Saturday, August 31, 2013

Sacramento-area team falls in U.S. Open mixed doubles

Sacramento-area wild cards Eric Roberson and Yasmin Schnack lost
to Slovakians Janette Husarova and Filip Polasek. Photo courtesy of USTA.
   Yasmin Schnack and Eric Roberson went down fighting.
   The wild cards from the Sacramento area lost to the far more accomplished Slovakian team of Janette Husarova and Filip Polasek 6-4, 7-6 (3) Friday in the first round of mixed doubles at the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.
   Schnack, a 25-year-old Elk Grove resident, and Roberson, 27, of Sacramento earned a spot in the draw by winning the U.S. Open National Playoffs in New Haven, Conn., last week.
   Schnack appeared in a Grand Slam adult tournament for the second time and Roberson for the first. Schnack and her best friend, Vania King, lost in the first round of women's doubles at Wimbledon last year to eighth-seeded Iveta Benesova and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova of the Czech Republic.
   King won the Wimbledon and U.S. Open women's doubles titles in 2010 with Yaroslava Shvedova.
   Schnack helped UCLA win the NCAA team title in 2008, graduated in sociology in 2010 and reached a career-high No. 140 in the world in women's doubles in June 2012. However, she retired last September and plans to begin nursing school in the fall. Her father, William, is a retired physician.
   Roberson earned all-conference honors at Boise State (2004-08).
   Husarova, 39, reached the women's doubles final of the 2002 U.S. Open with Elena Dementieva of Russia and climbed to a career-high No. 3 in that category in 2003.
   Polasek, 28, has been ranked as high as No. 20 in men's doubles (January 2012). He advanced to the men's doubles quarterfinals of last year's U.S. Open with Julian Knowle of Austria.
   Meanwhile, top-seeded Bob and Mike Bryan coasted past Eric Butorac and Frederik Nielsen 6-3, 6-2 Friday in the second round of men's doubles at the U.S. Open.
   The 35-year-old Bryan twins, who starred at Stanford, are trying to become the second team in history to win a calendar-year Grand Slam. Australians Ken McGregor and Frank Sedgman accomplished the feat 62 years ago.
   Three of the four players in Friday's match have won Wimbledon men's doubles titles. The Bryans triumphed in 2006, 2011 and this year. Nielsen, a 30-year-old Dane, and Jonathan Marray of Great Britain last year became the first wild cards to take the crown. Nielsen's grandfather Kurt was the Wimbledon singles runner-up in 1953 and 1955.
   Butorac, a 32-year-old left-hander from Rochester, Minn., won the men's doubles title in the 2007 SAP Open in San Jose with Jamie Murray, Andy's older brother, and played for the Sacramento Capitals of World TeamTennis in 2008.     

Friday, August 30, 2013

Blake retires; Kleybanova, Querrey fall in U.S. Open

   James Blake's career ended Thursday.
   So did the first Grand Slam tournament of Alisa Kleybanova's comeback and Sam Querrey's hopes of playing Roger Federer.
   The wild-card team of Blake and fellow American Jack Sock lost to second-seeded Alexander Peya of Austria and Bruno Soares of Brazil 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 in the first round of doubles at the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.
   The 33-year-old Blake, who climbed to a career-high No. 4 in the world in singles in 2006, announced Monday that he would retire after the U.S. Open. He lost to qualifier Ivo Karlovic, a 6-foot-10 (2.08-meter) Croat, on Wednesday after leading two sets to none.
   Blake lost to Karlovic in the final of the 2011 Sacramento Challenger but topped Mischa Zverev of Germany to win last year's tournament in the California capital.
   Kleybanova fell to former world No. 1 Jelena Jankovic, the ninth seed and 2008 U.S. Open runner-up, 6-3, 6-2 in the second round.
   Kleybanova was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma (cancer of the immune system) shortly after reaching a career-high No. 20 in February 2011. In the third tournament of her comeback this year, she reached the quarterfinals of the Gold River Challenger in the Sacramento area as a qualifier last month.
   Querrey, seeded 26th, lost to French left-hander Adrian Mannarino 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5), 6-7 (5), 6-4 in the second round. Mannarino, who reached the fourth round at Wimbledon this summer, will meet Federer in the third round of the U.S. Open.
   Querrey, a 25-year-old San Francisco native, has played part-time for the Sacramento Capitals of World TeamTennis for the past two seasons. He has yet to advance past the fourth round of a Grand Slam tournament.
   No. 32 seed Dmitry Tursunov, a Russian who trains at the Gorin Tennis Academy in the Sacramento suburb of Granite Bay, advanced to the third round when French wild card Guillaume Rufin retired while trailing 7-6 (4), 1-1.
   Tursunov, 30, next will play another Frenchman, eighth-seeded Richard Gasquet. Tursunov leads the head-to-head series 5-2.
   The finalists of this month's $100,000 Comerica Bank Challenger in Aptos, Calif., also played second-round matches Thursday.
   Aptos champion Bradley Klahn, a former Stanford star, lost to fellow left-hander Feliciano Lopez, a Spaniard seeded 23rd, 6-4, 7-6 (4), 4-6, 7-5.
   Aptos runner-up Daniel Evans, a 5-foot-9 (1.75-meter) qualifier from Great Britain, downed 20-year-old Australian Bernard Tomic 1-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-3. Evans had knocked off No. 11 seed Kei Nishikori of Japan in the first round. Tomic reached the Wimbledon quarterfinalist two years ago.
   Victoria Duval, a 17-year-old qualifier from Bradenton, Fla., fell to Daniela Hantuchova, 30, of Slovakia 6-2, 6-3 in the second round. Duval, who lost in the first round of the Gold River Challenger, was coming off a victory over No. 11 seed and 2011 champion Samantha Stosur.
   In men's doubles, top seeds and ex-Stanford stars Bob and Mike Bryan began their quest for a Grand Slam with a 7-6 (1), 6-2 victory over Argentines Federico Delbonis and Leonardo Mayer. Delbonis beat Federer on clay in the Hamburg semifinals last month. 
   The only team to achieve a calendar-year Grand Slam in men's doubles is Australians Ken McGregor and Frank Sedgman 62 years ago. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Blake's singles career ends with loss to Karlovic

James Blake, who won the Sacramento Challenger last year,
fell  Ivo Karlovic in the first round of the U.S. Open after
leading two sets to none. 2012 photo by Paul Bauman
   Other than a seed, Ivo Karlovic was the last guy James Blake wanted to play in his farewell tournament.
   Blake often has felt helpless against the 6-foot-10 (2.08-meter) Karlovic's thunderous serve.
   "He's never fun to play," Blake said last year during the Sacramento Challenger, which he won in Karlovic's absence, after losing to the Croat in the 2011 final. "He takes the racket out of your hands. Any guy who can make it all about them and not about you is not fun to play. But he's a good guy ... "       
   Sure enough, Karlovic ended Blake's singles career tonight with an ace. Blake challenged the call, but the video replay showed that Karlovic's serve barely caught the outside line. That gave qualifier Karlovic a 6-7 (2), 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (2) victory in the first round of the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.
   Many fans in Louis Armstrong Stadium stayed until the 3-hour, 24-minute match ended at 12:06 a.m. EDT Thursday as they tried to will Blake, who was born in nearby Yonkers, N.Y., and grew up in Fairfield, Conn., to victory.
   It was reminiscent of Blake's 3-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, 7-6 (6) loss to Andre Agassi in the quarterfinals of the 2005 U.S. Open. Almost all of the 20,000 fans in attendance at Arthur Ashe Stadium stayed until the scintillating match, perhaps the greatest in the tournament's history, ended at 1:09 a.m.    
   Tonight's match also was the first between two men 33 or older since Thomas Johansson of Sweden outlasted fellow 33-year-old Vince Spadea of the United States in five sets in the first round at Wimbledon five years ago. Karlovic is 34 and Blake 33.
   "I don't know when it's going to hit me," Blake, who announced Monday that he would retire after the U.S. Open, said in a post-match interview on the court.  "I don't think I'll be sleeping too much tonight."
   With his eyes reddening and his voice catching, Blake added: "It's hitting me now that I'll never do this again (in singles). I need to appreciate every one of you for being here."
   ESPN analyst and International Tennis Hall of Famer Chris Evert, incisive as always, then put Blake's loss in perspective.
   "The fact that he was up two sets to none and lost is one of the reasons he's retiring," Evert said. "When he needed (the killer instinct), it wasn't there. When that happens, it's time to say goodbye."
   Blake also lost to Karlovic after leading two sets to none in the 2009 Davis Cup quarterfinals on clay in Porec, Croatia.
   This time, Karlovic blasted 36 aces, converted 63 percent of his first serves -- many approaching 140 mph (225 kph) -- and won 84 percent of the points on his first serve. Karlovic, who improved to 7-3 lifetime against Blake, owns the third-fastest serve in history at 156 mph (251 kph).
   Karlovic and Blake are well known in the San Francisco area in addition to Sacramento. Karlovic lost to Andy Murray 6-7 (3), 6-4, 7-6 (2) in the 2007 final at San Jose. Blake played in San Jose for 10 years, reaching the singles semifinals in 2003 and 2009 and winning the doubles title in 2004 with friend and countryman Mardy Fish.
   Blake will try to prolong his career on Thursday when he and 20-year-old Jack Sock, the United States' top prospect, meet second-seeded Alexander Peya of Austria and Bruno Soares of Brazil in the first round of men's doubles.
   "He's a great player," Blake said of Sock after beating the just-turned 19-year-old in the quarterfinals of the 2011 Sacramento Challenger. "He has a lot of talent. He would have beaten the pants off me at 19."
   Blake played at Harvard for two years, turned pro in 1999 and reached a career-high No. 4 in 2006. He played in three Grand Slam quarterfinals, including losses to Agassi and Roger Federer in the U.S. Open, and on one Davis Cup championship team (2007).   Blake overcame major physical challenges to reach those heights. He was diagnosed with severe scoliosis (curvature of the spine) at 13 and wore a full-length back brace for 18 hours a day, though not while playing tennis, for five years.
   While practicing at the 2004 Italian Open in Rome, Blake hit his head on a net post as he raced for a drop shot and broke his neck. Had he not turned his head at the last moment, doctors said he could have been paralyzed.
   Instead, Blake missed only two months. But days before he returned to the circuit, his father died of stomach cancer. Blake promptly developed shingles, a viral infection often caused by extreme stress.
   Blake's head swelled, the left side of his face was paralyzed, he became dizzy, and his vision was affected. He came back to the tour six weeks later but played in only two tournaments the rest of the year.
   "I was on the right path, but I got injured," Blake, who was named the ATP Comeback Player of the Year in 2005, said in Sacramento two years ago. "(The bouts of adversity) gave me great perspective on my career and life in general. Spending time with my family and friends gave me peace on the court, knowing that people appreciate me as more than just a tennis player."
   Blake's 2007 book, "Breaking Back: How I lost Everything and Won Back My Life," reached No. 15 on the New York Times' bestseller list. The following year, he was named the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian of the Year for his fundraising efforts on behalf of cancer research.
   Two players with Northern California ties competed in the first round of women's doubles in the U.S. Open today.
   Megan Moulton-Levy, an American who played for the Sacramento Capitals of World TeamTennis last month, and Katalin Marosi of Hungary defeated Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania and Klara Zakopalova of the Czech Republic 6-3, 7-6 (4).
   Shelby Rogers of Charleston, S.C., and Maria Sanchez, a Modesto product, lost to Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands and Johanna Larsson of Sweden 7-5, 6-4.   

