Sunday, July 17, 2016

Belgian waffles again but takes 50K Stockton title

Alison Van Uytvanck, left, defeated Anastasia Pivovarova 6-3, 3-6, 6-2
today to win the $50,000 Stockton Challenger. Photo by Paul Bauman
   STOCKTON, Calif. -- You don't reach the French Open quarterfinals without being mentally tough.
   Alison Van Uytvanck again exhibited that aspect of her game -- in addition to her powerful serve, punishing groundstrokes, strong return of serve and deft drop shot -- today to win the second annual University of the Pacific $50,000 USTA Pro Circuit Challenger.
   Dropping the second set for the third consecutive match, the third-seeded Van Uytvanck pulled out a 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 victory over unseeded Anastasia Pivovarova at the new $4 million Eve Zimmerman Tennis Center.
   Van Uytvanck, a 22-year-old Belgian redhead, reeled off the last four games of the match. She said her streak of third-set recoveries "was good to test my mental toughness, and I proved that I'm pretty tough. So I need to keep up that direction and try to play as well in Sacramento."
   Van Uytvanck very well could win her second title in two weeks when she debuts in the $50,000 FSP Gold River Women's Challenger. Second-round qualifying matches in the fifth annual tournament at the Gold River Racquet Club in the Sacramento area begin today at 10 a.m., and the main draw starts Tuesday.
   The top three Gold River seeds, in order, are Van Uytvanck, American Grace Min and Belgium's An-Sophie Mestach, last year's runner-up in Stockton and Sacramento. At 5-foot-11 (1.80 meters), Van Uytvanck has much more power than the 5-foot-4 (1.63-meter) Min or the 5-foot-7 (1.70-meter) Mestach.
   The top two Stockton seeds -- former Stanford star Nicole Gibbs and Kristyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic, respectively -- and Stockton semifinalist CiCi Bellis, 17, of Atherton in the San Francisco Bay Area will play in the $753,000 Bank of the West Classic at Stanford instead of in Sacramento. Pivovarova, meanwhile, will take the week off.
Alison Van Uytvanck, a French Open quarter-
finalist last year, won the last four games
of today's final. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Van Uytvanck's biggest obstacle in Sacramento might be fatigue after a long week in sweltering Stockton. She also won the doubles title with Pliskova, the 24-year-old twin of 16th-ranked Karolina Pliskova, on Saturday to earn $1,393 on top of her $7,600 check for taking the singles crown.
   The Stockton singles title is the 11th of Van Uytvanck's career, her second biggest after a $125,000 tournament in Taipei in November 2013 and her first since then.
   Van Uytvanck rose only nine places in the singles world rankings to No. 116 with the Stockton crown. Pivovarova, a 26-year-old Russian, jumped 29 spots to No. 184 and earned $4,053.
   Both Van Uytvanck and Pivovarova are rebounding from injuries after reaching the top 50 and 100, respectively.
   Van Uytvanck hurt her right ankle in a tournament the week before last year's French Open yet advanced to the quarterfinals at Roland Garros, where she pocketed $298,439. Van Uytvanck continued to play, reaching a career-high No. 41 last October, until the injury finally forced her to stop. She underwent surgery this past spring for an impingement and missed two months.
   Pivovarova reached the third round of the 2010 French Open as a qualifier two weeks before turning 20 and climbed to a career-high No. 93 in 2011.
    But the 6-foot (1.82-meter) Pivovarova has a long history of physical problems. She retired from pro tennis in September 2012 because of mononucleosis, took a government job in Moscow renting and selling property, and returned to the circuit in March 2014. Pivovarova also has suffered a torn abdominal muscle, a broken wrist, back trouble and shoulder and elbow injuries.
   The first career meeting between Van Uytvanck and Pivovarova was a ragged, 2-hour, 2-minute affair on a breezy day with temperatures in the 80s. Although both players displayed impressive shot-making, they also committed many errors. Long rallies were rare.
Anastasia Pivovarova, a former top-100 player,
has a long history of physical problems. Photo
by Paul Bauman 
   The players' serving also was erratic. They combined for 13 double faults, eight by Pivovarova. Of the four games Pivovarova lost on her serve in the match, she committed at least one double fault in three of them. Van Uytvanck had five aces and Pivovarova one.
   Pivovarova started slowly for the second straight match, falling behind 5-1. She had two break points with Van Uytvanck serving for the first set at 5-3, but Van Uytvanck saved them with sizzling forehand passing shot down the line and a feathery backhand drop shot.
   Pivovarova survived one set point, but Van Uytvanck closed out the set with a service winner and then an ace down the middle.
   In the second set, Pivovarova registered the only break to lead 5-3. The game went to deuce eight times, and Van Uytvanck escaped four break points before double-faulting on the fifth one.
   With Pivovarova serving for the set, Van Uytvanck had two break points, but Pivovarova saved them with two forehand cross-court winners and took the set when Van Uytvanck's forehand return of a second serve sailed long.
   After the second set, Van Uytvanck took her customary bathroom break.
   "She wasn't giving me any points (in the marathon game), so I had to fight for it and was making too many mistakes," Van Uytvanck lamented. "I was a bit tired after that and was like, yeah, I need to get off the court. I need to relax a bit, and that's what helped me get the third (set)."
   So did making the lanky Pivovarova run.
   "Her movement is weaker (than other parts of her game)," Van Uytvanck said. "She has really good, clean shots when she can hit like right there, but if she has to move, she's making some mistakes."
   Van Uytvanck broke for 4-2 in the third set on a backhand passing shot down the line and at 5-2 when Pivovarova slugged a backhand long.
   "It was a really tough match, and I thought it was a pretty high level," Pivovarova said. "I think it was higher than a (typical) $50,000 final, so I'm happy with my performance, but a little bad luck (with some shots barely out) and Alison played really well at the end, so she deserved to win."

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