Wednesday, July 9, 2014

U.S. teens Loeb, Chirico outclass seeds in Challenger

Jamie Loeb, 19, routed second-seeded An-Sophie
Mestach of Belgium 6-1, 6-2 to reach the quarter-
finals of the Gold River Women's Challenger.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   GOLD RIVER, Calif. -- Jamie Loeb might be one-and-done.
   Louisa Chirico took it one step further, turning professional two months ago out of high school.
   Both New York-area residents ousted high seeds today to reach the quarterfinals of the $50,000 FSP Gold River Women's Challenger.
   Loeb, 19, of Ossining, N.Y., whipped second-seeded An-Sophie Mestach of Belgium 6-1, 6-2 in a match that actually lasted 1 hour, 32 minutes at the Gold River Racquet Club in the Sacramento area.
   Chirico, an 18-year-old resident of Harrison, N.Y., topped fourth-seeded Nicole Gibbs, a former Stanford star from Marina del Rey in the Los Angeles area, 7-6 (2), 4-6, 6-1 on a 92-degree (33.3 Celsius) day. 
   Also today, 5-foot-3 (1.61-meter) Danielle Lao, a 23-year-old former USC All-American, routed 6-foot-2 (1.88-meter) Samantha Crawford, 19, of Tamarac, Fla., 6-4, 6-1. Crawford won the 2012 U.S. Open girls title and reached the semifinals of the inaugural Gold River Challenger earlier that year.
   Loeb, who has trained at the Manhattan-based John McEnroe Tennis Academy for the past four years, led North Carolina to a runner-up finish in the NCAA Championships in May as a freshman. Ranked No. 1 in singles, Loeb reached the NCAA quarterfinals before losing to eventual runner-up Lynn Chi of Cal.
Louisa Chirico, 18, defeated fourth-seeded Nicole
Gibbs, a former Stanford star, 7-6 (2), 4-6, 6-1.
   The 5-foot-6 (1.68-meter) Loeb, a girls singles quarterfinalist at Wimbledon last year, said she'll decide whether to return to North Carolina based on her results in pro tournaments this summer. For the Tar Heels, today's victory was not encouraging.
   Loeb, who played Mestach for the first time, attributed her lopsided win to a scouting report by USTA coaches at the tournament.
   The keys, Loeb said, were to "attack the forehand and hit body serves to jam her. She either missed the return or I got an easy ball. I also tried to use my variety and step up when I had the chance and drive the ball."
   Mestach, ranked No. 167 in the world at 20 years old, has a huge windup on her forehand and can pound the ball -- if it's in her strike zone.
   "Her forehand is a weapon," Loeb conceded, "but any high forehands or backhands were weaknesses."
   Mestach, who lists grass as her favorite surface, said her 2-hour, 52-minute marathon against American Allie Will less than 24 hours earlier had no effect on today's outcome.
   "I'm just not playing well at the moment," she lamented before rushing off for a two-hour practice.
   Loeb is coached by Felix Alvarado from McEnroe's academy but said she has hit with the 55-year-old legend "quite a bit" and played five or six practice sets against him.
   "I haven't won yet," Loeb noted.
   McEnroe apparently is as fiery as ever. In an observation that rivals the sun rising in the east and setting in the west for news value, Loeb said McEnroe "doesn't like to lose. He gets upset if he loses a point."
   Chirico, a girls singles semifinalist at the French Open and Wimbledon last year, had little trouble deciding to turn pro rather than attend Stanford or Duke.
   "It was always something I wanted to do," said Chirico, wearing a small Wimbledon necklace. "My parents wanted me to wait until I finished my junior year to decide. It was in my heart, and it has all worked out."
   Chirico already has risen to No. 250. In her last two tournaments before the Gold River Challenger, she won the title in Padova, Italy, and reached the final in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, in back-to-back $25,000 Challengers last month on red clay, her favorite surface.
   Chirico, 5-foot-9 (1.75 meters), displayed power and athleticism against Gibbs, only 5-foot-6 (1.68 meters) and 130 pounds (59 kilograms).
   "I stayed really solid when I needed to," Chirico said. "I needed to cut down on errors and make more first serves. That's what I did, and I think that was the difference."
   Although Gibbs is ranked a career-high No. 145, she fell apart in the third set and was beside herself with frustration. Gibbs struggled with her serve, getting broken all four times, and hardly could hit a ball in the court. By the last game, she could only laugh at her ineptitude.
   "We both had a lot of trouble serving," said Gibbs, who turned pro last summer after winning her second straight NCAA singles title as a junior. "It was a back-and-forth match. Early in the third set, I felt my strings were going to break, that the tension was off. I switched rackets and then switched back and couldn't get any rhythm. I was hitting everything out."
   Gibbs said her goal is to crack the top 100 but admitted that "it will take a much better effort than today."
$50,000 FSP GOLD RIVER WOMEN'S CHALLENGER
At Gold River Racquet Club
In Gold River, Calif.
Second-round singles 
   Julia Boserup (7), United States, def. Jennifer Elie, United States, 7-5, 6-2.
   Danielle Lao, United States, def. Samantha Crawford, United States, 6-4, 6-1. 
   Nao Hibino (8), Japan, def. Laura Pigossi, Brazil, 6-1, 6-2.
   Madison Brengle (3), United States, def. Storm Sanders, Australia, 7-5, 6-1.
   Sachia Vickery (6), United States, def. Chiara Scholl, United States, 6-1, 6-0.
   Louisa Chirico, United States, def. Nicole Gibbs (4), United States, 7-6 (2), 4-6, 6-1.
   Jamie Loeb, United States, def. An-Sophie Mestach (2), Belgium, 6-1, 6-2.
   Olivia Rogowska (1), Australia, def. Peggy Porter, United States, 7-6 (5), 6-3.
  Doubles quarterfinals
   Jacqueline Cako and Danielle Lao (3), United States, def. Jessica Lawrence, United States, and Alina Soltanici, Moldova, 6-2, 6-3.
   Daria Gavrilova, Russia, and Storm Sanders, Australia, def. Samantha Crawford and Sachia Vickery, United States, 6-3, 6-3.
Thursday's schedule
(Starting at 1 p.m.)
Stadium
   Olivia Rogowska (1), Australia, vs. Sachia Vickery (6), United States.
   Nao Hibino (8), Japan, vs. Jamie Loeb, United States.
   Julia Boserup (7), United States, vs. Louisa Chirico, United States (6:30 p.m.).
   Jamie Loeb and Allie Will, United States, vs. Maria Sanchez and Zoe Scandalis, United States. 
Court 3
   Madison Brengle (3), United States, vs. Danielle Lao, United States.
   Macall Harkins and Peggy Porter, United States, vs. Natalie Pluskota and Keri Wong (2), United States.

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