U.S. Open TV schedule, new rankings, calendar

 U.S. OPEN TV SCHEDULE
(All times PDT)
Today
   First and second rounds (men and women), Tennis Channel, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. (live).
   First and second rounds (men and women), ESPN2, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. (live). 
   U.S. Open Tonight (highlights), Tennis Channel, 8-11:30 p.m.
Thursday
   Second round (men and women), Tennis Channel, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. (live).
   Second round (men and women), ESPN2, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. (live). 
   U.S. Open Tonight (highlights), Tennis Channel, 8-11:30 p.m.
Friday
   Second and third rounds (men and women), Tennis Channel, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. (live).
   Second and third rounds (men and women), ESPN2, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. (live). 
   U.S. Open Tonight (highlights), Tennis Channel, 8-11:30 p.m.
Saturday
   Third round (men and women), CBS, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. (live).
   Third round (men and women), CBS Sports Network, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. (live).
   Third round (men and women), Tennis Channel, 4-8 p.m. (live). 
   U.S. Open Tonight (highlights), Tennis Channel, 8-11:30 p.m.
Sunday
   Third and fourth rounds (men and women), CBS, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. (live).
   Third and fourth rounds (men and women), CBS Sports Network, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. (live).
   First round (men and women), Tennis Channel, 4-8 p.m. (live). 
   U.S. Open Tonight (highlights), Tennis Channel, 8-11:30 p.m. 
Monday
   Fourth round (men and women), CBS, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. (live).
   Fourth round (men and women), CBS Sports Network, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. (live).
   Fourth round (men and women), ESPN2, 4-8 p.m. (live). 
   U.S. Open Tonight (highlights), Tennis Channel, 8-11:30 p.m.
Tuesday
   Fourth round and quarterfinals (men and women), ESPN2, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. (live).
   Fourth round (men and women), Tennis Channel, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. (live).
   Fourth round and quarterfinals (men and women), ESPN, 4-8 p.m. (live).
   U.S. Open Tonight (highlights), Tennis Channel, 8-11:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Sept. 4
   Quarterfinals (men and women), ESPN2, 9 a.m.-8 p.m. (live)
   U.S. Open Tonight (highlights), Tennis Channel, 8-11:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 5
   Quarterfinals and semifinals (men and women's doubles), ESPN2, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. (live).
   Men's quarterfinal, ESPN, 5-8 p.m. (live).
   U.S. Open Tonight (highlights), Tennis Channel, 8 p.m.-midnight.
Friday, Sept. 6
   Mixed doubles final and women's semifinals, CBS, 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m. (live).
   Women's semifinals, Tennis Channel, 4-8 p.m. (repeat).
   U.S. Open Tonight (highlights), Tennis Channel, 8 p.m.-midnight.
Saturday, Sept. 7
   Men's semifinals, CBS, 9 a.m.-3 p.m., (live).
   Women's doubles or mixed doubles final, Tennis Channel, 3-5 p.m. (repeat).
   Women's doubles or mixed doubles final, Tennis Channel, 6:30-8:30 p.m. (repeat).
   U.S. Open Tonight (highlights), Tennis Channel, 8:30-10:30 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 8
   Men's doubles final, ESPN2, 9:30-11:30 a.m. (live). 
   Women's singles final, CBS, 1:30-4 p.m. (live).
   Men's doubles final, Tennis Channel, 6:30-8:30 p.m. (repeat).
   U.S. Open Tonight (highlights), Tennis Channel, 8:30-10:30 p.m.
Monday, Sept. 9
   Men's singles final, CBS, 2-5 p.m. (live).
   Women's singles final, Tennis Channel, 6-8 p.m. (repeat).
Tuesday, Sept. 10
   Men's singles final, Tennis Channel, 5-9 p.m. (repeat). 
PRO RANKINGS
     Following are this week's world rankings of professional players with Northern California ties (change from last week in parentheses):
Men
   Bob Bryan, 35 years old, 1998 NCAA doubles champion from Stanford -- Career-high No. 1 in doubles (no change), unranked in singles.
   Mike Bryan, 35 years old, 1998 NCAA doubles champion from Stanford -- Career-high No. 1 in doubles (no change), unranked in singles.
   Mardy Fish, 31 years old, Sacramento Capitals of World TeamTennis (2012-13) -- No. 168 in singles (+5), No. 126 in doubles (+2).
   Bradley Klahn, 23 years old, 2010 NCAA singles champion and 2011 NCAA doubles runner-up from Stanford -- No. 124 in singles (-1), career-high No. 179 in doubles (+4).
   Scott Lipsky, 32 years old, 2002 NCAA doubles runner-up from Stanford -- No. 26 in doubles (-3), unranked in singles.
   Sam Querrey, 25 years old, San Francisco native, Capitals (2012-13) -- No. 31 in singles (-2), No. 167 in doubles (+3).
   Ryan Sweeting, 26 years old, Capitals (2012-13) -- No. 523 in singles (-3), No. 860 in doubles (-5).
   Dmitry Tursunov, 30 years old, trains at Gorin Tennis Academy in Sacramento suburb of Granite Bay -- No. 34 in singles (+1), No. 200 in doubles (no change).
Women
   Mallory Burdette, 22 years old, NCAA singles runner-up in 2012 and NCAA doubles champion in 2011 and 2012 from Stanford -- No. 96 in singles (+1), No. 438 in doubles (+3).
   Nicole Gibbs, 20 years old, NCAA singles champion in 2012 and 2013 and NCAA doubles champion in 2012 from Stanford -- No. 203 in singles (-32), No. 547 in doubles (-3).
   Raquel Kops-Jones, 30 years old, 2003 NCAA doubles champion from Cal -- No. 13 in doubles (no change), unranked in singles.
   Megan Moulton-Levy, 28 years old, Capitals (2013) -- No. 57 in doubles (-3), unranked in singles.
   Maria Sanchez, 23 years old, Modesto product -- No. 111 in singles (no change), No. 116 in doubles (+2).
   Taylor Townsend, 17 years old, Capitals (2013) -- No. 334 in singles (no change), No. 294 in doubles (-1).
 CALENDAR
   Through Sept. 9 -- U.S. OPEN, Flushing Meadows, N.Y., www.usopen.org. 2012 champions: Andy Murray, Serena Williams, Bob Bryan-Mike Bryan, Sara Errani-Roberta Vinci.
   Sept. 10-15 -- $25,000 Sun Oaks Challenger of Redding (women), Sun Oaks Tennis and Fitness, 3452 Argyle Road, Redding, Calif., www.sunoakschallenger.com, (530) 221-4405. 2012 champions: Chelsey Gullickson, Jacqueline Cako-Sanaz Marand.
   Sept. 23-29 -- $50,000 Napa Valley Challenger (men), Napa Valley Country Club, 3385 Hagen Road, Napa, Calif., 94558, www.napavalleychallenger.com, (707) 252-2299. 2012 champions -- Inaugural tournament.
   Sept. 30-Oct. 6 -- $100,000 Natomas Challenger (men), Natomas Racquet Club, 2450 Natomas Park Drive, Sacramento, Calif., 95833, www.natomaschallenger.com, (916) 649-0909. 2012 champions: James Blake, Tennys Sandgren-Rhyne Williams.
   Oct. 7-13 -- $100,000 First Republic Bank Tiburon Challenger (men), Tiburon Peninsula Club, 1600 Mar West Street, Tiburon, Calif., 94920, (415) 789-7900, www.tiburonchallenger.com. 2012 champions: Jack Sock, Rik de Voest-Chris Guccione.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Teen Duval, with harrowing past, shocks Stosur

