Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Nadal nemesis stunned in Tiburon Challenger

Qualifier Sekou Bangoura prepares to slug a forehand in his
6-2, 7-5 victory over fourth-seeded Dustin Brown in the first
round of the $100,000 Wells Fargo Tiburon Challenger.
Photo by Paul Bauman

   TIBURON, Calif. -- Of all people, Dustin Brown should know to beware of qualifiers.
   As a qualifier at Wimbledon this past summer, Brown stunned two-time champion Rafael Nadal in the second round on Centre Court before losing to 22nd-seeded Viktor Troicki of Serbia in the third round.
   Today, the tennis shoe was on the other foot as the fourth-seeded Brown of Germany lost to qualifier Sekou Bangoura of Tampa, Fla., 6-2, 7-5 in the first round of the $100,000 Wells Fargo Tiburon Challenger at the Tiburon Peninsula Club.
   "It's a good feeling," the 419th-ranked Bangoura said of beating Nadal's conqueror, ranked No. 105. "It's a good win definitely, but I have to play (Thursday), so that's what I'm worried about right now."
   That's typical of the businesslike Bangoura, who will meet 20-year-old wild card Mackenzie McDonald of Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area for the first time on Thursday.
   McDonald, a junior All-American at UCLA, defeated Frederik Nielsen, the 2012 Wimbledon doubles champion with Jonathan Marray, 6-4, 6-4.
   Bangoura, 23, is as low-key and polite as Brown, 30, is flashy and combustible.
   Bangoura showed no emotion during the Center Court match on a chilly evening, while Brown:
   --Complained about line calls.
   --Deliberately swatted a return of serve in the net after an overrule went against him.
   --Was warned for an audible obscenity in German that even the American chair umpire understood.
   --Mildly argued that one of his shots hit Bangoura in the chest at the net. That would have given Brown the point, but it went to Bangoura on a reflex volley.
   --Chided Bangoura for not apologizing after hitting a net-cord winner in the final game.
   After Brown netted a forehand return of a second serve on Bangoura's first match point, the winner celebrated with only a small fist-pump. When the players shook hands at the net, Brown had a few choice words for Bangoura.
   "He said that ball hit my chest and that I had a great attitude," Bangoura said. "He was being a little sarcastic, but it's no big deal."
   When pressed, Bangoura said the ball in question "hit my racket first, then my racket hit my chest."
   Immediately after the match, Bangoura adjourned to a side court for 15 minutes of practice. Meanwhile, Brown rushed off the site and was unavailable for comment.
   When Bangoura was asked for an interview in the locker room, he replied, "Of course." Bangoura repeatedly called a reporter "sir" and asked the writer to repeat his name afterward.
   Both Bangoura and Brown have unusual backgrounds.
   Bangoura was born in Bradenton, Fla., to a father from Guinea, West Africa, and an American mother. Sekou Sr. teaches tennis at Sarasota (Fla.) Country Club, and Cheryl works at an insurance company in Sarasota.
   Sekou Jr. was called a child prodigy because of his accomplishments not only in tennis but golf, chess and piano. He was featured in Sports Illustrated at 15, attained No. 1 nationally in tennis in the 18s and attended the University of Florida for 1 1/2 years, earning All-America status in doubles in 2011.  
   Brown has a Jamaican father (Leroy) and German mother (Inge), and a tattoo of his father on his stomach.
   Brown's appearance is also distinctive. He's rail thin at 6-foot-5 (1.96 meters) and 172 pounds (78 kilograms), and he has dreadlocks that cascade down his back almost to his waist. Today, his shorts, sleeveless shirt and socks were royal blue. He wore a necklace and earrings and neon orange laces on one shoe and neon chartreuse laces on the other.
Brown, nonchalantly standing flat-footed,
hits a drop shot against Bangoura.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Then there's Brown's game, a wacky mixture of power and touch. He'll blast his serve and forehand, then throw in a drop shot out of nowhere while nonchalantly standing flat-footed. Most of his drop shots against Bangoura were ineffective, and some were laughably short. He even hit a drop-shot overhead for a winner early in the match.
   Despite Brown's erratic play and dubious shot selection, Bangoura called his opponent's game "impressive. He does some nasty stuff with the ball. He puts balls where he wants. He plays smart. It's cool to watch, and it's cool to play against, but it's also tough to play against because you don't really get a rhythm. I definitely have a lot of respect for him."
   In truth, there were multiple danger signs for Brown entering the match.
   First, Brown beat Nadal on grass (for the second time to improve to 2-0 against the former world No. 1), and the Tiburon Challenger is on hardcourts.
