Wednesday, February 13, 2013

U.S. qualifier shocks ex-SAP champ; WTT marquee draft

Qualifier Tim Smyczek signs autographs after stunning fifth
seed and 2010 champion  Fernando Verdasco in the first round
of the SAP Open on Tuesday night. Photo by Paul Bauman
   SAN JOSE -- Little Tim Smyczek gave the United States a big lift Tuesday night.
   Three Americans -- Ryan Harrison and wild card Jack Sock, both 20, and qualifier Ryan Sweeting -- fell in consecutive singles matches on the only court at HP Pavilion during the day session in the SAP Open.
   Combined with wild card Bradley Klahn's loss on Monday night, that brought the United States' singles record in the tournament to 0-4 with the big guns, second-seeded John Isner (6-foot-9, 2.06 meters) and third-seeded Sam Querrey (6-foot-6, 1.98 meters), and others yet to play.
    But in the last match of the night, the 5-foot-9 (1.75-meter), 145-pound (66-kilogram) Smyczek dismissed fifth-seeded Fernando Verdasco, the SAP Open champion in 2010 and runner-up in 2011, 6-3, 6-3 in the first round.
   "It's one of my best moments on a tennis court," Smyczek (pronounced SMEE-check) -- a 25-year-old qualifier from Milwaukee, of all places -- told the announced crowd of 3,418 afterward. "It's always great coming back to San Jose. I've had a lot of success here."
   A four-time qualifier in San Jose, Smyczek received a wild card in the 2011 SAP Open and reached the quarterfinals. He also has advanced to the second round of the last two Grand Slam tournaments, the Australian Open and the U.S. Open, as a qualifier.  
   Verdasco, a Spaniard ranked No. 24 in the world, is the second-highest-ranked player Smyczek has beaten. He knocked off then-No. 19 Jurgen Melzer of Austria in the first round at Delray Beach (Fla.) -- as a qualifier, of course -- last February before losing to Bernard Tomic of Australia in the second round.
   Smyczek, ranked No. 105, will face the winner of today's match between 6-foot-10 (2.08-meter) Ivo Karlovic of Croatia and American wild card Steve Johnson, who won the last two NCAA singles titles before completing his eligibility at USC.
   Win or lose, Smyczek likely will crack the top 100 for the first time when the next rankings are released on Monday.
   "It's a longtime goal," Smyczek said. "It's been a long road, and to almost be there is really exciting."
Bob Bryan, right, waits to return serve as Mike Bryan watches during their
first-round match against fellow Americans  Steve Johnson and Jack Sock.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Before Smyczek and Verdasco took the court, top-seeded Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan edged U.S. wild cards Johnson and Jack Sock 7-6 (3), 7-6 (5) in the first round of doubles. Johnson and Sock won the first eight points against the Bryans, who were coming off a rare Davis Cup loss.
   "They came out on fire and caught us a little off guard," Bob Bryan said. " ... They were gunning for us, so  we had our hands full. I thought we started playing pretty well there and fought them off."
   The 34-year-old identical twins have won virtually every honor in men's doubles, including a record 13 Grand Slam titles, an Olympic gold medal and a Davis Cup title. But the Bryans have never won the SAP Open in nine attempts.
   They have reached one final in the tournament, losing to Scott Lipsky and David Martin five years ago in a matchup of four former Stanford players. The campus is 20 miles (33 kilometers) northwest of HP Pavilion, and the Bryans had many supporters in the stands Tuesday night.
   This is the Bryans' last shot at the title. The tournament, the second-oldest professional event in the United States behind the U.S. Open, will be replaced on the calendar by Rio de Janeiro beginning in 2014 after 125 years in Northern California.
   "It would be pretty satisfying to get this one," said Mike Bryan, who wore a Stanford cap at the postmatch news conference. "It's eluded us (almost) 10 times. We've been in the finals once or twice. It would be nice to check this one off, especially being from Stanford and having a lot of our friends come out. Now is the year to do it. It won't eat us alive if we don't do it, but we really want to try to play well here."
