Saturday, January 24, 2015

Australian Open Day 6: A star is born (maybe)

Madison Keys, then 18, practices during the 2013
Bank of the West Classic at Stanford. In her only
appearance in the tournament, she upset No. 8 seed
Magdalena Rybarikova in the first round before losing
to qualifier Vera Dushevina. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Upset of the day -- Maybe there's hope for U.S. women's tennis when the Williams sisters retire, after all.
   CiCi Bellis of Atherton stunned 12th-seeded Dominika Cibulkova in the first round of the U.S. Open last August. Sofia Kenin won the Orange Bowl in December. Left-hander Taylor Townsend in 2012 became the first American in 30 years to end the year with the No. 1 girls ranking.
   And 19-year-old Madison Keys, perhaps the brightest prospect of all, outslugged fourth seed and two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova 6-4, 7-5 today in Melbourne to reach the fourth round of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time. 
   In addition to her tremendous power, the 5-foot-10 (1.78-meter) Keys displayed remarkable composure as she held serve at love to close out the biggest victory of her career. She's ranked 35th.
   Keys began working with International Tennis Hall of Famer Lindsay Davenport late last year. 
   Match of the day -- No. 18 seed Venus Williams defeated Camila Giorgi of Italy 4-6, 7-6 (3), 6-1 in the third round in Melbourne. Giorgi, ranked 33rd, served for the match in the second set but was broken at love.
   Giorgi, 23, was trying to become the second Italian in two nights to pull off a big upset. Andreas Seppi stunned Roger Federer in the third round.
   The 34-year-old Williams, a seven-time Grand Slam singles champion, reached the round of 16 in a major for the first time since being diagnosed with Sjogren's Syndrome, which can cause joint pain and saps energy, in 2011.  
   Notable -- Gilles Muller, a 31-year-old left-hander from Luxembourg, toppled 19th-seeded John Isner of Tampa, Fla., 7-6 (4), 7-6 (6), 6-4 in the third round. Muller is best known for reaching the quarterfinals of the 2008 U.S. Open as a qualifier.
   Victoria Azarenka, unseeded in the Australian Open for the first time since 2007, outplayed 25th-seeded Barbora Zahlavova Strycova of the Czech Republic 6-4, 6-4. Azarenka won the Australian Open in 2012 and 2013 but missed most of last year with foot and knee injuries.
   Both defending men's doubles champions, Lukasz Kubot and Robert Lindstedt, were eliminated in the second round. They played with separate partners this year. Nothing like breaking up a winning combination ... 
   Men's seeded winners -- No. 1 Novak Djokovic, No. 4 Stan Wawrinka, No. 5 Kei Nishikori, No. 8 Milos Raonic, No. 9 David Ferrer, No. 12 Feliciano Lopez.
   Men's seeded losers -- No. 18 Gilles Simon, No. 19 John Isner, No. 31 Fernando Verdasco.
   Women's seeded winners -- No. 1 Serena Williams, No. 6 Agnieszka Radwanska, No. 11 Dominika Cibulkova, No. 18 Venus Williams, No. 24 Garbine Muguruza.
   Women's seeded losers -- No. 19 Alize Cornet, No. 25 Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, No. 26 Elina Svitolina, No. 30 Varvara Lepchenko.
   Stars and stripes -- Four U.S. women, all in the top half of the draw, reached the round of 16: the Williams sisters, Keys and Madison Brengle. The two Madisons will meet for the second time. Keys won 6-3, 6-2 in the first round of qualifying for the 2012 U.S. Open. 
   The only other remaining American man in the Australian Open, Steve Johnson, lost to fifth-seeded Kei Nishikori 6-7 (7), 6-1, 6-2, 6-3. Nishikori is coming off his first Grand Slam final, a 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 loss to Marin Cilic.
   Northern California connection -- Davenport, a lifelong Los Angeles-area resident, practically made Northern California her second home as a player.
   Davenport racked up a whopping nine titles (three in singles and six in doubles) in the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford. All of her doubles crowns came with a different partner (Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, Mary Joe Fernandez, Martina Hingis, Natalia Zvereva, Corina Morariu and Liezel Huber), and four came consecutively (1996-99).
   Davenport also played for the now-defunct Sacramento Capitals in World TeamTennis in separate stints as an unknown 17-year-old, a budding star on the WTA tour and a 31-year-old mother. She was named the WTT Female Rookie of the Year at 17 in 1993 and helped the Capitals win three of their record six league titles (1997, 1998 and 2007).
   Top-ranked Bob and Mike Bryan, 36-year-old former Stanford stars, defeated Carlos Berlocq and Leonardo Mayer of Argentina 5-7, 6-3, 6-1 in the second round. The Bryans seek their seventh Australian Open men's doubles title.
   Lindstedt played at Fresno State before transferring to Pepperdine.
   Fast fact -- Giorgi committed 16 double faults in her loss to Venus Williams.
   Quote -- ESPN2 commentator and International Tennis Hall of Famer Pam Shriver on Keys: "She has a chance to win the Australian Open based on the way she played tonight."

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