Saturday, July 18, 2015

Date-Krumm, 44, gains Stockton Challenger semis

Kimiko Date-Krumm, 44, overcame a slow start
to rout wild card Danielle Lao in the quarterfinals.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   STOCKTON, Calif. -- Talk about a turnaround ...
   Danielle Lao won the first three games, breaking serve twice and winning nine straight points, against 44-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm on Friday in the quarterfinals of the $50,000 USTA Pro Circuit Challenger.
   But Date-Krumm took the next nine games and 12 of the last 14 in a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Lao, a wild card, at the University of the Pacific.
   "She's probably been on the tour longer than I've been alive," said Lao, a 24-year-old former USC All-American from Pasadena. "Her experience probably got me today. ...
   "I've known of Kimiko for a long time and never for a second underestimated her. A 3-0 lead is not much out here. She stopped missing. She got a little more patient. She definitely found her range and was dictating play. She played quite well and saw the ball early, better than I did. Out here, that can be huge."
   In today's semifinals beginning at 11 a.m., Date-Krumm will face top-seeded An-Sophie Mestach of Belgium, and fifth-seeded Nao Hibino of Japan will play unseeded American Sanaz Marand.
   Lao, known as the "Little Giant" at 5-foot-3 (1.61 meters) and 120 pounds (54 kilograms), was coming off the title in the Baton Rouge Challenger in late June.
   Date-Krumm, a native of Japan who's married to a German race car driver Michael Krumm, is about the same size at 5-foot-4 (1.63 meters) and 117 pounds (53 kilograms).
   "My coach told me she's a little bit tricky and has no big weapons but a good slice and can take the pace (off the ball)," said Date-Krumm, a three-time Grand Slam semifinalist who reached No. 4 in the world 20 years ago but retired at 26 for 12 years. "If the opponent is not hitting very hard to me, it's very difficult for me to control the ball because always I'm using the other player's power. It's difficult to make the power from myself.
   "In the beginning (of the match), I tried to slice back but doesn't work. She has a small confidence. After three games, I tried to hit harder. I needed to use my legs more and don't push the ball, just hit it. I needed to adjust very much."
Melanie Oudin, a sentimental favorite like Date-Krumm, was out-
classed by fellow American Sanaz Marand. Photo by Paul Bauman
   During Date-Krumm's streak, Lao came within a fraction of an inch of breaking serve in the last game of the first set. On break point for Lao, Date-Krumm ripped a backhand down the line that smacked the tape and plopped over the net. Date-Krumm went on to hold serve for the set.
   "To be honest, I thought all the net cords were quite huge," Lao said. "She had quite a few. Every time it hit the net, it seemed to dribble over.
   "I'm not going to get mad at her. She didn't mean it, and I didn't want it to happen, either, so it's bad luck."
   Melanie Oudin, a sentimental favorite like Date-Krumm, also started slowly. But the 23-year-old Atlanta-area resident never recovered in a 6-2, 6-2 loss to American Sanaz Marand.
   Oudin, a 2009 U.S. Open quarterfinalist and the 2011 mixed doubles champion (with Jack Sock) at Flushing Meadows, was playing in only her third tournament since undergoing two procedures for an accelerated heartbeat and having a growth removed from her left eye.
   Oudin also announced in November 2013 that she was suffering from a debilitating muscle condition. She declined an interview request immediately after Friday's match and left without talking to reporters.
   Mestach, 21, topped seventh-seeded Mayo Hibi, a 19-year-old Irvine resident who plays for her native Japan, 7-5, 7-5. Hibi won the 2013 Sacramento Challenger.
   Mestach, ranked No. 111, is 2-0 against No. 198 Date-Krumm, who retired in both matches with injuries.
   Hibino, 20, routed Amandine Hesse of France 6-1, 6-2.
   Hibino is ranked No. 173, and Marand, a 27-year-old left-hander and former North Carolina All-American, is No. 270.
   Marand, however, crushed Hibino in their only meeting 6-1, 6-0 in the second round of qualifying at Quebec City last September on the elite WTA tour.   
At University of the Pacific in Stockton
Singles quarterfinals
   Nao Hibino (5), Japan, def. Amandine Hesse, France, 6-1, 6-2.
   Kimiko Date-Krumm, Japan, def. Danielle Lao, United States, 6-3, 6-2.
   Sanaz Marand, United States, def. Melanie Oudin, United States, 6-2, 6-2.
   An-Sophie Mestach (1), Belgium, def. Mayo Hibi (7), Japan, 7-5, 7-5.  
Doubles semifinals
   Kaitlyn Christian and Danielle Lao, United States, def. Naomi Broady, Great Britain, and Amandine Hess (2), France, 6-1, 6-3.
   Jamie Loeb and Sanaz Marand (4), United States, def. Nao Hibino, Japan, and Emily Webley-Smith, Great Britain, 7-5, 2-6 [10-8]. 
  Today's schedule
(Starting at 11 a.m.)
   Nao Hibino (5), Japan, vs. Sanaz Marand, United States.
   An-Sophie Mestach (1), Belgium, vs. Kimiko Date-Krumm, Japan.
   Jamie Loeb and Sanaz Marand (4), United States, vs. Kaitlyn Christian and Danielle Lao, United States.

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