tonight, like go to Napa Valley and get some wine for my girlfriend."
   Zverev — a veteran of the ATP World Tour, the major leagues of men's tennis — will face Daniel Kosakowski in Saturday's first semifinal at noon.
   Kosakowski, a 20-year-old wild card from Downey in the Los Angeles area, downed fifth-seeded Matteo Viola of Italy 6-4, 6-4 for his 13th consecutive victory and 15th in his last 16 matches. Kosakowski's streak includes a win over Germany's Benjamin Becker, the top seed at No. 85 in the world, in the first round at Natomas and two Futures titles.
   Kosakowski is ranked far lower than Zverev, No. 304 to No. 168, but won their only previous meeting 3-6, 6-4, 3-0, retired on clay in Houston last April. 
   The second semifinal features two Americans in their 30s, second-seeded James Blake and unseeded Bobby Reynolds.
   Blake, 32, edged 22-year-old wild card Bradley Klahn of Poway in the San Diego area 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4), and Reynolds, 30, outlasted unseeded Luca Vanni of Italy 5-7, 6-2, 6-3. Klahn, a left-hander who won the 2010 NCAA singles title as a Stanford sophomore and graduated this year, served for each set.
   Blake is ranked No. 97 after reaching a career-high No. 4 in 2006. He dominated Reynolds, who's No. 162 after peaking at No. 63 in 2009, 6-3, 6-1 in the final of last year's Winnetka (Ill.) Challenger in their only other meeting.
   Zverev moved to Germany with his family at 4 because his father, who played Davis Cup for the Soviet Union from 1982 to 1987, received an attractive coaching offer there.
   Mischa isn't overpowering, although he's listed at 6-foot-3. But he's a rarity on two counts: he's left-handed, and he serves-and-volleys. He also has consistent, pinpoint groundstrokes.
   Zverev climbed to a career-high No. 45 in 2009 before injuries struck. He broke his right wrist when he fell while hitting an overhead in Shanghai in late 2009, broke two ribs falling on his elbow or racket on a wet clay court in Munich in the summer of 2010 and developed a hernia at the end of 2010.   
   "Basically, I could not serve or play without pain for almost a year," said Zverev, who's staying with Sergei Bubka of Ukraine at Dmitry Tursunov's Folsom townhouse while the fellow Moscow native plays in Tokyo. "I would play a match, and I would have to rest for three days. Or I would play two sets, and the third set I could not move anymore.
   "I had times where after the match I could not take off my own shoes. I had to call my coach or trainer to help me out. It was pretty bad at some points, but luckily I think that's over now, knock on wood."
   And maybe Zverev will reach new heights.  

SEPT. 29 - OCT. 7, 2012
Singles - Quarterfinals

[2] [WC] J Blake (USA) d [WC] B Klahn (USA) 76(5) 76(4)
[WC] D Kosakowski (USA) d [5] M Viola (ITA) 64 64
M Zverev (GER) d T Sandgren (USA) 62 64
B Reynolds (USA) d L Vanni (ITA) 57 62 63
Doubles - Semifinals
D Britton (USA) / A Krajicek (USA) d S Groth (AUS) / C Guccione (AUS) 76(2) 26 10-8
Doubles - Quarterfinals
[WC] T Sandgren (USA) / R Williams (USA) d W Odesnik (USA) / L Vanni (ITA) 63 61

STADIUM start noon
[WC] D Kosakowski (USA) vs M Zverev (GER) 
B Reynolds (USA) vs [2] [WC] J Blake (USA) 
[WC] T Sandgren (USA) / R Williams (USA) vs A Kuznetsov (USA) / M Zverev(GER)

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