Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Stevenson's big win: Just what the Doctor ordered

Alexandra Stevenson, the daughter of basketball legend Julius
Erving, lunges for a forehand during her 6-2, 6-0 victory over No. 2
seed Chanel Simmonds of South Africa. Photo by Paul Bauman
   GOLD RIVER, Calif. – Alexandra Stevenson said it in all seriousness.
   “My goal is to win Wimbledon,” she asserted with a straight face after demolishing second-seeded Chanel Simmonds of South Africa 6-2, 6-0 today in the first round of the $50,000 FSP Gold River Women’s Challenger at the Gold River Racquet Club. “This is just the beginning. I’m healthy and ready to go.”
   At one time, Stevenson's bold statement wouldn’t have raised eyebrows.
   At age 18 in 1999, a lifetime ago in tennis terms, she became the first female qualifier in Wimbledon history to reach the semifinals and the second overall after John McEnroe in 1977.    
   In 2002, Stevenson beat International Tennis Hall of Famer Jennifer Capriati three times, reached finals in Memphis and Linz on the elite WTA tour, and ascended to No. 18 in the world.
   But now?
   The daughter of basketball legend Julius Erving is 32 years old, ranked No. 446 and, at 6-foot-1 (1.85 meters), appears considerably heavier than her listed weight of 156 pounds (71 kilograms).
   Stevenson, though, is undeterred.
   “Kimiko Date is 42,” Stevenson noted, referring to Kimiko-Date Krumm, a Japanese veteran who reached No. 4 in the world in 1995, retired from the end of 1996 until May 2008 and reached the third round at Wimbledon last week. “I lost seven years, so take off seven years from 32, and that’s my tennis age.”
Simmonds lost the last 11 games against Stevenson.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Not exactly. 
   Stevenson, a right-hander, underwent surgery for torn cartilage in her right shoulder in September 2004.
   Her mother and coach on the road, a former free-lance sportswriter named Samantha Stevenson, said today that Alexandra missed the following three years and was "basically retired" for the next four years.
   Records show that Stevenson actually sat out for nine months. She played nine tournaments in 2005 and 17 in 2006. Since then, she has played a full schedule of at least 22 tournaments a year.
   “I was ready to break through, and unfortunately I had a tragedy happen to my shoulder,” said Stevenson, one of two former top-20 players, along with Alisa Kleybanova, in the Gold River draw. “So that’s the breaks, that’s the past, and I’m ready to go. I’m healthy, I love playing tennis, and age doesn’t matter.”
   Also falling today was sixth-seeded Storm Sanders of Australia, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (5) to American qualifier Mary Weatherholt, the runner-up to Stanford's Nicole Gibbs in the NCAA Championships in May.  
   Top-seeded Maria Sanchez, a Modesto native who trains under Hall of Famer Chris Evert in Boca Raton, Fla., opened her title defense with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Lauren Embree, ranked No. 1 in college this past season as a senior at Florida.
   Stevenson played for the first time since retiring with a sprained ankle in the first round at Raleigh, N.C., almost two months ago. She hardly looked rusty, though, pounding her first serve, ripping forehand passing shots, displaying a beautiful one-handed backhand and chasing down balls.
   “I’ve been training hard, and I’m ready to go,” said Stevenson, who lost in the first round of last year’s inaugural Gold River Challenger to then-No. 358 Lena Litvak, a 5-foot-4 (1.63-meter) former Harvard standout. “When you come into a tournament, you come to win the tournament. So I’m ready to win each match each day, and I’m going to play the best tennis I can each day.”
   Stevenson facially resembles her high-flying father, known as “Dr. J,” and clearly inherited great athletic ability from him. When asked whether she’s in touch with Erving, Stevenson said, “I don’t answer those questions. Sorry.”
   After trailing 2-1 in the first set against Simmonds, Stevenson reeled off the last 11 games of the 1-hour, 11-minute match. It mercifully began at 10:13 a.m. on a day when the high temperature actually dropped to 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 Celsius).
   Simmonds, a 20-year-old left-hander, won only seven points in the second set and none on the first nine points.
   Stevenson, who will meet 2012 Gold River quarterfinalist Ashley Weinhold of Spicewood, Texas, in the second round, finished with six aces and five double faults. In the first set, she doubled-faulted twice at 0-1 and at 5-2 but held serve each time.    
   “She was a good player a few years ago, she does hit the ball hard, and she can serve well,” said the 5-foot-3 (1.6-meter) Simmonds, ranked No. 164. “I think it was a combination of those things, and I didn't play so well. The points were very short, so I didn't have much rhythm. I've played much better tennis than that, so it was just one of those days.”
   Stevenson’s mobility surprised Simmonds.
   “She moved better than I thought she would,” Simmonds said. “She's a big girl, and other players said, 'Get her on the stretch, get her on the run,' but she actually managed that pretty well. I was surprised she could get the stretching balls.”
   Simmonds, trying to end an 0-5 skid, switched to a different Babolat racket last week and used it in a match for the first time.
   “I’m playing with a more powerful racket because I was struggling with pace before,” said Simmonds, the runner-up in a $50,000 tournament in Johannesburg in May before slumping. “I was being overpowered a lot before. So now with this one, even though I’m making mistakes, I’m not being overpowered as much.”
   It didn't help against Stevenson.
At Gold River Racquet Club

