Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Serena advances, No. 2 seed falls at Stanford

   STANFORD -- Incident? What incident?
   Playing for the first time since her bizarre exit from Wimbledon, Serena Williams was back to her normal self in a 7-5, 6-2 victory over Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic tonight in the second round of the Bank of the West Classic.
Serena Williams looked sharp in a victory over Karo-
lina Pliskova. Photo by Paul Bauman
   "I think I played really well," the top-ranked Williams, who received a first-round bye, said after the 64-minute match. "I think I'm going in the right direction."  
   During the day session, Varvara Lepchenko of the United States outslugged No. 2 seed and 2013 runner-up Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland 6-3, 3-6, 6-4.
   Both of last year's finalists already have been eliminated. Defending champion Dominika Cibulkova fell to 20-year-old Garbine Muguruza of Spain on Tuesday in the first round.
   Williams, 32, has won 17 Grand Slam singles titles but has failed to reach the quarterfinals in any of the year's first three majors.
   Three days after Williams shockingly lost to Alize Cornet of France in the third round at Wimbledon, the American star stumbled around the court and retired from her second-round doubles match with older sister Venus at 0-3 in the first set.
   Serena had trouble bouncing and catching the ball before serving, double-faulted feebly all four times at 0-2 and quit in tears. Officially, Williams was suffering from a "viral illness." 
Varvara Lepchenko ousted No. 2 seed and 2013 runner-up
Agnieszka Radwanska. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Williams' coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, later told France's Tennis Magazine that the world No. 1 is going through a "difficult period."
   "I have never discussed private matters, and I am not going to talk about them now," said Mouratoglou, who has been romantically linked to Williams, although neither has confirmed it. "There have been difficult things. For sure, Serena is in a difficult phase, but I will leave it there."        
   Williams said Monday that she would undergo a series of physical tests after the season. When asked tonight why she wouldn't have them sooner, she said, "I'm sure it's nothing serious. The hypochondriac that I am ... that's it."
   Williams added that she feels fine and has "moved on" from the Wimbledon incident.
   "I'm just doing the things I think I do best," she said. "If anyone has any questions, they're more than welcome to ask."
   Then, however, Williams abruptly cut off the interview after six minutes.
   Like Williams, Pliskova has a sister on the pro tour. But the 22-year-old Pliskova's is a twin. Karolina and Kristyna, in fact, became the first twins to win a WTA doubles title when they triumphed last year in Linz, Austria.
   Both Williams and Karolina Pliskova, 6-foot-1 (1.86 meters), have punishing serves. Williams was mentally tougher, though, breaking Pliskova three times and never losing her own serve.
   Williams recorded the only break of the first set in the last game, at love. After double-faulting for 0-30, Pliskova sent a forehand long and netted a backhand to drop the set.
   Williams bolted to a 3-0 lead (one break) in the second set and broke again in the final game for the match when Pliskova sailed another forehand long.
   Overall, Williams won 82 percent of her first-serve points and had nine aces against three double faults.
   "I was playing a player that I knew was going to be very difficult to break, so mentally you have to really, really try to hold onto your serve," Williams said. "It was really important to make sure I was super-focused on my serve."
   Radwanska, at No. 5 in the world, is the highest-ranked player Lepchenko has beaten. Lepchenko's previous best wins came against No. 6 Jelena Jankovic and No. 7 Sara Errani.
   Lepchenko, a 28-year-old left-hander from Uzbekistan, became a U.S. citizen in 2011. She had been 0-5 against Radwanska, including a three-setter in last year's Bank of the West quarterfinals.
   Lepchenko will meet 19-year-old qualifier Sachia Vickery in Friday's quarterfinals, guaranteeing that an American will play in the semifinals. 
   Vickery, a quarterfinalist in the recent Sacramento Challenger, beat Monica Puig of Puerto Rico 6-7 (4), 6-2, 6-1 to reach her the last eight in a WTA tournament for the first time. 
   Eighth-seeded Andrea Petkovic dismissed Naomi Osaka, a 16-year-old qualifier from Japan, 6-2, 6-2, in a matchup of free spirits. Petkovic, a 26-year-old German, reached the French Open semifinals last month for her best Grand Slam result.
   Osaka, 5-foot-11 (1.80 meters) with a massive forehand, stunned 2011 U.S. Open champion Samantha Stosur in the first round.
   Osaka has a Haitian father, a Japanese mother and an 18-year-old sister, Mari, who lost in the first round of qualifying in the Bank of the West Classic.
BANK OF THE WEST CLASSIC
At Stanford's Taube Tennis Center
Second-round singles
   Sachia Vickery, United States, def. Monica Puig, Puerto Rico, 6-7 (4), 6-2, 6-1.
   Varvara Lepchenko, United States, def. Agnieszka Radwanska (2), Poland, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4.
   Andrea Petkovic (8), Germany, def. Naomi Osaka, Japan, 6-2, 6-2.
   Serena Williams (1), United States, def. Karolina Pliskova, Czech Republic, 7-5, 6-2.
First-round doubles
   Daniela Hantuchova, Slovakia, and Arantxa Parra Santonja, Spain, def. Daria Gavrilova, Russia, and Yi-Fan Xu, China, 3-6, 7-6 (2) [10-8].
   Paula Kania, Poland, and Katerina Siniakova, Czech Republic, def. Hao-Ching Chan, China, and Andrea Petkovic (8), Germany, 6-2, 3-6 [10-8].
Doubles quarterfinals
   Garbine Muguruza and Carla Suarez Navarro (3), Spain, def. Caroline Garcia, France, and Shuai Zhang, China, 6-0, 7-5.
Thursday's schedule
Stadium
(Starting at 11 a.m.)
   Garbine Muguruza, Spain, vs. Daniela Hantuchova, Slovakia.
(Not before 1 p.m.)
   CoCo Vandeweghe, United States, vs. Angelique Kerber (3), Germany.
   Ana Ivanovic (5), Serbia, vs. Carol Zhao, Canada.
(Not before 7 p.m.)
   Victoria Azarenka (4), Belarus, vs. Venus Williams, United States.
   Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears (1), United States, vs. Varvara Lepchenko, United States, and Ajla Tomljanovic, Croatia.

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