Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Serena rallies again, beats qualifier in U.S. Open

Serena Williams, shown in March, beat Kiki Bertens of the
Netherlands 7-6 (5), 6-3 in the second round of the U.S. Open.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   NEW YORK -- Once again, Serena Williams trailed a vastly inferior opponent.
   And once again, she rallied to win.
   The top-ranked Williams continued her bid for the first calendar-year Grand Slam since 1988 with a 7-6 (5), 6-3 victory over qualifier Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands today in the second round of the U.S. Open.
   Bertens, ranked No. 110, squandered leads of 5-3 in the first set and 4-0 in the tiebreaker.
   "Today I just said, 'One point at a time,' " said Williams, who's trying to become the first player to win all four majors in a calendar year since Steffi Graf. "When I get down, I tend to get really relaxed, and I start to play a little better."
   Translation: When Williams falls behind, it gives her more of a challenge and she doesn't get so bored.
   Williams, who turns 34 on Sept. 26, will meet fellow American Bethanie Mattek-Sands on Friday in the third round. Mattek-Sands clobbered countrywoman CoCo Vandeweghe, a Wimbledon quarterfinalist in July, 6-2, 6-1.
   Mattek-Sands has not won more than three games in a set in two career matches against Williams. Their last meeting came seven years ago in the fourth round at Wimbledon, where Williams won 6-3, 6-3.
   Williams is rather flamboyant, but Mattek-Sands makes her look like Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Mattek-Sands is known for her wild outfits and trademark knee-high socks, and she has an elaborate flower tattoo on the inside of her right arm.
   Mattek-Sands, 30, also happens to be very talented. She has won three Grand Slam doubles titles -- two in women's doubles this year with Czech left-hander Lucie Safarova and one in mixed doubles in 2012 with Horia Tecau of Romania -- and been ranked as high as No. 30 in doubles in 2011.
   In Wednesday's night session, 23rd-seeded Venus Williams defeated fellow American Irina Falconi 6-3, 6-7 (2), 6-2, and top-seeded Novak Djokovic dismantled Andreas Haider-Maurer of Austria 6-4, 6-1, 6-2.
   Defending men's champion Marin Cilic, seeded ninth, and two-time U.S. Open winner Rafael Nadal, seeded eighth, won in straight sets.
   Only two men's or women's seeds, both low, lost today. No. 17 Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria fell to Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan 6-3, 7-6 (2), 2-6, 4-6, 6-4, and No. 31 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia went out to qualifier Anett Kontaveit of Estonia 7-5, 6-4.
   No. 12 seed Belinda Bencic of Switzerland saved three match points in a 5-7, 7-6 (3), 6-3 victory over Japanese left-hander Misaki Doi. Bencic, 18, handed Serena Williams her only hardcourt loss of the year three weeks ago in Toronto en route to the title.
   Mardy Fish, a 33-year-old former Sacramento Capital in World TeamTennis, ended his career with a 2-6, 6-3, 1-6, 7-5, 6-3 loss to 18th-seeded Feliciano Lopez of Spain. Fish, who reached a career-high No. 7 in the world in 2011, has battled an irregular heartbeat and severe anxiety for the past three years.
   Meanwhile, the top two seeds lost on the first day of men's doubles.
   No. 1 Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan bowed out to Sam Querrey and Steve Johnson 7-6 (4), 5-7, 6-3 in a match between California natives. All four players grew up in the Los Angeles area, and all but Johnson have Northern California ties. The Bryan twins starred at Stanford in 1997 and 1998, and  Querrey was born in San Francisco.
   It was only the second time the Bryan twins have lost in the opening round of a Grand Slam tournament since 2001 and marks the first season since 2004 that they haven't won at least one major.
   No. 2 Ivan Dodig of Croatia and Marcelo Melo of Brazil succumbed to Dominic Inglot of Great Britain and Robert Lindstedt of Sweden 6-7 (3), 7-5, 6-4.
   Other first-round doubles results involving players with NorCal ties:
   No. 8 seeds Jamie Murray of Great Britain and John Peers of Australia outclassed Americans Bjorn Fratangelo and Dennis Novikov (Milpitas resident) 6-3, 6-2.
   Santiago Giraldo of Colombia and Rameez Junaid of Australia outlasted Julio Peralta of Chile and Matt Seeberger (San Francisco native and former UC Santa Cruz star) of Canada 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.
   American wild cards Nicole Gibbs (ex-Stanford star) and Taylor Townsend defeated Spaniards Silvia Soler-Espinosa and Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor 7-5, 6-2.
   U.S. wild cards Asia Muhammad and Maria Sanchez (Modesto product) beat Jarmila Gajdosova (Sacramento-based California Dream of WTT) and Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia 7-6 (5), 3-6, 6-2.
   No. 14 seeds Anabel Medina Garrigues (California Dream) and Arantxa Parra Santonja topped Janette Husarova and Anna Schmiedlova of Slovakia 7-5, 6-3.

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