Monday, October 1, 2012

Wimbledon doubles champ routed in Sac singles

Frederik Nielsen, a reigning Wimbledon doubles champion,
lost to unseeded Tennys Sandgren 6-1, 6-2 Monday in the
first round of the $100,000 RelyAid Natomas Challenger in
Sacramento. Photos by Paul Bauman
   SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- This is the guy who won the Wimbledon men's doubles title a few months ago?
   As John McEnroe famously said, you cannot be serious.
   Frederik Nielsen sprayed groundstrokes all over the place, served poorly and somehow dumped a high backhand volley into the bottom of the net. And he ran into a young, strong, highly motivated player on top of his game.
   It added up to a 6-1, 6-2 shellacking in 52 minutes by unseeded American Tennys Sandgren on Monday in the first round of the $100,000 RelyAid Natomas Challenger at the Natomas Racquet Club.
   And it wasn't that close. Saying Nielsen had a bad day is like saying the Houston Astros have had a bad year.
   OK, so this was singles and not doubles. It's still tennis, right? And Nielsen did reach the singles quarterfinals in the Natomas Challenger two years ago. 
   At least the 29-year-old Danish wild card showed strong soccer skills Monday. After double-faulting at 2-2 in the second set, he booted a stationary ball over the fence, incurring a warning for ball abuse.
Sandgren said he had extra incentive against Nielsen.
   After swatting a routine forehand way long on match point, Nielsen could only laugh out loud at his futility.
   The errant shot, Nielsen said later in impressive English, "was very symptomatic of the match. ... It was a forehand as standard as possible, and I played it in the fence."
   All three seeds in action Monday lost to Americans.
   No. 4 Wayne Odesnik, a Weston, Fla., resident who won the 2007 Sacramento Challenger, fell to Alex Kuznetsov, a Sacramento semifinalist in 2006 at 19 years old and last year, 6-4, 6-4. Odesnik, who was suspended for one year in 2010 for importing human growth hormone into Australia, had been 5-1 lifetime against Kuznetsov.
   No. 6 Peter Polansky of Canada retired with a shoulder injury with Adam El Mihdawy leading 3-6, 7-6 (2), 4-1. And Izak Van der Merwe, who won the doubles title in the 2010 Natomas Challenger with fellow South African Rik de Voest, ousted No. 7 Tim Smyczek 6-3, 6-2.
   Australia's Samuel Groth, the world's fastest server at 163 mph (263 kph), will meet fifth-seeded Matteo Viola of Italy in the first round today at 10 a.m. Then 32-year-old wild card James Blake, the second seed and last year's runner-up to 6-foot-10 Ivo Karlovic, will face 19-year-old qualifier Taro Daniel of Japan in a matchup of the tournament's oldest and youngest players.
   Also playing separate matches today are top-seeded Benjamin Becker of Germany and past Sacramento singles champions de Voest, who won the inaugural tournament in 2005 at the Sutter Lawn Tennis Club, and John Millman (2010) of Australia.  
   Nielsen, who's ranked No. 23 in doubles and No. 353 in singles, took his dismal performance philosophically.
   "That's the way it is in sports sometimes," he said. "Sometimes you do everything in your power and win, and sometimes you get rewarded with nothing. That's the beauty and annoyance of sports."
   Nielsen's grandfather Kurt was the Wimbledon singles runner-up in 1953 and 1955. Frederik did not enter doubles in Sacramento, he said, so he could play singles qualifying this weekend in the Tiburon Challenger.
   Nielsen, who often wears a hangdog expression on the court, denied suffering a letdown after winning Wimbledon. But Sandgren said: "It's kind of tough if you have a result like that and come to a tournament like this. This is a great tournament, but it's not the same kind of glamour."   
   For all the benefits of a Wimbledon title -- prestige, fame, entry into top doubles events, money, etc. -- there's one major drawback. Nielsen is a marked man whenever he steps on the court.
   "It helps you focus," Sandgren observed. "You know the guy is loose and relaxed. I knew he could come out and play amazing tennis. I had to be on my toes and bring my best game."
   Sandgren did exactly that. Powerfully built at 6-foot-2, he blasted serves at up to 128 mph, pounded deep groundstrokes and returned well.  
   "I didn't miss too much," Sandgren conceded. "I served extremely well. I think my first-serve percentage was in the 70s, and they were bombs. My arm was loose, and I was feeling good. It was one of my better days, which helps, especially because this court is fast."
   Sandgren, 21, turned pro last year after reaching the NCAA singles semifinals as a sophomore at Tennessee. He has almost halved his world ranking this year from No. 540 to No. 278.
   And no, Sandgren is not named for his sport. He was given his great-grandfather's name, which is Swedish.
   On Monday, Sandgren made a name for himself.

$ 100,000.00
SEPT. 29 - OCT. 7, 2012
Singles - First Round

A Kuznetsov (USA) d [4] W Odesnik (USA) 64 64
A El Mihdawy (USA) d [6] P Polansky (CAN) 36 76(2) 41 Retired
I Van der Merwe (RSA) d [7] T Smyczek (USA) 63 62
T Sandgren (USA) d [WC] F Nielsen (DEN) 61 62
M Zverev (GER) d S Bubka (UKR) 26 62 63
Doubles - First Round
D Britton (USA) / A Krajicek (USA) d [2] R De Voest (RSA) / R Farah (COL) 76(4) 76(4)
[WC] T Sandgren (USA) / R Williams (USA) d [WC] D Kosakowski (USA) / N Meister (USA) 62 36 10-7
S Groth (AUS) / C Guccione (AUS) d [WC] P Simmonds (USA) / J Sock (USA) 46 76(5) 10-4
Qualifying Singles - Quarterfinals

T Daniel (JPN) d A Daescu (ROU) 36 63 61
G Jones (AUS) d D Britton (USA) 46 63 63
L Gregorc (SLO) d F Wolmarans (RSA) 64 61
P Simmonds (USA) d R Thacher (USA) 16 64 62
Qualifying Doubles - Final
[1] J Dadamo (USA) / B Klahn (USA) d [2] L Gregorc (SLO) / A Pavic (CRO) 64 61
STADIUM start 10:00 am
S Groth (AUS) vs [5] M Viola (ITA) 
Not Before 12:00 PM
[Q] T Daniel (JPN) vs [2] [WC] J Blake (USA) 
[3] R Sweeting (USA) vs M Reid (AUS) 
Not Before 4:30 PM
J Sock (USA) vs B Reynolds (USA)
COURT 1 start 10:00 am
[Q] P Simmonds (USA) vs M McClune (USA) 
R Farah (COL) vs A Bogdanovic (GBR) 
[1] B Becker (GER) vs [WC] D Kosakowski (USA) 
R Williams (USA) vs R De Voest (RSA) 
A Kuznetsov (USA) / M Zverev (GER) vs S Ianni (ITA) / M Viola (ITA)
COURT 2 start 10:00 am
[8] D Kudla (USA) vs [Q] G Jones (AUS) 
[Q] L Gregorc (SLO) vs L Vanni (ITA) 
J Millman (AUS) vs [WC] B Klahn (USA) 
[LL] L Gregorc (SLO) / A Pavic (CRO) vs [4] A Daescu (ROU) / A Hubble (AUS)

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