Tuesday, July 8, 2014

U.S. teen Crawford upsets seed in Challenger

Samantha Crawford, 19, above, beat fifth-seeded
Romina Oprandi, below, in the first round of the Gold
River Women's Challenger. Oprandi, who reached
No. 32 in the world last year, has beaten four
Grand Slam singles champions.
   GOLD RIVER, Calif. -- Samantha Crawford knew nothing about Romina Oprandi before they met for the first time today.
   It's probably just as well. Crawford might have been intimidated, even though the 19-year-old American is eight inches (20.3 centimeters) taller than the 5-foot-6 (1.72-meter) Swiss veteran.
   The fifth-seeded Oprandi, who fell 6-3, 6-3 in the first round of the $50,000 FSP Gold River Women's Challenger at the Gold River Racquet Club in the Sacramento area, was by far the most accomplished player in the draw.
   The 28-year-old right-hander climbed to a career-high No. 32 in the world in June last year before undergoing surgery on her right shoulder for the third and fourth time and missing seven months.
   Playing on her preferred clay in Marrakech, Morocco, in April, Oprandi reached her first singles final and won her maiden doubles title (with Spain's Garbine Muguruza) on the elite WTA tour.
   Oprandi owns victories over Grand Slam singles champions Kim Clijsters (grass), Svetlana Kuznetsova (clay) and Ana Ivanovic and Francesca Schiavone (hardcourts). The victory over Schiavone put Oprandi in the third round of the 2012 Australian Open, her best Grand Slam result.
   Still, Crawford overpowered Oprandi during the day session.
   "I felt I played well," said the soft-spoken Crawford, the 2012 U.S. Open girls champion and a semifinalist in the inaugural Gold River Challenger earlier that year. "I was trying to control the points and not be on defense so much."
   The featured night matches were anticlimactic.
   Fourth-seeded Nicole Gibbs outrallied 6-foot-1 (1.85-meter) Alexandra Stevenson 6-3, 6-2 in a matchup of native Southern Californians.
   Then Modesto product Maria Sanchez, the first Gold River champion, continued her singles tailspin with an error-filled 6-3, 6-0 loss to third-seeded Madison Brengle, last year's runner-up. Brengle, a 24-year-old resident of Bradenton, Fla., won the last eight games of the 52-minute shellacking.
   Stevenson, the 33-year-old daughter of basketball legend Julius Erving, drew international attention 15 years ago when she became the first female qualifier to reach the Wimbledon semifinals. Ranked a career-high No. 18 in the world in 2002, she is now No. 496.
   Gibbs, 21, turned pro last summer after becoming the fifth woman in history -- and fourth from Stanford -- to win back-to-back NCAA singles titles. She is ranked a career-high No. 145.
   Sanchez, a 24-year-old USC graduate, has tumbled from a peak of No. 107 last July to No. 399. However, she's No. 105 in doubles after winning Auckland in January with Sharon Fichman of Canada for her first WTA title and reaching three finals in tennis' minor leagues this year. 
   In contrast to the night program, the day session included several marathons as the temperature soared to 102 degrees (38.9 Celsius).
   Jennifer Elie outlasted qualifier Chanelle Van Nguyen, who helped UCLA win its second NCAA team title in May, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-4 in 3 hours, 10 minutes in an all-American battle.
   Second-seeded An-Sophie Mestach, 20, of Belgium held off Allie Will, a native of San Mateo in the San Francisco Bay Area who reached last year's semifinals, 6-7 (4), 6-1, 6-3 in 2 hours, 52 minutes. 
   Since Marrakech, Oprandi has suffered six straight first-round exits. Two came at the French Open and Wimbledon, two on the WTA tour and two in the minor leagues.
