Thursday, March 7, 2013

Hall of Famer mentors Sanchez; Capitals' schedule

With mentor Chris Evert watching from the stands,
Maria Sanchez of Modesto won her main-draw
debut at Indian Wells. Photo by Paul Bauman
   INDIAN WELLS -- In less than two years as a professional tennis player, Maria Sanchez has yet to make a name for herself.
   But she has one of the biggest names in tennis history in her camp.
   Chris Evert, an International Tennis Hall of Famer, attended Sanchez's 6-3, 6-3 victory over error-prone qualifier Olga Puchkova of Russia on Wednesday in the first round of the BNP Paribas Open.
   Sanchez, a 23-year-old wild card from sleepy Modesto in Northern California, met Evert through World TeamTennis in the summer of 2011 after graduating from USC in real estate. Sanchez was playing for the since-disbanded St. Louis Aces against the host New York Sportimes, and Evert was in the crowd.
   "I played against Martina Hingis, and I got killed," the 5-foot-10 (1.78-meter) Sanchez said of the Swiss star, who will join Evert in the Hall of Fame on July 13. "After the match, I was feeling pretty bad, and she came up to me and was like, 'Hey, I really like your game. I just want to let you know I believe in you and see your potential, so if you ever need anything, let me know.' I was kind of surprised, like, 'Wow, all right.' So I just kind of kept in contact with her."
   Sanchez now trains full-time at the Evert Tennis Academy.  -- owned by Chris and her brother, John -- in Boca Raton, Fla.
   "She has kind of taken me under her wing and mentored me throughout my pro career," said Sanchez, who will meet third seed and 2012 Wimbledon runner-up Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland in the second round. "I work with (Jacopo Tezza) on the court when I'm there. She'll come and oversee the practice and help me out."
Olga Puchkova, who upset Venus Williams en route
to the final in Florianopolis, Brazil, last week, lost
to Sanchez after playing two qualifying matches
on Tuesday. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Evert, who's tied for fourth all-time with 18 Grand Slam singles titles, was not available for comment. Also among the sparse crowd in Stadium 2 on a cool, breezy night were Tezza; Sanchez's agent, Jordan Butler; and Sanchez's parents, Luis and Catherine.
   Luis, a high school math teacher in Modesto, said Evert "has been a lot of help, (telling Maria) what to expect in the pros. It's nice to have her in Maria's corner."
   Sanchez, who played with kinesio tape on her right knee but said afterward it was fine, has soared from No. 687 in the world at the end of 2011 to No. 112.
   She was much fresher Wednesday than Puchkova, who had played two straight-set qualifying matches on Tuesday after reaching the final on a hardcourt in Florianopolis, Brazil, last week. Four of Puchkova's five matches there went to three sets, including against top-seeded Venus Williams in the semifinals.    
   Puchkova reached a career-high No. 32 at 19 years old in 2007 and played two matches for the Sacramento Capitals of World TeamTennis the following year. She plummeted to No. 338 by the end of 2010 but has fought back to No. 79. 
   A part-time model, the 5-foot-11 (1.8-meter) Puchkova also is ranked seventh among the 30 hottest female tennis players of all time by Rant Sports. 
   Sanchez was one of two rising young Americans to win their main-draw debut in the BNP Paribas Open on Wednesday. Qualifier Mallory Burdette, a 22-year-old former Stanford star, dispatched 38-year-old wild card Jill Craybas of Huntington Beach 6-3, 6-1.
   Burdette, ranked No. 125 only six months after forgoing her senior season to turn pro, will face 23rd-seeded Tamira Paszek of Austria in the second round.
   Capitals veteran Vania King lost to Silvia Soler-Espinosa of Spain 6-7 (7), 6-2, 6-1.
   Meanwhile, there was an Alves sighting at Indian Wells. Dmitry Tursunov, a Sacramento-area resident seeded fourth in qualifying, outlasted Thiago Alves of Brazil 5-7, 6-2, 6-3 to earn his first main-draw berth at Indian Wells in four years.
   Alves wasn't wearing blue suede shoes, but the loss left him all shook up and headed back to the Heartbreak Hotel. 
   Tursunov, who reached the semifinals in Marseilles and quarterfinals in Dubai in the previous two weeks, will face another qualifier, Germany's Philipp Petzschner in the first round.
   Capitals' schedule released -- The good news for the Capitals is they will open their 2013 regular season with five home matches. The bad news is they will play seven of their remaining nine matches in the July 7-24 season on the road.
   Marquee players Mardy Fish and Sam Querrey are scheduled to return for their second part-time season with Sacramento. Fish, ranked No. 32 after reaching a career-high No. 7 in 2011, will play at Sunrise Mall on July 10, 12 and 13. Querrey, a San Francisco native ranked No. 23 after climbing as high as No. 17 in 2011, will appear in the last four matches of the regular season (two home and two away).
   Bob and Mike Bryan, the 34-year-old twin sons of Capitals coach Wayne Bryan, will play for the Texas Wild on July 17 at Sunrise Mall. The Wild, based in the Dallas suburb of Irving, moved from Kansas City during the offseason.
   Also, the two-time defending champion Washington Kastles will visit Sunrise Mall on July 13. Washington has won 32 consecutive matches, including 20-19 over Sacramento in the WTT Finals last season. The Capitals have won a record six league titles but none since 2007.
   Team rosters will be filled out in Tuesday's regular-player draft. The conference championships are set for July 25 and the WTT Finals for July 28 at the home of the Eastern Conference champion.
   Sunday, July 7 vs. Texas Wild
   Monday, July 8 vs. Philadelphia Freedoms
   Wednesday, July 10 vs. Orange County Breakers (Mardy Fish plays for Capitals)
   Friday, July 12 vs. Boston Lobsters (Fish plays for Capitals)
   Saturday, July 13 vs. Washington Kastles (Fish plays for Capitals)
   Sunday, July 14 @ Texas Wild
   Monday, July 15 @ Orange County Breakers
   Wednesday, July 17 vs. Texas Wild (Bryan Brothers play for Texas)
   Thursday, July 18 @ Springfield Lasers
   Friday, July 19 @ Boston Lobsters
   Sunday, July 21 @ Orange County Breakers (Sam Querrey plays for Capitals)
   Monday, July 22 vs. Orange County Breakers (Querrey plays for Capitals)
   Tuesday, July 23 @ Springfield Lasers (Querrey plays for Capitals)
   Wednesday, July 24 @ Texas Wild (Querrey plays for Capitals)

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