Victoria Duval lost to fellow 17-year-old
and eventual champion Mayo Hibi in the
first round of the Gold River Challenger
last month. Photo by Paul Bauman
   After everything that Victoria Duval has endured in her short life, she was unlikely to be fazed by playing No. 11 seed and 2011 champion Samantha Stosur in Louis Armstrong Stadium in the first round of the U.S. Open.
   And she wasn't.
   Not that there weren't some tense moments.
   Duval, a 17-year-old qualifier from Bradenton, Fla., shocked Stosur 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 today in Flushing Meadows, N.Y. Duval saved three break points while serving for the match at 5-4 in the third set and converted her fourth match point with a forehand passing shot.
   Afterward, Duval jumped for joy like the teenager she is.
   "It's the best I've played in my career," Duval, last year's USTA girls 18 national champion, gushed in an on-court interview. "I'm really excited."
   The stunner came one day after the No. 11 men's seed, Kei Nishikori of Japan, lost to qualifier Daniel Evans of Great Britain. Evans, only 5-foot-9 (1.75 meters), reached the final of this month's $100,000 Comerica Bank Challenger in Aptos.
   Stosur and Nishikori are the highest seeds to lose so far in the U.S. Open.  
   Both Duval and Stosur fell early in Northern California tournaments last month.
   Duval, seeded eighth in the $50,000 FSP Gold River Women's Challenger in the Sacramento area, lost to another 17-year-old, Mayo Hibi, 7-5, 5-7, 6-0 in the first round. Hibi, an Irvine resident who plays for her native Japan, went on to win the title.
   Whereas Duval breezed through three qualifying matches to advance to the main draw of the U.S. Open, Hibi lost in the second round of qualifying to 13th-seeded Anastasia Rodionova, a 31-year-old Australian citizen from Russia.
   Stosur, seeded second in the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford, was upset by Olga Govortsova of Belarus 6-2, 6-4 in the second round after drawing a first-round bye. Wanting more matches, Stosur accepted a wild card in the Southern California Open in the San Diego suburb of Carlsbad the following week and won the title.    
   Duval, with her cherubic face and high-pitched voice, looks and sounds even younger than she is. However, she is mature beyond her years. It isn't difficult to understand why -- she has had to grow up fast. Victoria and her father almost lost their lives in separate incidents.
   Duval, whose parents are Haitian physicians, was born in Miami but lived in Haiti as a young child. When Duval was 7, she and her cousins were held hostage for hours by armed robbers at her aunt's house in the impoverished Caribbean nation.
   "Generally in Haiti, this is a death sentence for the occupants," Filip Bondy of the New York Daily News wrote in 2011. "In this instance, the children were freed."
   Victoria's mother, Nadine, promptly gave up her neonatal practice and moved back to South Florida with her daughter and two sons. Her husband, Jean-Maurice, stayed in Haiti to continue his gynecology and obstetrics practice.
    In January 2010, an earthquake struck Haiti and killed an estimated 158,000 people. Jean-Maurice was pinned by collapsing walls outside his house and suffered broken legs, a shattered left arm, seven broken ribs and a punctured lung. With the help of a large donation from an American family, he was airlifted to a hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He eventually recovered except for paralysis in the arm.
   "I don't take anything for granted," Victoria said of her background after beating Stosur. "Everything can change in a minute. Life is short."
   Also falling today was No. 17 seed Dominika Cibulkova, the Bank of the West champion. The 5-foot-3 (1.61-meter) Slovakian was ousted by Elina Svitolina, 18, of Ukraine 6-4, 6-3. Svitolina won the 2010 French Open junior girls title.    
   All three women with strong Northern California ties in action today lost in straight sets.
   Unseeded Mallory Burdette, a former Stanford star, fell to Svetlana Kuznetsova, the 27th seed and 2004 champion, 6-3, 7-5. The 22-year-old Burdette, who turned pro after reaching the third round of last year's U.S. Open, will drop from No. 96 to about No. 127.
   Burdette's former Stanford teammate, 20-year-old wild card Nicole Gibbs, lost to Flavia Pennetta of Italy  6-0, 6-2. Pennetta, 31, advanced to the U.S. Open quarterfinals in 2008, 2009 and 2011.
   Wild card Maria Sanchez, who was born and raised in Modesto, succumbed to Daniela Hantuchova, 30, of Slovakia, 7-5, 6-2. Sanchez, 23, made her U.S. Open singles main-draw debut.
   Hantuchova, a quarterfinalist in the 2002 U.S. Open, is playing in the tournament for the 13th straight time. She climbed to a career-high No. 5 in singles in 2003 and No. 5 in doubles in 2002.
   On the men's side, No. 26 seed Sam Querrey stayed on track for a possible third-round match against five-time U.S. Open champion Roger Federer, who's seeded seventh at age 32.
   Querrey, a 25-year-old San Francisco native who has played part-time for the Sacramento Capitals in World TeamTennis for the past two years, defeated Guido Pella 7-6 (3), 4-6, 6-1, 6-2.
    Pella, a left-hander from Argentina, was seeded first in Aptos and lost to Evans in the quarterfinals.

Altamirano, 17, outclassed in U.S. Open

Collin Altamirano, practicing recently at Arden
Hills in Sacramento, lost to 22nd-seeded Philipp
Kohlschrieber 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 in the first round of
the U.S. Open. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Editor's note: An in-depth feature by Paul Bauman on junior national champions Collin Altamirano and Jenson Brooksby, both of whom train at the JMG Tennis Academy at Arden Hills in Sacramento, will be posted next week.
By Clint Swett
Correspondent
   NEW YORK -- If 17-year-old Collin Altamirano wondered about the difference between top-level junior tennis and the Grand Slam-level professional game, Philipp Kohlschreiber gave him a pointed lesson today.
   The 29-year-old German, seeded No.  22 and playing his 11th U.S. Open, dominated for much of the match in downing Altamirano 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 on a breezy morning at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
   Altamirano lives in Elk Grove and trains at the JMG Tennis Academy at Arden Hills in Sacramento, and the crowd of perhaps 500 on Court 11 was solidly in his corner.
   But the moral support couldn’t help Altamirano counter Kohlschreiber’s big serve, balance and foot speed, which Altamirano said were what distinguished the German from other players he has faced. 
   While Altamirano often matched the German’s heavy groundstrokes from the baseline, he could rarely take the offensive on Kohlschreiber’s serve and almost never forced the German into off-balance shots. When Kohlschreiber took control of a point, it almost invariably ended in a winning shot or an Altamirano error.
    “I felt the difference was that I never made him uncomfortable out there, and when he was running me, I just didn’t have an answer,” Altamirano said.
   Indeed, Kohlschreiber whipped 37 winners to just 10 for Altamirano. Kohlschreiber also gunned in 10 aces, compared to Altamirano’s three, and allowed no break points. In fact, Altamirano won only 24 percent of the points against Kohlscrheiber’s serve.
   Altamirano’s coach, Joseph Gilbert, said junior players rarely see serves as fast as the pros'.
   “When you are playing in the juniors, the average (first-serve) speed is maybe 110 mph (177 kph),” Gilbert said, noting that Kohlschreiber consistently pumped in serves in the 120-mph (193-kph) neighborhood.
   Altamirano also admitted to a case of nerves before taking the big stage.
   “I would have liked to have played better, but I tried to do too much, especially in the beginning of the match,” he said.
   The 6-foot-2 Altamirano earned an automatic wild card in the U.S. Open by winning the USTA Boys 18 National Championships in Kalamazoo, Mich., this month. His march through the draw there included a 6-0, 6-1 thrashing of  No. 1 seed Gage Brymer of Irvine. But that sort of dominance was hard to find on Court 11 today.
   Still, Gilbert said he was "proud of how (Altamirano) competed out there.”
   Barry Gilbert, the brother of ESPN analyst and renowned coach Brad Gilbert, dropped by the match and pronounced himself “impressed” with Altamirano’s game.
   “I think he's as good as Jack Sock was when he was 17," Gilbert said, referring to the 20-year-old American now ranked No. 86 in the world. “I’m going to tell my brother about this kid.”
   So it’s back to the practice court, where Joseph Gilbert said the focus will be on improving Altamirano's serve, service returns and foot speed.
   “It’s pretty simple about what needs to improve to play at this level,” said Gilbert, who's not related to Brad and Barry. “But it will take a lot of work.”