 In Gold River, Calif.
First-round singles
   Heidi El Tabakh (7), Canada, def. Asia Muhammad, United States, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3.
   Alexandra Stevenson, United States, def. Chanel Simmonds (2), South Africa, 6-2, 6-0.
   Mai Minokoshi, Japan, def. Sally Peers, Australia, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.
   Petra Rampre (4), Slovenia, def. Jan Abaza, United States, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3.
   Mary Weatherholt, United States, def. Storm Sanders (6), Australia, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (5).
   Allie Will, United States, def. Robin Anderson, United States, 5-7, 6-2, 6-2.
   Julie Coin (3), France, def. Naomi Broady, Great Britain, 7-6 (5), 6-1.
   So-Ra Lee, South Korea, def. Jelena Padzic, Croatia, 6-2, 6-4.
   Jessica Lawrence, United States, def. Angelina Gabueva, Russia, 6-1, 3-6, 6-1.
   Alisa Kleybanova, Russia, def. Brooke Austin, United States, 6-4, 6-1.
   Maria Sanchez (1), United States, def. Lauren Embree, United States, 6-1, 6-3.
First-round doubles
   Jacqueline Cako and Natalie Pluskota (2), United States, def. Anamika Bhargava, United States, and Mayo Hibi, Japan, 6-2, 6-4.
   Jan Abaza and Allie Will, United States, def. Chanel Simmonds, South Africa, and Emily Webley-Smith (4), Great Britain, 6-2, 7-5.
   Elizabeth Lumpkin, United States, and Sally Peers, Australia, def. Diana Ospina and Mary Weatherhold, United States, 6-2, 6-2.
   Naomi Broady, Great Britain, and Storm Sanders, Australia, def. Yasmin Schnack and Kelly Wilson, Sacramento, 3-6, 6-0 (10-8).
Wednesday's schedule
(Beginning at noon)
   Petra Rampre (4), Slovenia, vs. Allie Kick, United States.
   Allie Will, United States, vs. Julie Coin (3), France.
   Maria Sanchez (1), , United States, vs. Ivana Lisjak, Croatia.
(Beginning at 7 p.m.)
   Alisa Kleybanova, Russia, vs. Mary Weatherholt, United States.
   Asia Muhammad and Maria Sanchez (1), United States, vs. Sanaz Marand and Ashley Weinhold, United States.   
Court 3
(Beginning at noon)
   Ashley Weinhold, United States, vs. Alexandra Stevenson, United States.
   Heidi El Tabakh (7), Canada, vs. Mai Minokoshi, Japan.
   Brooke Austin and Nicole Robinson, United States, vs. Madison Brengle and Kristy Frilling, United States.
Court 4
(Beginning at noon)
   So-Ra Lee, South Korea, vs. Madison Brengle (5), United States.
   Mayo Hibi, Japan, vs. Jessica Lawrence, United States.

1 comment:

  1. Who is Stevenson kidding with tired old narrative about her losing "seven years" on the tour, no to mention the very humble "I plan to win Wimbledon" bit. Does she think that people don't have the ability to call her out on the delusional stuff? She didn't miss 7 years of tennis. She played a full schedule from her totally fluke-ball Wimbledon run in 1999 every year through 2004' when she played a full 17 events. After her shoulder surgery she did not even miss ONE full year of tennis and returned to play 9 events in 2005. She played 18 in 2006 and has played well over 20 events every year since them with 11 already in the bag for 2013. "I lost seven years?" Seriously? She didn't even lose ONE full year. They proclaimed the shoulder fit for play when she returned in 2005, otherwise she would not have returned. Full schedule ever since. She once had some potential but squandered it because, as John McEnroe once bluntly put it, "Alexandra is lazy." She has not put the effort in and is fat -- not just for a tennis player but as a regular person. This constant whining about "I lost seven years so in tennis years I am only 25" is ludicrous. She is actually a very old and tubby 32 year-old who looks 42 and acts like she's 9 or 10. And kudos on winning a match at the Gold River 50K but a "big win" it was not. It would be one thing if the woman had a bit of humility and tried to storm her way to the Top 300 for starters instead of claiming to be ready for a Wimbledon trophy. The self-delusion is galling. I feel bad for her, in a way, but what a tennis joke she has become.