Sunday, May 19, 2013

Changes planned for Gold River Women's Challenger

Modesto product Maria Sanchez, left, beat Jessica Pegula in the final of last year's
inaugural $50,000 FSP Gold River Women's Challenger. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Seeking a better field and more fans, organizers are making several changes for the upcoming FSP Gold River Women's Challenger.
   Last year's inaugural $50,000 tournament was held during the first week of the French Open in late May and early June. That hurt the Gold River field because most players who had lost in French Open qualifying immediatedly traveled elsewhere in Europe to play on grass and begin preparing for Wimbledon a few weeks later.
   The top seed at Gold River was Russia's Elena Bovina, then ranked No. 243 in the world.
   All Gold River matches were played during the day, when many fans worked and temperatures soared into the 90s Fahrenheit (32 and above, Celsius), and culminated in a traditional Sunday final.
   This year's $50,000 tournament at the Gold River Racquet Club will be played five weeks later and feature night matches, including a Saturday final.
   The main draw is scheduled for July 1-6, the second week of Wimbledon. Qualifying will begin on Saturday, June 29.
   As soon as players lose at Wimbledon, including the qualifying event, many will head to the United States for the summer hardcourt season. Top-100 players generally will compete on the elite WTA tour, but several competitors ranked in the 100s likely will play at Gold River. The entry list will be released three weeks beforehand.
   Modesto product Maria Sanchez won her first professional singles title last year at Gold River after graduating from USC in 2011. Now ranked No. 126, she is mentored by International Tennis Hall of Famer Chris Evert in Boca Raton, Fla.
   Asia Muhammad and Sacramento-area resident Yasmin Schnack captured the Gold River doubles title last year, but Schnack retired at the end of last season at 24.
   Admission at Gold River will be free during qualifying, $10 Tuesday through Thursday during the main draw and $20 Friday and Saturday.
   For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.goldriverchallenger.com.

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