   And while Bangoura was winning three qualifying matches outdoors in Tiburon, Brown had to adjust from playing indoors last week in Metz, France, on the elite ATP World Tour. He lost to fourth-ranked Stan Wawrinka 7-6 in the third set in the second round in Metz.
   "I've been here a little bit longer than he has," Bangoura said, "and I've played on the courts a little bit more, so I tried to use that to my advantage. It worked."
   Also, when you've starred on Centre Court at Wimbledon, it's psychologically difficult to drop to a Challenger.
   "I'm sure it is," Bangoura said. "I go through that a little bit playing Challengers and then going back to Futures. It's a little different dynamic. I'm sure it's a lot bigger change for him coming from Grand Slams." 
   As for Bangoura, he beat then-No. 65 Lucas Pouille of France last month in the second round of qualifying in Winston-Salem, N.C., on the ATP World Tour.
   Bangoura said his game plan against Brown was: "Try not to give him too much pace and keep balls to his backhand corner. His forehand is big; he serves big. Just try to survive his flair, survive his big slaps and put balls back in the court."
   That's exactly what Bangoura did.
   Bangoura bolted to a 5-1 lead in the first set and served it out. He broke for 4-3 in the second set, but Brown broke right back. After both players held serve for 5-5, Brown lost his serve at 15 on a shanked forehand. Bangoura, serving for the match, shook off a double fault that landed way long for 15-15 to win the next three points for the match.
   "I just put more balls in the court," Bangoura said of the match. "At the end of the day, that's what you've got to do, no matter how you do it."
   Notes -- Dennis Novikov's hot streak ended with a 6-4, 6-3 loss to Marek Michalicka, a former University of Wisconsin star from the Czech Republic. Novikov, 21, of Milpitas in the Bay Area led 4-1 in the first set. He had won $50,000 tournaments in Cary, N.C., and Columbus, Ohio, in the past two weeks for his first Challenger singles titles. ...
   Seventh-seeded Blaz Rola of Slovenia eked out a 6-7 (0), 7-6 (6), 6-3 victory over 17-year-old Frances Tiafoe, one of the United States' top prospects. Rola, a 6-foot-4 (1.93-meter) left-hander, twice came within two points of losing in the second-set tiebreaker. He starred at Ohio State, winning the 2013 NCAA singles title and 2012 NCAA doubles crown with Chase Buchanan. ...
   Wild card Andre Goransson, a Cal junior from Sweden, fell to qualifier Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland 6-2, 6-4. Laaksonen earned a matchup with top-seeded Denis Kudla of Arlington, Va., and Tampa today.
At Tiburon Peninsula Club
First-round singles
   Bjorn Fratangelo (6), United States, def. Chase Buchanan, United States, 6-1, 6-3.
   Tim Smyczek (3), United States, def. James McGee, Ireland, 7-6 (5), 6-4.
   Ryan Harrison (5), United States, def. Deiton Baughman, United States, 6-3, 6-3.
   Sekou Bangoura, United States, def. Dustin Brown (4), Germany, 6-2, 7-5.
   Mitchell Krueger, United States, def. Philip Bester, Canada, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-1.
   Blaz Rola (7), Slovenia, def. Frances Taifoe, United States, 6-7 (0), 7-6 (6), 6-3.
   Marek Michalicka, Czech Republic, def. Dennis Novikov, United States, 6-4, 6-3. 
   Dennis Nevolo, United States, def. Adrien Bossel, Switzerland, 7-5, 7-6 (5).
   Alex Kuznetsov, United States, def. Nicolas Meister, United States, 7-6 (4), 6-3.
   Mackenzie McDonald, United States, def. Frederik Nielsen, Denmark, 6-4, 6-4.
   Henri Laaksonen, Switzerland, def. Andre Goransson, Sweden, 6-2, 6-4.
First-round doubles
   Carsten Ball and Matt Reid (4), Australia, def. Tennys Sandgren and Tim Smyczek, United States, 7-6 (6), 3-6 [17-15].
Wednesday's schedule
Center Court
(Starting at 11 a.m.)
   Blaz Rola (7), Slovenia, vs. Dimitar Kutrovsky, Bulgaria.
   Denis Kudla (1), United States, vs. Henri Laaksonen, Switzerland.
(Not before 3 p.m.)
   Johan Brunstrom, Sweden, and Frederik Nielsen (1), Denmark, vs. Ariel Behar, Uruguay, and Ruben Gonzales, Philippines.
(Not before 4:30 p.m.)
   Dean O'Brien and Ruan Roelofse (2), South Africa, vs. Deiton Baughman and Mackenzie McDonald, United States. 
Court 1
(Starting at 11 a.m.)
   Brydan Klein, Great Britain, vs. Quentin Halys, France.
   Jared Donaldson (8), United States, vs. Mitchell Krueger, United States.
(Not before 2 p.m.)
   Brydan Klein, Great Britain, and Jose Statham, New Zealand, vs. Adrien Bossel, Switzerland, and Quentin Halys, France.  
   Philip Bester and Peter Polansky, Canada, vs. Mitchell Krueger and Connor Smith, United States.
Court 4
(Starting at 2 p.m.)
   Dennis Novikov, United States, and Julio Peralta (3), Chile, vs. Chase Buchanan, United States, and Blaz Rola, Slovenia.
   Dustin Brown, Germany, and Denis Kudla, United States, vs. Andre Goransson, Sweden, and Florian Lakat, France.

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