   The Bryans led Stanford to NCAA titles both years they attended the school, 1997 and 1998, before turning pro. On Monday, they returned to campus and visited their old coach, Dick Gould, and John Whitlinger, who took over in 2005 after Gould became Stanford's director of tennis.
   "Stanford was definitely two of the most fun years we've ever had playing this game," Bob Bryan said. "Playing for a team, it was a blast. To go back there and look at that stadium where we have so many great memories is awesome.
   "We went to the Stanford gift shop and dropped a few hundred dollars on Stanford gear to take home. It's fun to relive those memories and look up on the wall and see the national title plaques. Dick Gould has some amazing monuments there (commemorating every Grand Slam champion from Stanford), so it's kind of cool to see your name etched in the stone wall."
   WTT marquee draft -- The Sacramento Capitals of World TeamTennis protected their rights to Querrey and Mardy Fish, two of the top three Americans, in Tuesday's marquee draft.
   Querrey is scheduled to play the last week of the three-week regular season in July, and Fish plans to play two or three home matches on dates to be announced. However, Fish has been sidelined since last September with a heart problem. He underwent a procedure for an irregular heartbeat last April.
   Querrey (No. 20) and Fish (No. 32) are the second- and third-ranked Americans behind John Isner (No. 16). Querrey played six of Sacramento's 14 regular-season matches last year, finishing second in men's singles by winning 58.0 percent of his games, and Fish two.
   Neither competed in the playoffs as the Capitals fell to the Washington Kastles 20-19 in the WTT Finals.
   Bob and Mike Bryan of the new Texas Wild, which relocated to Irving after 20 years in Kansas City, will face their father, longtime Capitals coach Wayne Bryan, again on a date to be announced at Sacramento.
   Top pick Andy Roddick, who retired from the men's circuit last September, is scheduled to play five matches for the Springfield (Mo.) Lasers.
   Venus Williams will return part-time to Washington, and 19-year-old Sloane Stephens, who reached the semifinals of last month's Australian Open, will play a limited schedule for the Philadelphia Freedoms.  
   Teams will complete their lineups in the March 12 roster draft in Indian Wells. The 2013 schedule will be released during the week of March 4.
In San Jose
First-round singles
   Vasek Pospisil, Canada, def. Evgeny Donskoy, Russia, 7-5, 6-1.
   Lleyton Hewitt, Australia, def. Blaz Kavcic, Slovenia, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (4).
   Benjamin Becker, Germany, def. Ryan Harrison, United States, 6-7 (3), 7-5, 6-3.
   Marinko Matosevic (7), Australia, def. Jack Sock, United States, 7-6 (5), 6-1.
   Denis Istomin (6), Uzbekistan, def. Ryan Sweeting, United States, 6-3, 6-4.
   Tim Smyczek, United States, def. Fernando Verdasco (5), Spain, 6-3, 6-3.
First-round doubles
   Matthew Ebden, Australia, and Michael Russell, United States, def. Benjamin Becker, Germany, and Flavio Cipolla, Italy, 6-3, 7-6 (6).
   Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan (1), United States, def. Steve Johnson and Jack Sock, United States, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (5).
Today's schedule
Center Court
(Beginning at 9:30 a.m.)
   Flavio Cipolla, Italy, vs. Alejandro Falla, Colombia.
   Matthew Ebden, Australia, vs. Rik de Voest, South Africa.
   Philipp Marx, Germany, and Florin Mergea, Romania, vs. Lleyton Hewitt and Marinko Matosevic, Australia.
   Michael Russell, United States, vs. Donald Young, United States.
   Ivo Karlovic, Croatia, vs. Steve Johnson, United States.
(Not before 7 p.m.)
   Vasek Pospisil, Canada, vs. John Isner (2), United States.
   Jesse Levine, Canada, vs. Tommy Haas (4), Germany.
Courtside Club 16
(Beginning at 4 p.m.)
   Nicholas Monroe, United States, and Simon Stadler, Germany, vs. Mikhail Elgin, Russia, and Denis Istomin, Uzbekistan.
   Jamie Murray, Great Britain, and John Peers, Australia, vs. Xavier Malisse, Belgium, and Frank Moser (4), Germany.

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