Cancer survivor Kleybanova advances

Alisa Kleybanova, shown in last month's
Gold River Challenger in the Sacramento area,
played her first Grand Slam match in 2 1/2 years
on Monday. She beat Monica Puig in the first
round of the U.S. Open. Photo by Paul Bauman
   A few years ago, it would have been just another victory for Alisa Kleybanova.
   Not now.
   The 24-year-old Russian played the first Grand Slam match of her comeback from cancer, beating Monica Puig of Puerto Rico 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 Monday in the first round of the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.
   "I'm just taking it step by step, enjoying it every day, trying to improve as much as I can and play my best tennis," Kleybanova, whose last Grand Slam appearance came 2 1/2 years ago, told reporters.
   Kleybanova reached a career-high No. 20 in the world in February 2011 but was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma (cancer of the immune system) that May. She missed two years, except for a comeback attempt in March last year that ended after one tournament.
   Kleybanova's current ranking of No. 363 is unimpressive until you consider that she was No. 922 two months ago. She was allowed to use her protected ranking of No. 26, where she stood when she left the tour, to enter one Grand Slam tournament.   The victory over Puig was highly encouraging for two reasons.
  First, it came against a tough opponent. Puig reached the round of 16 at Wimbledon two months ago.
  Second, Kleybanova showed that her fitness is returning after her debilitating chemotherapy and radiation. She outlasted Puig, 19, in 2 hours, 36 minutes.
   "She was a top-20 for a reason," Puig said. "It's amazing to see how she has come back from (her illness) and be able to play at such a high level. Definitely, I won't be surprised to see her at the top."
   Kleybanova next will face ninth-seeded Jelena Jankovic, the runner-up in the 2008 U.S. Open to Serena Williams. Jankovic ousted 18-year-old Madison Keys, arguably the United States' top prospect, 6-3, 6-4.
   Kleybanova's fellow Moscow native, 32nd-seeded Dmitry Tursunov, wore down Aljaz Bedene of Slovenia 7-5, 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 in the opening round. It was the first U.S. Open victory in five years for Tursunov, who has battled injuries for much of that time.
   Tursunov, who trains at the Gorin Tennis Academy in the Sacramento suburb of Granite Bay, has a good chance to reach the third and even fourth round.
   If he beats wild card Guillaume Rufin of France in the second round, he likely will play eighth-seeded Richard Gasquet of France in the third round. Tursunov is 5-2 lifetime against Gasquet.
   Tursunov has career bests of the third round in the U.S. Open (2003, 2006 and 2008) and the fourth round in a Grand Slam tournament (Wimbledon in 2005 and 2006).
   Bradley Klahn, a former Stanford star who turned 23 last Tuesday, reached the second round of the U.S. Open for the second straight year. He beat fellow left-hander Kenny De Schepper, 6-foot-8 (2.03 meters) of France 6-7 (5), 6-2, 7-6 (0), 7-6 (4) to earn a matchup with yet another left-hander, 23rd-seeded Feliciano Lopez of Spain.
   British qualifier Daniel Evans, the runner-up to Klahn in this month's Aptos (Calif.) Challenger, stunned 11th-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan 6-4, 6-4, 6-2.
   "He has no pressure," Nishikori said. "He was playing a little aggressive, and I was kind of tight."
   Collin Altamirano, a 17-year-old wild card who trains at Arden Hills in Sacramento, will meet 22nd-seeded Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany today at 8 a.m. PDT in the first round.
   At least some of the match could be shown on Tennis Channel's broadcast, which begins at the same time. Altamirano's match will be streamed live at www.usopen.org. Go to "Video and photos" at the top of the page, scroll down to "U.S. Open live" and click on "Watch now," then "Courts" and "Court 11."
    Altamirano earned an automatic berth in the U.S. Open by winning the USTA Boys 18 National Championships in Kalamazoo, Mich., this month. He became the first unseeded player in the tournament's 71-year history to capture the title.      

Monday, August 26, 2013

Natomas champ Blake to retire after U.S. Open

James Blake poses with Brad Gilbert after winning the $100,000
RelyAid Natomas Challenger in Sacramento last October.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   James Blake won't play in the $100,000 Natomas Challenger in Sacramento next month.
   Or anywhere else after the U.S. Open.
   Blake, 33, tearfully announced today that he will retire after the year's last Grand Slam tournament.
   "No real surprise here. This is my last tournament," Blake, one of the sport's true gentlemen, said at a news conference on the first day of the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows, N.Y. "I always wanted to end my career at the U.S. Open."
   Blake, who was born in nearby Yonkers, N.Y., and grew up in Fairfield, Conn., has played in the last two Natomas Challenger finals. He lost to 6-foot-10 (2.08-meter) Ivo Karlovic of Croatia 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 in 2011 and defeated Mischa Zverev, a Moscow native who plays for Germany, 6-1, 1-6, 6-4 last year.
   To Blake's chagrin, he is scheduled to play Karlovic, a qualifier, in the first round of the U.S. Open on Tuesday or Wednesday.
   "He's never fun to play," Blake said last year in Sacramento. "He takes the racket out of your hands. Any guy who can make it all about them and not about you is not fun to play. But he's a good guy ... " 
   Karlovic, 34, owns the third-fastest serve in history at 156 mph (251 kph) and is 6-3 lifetime against Blake. They will meet for the first time since the 2011 Natomas final, in which Karlovic fired 23 aces, faced only one break point and won all 20 points on his serve in the last set, including 12 aces.
   Blake is also well-known in the San Francisco area. He played in the San Jose stop on the ATP World Tour for 10 years, reaching the singles semifinals in 2003 and 2009 and winning the doubles title in 2004 with friend and countryman Mardy Fish.
   After playing at Harvard for two years, Blake turned pro in 1999 and reached a career-high No. 4 in 2006. He has played in three Grand Slam quarterfinals, including losses to Andre Agassi and Roger Federer in the U.S. Open, and on one Davis Cup championship team (2007).
   Blake's 3-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, 7-6 (6) loss to Agassi in the 2005 U.S. Open quarters is considered perhaps the greatest match in the tournament's history. Almost all of the 20,000 fans in attendance stayed until the pulsating match ended at 1:09 a.m.
   The announcement by the 100th-ranked Blake comes a year after his friend and former Davis Cup teammate, Andy Roddick, retired at 30 after the U.S. Open and 12 days after Marion Bartoli, a tremendous ambassador like Blake, left the sport at 28. Next could be Venus Williams and Francesca Schiavone, both 33, and Fish, 31 -- three more gems. Williams and Fish have ongoing health issues.
   Blake also has had serious physical problems.
   He was diagnosed with severe scoliosis (curvature of the spine) at 13 and wore a full-length back brace for 18 hours a day, though not while playing tennis, for five years.
   Blake also broke his neck in 2004 while practicing at the Italian Open in Rome. He slipped on a wet clay court while racing to return a drop shot and struck the net post. Had he not turned his head at the last moment, doctors said he could have been paralyzed.
   Blake missed only two months. But days before he returned to the circuit, his father died of stomach cancer. Blake promptly developed shingles, a viral infection often caused by extreme stress. His head swelled, the left side of his face was paralyzed, he became dizzy, and his vision was affected. Blake came back to the tour six weeks later but played in only two tournaments the rest of the year.
   "I was on the right path, but I got injured," Blake, who was named the ATP Comeback Player of the Year in 2005, said in Sacramento in 2011. "(The bouts of adversity) gave me great perspective on my career and life in general. Spending time with my family and friends gave me peace on the court, knowing that people appreciate me as more than just a tennis player."
   Blake's 2007 book, "Breaking Back: How I lost Everything and Won Back My Life," reached No. 15 on the New York Times' bestseller list. The following year, he was named the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian of the Year for his fundraising efforts on behalf of cancer research.
   Blake has his own family now. He said today that "despite the tears, I'm actually really happy about this" because he can spend more time with his wife and their 1-year-old daughter. He also expressed an interest in serving as captain of the U.S. Davis Cup team and working as a television commentator.
   Blake would be outstanding at either one. Or both. 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Cancer survivor to make Grand Slam comeback

Cancer survivor Alisa Kleybanova is scheduled to play her
first Grand Slam match in almost three years on Monday in
the U.S. Open. Photo by Paul Bauman
   When the U.S. Open begins Monday, the focus will be on Venus Williams and Rafael Nadal during the day session and Serena Williams and Roger Federer at night.
   All will play on national television in cavernous Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.
   But a poignant scene will quietly take place during the afternoon on intimate Court 7 as cancer survivor Alisa Kleybanova plays her first Grand Slam match in almost three years. Kleybanova, a 24-year-old Russian, will meet Monica Puig, 19, of Puerto Rico.
   During the first week of July, Puig played in the round of 16 at Wimbledon while Kleybanova reached the quarterfinals of the $50,000 FSP Gold River Women's Challenger in the Sacramento area as a qualifier in the third tournament of her comeback.
   Puig is ranked No. 50 in the world. Kleybanova is No. 361 after reaching a career-high No. 20 in February 2011 and falling out of the rankings during her two-year layoff. She is allowed to using her protected ranking of No. 26, where she stood when she left the tour, to enter one Grand Slam tournament.
   Kleybanova, 5-foot-11 (1.81 meters) and 159 pounds (72 kilograms), lost in the second round of the Australian Open in January 2011 and was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma (cancer of the immune system) that May. She underwent chemotherapy and radiation in Italy and returned to competition this May, winning a $10,000 tournament in Landisville, Pa.
   Kleybanova has played in the U.S. Open three times, reaching the second round in 2008 and 2010 and losing in the first round in 2009.
   Here's a link to an in-depth story on Kleybanova:
   http://norcaltennisczar.blogspot.com/2013/07/kleybanova-bounces-back-from-cancer.html 
   Also playing during Monday's day session will be 32nd-seeded Dmitry Tursunov, who trains at the Gorin Tennis Academy in the Sacramento suburb of Granite Bay, and wild card Bradley Klahn, a former Stanford star who won his first Challenger title two weeks ago in Aptos, Calif.
   Tursunov, seeking his first U.S. Open main-draw victory in five years, will face Aljaz Bedene of Slovenia. Klahn has a tough assignment against fellow left-hander Kenny De Schepper, a 6-foot-8 (2.03-meter) Frenchman.
   Other players with Northern California ties will open on Tuesday or Wednesday.
   Aptos connection -- Klahn is one of nine men in the U.S. Open singles field who played in the $100,000 Comerica Bank Challenger in Aptos. Three earned direct entry based on their world rankings, two emerged from this week's qualifying event, and four received wild cards.
   Gaining direct entry were No. 90 Guido Pella of Argentina, No. 102 Evgeny Donskoy of Russia and No. 116 Steve Johnson of Orange in the Los Angeles area. Pella and Donskoy were seeded first and second, respectively, in Aptos. Johnson, the defending champion there, lost in the first round to 2007 titlist Donald Young.
   Aptos runner-up Daniel Evans of Great Britain and Young, a Chicago native living in Atlanta, each won three qualifying matches this week to advance to the main draw of the U.S. Open.  Evans will take on 11th-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan on Monday morning.
   Granted wild cards in addition to Klahn were fellow Americans Brian Baker and Ryan Harrison and Australian James Duckworth.

