Friday, September 12, 2014

Embree, 15-year-old Gordon stun seeds in Challenger

Lauren Embree stunned second-seeded Tara Moore of Great
Britain 7-5, 6-4 on Thursday in the second round of the
Redding Challenger. Photo by Paul Bauman
    Note: A profile of Michaela Gordon will be posted next week.
   REDDING, Calif. -- Playing in their home state, Lauren Embree and 15-year-old Michaela Gordon pulled off big upsets on Thursday in the second round of The Ascension Project $25,000 Women's Challenger.
   Embree, a 23-year-old native of Naples, Fla., now based in Santa Monica, stunned second-seeded Tara Moore of Great Britain 7-5, 6-4 at Sun Oaks Tennis & Fitness. 
   Gordon, from Saratoga in the San Francisco Bay Area, shocked fourth-seeded Tammi Patterson of Australia 6-4, 6-2.
   Only three seeds reached the quarterfinals: No. 1 Mayo Hibi of Japan and No. 3 Zuzana Zlochova of Slovakia in the top half of the draw, and No. 7 Klaartje Liebens of Belgium in the bottom half. The other five quarterfinalists are American.
   A major upset also occurred in doubles as fraternal twins Alexandra and Kat Facey, UC Irvine juniors from Cameron Park in the Sacramento area, knocked off top-seeded Fatma Al Nabhani of Oman and Jacqueline Cako of the United States 6-4, 6-3.
  Cako (pronounced CAY-ko) made her Grand Slam debut in the recent U.S. Open, falling in the first round of mixed doubles with  Joel Kielbowicz to Taylor Townsend and Donald Young 7-5, 6-3 in an all-American matchup.
   Cako was trying to reach her third straight Redding doubles final with her third partner. She won the title in 2012 with Sanaz Marand and was the runner-up last year with Allie Kiick.
   Embree, a former University of Florida All-American, underwent surgery for torn cartilage in her right hip in January and returned to the circuit in late June. She trailed 3-0 (one service break) in the first set against Moore, a hard hitter despite standing only 5-foot-4 (1.63 meters).
   "She came out pretty aggressive, and I guess I wasn't ready for that big of a ball," said Embree, a counterpuncher in singles who won last year's Redding doubles title with UCLA star Robin Anderson. "She was on the offense, and I just tried to get my balls a little bit deeper and make more balls, make her play a little bit."
   Indeed, Embree kept the ball in play until Moore would hit one of her laser forehands just wide or long.
   "She played really well," said Moore, a 22-year-old native of Hong Kong ranked No. 265. "She got a lot of balls in the court and made me play. Sometimes it's just not your day." 
   Like Embree, Moore grew up in steamy Florida. She trained at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Bradenton from age 9 to 16.
   Moore received a wild card in the main draw at Wimbledon in June and lost to 2010 runner-up Vera Zvonareva 6-4, 6-7 (3), 9-7 in the first round. Zvonareva, a right-hander, launched her latest comeback from right shoulder surgery in the tournament.
   Moore wears different colored shoes on each foot for all her matches. In Redding, one was white and the other pink.
   "It happened at one tournament (three years ago in England)," Moore explained. "I took two different shoes by accident, and I won the tournament. It's been the same (routine) since then." 
Michaela Gordon, a 15-year-old wild card from Saratoga,
shocked fourth-seeded Tammi Patterson of Australia
6-4, 6-2. Photo by Paul Bauman
  Gordon, an amateur, reached her first quarterfinal in her sixth professional tournament. Patterson, at No. 307, is the highest-ranked player Gordon has beaten.
   From 4-4 in the first set, Gordon won eight of the last 10 games in 100-degree (37.8 Celsius) heat. Patterson, 24, was coming off a 7-6 (7), 2-6, 7-5 victory over Akvile Parazinskaite, 17, of Lithuania in 2 hours, 50 minutes on Wednesday as the temperature climbed to 102 (38.9 Celsius).
   Gordon, the youngest player in the draw (by nine months over 15-year-old Karina Vyrlan of Sacramento), will meet 33-year-old Alexandra Stevenson, the second-oldest player in the field, for the first time today.
   Fifteen years ago, Stevenson became the first female qualifier to reach the Wimbledon semifinals. The 6-foot-1 (1.85-meter) daughter of basketball legend Julius Erving, she climbed to a career-high No. 18 in 2002 before shoulder problems derailed her career. Stevenson is now ranked No. 515.
THE ASCENSION PROJECT $25,000 WOMEN'S CHALLENGER
At Sun Oaks Tennis & Fitness
In Redding, Calif.
Second-round singles
   Lauren Embree, United States, def. Tara Moore (2), Great Britain, 7-5, 6-4.
   Mayo Hibi (1), Japan def. Felicity Maltby, Sunnyvale, 6-2, 6-0.
   Alexandra Stevenson, United States, def. Ellie Halbauer, United States, 6-3, 6-4.
   Michaela Gordon, Saratoga, def. Tammi Patterson (4), Australia, 6-4, 6-2.
   Klaartje Liebens (7), Belarus, def. Megan McCray, United States, 7-5, 2-6, 6-4.
   Jennifer Brady, United States, def. Jacqueline Cako, 6-3, 6-2.
   Zuzana Zlochova (3), Slovakia, def. Lauren Albanese, United States, 6-4, 6-2.
   Kristie Ahn, United States, def. Terri Fleming, United States, 4-6, 6-0, 6-4.
Doubles quarterfinals
   Leila Hodzic and Anne-Liz Jeukeng, United States, def. Ellie Halbauer and Malika Rose, United States, walkover.
   Alexandra Facey and Kat Facey, Cameron Park, def. Fatma Al Nabhani, Oman, and Jacqueline Cako (1), United States, 6-2, 3-6 [10-7].
   Sabastiani Leon, Mexico, and Mara Schmidt, United States, def. Tara Moore, Great Britain, and  Tammi Patterson (3), Australia, 6-1, 6-2.
   Jennifer Brady and Lauren Embree, United States, def. Tory Parravi and Lauren Stratman, United States, 6-1, 6-4.
Today's schedule
(Starting at 10 a.m.)
Court 2
   Klaartje Liebens (7), Belgium, vs. Lauren Embree, United States.
   Alexandra Stevenson, United States, vs. Michaela Gordon, Saratoga.
   Alexandra Facey and Kat Facey, Cameron Park, vs. Leila Hodzic and Anne-Liz Jeukeng, United States.
Court 1
   Mayo Hibi (1), Japan, vs. Jennifer Brady, United States.
   Zuzana Zlochova (3), Slovakia, vs. Kristie Ahn, United States.
   Sabastiani Leon, Mexico, and Mara Schmidt, United States, vs. Jennifer Brady and Lauren Embree, United States.

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