Saturday, November 17, 2012

Changes planned for Gold River Women's Challenger

Maria Sanchez of Modesto, Calif., won the
inaugural FSP Gold River Women's Challenger
last June. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Several changes are planned for the second annual FSP Gold River Women's Challenger, tournament director Michael Burchett said recently.
   In an effort to draw a better field, the $50,000 tournament at the Gold River River Racquet Club in the Sacramento area will be held four weeks later. The Challenger is scheduled for June 22 to June 29 or 30.
   The top seed this year was Russia's Elena Bovina, then ranked No. 243 in the world. The last direct acceptance, 17-year-old Samantha Crawford of Tamarac, Fla., was No. 877.
   The Challenger in El Paso, Texas, the following week attracted a better field despite offering half the prize money. Bovina again was seeded first, but American Whitney Jones was the last direct acceptance at No. 653.
   The problem for the Gold River Challenger was that it was held during the first week of the French Open. Most players who lost in French Open qualifying then traveled to England to play on grass and prepare for Wimbledon  a few weeks later.
   Next year's Gold River tournament is set for the first week of Wimbledon, but players who lose in qualifying there will head to the United States for the summer hardcourt circuit. Some of them figure to play at Gold River.
   Also, in an attempt to draw more fans, night matches will be played for the first time. Last year's tournament was sparsely attended as temperatures reached the high 90s and most working people were unable to attend. Organizers are even "shooting for a Saturday night final," Burchett said.
   In addition, Burchett plans to increase publicity, which was minimal for the inaugural tournament.
   Fourth-seeded Maria Sanchez of Modesto, 87 miles (140 kilometers) south of Gold River, won the singles title, and second-seeded Asia Muhammad of Henderson, Nev., and Yasmin Schnack of Elk Grove in the Sacramento area took the doubles crown.
   It was the first professional singles title for the 5-foot-10 Sanchez, who commuted from home throughout the week. In her first full year as a pro, the former USC All-American has soared from No. 687 to No. 127 in the world in singles and from No. 268 to No. 115 in doubles. She will turn 23 on Nov. 26.
   Muhammad and Schnack played doubles together for the Sacramento Capitals in the World TeamTennis regular season in July and during the league playoffs in September. The Washington Kastles edged Sacramento 20-19 for their second consecutive WTT crown. 
   Mary Laver dies -- Mary Laver, the wife of legend Rod Laver, died Monday at their home in the San Diego suburb of Carlsbad after a long illness, the Associated Press reported. She was 84.
   Rod, 74, is Australian, and Mary was born in DeKalb, Ill. They were married in San Rafael, across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, in 1966 and had one child, a son named Rick. Mary had three children from a previous marriage.
   Rod is the only player, male or female, to win the Grand Slam twice. He accomplished the feat as an amateur in 1962 and as a professional in 1969.

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