Sacramento-area pair to play U.S. Open mixed doubles

The Sacramento-area team of Yasmin Schnack,
above, and Eric Roberson earned a berth in the
main draw of mixed doubles at the U.S. Open.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Yasmin Schnack and Eric Roberson succeeded this time.
   The Sacramento-area pair defeated Stephanie Wetmore and Matthew Brooklyn, both of Washington, D.C., 6-1, 6-4 Saturday to win the mixed doubles title in the U.S. Open National Playoffs at New Haven, Conn.
   Schnack, from Elk Grove in the Sacramento area, and Roberson of Sacramento earned an automatic berth in the U.S. Open mixed doubles main draw, which begins Wednesday in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.
   They reached the mixed doubles final in the inaugural national playoffs in 2011, falling in a super tiebreaker to Christina Fusano and David Martin.
   Fusano, a Sacramento native, won the 2003 NCAA women's doubles title with Cal teammate Raquel Kops-Jones, now ranked 13th in the world in that event.
   Martin reached the 2002 NCAA men's doubles final with Stanford teammate Scott Lipsky, now ranked 26th in that category.
   The 25-year-old Schnack will appear in the main draw of a Grand Slam adult tournament for the second time and Roberson, 27, for the first.
   Schnack and her best friend, Vania King, lost in the first round of women's doubles at Wimbledon last year to eighth-seeded Iveta Benesova and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova of the Czech Republic.
   King won the Wimbledon and U.S. Open women's doubles titles in 2010 with Yaroslava Shvedova.
   Schnack helped UCLA win the NCAA team title in 2008, graduated in sociology in 2010 and reached a career-high No. 140 in the world in women's doubles in June 2012. However, she retired last September and plans to begin nursing school in the fall. Her father, William, is a retired physician.
   Roberson earned all-conference honors at Boise State (2004-08).

Saturday, August 24, 2013

American Brengle suffers agonizing loss

Madison Brengle, 23, has tried to qualify for the
U.S. Open for nine straight years and come up
short each time. She's getting closer, though.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Even though Madison Brengle is only 23, she has tried and failed to qualify for the U.S. Open eight times.
   The only exception was 2007, when she received a wild card in the main draw and lost in the first round.
   Brengle, the runner-up in last month's $50,000 FSP Gold River Women's Challenger in the Sacramento area, came within one set of qualifying Friday before losing to 25th-seeded Ying-Ying Duan of China 6-7 (3), 6-1, 6-2 at Flushing Meadows, N.Y.
   It was the first time the 5-foot-4 (1.63) Brengle, ranked No. 185 in the world, has reached the third round of qualifying for the U.S. Open. The Dover, Del., native had lost in the first round for four consecutive years.
   Taylor Townsend of the Sacramento Capitals in World TeamTennis also lost Friday in the final round of qualifying for the U.S. Open. The 17-year-old Chicago native, who trains in Boca Raton, Fla., fell to Chanel Simmonds of South Africa 6-2, 2-6, 7-5.
   The 5-foot-3 (1.6-meter) Simmonds, a 21-year-old left-hander, was seeded second in the Gold River Challenger but lost to 32-year-old Alexandra Stevenson 6-2, 6-0 in the first round. Stevenson, the daughter of basketball legend Julius Erving, in 1999 became the first female qualifier to reach the Wimbledon semifinals.
   U.S. Open National Playoffs -- Eric Roberson of Sacramento and Yasmin Schnack of Elk Grove in the Sacramento area will play today for a berth in the mixed doubles main draw at the U.S. Open.
   Roberson, who played at Boise State, and Schnack, who helped UCLA win the 2008 NCAA title, handled Kaitlyn Christian of Orange and Dante Cipulli of Murietta 6-2, 6-2 in the semifinals at New Haven, Conn.
   Christian won the NCAA women's doubles title with USC teammate Sabrina Santamaria in May.
   Roberson and Schnack will play Matthew Brooklyn and Stephanie Wetmore, both of Washington, D.C., in today's final.
   Brooklyn and Wetmore edged Matija Pecotic of Malta and Lindsay Graff of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., 6-4, 6-7 (5), 11-9 in the semifinals. Malta is a small nation south of Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea. 
    Roberson and Schnack reached the final of the inaugural mixed doubles national playoffs in 2011, falling in a super tiebreaker to Christina Fusano and David Martin. Fusano, a Sacramento native, starred at Cal and Martin at Stanford.      

Friday, August 23, 2013

U.S. Open TV schedule

 (All times PDT)
Monday
   First round (men and women), Tennis Channel, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. (live).
   First round (men and women), ESPN2, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. (live). 
   U.S. Open Tonight (highlights), Tennis Channel, 8-11:30 p.m.
Tuesday
   First round (men and women), Tennis Channel, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. (live).
   First round (men and women), ESPN2, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. (live). 
   U.S. Open Tonight (highlights), Tennis Channel, 8-11:30 p.m.
Wednesday
   First and second rounds (men and women), Tennis Channel, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. (live).
   First and second rounds (men and women), ESPN2, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. (live). 
   U.S. Open Tonight (highlights), Tennis Channel, 8-11:30 p.m.
Thursday
   Second round (men and women), Tennis Channel, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. (live).
   Second round (men and women), ESPN2, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. (live). 
   U.S. Open Tonight (highlights), Tennis Channel, 8-11:30 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 30
   Second and third rounds (men and women), Tennis Channel, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. (live).
   Second and third rounds (men and women), ESPN2, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. (live). 
   U.S. Open Tonight (highlights), Tennis Channel, 8-11:30 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 31
   Third round (men and women), CBS, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. (live).
   Third round (men and women), CBS Sports Network, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. (live).
   Third round (men and women), Tennis Channel, 4-8 p.m. (live). 
   U.S. Open Tonight (highlights), Tennis Channel, 8-11:30 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 1
   Third and fourth rounds (men and women), CBS, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. (live).
   Third and fourth rounds (men and women), CBS Sports Network, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. (live).
   First round (men and women), Tennis Channel, 4-8 p.m. (live). 
   U.S. Open Tonight (highlights), Tennis Channel, 8-11:30 p.m. 
Monday, Sept. 2
   Fourth round (men and women), CBS, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. (live).
   Fourth round (men and women), CBS Sports Network, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. (live).
   Fourth round (men and women), ESPN2, 4-8 p.m. (live). 
   U.S. Open Tonight (highlights), Tennis Channel, 8-11:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Sept. 3
   Fourth round and quarterfinals (men and women), ESPN2, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. (live).
   Fourth round (men and women), Tennis Channel, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. (live).
   Fourth round and quarterfinals (men and women), ESPN, 4-8 p.m. (live).
   U.S. Open Tonight (highlights), Tennis Channel, 8-11:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Sept. 4
   Quarterfinals (men and women), ESPN2, 9 a.m.-8 p.m. (live)
   U.S. Open Tonight (highlights), Tennis Channel, 8-11:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 5
   Quarterfinals and semifinals (men and women's doubles), ESPN2, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. (live).
   Men's quarterfinal, ESPN, 5-8 p.m. (live).
   U.S. Open Tonight (highlights), Tennis Channel, 8 p.m.-midnight.
Friday, Sept. 6
   Mixed doubles final and women's semifinals, CBS, 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m. (live).
   Women's semifinals, Tennis Channel, 4-8 p.m. (repeat).
   U.S. Open Tonight (highlights), Tennis Channel, 8 p.m.-midnight.
Saturday, Sept. 7
   Men's semifinals, CBS, 9 a.m.-3 p.m., (live).
   Women's doubles or mixed doubles final, Tennis Channel, 3-5 p.m. (repeat).
   Women's doubles or mixed doubles final, Tennis Channel, 6:30-8:30 p.m. (repeat).
   U.S. Open Tonight (highlights), Tennis Channel, 8:30-10:30 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 8
   Men's doubles final, ESPN2, 9:30-11:30 a.m. (live). 
   Women's singles final, CBS, 1:30-4 p.m. (live).
   Men's doubles final, Tennis Channel, 6:30-8:30 p.m. (repeat).
   U.S. Open Tonight (highlights), Tennis Channel, 8:30-10:30 p.m.
Monday, Sept. 9
   Men's singles final, CBS, 2-5 p.m. (live).
   Women's singles final, Tennis Channel, 6-8 p.m. (repeat).
Tuesday, Sept. 10
   Men's singles final, Tennis Channel, 5-9 p.m. (repeat).