   When asked why she decided to play on hardcourts in the Gold River Challenger rather than on clay in Europe, the 180th-ranked Oprandi said: "That's a good question. I must have missed something in my brain. It was a terrible decision. I already knew it was the wrong decision."
   Almost everything about Oprandi -- from her candor to her appearance to her playing style -- is unusual.        
   With her white shorts, white shirt, short blond hair and white cap with the bill turned up, she resembled a house painter. She has a small silver ring pierced under her lower lip and the names of family members tattooed on her left forearm.
   Oprandi also had orange laces on one shoe and white laces on the other, but she wasn't making a fashion statement.
   "It's what I got from my sponsor (Lotto, an Italian sportswear company)," Oprandi shrugged.
   In an era of power, Oprandi relies on variety and placement. She's sort of a poor woman's Agnieszka Radwanska.
   Crawford, who missed last year's Gold River Challenger because of her third knee operation (two on the left), said the match was closer than the score indicated.
   "She's tough to play against. She will hit drop shots and slices. She'll hit flat and then slice. ... It's not easy to get in a rhythm. She has good shots on the line," Crawford observed.  
    Mostly, Oprandi hit soft serves and groundstrokes in the match. She was either "super relaxed," as Crawford put it, or out of sorts.
   Oprandi conceded that she played "not my best" but didn't know why.
   "I'll find out later, maybe," she mused.   
At Gold River Racquet Club
In Gold River, Calif.
First-round singles
   Jamie Loeb, United States, def. Jessica Lawrence, United States, 7-5, 6-1.
   Olivia Rogowska (1), Australia, def. Macall Harkins, United States, 6-4, 6-2.
   Nicole Gibbs (4), United States, def. Alexandra Stevenson, United States, 6-3, 6-2.
   Madison Brengle (3), United States, def. Maria Sanchez, United States, 6-3, 6-0. 
   Jennifer Elie, United States, def. Chanelle Van Nguyen, United States, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-4.
   Chiara Scholl, United States, def. Asia Muhammad, United States, 2-6, 6-4, 6-0.
   An-Sophie Mestach (2), Belgium, def. Allie Will, United States, 6-7 (4), 6-1, 6-3.
   Julia Boserup (7), United States, def. Zoe Gwen Scandalis, United States, 6-1, 6-1.
   Samantha Crawford, United States, def. Romina Oprandi (5), Switzerland, 6-3, 6-3.
   Laura Pigossi, Brazil, def. Tori Kinard, United States, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.
   Sachia Vickery (6), United States, def. Sanaz Marand, United States, 7-6 (2), 6-4.
   Louisa Chirico, United States, def. Jennifer Brady, United States, 6-3, 6-3.
   Peggy Porter, United States, def. Marina Shamayko, Russia, 6-4, 6-3.
   Danielle Lao, United States, def. Natalie Pluskota, United States, 6-2, 6-4.
First-round doubles
  Jessica Lawrence, United States, and Alina Soltanici, Moldova, def. Emina Bektas and Jennifer Brady, United States, walkover.
Wednesday's schedule
(Starting at noon on each court)
   Julia Boserup (7), United States, vs. Jennifer Elie, United States.
   Madison Brengle (3), United States, vs. Storm Sanders, Australia.
   An-Sophie Mestach (2), Belgium, vs. Jamie Loeb, United States.
   Olivia Rogowska (1), Australia, vs. Peggy Porter, United States (starting at 6:30 p.m.).
   Samantha Crawford and Sachia Vickery, United States, vs. Daria Gavrilova, Russia, and Storm Sanders, Australia.
Court 3
   Samantha Crawford, United States, vs. Danielle Lao, United States.
   Nicole Gibbs (4), United States, vs. Louisa Chirico, United States.
Court 4
   Nao Hibino (8), Japan, vs. Laura Pigossi, Brazil.
   Sachia Vickery (6), United States, vs. Chiara Scholl, United States.
Court and time TBA
   Jacqueline Cako and Danielle Lao (3), United States, vs. Jessica Lawrence, United States, and Alina Soltanici, Moldova. 

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