Thursday, July 14, 2016

Top seed Gibbs ousted in grueling Stockton battle

Unseeded Arina Rodionova edged former Stanford star
Nicole Gibbs 7-6 (3), 7-6 (6) today in the second round
of the Stockton Challenger. Rodionova saved four set
points in the first set. Photo by Paul Bauman
   STOCKTON, Calif. -- On and on the points went in the stifling heat.
   Top-seeded Nicole Gibbs and unseeded Arina Rodionova ran each other around the court with penetrating groundstrokes and diabolical drop shots. Rodionova played superb defense, and Gibbs wasn't far behind.
   Neither could put the other away. One player would break serve, and the other would break right back. Rodionova saved four set points in the first set, and Gibbs survived four match points in the second set.
   Gibbs converted all eight of her break-point opportunities and Rodionova eight of 16.
   Finally, Gibbs cracked, and Rodionova pulled out a 7-6 (3), 7-6 (6) victory in the second round of the University of the Pacific $50,000 USTA Pro Circuit Challenger.
   The grueling first meeting between Gibbs, 23, and Rodionova, 26, lasted 2 hours, 24 minutes as the temperature soared to 98 degrees (36.7 Celsius). On the court at the new $4 million Eve Zimmerman Tennis Center, it was even hotter.
   "We both wanted to win; it wasn't like we were coming here for a vacation," said the 244th-ranked Rodionova, an Australian citizen from Russia and the younger sister of top-50 doubles player Anastasia Rodionova.
   Gibbs, a former Stanford standout ranked No. 72, escaped three match points with Rodionova serving at 5-4 in the second set and one while serving at 5-6 in the tiebreaker.
   But at 6-6 in the tiebreaker, Gibbs double-faulted just long. Then with Rodionova serving, Gibbs hit a devilish slice to Rodionova's backhand corner and charged the net. Rodionova made a great backhand get and sent up a lob that Gibbs anticlimactically dumped into the bottom of the net on a put-away overhead.
Nicole Gibbs survived four match points before falling
to Arina Rodionova. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Gibbs screamed in anguish, shook hands with Rodionova and chair umpire Martha Gregg, grabbed her Wilson racket bag and made a beeline for the parking lot.
   Gibbs, who had survived a 2-hour, 59-minute marathon in the first round, never did make her self available for an interview. But she had cooled off an hour after her agonizing loss when she tweeted: "There have been better days. There have been worse days. Onwards!! #striveforgreatness #successisntlinear."
   Also losing was eighth-seeded Sachia Vickery of Miramar, Fla., leaving only two seeds, No. 3 Alison Van Uytvanck of Belgium and No. 4 Urszula Radwanska of Poland, in the quarterfinals.
   CiCi Bellis, 17, of Atherton in the San Francisco Bay Area defeated an out-of-sorts Vickery 6-4, 6-0. The 220th-ranked Bellis said she will commit to Stanford, a five-minute drive from her house, pending her SAT results. However, if she reaches the top 100 before the fall of 2017, she will turn pro rather than enroll at Stanford.
   All four of Friday's quarterfinals are scheduled for 10 a.m. to avoid the afternoon heat. Bellis will face Rodionova, Van Uytvanck will meet Jamie Loeb of Ossining, N.Y., Radwanska will take on Michelle Larcher de Brito of Portugal, and American Robin Anderson will play Anastasia Pivovarova of Russia.
   Bellis made international headlines at 15 in the 2014 U.S. Open with her first-round upset of No. 12 seed Dominika Cibulkova, the Australian Open runner-up to Li Na earlier that year.
   Van Uytvanck, 22, Radwanska, 25, and Larcher de Brito, 23, are WTA tour veterans.
   Van Uytvanck reached the French Open quarterfinals last year. Radwanska, the younger sister of fourth-ranked Agnieszka Radwanska, climbed to a career-high No. 29 in 2012.
   Larcher de Brito has beaten former world No. 1s Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic and two-time Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, all on grass.
   Larcher de Brito also helped the now-defunct Sacramento Capitals win the 2007 World TeamTennis title at 14 years old.
Second round
   Alison Van Uytvanck (3), Belgium, def. Riko Sawayanagi, Japan, 6-2, 6-0.
   Urszula Radwanska (4), Poland, def. Storm Sanders, Australia, 6-3, 6-2.
   Michelle Larcher de Brito, Portugal, def. Caitlin Whoriskey, United States, 6-4, 6-3.
   Robin Anderson, United States, def. Mayo Hibi, Japan, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1.
   CiCi Bellis, Atherton, def. Sachia Vickery (8), United States, 6-4, 6-0.
   Anastasia Pivovarova, Russia, def. Chanel Simmonds, South Africa, 6-4, 6-4.
   Arina Rodionova, Australia, def. Nicole Gibbs (1), United States, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (6).
   Jamie Loeb, United States, def. Jennifer Elie, United States, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2.
   Asia Muhammad and Taylor Townsend (1), United States, def. Sanaz Marand and Melanie Oudin, United States, 6-2, 6-3.
   Robin Anderson and Maegan Manasse, United States, def. Greet Minnen, Belgium, and Riko Sawayanagi, Japan, 6-4, 7-6 (6).
   Kristyna Pliskova, Czech Republic, and Alison Van Uytvanck (4), Belgium, def. Yuki Kristina Chiang, United States, and Elizaveta Ianchuk, Ukraine, 6-3, 6-4.
   Priscilla Hon and Storm Sanders, Australia, def. Ashley Weinhold and Caitlin Whoriskey (2), United States, 7-5, 6-1.
Friday's schedule
(Starting at 10 a.m.)
Court 1
   Arina Rodionova, Australia, vs. CiCi Bellis, Atherton.
   Asia Muhammad and Taylor Townsend (1), United States, vs. Robin Anderson and Maegan Manasse, United States (after rest, time TBA).
Court 2
   Alison Van Uytvanck (3), Belgium, vs. Jamie Loeb, United States.
   Kristyna Pliskova, Czech Republic, and Alison Van Uytvanck (4), Belgium, vs. Priscilla Hon and Storm Sanders, Australia (after rest. time TBA).
Court 3
   Urszula Radwanska (4), Poland, vs. Michelle Larcher de Brito, Portugal.
Court 4
   Robin Anderson, United States, vs. Anastasia Pivovarova, Russia.

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