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Querrey could meet Federer early in U.S. Open

Five-time champion Roger Federer is seeded seventh
in the U.S. Open. It's his lowest seeding in the tourna-
ment since 2002, when he was No. 13.
2012 photo by Paul Bauman
   Sam Querrey could face a formidable obstacle as he seeks his first Grand Slam quarterfinal.
   Querrey, seeded 26th in the U.S. Open, has a potential third-round match against five-time champion Roger Federer, seeded seventh. It's Federer's lowest seeding at the U.S. Open since 2002, when he was No. 13.
   The draw for the U.S. Open, Monday through Sept. 9 in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., was held today. Four men and three women with Northern California ties were placed in the singles fields.
   Two of the seven are seeded, and four received wild cards. Also, 17-year-old Taylor Townsend of the Sacramento Capitals in World TeamTennis is trying to qualify for the women's main draw.
   Querrey, a 25-year-old San Francisco native and part-time Capital for the past two seasons, is 0-2 lifetime against Federer, who turned 32 on Aug. 8. Querrey has lost all five sets they have played, never winning more than four games. The last meeting occurred five years ago, when Federer won 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 in the French Open.
   The way Federer has played this summer, there is no guarantee he will reach the third round. He lost to then-No. 116 Sergiy Stakhovsky of Ukraine in the second round at Wimbledon, the Swiss star's earliest Grand Slam exit in 10 years.
   Federer then lost to qualifier Federico Delbonis, a 6-foot-3 (1.90-meter) left-hander from Argentina, in the semifinals at Hamburg and to 6-foot-5 (1.96-meter) Daniel Brands, a hard-hitting German, in the second round at Gstaad in Federer's home country. Delbonis and Brands were ranked No. 114 and No. 55, respectively.
   Federer will face 61st-ranked Grega Zemlja of Slovenia in the first round of the U.S. Open. Federer has beaten Zemlja easily in their two career meetings, including 6-3, 6-1 indoors in the first round at Rotterdam in February.
   Querrey, 6-foot-6 (1.98 meters), will meet No. 94 Guido Pella, a 23-year-old left-hander from Argentina, for the first time in the opening round. Pella was seeded first in the $100,000 Comerica Bank Challenger in Aptos two weeks ago, losing in the quarterfinals to eventual runner-up Daniel Evans of Great Britain.
   Wild card Bradley Klahn, a former Stanford star who won the Comerica Bank Challenger, drew Kenny de Schepper, a 6-foot-8 (2.03-meter) left-hander from France, in the first round of the U.S. Open.
   Klahn, who turned 23 on Tuesday, qualified for last year's U.S. Open and upset Austrian Jurgen Melzer in the first round before falling to 13th-seeded Richard Gasquet of France. Melzer was ranked No. 36 after reaching a career-high No. 8 in 2011.
   Gasquet is seeded eighth this year and could meet No. 32 Dmitry Tursunov, a Russian who trains in the Sacramento suburb of Granite Bay, in the third round. Tursunov, 30, is 5-2 lifetime against Gasquet, 27.
   Tursunov will open against 107th-ranked Aljaz Bedene of Slovenia. In their only meeting, Tursunov won 6-7 (3), 6-3, 6-3 in the first round of qualifying at Cincinnati this month.     
   Tursunov has not won a main-draw match in the U.S. Open in five years, losing in the first round in 2009, 2010 and 2011 and retiring from his third-round qualifying match against Brands last year with an injury. Tursunov reached the third round in 2003, 2006 and 2008 for his best results in Flushing Meadows.
   Collin Altamirano, a 17-year-old Yuba City resident who trains in Sacramento, will face 22nd-seeded Philipp Kohlschbreiber of Germany in the first round.
   Altamirano received an automatic wild card for winning the USTA National Boys 18 Championships in Kalamazoo, Mich., this month. He became the first unseeded player in the tournament's 71-year history to earn the title.
   The three women with Northern California connections will have their hands full in the opening round.
   Ex-Stanford star Mallory Burdette will take on No. 27 seed and 2004 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia. Burdette turned pro last September after reaching the third round of the U.S. Open.
   Wild card Nicole Gibbs will go against 31-year-old Italian Flavia Pennetta, a three-time U.S. Open quarterfinalist. Gibbs turned pro last month out of Stanford after winning the last two NCAA singles titles.
   Wild card Maria Sanchez, a Modesto product, will play in the singles main draw of the U.S. Open for the first time against Daniela Hantuchova, 30, of Slovakia. Hantuchova has lost in the first round at Flushing Meadows for the past two years but reached the quarterfinals in 2002. She climbed to a career-high No. 5 in singles in 2003 and No. 5 in doubles in 2002.
   Here are links to the men's and women's draws:
   http://www.usopen.org/en_US/scores/draws/ms/msdraw.pdf
   http://www.usopen.org/en_US/scores/draws/ws/wsdraw.pdf 
   U.S. Open qualifying -- Townsend, a 17-year-old American, defeated Samantha Murray of Great Britain 6-4, 7-5 to reach the final round. Townsend will meet Chanel Simmonds of South Africa today for a berth in the main draw.
   Another 17-year-old, Mayo Hibi, lost to 13th-seeded Anastasia Rodionova, a Russian-born Australian and former Capital, 6-4, 6-2. Hibi, who plays for Japan but lives in Irvine, won the $50,000 FSP Gold River Women's Challenger in the Sacramento area last month.
   American Madison Brengle, the runner-up to Hibi, defeated Erika Sema of Japan 6-4, 7-6 (1). Brengle, 23, will face 25th-seeded Ying-Ying Duan of China for a spot in the main draw.
   U.S. Open National Playoffs -- Eric Roberson of Sacramento and Yasmin Schnack of Elk Grove in the Sacramento area defeated Daniel Quiceno of Beverly, Mass., and Meghan Kelley of Falmouth, Maine, 6-3, 6-2 in the mixed doubles quarterfinals in New Haven, Conn.
   Roberson and Schnack will play either John Mee of Dallas and Karina Traxler of Rockwell, Texas, or Dante Cipulli of Murietta and Kaitlyn Christian of Orange today in the semifinals. Christian won the NCAA doubles title with USC teammate Sabrina Santamaria in May.
   The playoff champions will receive a wild card in the U.S. Open mixed doubles main draw, which begins Wednesday.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Beleaguered Fish withdraws from U.S. Open

Mardy Fish, a part-time member of the Sacramento
Capitals in World TeamTennis for the past two seasons,
has battled an accelerated heartbeat since February 2012.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Mardy Fish could be near retirement.
   Fish tweeted today that he was withdrawing from the U.S. Open because of continuing health issues. The 31-year-old American has battled a heart condition for the past 18 months.
   "Friends, unfortunately my health won't allow me to compete this year at the US Open. Thank you for all your support," wrote Fish, who played part-time for the Sacramento Capitals of World TeamTennis for the second straight year last month.
   This year's last Grand Slam tournament is scheduled for Monday through Sept. 9 in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.
   Fish reached a career-high No. 7 in the world in August 2011 but underwent a procedure for an accelerated heartbeat in May 2012. He has made several comebacks since then, withdrawing before his fourth-round match against Roger Federer in last year's U.S. Open.
   Fish, one of the nicest and classiest players in the game, said earlier this year that he had retired in his mind "15 times."
   Unfortunately, he might make it official soon.
   U.S. Open qualifying --Fish's teammate on the Capitals, 17-year-old Taylor Townsend, trounced 11th-seeded Eva Birnerova of the Czech Republic 6-1, 6-2 in the first round of qualifying for the U.S. Open.
   Birnerova, who turned 29 last week, is ranked No. 117. Townsend, a Chicago native who trains in Boca Raton, Fla., is No. 334.
   Townsend in 2012 became the first American girl in 30 years to end the year as the No. 1 junior in the world. She will meet Samantha Murray of Great Britain on Thursday in the second round. The 190th-ranked Murray, who's not related to Andy Murray, beat Russian-born Australian Arina Rodionova 6-4, 6-1.
   Another 17-year-old, Mayo Hibi, advanced with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 victory over American Allie Kiick in a matchup of wild cards.
   Kiick's father, Jim, played running back on the 1972 Miami Dolphins, the only team in NFL history to go undefeated. The squad was honored at the White House on Tuesday.
   Hibi, who won the $50,000 FSP Gold River Challenger in the Sacramento area last month, plays for her native Japan but has lived in California since she was 2 1/2. She will face 13th-seeded Anastasia Rodionova -- Arina's older sister, also a Russian-born Aussie and a former Capital -- in the second round.
   American Madison Brengle, the runner-up in the Gold River Challenger, upset sixth-seeded Barbora Zahlavova Strycova of the Czech Republic 6-3, 6-4. Brengle will play Erika Sema of Japan in the second round.
   Players must win three qualifying matches to advance to the main draw.
   U.S. Open National Playoffs -- Eric Roberson of Sacramento and Yasmin Schnack of Elk Grove in the Sacramento area edged Brian Battistone of Las Vegas and Nicole Melichar of Stuart, Fla., 6-3, 3-6, 10-6 in the first round of mixed doubles in New Haven, Conn.
   Roberson and Schnack will play Meghan Kelley of Falmouth, Maine, and Daniel Quiceno of Beverly, Mass., in Thursday's quarterfinals. Kelley and Quiceno received a bye in the first round.
   The tournament champions will earn a wild card in the U.S. Open mixed doubles main draw, which begins Aug. 28.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Querrey, Tursunov seeded in U.S. Open

