Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Reigning champ Hibi out of Gold River Challenger

Mayo Hibi, who won last year's Gold River Challenger
at 17, dropped off the acceptance list for next month's
tournament. 2013 photo by Paul Bauman
   Mayo Hibi, who won last year's $50,000 FSP Gold River Women's Challenger at 17, has withdrawn from next month's tournament.
   Hibi, an Irvine resident who plays for her native Japan, dropped off the acceptance list today for the July 7-12 tournament at the Gold River Racquet Club in the Sacramento area.
   Instead, the 234th-ranked Hibi is entered in a $25,000 Challenger, also on hardcourts, in Gatineau, Canada, that week.
   "I need (ranking) points for the U.S. Open," Hibi, who has struggled for the past three months, explained by telephone from home. "Now I'm borderline (to get into qualifying in Flushing Meadows). Sacramento is a week later this year, so players have a chance to rest after (the first week of) Wimbledon. Last year, they wanted to rest. The draw is much tougher this year."
   Hibi added that she'll be seeded in Gatineau but wouldn't have been in Sacramento. Therefore, she won't risk facing a seed in the first round.
   "I need to get a lot of matches in and get more confidence," Hibi said.    
   Also pulling out of the Gold River Challenger was Germany's Anna-Lena Friedsam. Ranked No. 110 in the world, Friedsam plans to play in a $100,000 Challenger on clay in Biarritz, France, that week. Friedsam was the second-highest-ranked player in the Gold River Challenger behind No. 102 Michelle Larcher de Brito.
   Larcher de Brito ousted a Grand Slam champion at Wimbledon as a qualifier for the second straight year on Tuesday. The 21-year-old Portuguese player knocked off 28th-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova, who took the 2004 U.S. Open and 2009 French Open crowns, 3-6, 6-3, 6-1 in the first round after stunning 2004 Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova in the second round last year.
   Larcher de Brito is familiar with the Sacramento area. She became the youngest player in World TeamTennis history at 14 in 2007, helping the now-defunct Sacramento Capitals win the last of their record six league titles.
   Two years later, however, American Madison Keys surpassed Larcher de Brito by 19 days as a 14-year-old with the Philadelphia Freedoms.
   The 5-foot-10 (1.78-meter) Keys, now 19, won her first career title last week at Eastbourne on grass to rise to a career-high 30th in the world. She ranks third among U.S. women behind No. 1 Serena Williams and No. 18 Sloane Stephens.
   Other Gold River withdrawals moved Maria Sanchez, a Modesto product who won the inaugural Gold River Challenger in 2012, into the main draw. Sanchez, 24, has plunged from a career-high No. 107 last July to No. 309.
   Gold River qualifying starts July 5.
   Here's a link to the Challenger's full acceptance list:   

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