Sam Querrey, a San Francisco native and part-time
member of the Sacramento Capitals for the past
two seasons, is seeded 26th in the U.S. Open.
2012 photo by Paul Bauman
   Two players with Northern California ties have received singles seedings in the U.S. Open.
   Sam Querrey, a San Francisco native and part-time member of the Sacramento Capitals in World TeamTennis for the past two seasons, is No. 26. Dmitry Tursunov, a Russian who trains in the Sacramento suburb of Granite Bay, is No. 32 and last.
  The men's and women's seedings were announced Monday and today, respectively. The year's last Grand Slam tournament is scheduled for this coming Monday through Sept. 9 in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.
  The 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) Querrey, 25, reached the fourth round of the U.S. Open in 2008 and 2010, tying his best Grand Slam result.
   Cracking the seedings was key for Tursunov, ranked 35th, because he can't face a seed before the third round. The 30-year-old Moscow native has fought back from repeated injuries after reaching a career-high No. 20 in 2006.  
   Tursunov has not won a match in the U.S. Open in five years, losing in the first round in 2009, 2010 and 2011 and retiring from his third-round qualifying match last year with an injury. He reached the third round in 2003, 2006 and 2008 for his best results in Flushing Meadows.
Dmitry Tursunov, middle, squeaked into the U.S. Open seedings at No. 32. He is
shown with fellow players Mischa Zverev, left, and Igor Andreev. All three are
Moscow natives, although Tursunov trains in the Sacramento area and Zverev
plays for Germany. 2012 photo by Paul Bauman
   Novak Djokovic is seeded first, and defending champion Andy Murray is third. Five-time champion Roger Federer, last year’s top seed, is seeded seventh. It's his lowest seeding at the U.S. Open since 2002, when he was No. 13.
   Querrey is one of two seeded American men. John Isner is No. 13. The 6-foot-10 (2.08-meter) veteran jumped from No. 22 in the rankings to No. 14 after reaching the Cincinnati final last week. It was the first time in the 40-year history of the men's rankings that no American had appeared in the top 20. 
   Serena Williams, the defending champion and top women's seed, seeks her fifth U.S. Open and 17th Grand Slam singles title.
   Two young Americans are seeded in the U.S. Open for the first time. Sloane Stephens, 20, is No. 16, and Jamie Hampton, 23, is No. 24. Hampton is seeded in a Grand Slam tournament for the first time.
   See below for the full men's and women's seedings.
   U.S. Open qualifying -- Mackenzie McDonald faced a tall task on Tuesday.
   The 18-year-old wild card from Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay area lost to second-seeded Ivo Karlovic, 6-foot-10 (2.08 meters), 6-3, 6-4 today in the first round of qualifying for the U.S. Open.
   McDonald last week became the first unranked teenager to qualify for an ATP Masters 1000 tournament, the highest level other than the Grand Slams. He lost to David Goffin 6-1, 6-1 in the first round at Cincinnati.
   U.S. Open National Playoffs -- Mayo Hibi, the 17-year-old champion of last month's $50,000 FSP Gold River Women's Challenger in the Sacramento area, won the women's title in the U.S. Open National Playoffs to earn a wild card in the qualifying event.
   Hibi, a longtime Irvine resident who plays for her native Japan, defeated No. 2 seed Nicole Melichar 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 in Monday's final in New Haven, Conn. Jeff Dadamo, the runner-up in last year's $15,000 Futures tournament in Sacramento, beat unseeded Matija Pecotic 6-4, 6-4 in New Haven for the men's title.
   Hibi will face American wild card Allie Kiick, the 18-year-old daughter of former Miami Dolphins running  back Jim Kiick, on Wednesday in the first round of qualifying for the U.S. Open. Dadamo will take on Guillermo Olaso of Spain.
   Eric Roberson of Sacramento and Yasmin Schnack of Elk Grove in the Sacramento area will represent Northern California in the mixed doubles national playoffs, Wednesday through Saturday in New Haven. The champions will receive a berth in the main draw of mixed doubles at the U.S. Open.
   Roberson and Schnack reached the final of the inaugural playoffs in 2011, falling in a super tiebreaker to Christina Fusano and David Martin. Fusano, a Sacramento native, starred at Cal and Martin at Stanford.
U.S. OPEN SEEDS
Men
1. Novak Djokovic, Serbia
2. Rafael Nadal, Spain
3. Andy Murray, Great Britain
4. David Ferrer, Spain
5. Tomas Berdych, Czech Republic
6. Juan Martin del Potro, Argentina
7. Roger Federer, Switzerland
8. Richard Gasquet, France
9. Stanislas Wawrinka, Switzerland
10. Milos Raonic, Canada
11. Kei Nishikori, Japan
12. Tommy Haas, Germany
13. John Isner, United States
14. Jerzy Janowicz, Poland
15. Nicolas Almagro, Spain
16. Fabio Fognini, Italy
17. Kevin Anderson, South Africa
18. Janko Tipsarevic, Serbia
19. Tommy Robredo, Spain
20. Andreas Seppi, Italy
21. Mikhail Youzhny, Russia
22. Philipp Kohlschreiber, Germany
23. Feliciano Lopez, Spain
24. Benoit Paire, France
25. Grigor Dimitrov, Bulgaria
26. Sam Querrey, United States
27. Fernando Verdasco, Spain
28. Juan Monaco, Argentina
29. Jurgen Melzer, Austria
30. Ernests Gulbis, Latvia
31. Julien Benneteau, France
32. Dmitry Tursunov, Russia
Women
1. Serena Williams, United States
2. Victoria Azarenka, Belarus
3. Maria Sharapova, Russia
4. Agnieszka Radwanska, Poland
5. Sara Errani, Italy
6. Li Na, China
7. Caroline Wozniacki, Denmark
8. Petra Kvitova, Czech Republic
9. Angelique Kerber, Germany
10. Jelena Jankovic, Serbia
11. Roberta Vinci, Italy
12. Samantha Stosur, Australia
13. Kirsten Flipkens, Belgium
14. Ana Ivanovic, Serbia
15. Maria Kirilenko, Russia
16. Sloane Stephens, United States
17. Sabine Lisicki, Germany
18. Dominika Cibulkova, Slovak Republic
19. Carla Suarez Navarro, Spain
20. Sorana Cirstea, Romania
21. Nadia Petrova, Russia
22. Simona Halep, Romania
23. Elena Vesnina, Russia
24. Jamie Hampton, United States
25. Ekaterina Makarova, Russia
26. Kaia Kanepi, Estonia
27. Alize Cornet, France
28. Svetlana Kuznetsova, Russia
29. Mona Barthel, Germany
30. Magdalena Rybarikova, Slovak Republic
31. Laura Robson, Great Britain
32. Klara Zakopalova, Czech Republic

TV schedule, pro rankings, calendar

TV SCHEDULE
(All times PDT)
Wednesday  
   New Haven (women), round of 16, Tennis Channel, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., 4-6 p.m. (live). 
Thursday 
   New Haven (women), quarterfinals, ESPN2, 10 a.m.-noon, 4-6 p.m. (live). 
   Winston-Salem (men), quarterfinals, ESPN2, noon-2 p.m., 7-9 p.m. (live).  
   Winston-Salem (men), quarterfinal, Tennis Channel, 2-4 p.m. (live). 
Friday
   New Haven (women), semifinals, ESPN2, 10 a.m.-noon (live). 
   New Haven (women), semifinals, Tennis Channel, 4-6 p.m. (live). 
   Winston-Salem (men), semifinals, ESPN2, noon-2 p.m. (live).
   Winston-Salem (men), semifinals, Tennis Channel, 6-8 p.m. (live).
 Saturday 
   Winston-Salem (men), final, CBS, 9:30 a.m.-noon (live). 
   New Haven (women), final, ESPN2, noon-2 p.m. (live). 

 PRO RANKINGS
   Following are this week's world rankings of professional players with Northern California ties (change from last week in parentheses):
Men
   Bob Bryan, 35 years old, 1998 NCAA doubles champion from Stanford -- Career-high No. 1 in doubles (no change), unranked in singles.
   Mike Bryan, 35 years old, 1998 NCAA doubles champion from Stanford -- Career-high No. 1 in doubles (no change), unranked in singles.
   Mardy Fish, 31 years old, Sacramento Capitals of World TeamTennis (2012-13) -- No. 173 in singles (-44), No. 128 in doubles (+16).
   Bradley Klahn, 23 years old, 2010 NCAA singles champion and 2011 NCAA doubles runner-up from Stanford -- Career-high No. 123 in singles (no change), No. 183 in doubles (-2).
   Scott Lipsky, 32 years old, 2002 NCAA doubles runner-up from Stanford -- No. 23 in doubles (+6), unranked in singles.
   Sam Querrey, 25 years old, San Francisco native, Capitals (2012-13) -- No. 29 in singles (-1), No. 170 in doubles (-30).
   Ryan Sweeting, 26 years old, Capitals (2012-13) -- No. 520 in singles (-2), No. 855 in doubles (+5).
   Dmitry Tursunov, 30 years old, Folsom resident from Russia -- No. 35 in singles (+9), No. 200 in doubles (+1).
Women
   Mallory Burdette, 22 years old, NCAA singles runner-up in 2012 and NCAA doubles champion in 2011 and 2012 from Stanford -- No. 97 in singles (+2), No. 441 in doubles (-8). 
   Nicole Gibbs, 20 years old, NCAA singles champion in 2012 and 2013 and NCAA doubles champion in 2012 from Stanford -- No. 171 in singles (+1), No. 544 in doubles (-4).
   Raquel Kops-Jones, 30 years old, 2003 NCAA doubles champion from Cal -- No. 13 in doubles (no change), unranked in singles.
   Megan Moulton-Levy, 28 years old, Capitals (2013) -- No. 54 in doubles (-1), unranked in singles.
   Maria Sanchez, 23 years old, Modesto product -- No. 111 in singles (+2), No. 118 in doubles (-4).
   Taylor Townsend, 17 years old, Capitals (2013) -- No. 334 in singles (-2), No. 293 in doubles (-1).
 CALENDAR
   Monday-Sept. 9 -- U.S. OPEN, Flushing Meadows, N.Y., www.usopen.org. 2012 champions: Andy Murray, Serena Williams, Bob Bryan-Mike Bryan, Sara Errani-Roberta Vinci.
   Sept. 10-15 -- $25,000 Sun Oaks Challenger of Redding (women), Sun Oaks Tennis and Fitness, 3452 Argyle Road, Redding, Calif., www.sunoakschallenger.com, (530) 221-4405. 2012 champions: Chelsey Gullickson, Jacqueline Cako-Sanaz Marand.
   Sept. 23-29 -- $50,000 Napa Valley Challenger (men), Napa Valley Country Club, 3385 Hagen Road, Napa, Calif., 94558, www.napavalleychallenger.com, (707) 252-2299. 2012 champions -- Inaugural tournament.
   Sept. 30-Oct. 6 -- $100,000 RelyAid Natomas Challenger (men), Natomas Racquet Club, 2450 Natomas Park Drive, Sacramento, Calif., 95833, www.natomaschallenger.com, (916) 649-0909. 2012 champions: James Blake, Tennys Sandgren-Rhyne Williams.
   Oct. 7-13 -- $100,000 First Republic Bank Tiburon Challenger (men), Tiburon Peninsula Club, 1600 Mar West Street, Tiburon, Calif., 94920, (415) 789-7900, www.tiburonchallenger.com. 2012 champions: Jack Sock, Rik de Voest-Chris Guccione.

Monday, August 19, 2013

McDonald, 18, achieves unprecedented feat

Mackenzie McDonald, 18, of Piedmont became the first
unranked teenager to qualify for an ATP World Tour
Masters 1000 tournament. 2012 photo by Paul Bauman
   From qualifying to main-draw singles and doubles, men with Northern California ties made a big impact in last week’s Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.
   Mackenzie McDonald, 18, of Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay area became the first unranked teenager to qualify for an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament, the highest level for men besides the Grand Slams.
   McDonald, a wild card who will be a freshman at UCLA in the fall, stunned No. 79 Nicolas Mahut of France 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4 and No. 128 Steve Johnson of Orange in the Los Angeles area 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 to reach the main draw.
   Mahut, 31, won the first two ATP singles titles of his career in June and July. Johnson led USC to four NCAA titles (2009-12) and won the NCAA singles title in his last two years.
   "I didn't expect to win two rounds and qualify for this event," McDonald, who lost to qualifier David Goffin of Belgium 6-1, 6-1 in the first round of the main draw, admitted on atpworldtour.com. "I was supposed to be playing a college tournament in Indiana. I was thinking about going to Indiana instead, but I realized what this tournament is, and I decided to take advantage of it."
   Another qualifier, Dmitry Tursunov, knocked off fourth-ranked David Ferrer of Spain to reach the quarterfinals before losing to No. 7 Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina 6-4, 3-6, 6-1.   
   Tursunov, a 30-year-old Moscow native who trains in the Sacramento suburb of Granite Bay, will jump from No. 44 in the world to about No. 33 when the weekly rankings are released today. Ranked a career-high No. 20 in 2006, he plunged to No. 150 one year ago after suffering repeated injuries.
   In doubles, top-seeded Bob and Mike Bryan edged second-seeded Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez of Spain 6-4, 4-6, 1-0 (10-4) for their fourth Cincinnati doubles title, 10th of the year and 92nd overall. The career high of the 35-year-old identical twins and 1998 NCAA champions from Stanford is 11 titles in one year (2007 and 2010).
   The Bryans, who saved a match point in the Cincinnati semifinals against Santiago Gonzalez and ex-Stanford star Scott Lipsky, improved to 28-1 since early May. They won consecutive titles in Madrid, Rome, the French Open, Queen's Club and Wimbledon.
   The Bryans will seek a calendar-year Grand Slam in the U.S. Open, which begins next Monday in Flushing Meadows, N.Y. They are the defending champions.
$12,500 MACY'S.COM WOMEN'S TENNIS OPEN
At Marin Tennis Club in San Rafael
   Singles final -- Yasmin Schnack (2), Elk Grove, def. Katsiaryna Zheltova (7), Sacramento, 6-3, 6-4.
   Doubles final -- Yasmin Schnack, Elk Grove, and Katsiaryna Zheltova (1), Sacramento, def. Lejla Hodzic, Santa Clara, and Jana Juricova (2), Oakland, 6-1, 6-0.
$25,000 THE HERITAGE BANK OF COMMERCE OPEN
Aug. 6-11 at Moraga Country Club
   Men's singles final -- Kiryl Harbatsiuk (5), Sacramento, def. Jonas Merckx (9), Gijzegem, Belgium, 6-3, 6-0.
   Women's singles final -- Katsiaryna Zheltova (3), Sacramento, def. Kelly Chui (5), Milpitas, 6-3, 6-0.
   Men's doubles -- Jeffrey Hawke, Rolling Hills Estates, and Max Manthou (5), Tacoma, Wash., def. Tyler Browne, Walnut Creek, and Gregory Lee (1), El Macero, 6-2, 2-6, 6-4.
   Women's doubles -- Yasmin Schnack, Elk Grove, and Katsiaryna Zheltova (3), Sacramento, def. Alexandra Facey and Kat Facey, Cameron Park, 6-0, 6-2.
   Mixed doubles -- Tyler Browne, Walnut Creek, and Jana Juricova (1), Oakland, def. Matt Seeberger, Redwood City, and Katsiaryna Zheltova (4), Sacramento, 6-3, 6-3.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

U.S. men record dubious first; adieu, Marion

John Isner, the top-ranked American man, fell out
of the top 20 this week but will return on Monday.
He'll face Rafael Nadal in Sunday's Cincinnati final.
2012 photo by Paul Bauman
   The unthinkable happened this week.
   For the first time in the 40-year history of the men's world rankings, no American man can be found in the top 20. The top U.S. man, 6-foot-10 (2.08-meter) John Isner, dropped from No. 20 to No. 22 on Monday.
   Andy Roddick, who retired last September after leading U.S. men's tennis for most of the previous 10 years, recently lamented the decline.
   "Throwing out statistics, like it's the first time since such-and-such, is fair journalism," Roddick, who won the 2003 U.S. Open for the last Grand Slam singles title by an American man, was quoted as saying in the New York Times. "That's a fact. I think I'm more concerned with what's going to happen to make it right and make it better. The other thing that seems painfully obvious when you say stuff like that is how spoiled we've been."
  Roddick was referring to International Tennis Hall of Famers Pete Sampras (14 Grand Slam singles titles), Jimmy Connors (eight), Andre Agassi (eight), Jim Courier (four) and Michael Chang (one) and himself.
   All is not lost for the United States, however. Far from it.
   Isner, whose devastating serve is the biggest weapon in men's tennis, will return to the top 20 on Monday. He has beaten three consecutive top-10 players -- No. 10 Milos Raonic of Canada, No. 1 Novak Djokovic and No. 7 Juan Martin del Potro (saving one match point) -- to reach Sunday's final in Cincinnati against third-ranked Rafael Nadal (CBS, 9:30 a.m. PDT).
   That makes Isner a threat to win the U.S. Open, Aug. 26-Sept. 9. The questions are whether the 28-year-old native of Greensboro, N.C., can hold up physically over two weeks of best-of-five-set matches and handle the pressure of playing in his home country.
   Isner has never advanced past the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam tournament, but six years after winning a $15,000 tournament in the Sacramento suburb of Shingle Springs in his professional debut, this could be his time. He reached the quarters of the 2011 U.S. Open.
   The next American in the rankings, Sam Querrey, is No. 28 after reaching a career-high No. 17 in 2011. The 25-year-old San Francisco native, 6-foot-6 (1.96 meters), has played part-time for the Sacramento Capitals of World TeamTennis for the past two seasons.
   The United States' top prospects appear to be Jack Sock, ranked a career-high No. 87 at 20 years old, and Ryan Harrison, ranked No. 102 at 21 years old.
   Sock won the 2011 U.S. Open mixed doubles title with Melanie Oudin two weeks after turning 19 and the singles crown at the Tiburon Challenger in the San Francisco Bay area last October. Harrison climbed as high as No. 43 in the world last summer.
   Then there are Bob and Mike Bryan, widely regarded as the greatest doubles team ever with a record 15 Grand Slam men's doubles titles. The 35-year-old identical twins and former Stanford stars will seek the biggest accomplishment of their careers, a calendar-year Grand Slam, in the U.S. Open.
Marion Bartoli retired two months after winning Wimbledon
for her first Grand Slam women's singles title. 2012 photo
by Paul Bauman
   Bartoli retirement -- Tennis lost a true gem when Marion Bartoli of France abruptly announced her retirement at 28 on Wednesday because of numerous injuries. Only two months beforehand, Bartoli won Wimbledon for her first Grand Slam women's singles title.
   Everything about Bartoli was unusual -- her background, appearance, playing style, intelligence and personality.
   Bartoli grew up not on the sunny Riviera or in bustling Paris but in a snowy village in central France. She was taught not by French Tennis Federation coaches but by her physician father, Walter.
   Stocky for a pro player at 5-foot-6 (1.70 meters) and 139 pounds (63 kilograms), Bartoli employed a quirky serve and, like Hall of Famer Monica Seles, a two-handed forehand and backhand. Between points, she practiced her strokes as if she were a beginner.
   Off the court, Bartoli was down to earth, thoughtful and candid. Reputedly, she has a genius IQ.
   Bartoli played in the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford for 11 consecutive years (2003-12), winning the title in 2009 and reaching the final in 2008 and 2011. Her news conference after she upset Venus Williams in the 2009 final was a classic. Here are some highlights:
   --"I give absolutely everything on the court. That's probably my biggest strength."
   --"The French federation used to tell me, 'Your dad is so stupid. He's an idiot. There's no way you can be a tennis player with him on your side.' I was looking at Venus when she was 14 or 15 and Serena. (Their father) was making them be No. 1 in the world. I was telling (the federation), 'You see, Venus came to be No. 1 with her dad on her side. Monica, too.' "
   --"I was always very ambitious. When I was 4 or 5, I told my dad, 'One day, I want to be the prime minister of France.' I remember always telling myself, 'I don't want to stay in this village forever. I want to go to the bigger city, travel the world, do something different and take my dad out of this village that doesn't see him work almost 18 hours a day and doesn't respect him.' "
   Mission accomplished.   
Please help defray travel expenses
$
Thanks for your donation!