Saturday, December 31, 2016

Querrey stunner highlights top 10 stories of 2016

Sam Querrey, shown in 2014, ended Novak Djokovic's 30-match
Grand Slam winning streak. Photo by Paul Bauman
   From beginning to end, 2016 was an exceptional year in Northern California tennis.
   Three NorCal juniors won gold balls in the USTA National Winter Championships in Arizona in early January.
  In July, San Francisco native Sam Querrey pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the year in men's professional tennis at Wimbledon.
   And 14-year-old Katie Volynets of Walnut Creek in the San Francisco Bay Area achieved an unprecedented sweep in December.
   Here are the top 10 stories of the year, plus 10 honorable mentions:
   1. Querrey stuns Djokovic at Wimbledon -- Querrey, seeded 28th, ended top-seeded Novak Djokovic's 30-match Grand Slam winning streak with a 7-6 (6), 6-1, 3-6, 7-6 (5) victory over two days in the third round at Wimbledon on Centre Court.
   "It's definitely the biggest win I've ever had," the 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) Querrey, who rallied in the fourth-set tiebreaker after missing his first serve at 1-3, crowed to reporters.
   Querrey, who turned 29 in October, went on to reach his first Grand Slam quarterfinal before losing to sixth-seeded Milos Raonic.
   2. Bellis, 17, wins three straight pro titles -- Newly minted pro CiCi Bellis of Atherton in the Bay Area outclassed top-seeded Zhang Shuai, a Chinese veteran who reached the Australian Open quarterfinals in January, 6-4, 6-2 in the inaugural $125,000 Hawaii Open in Honolulu in late November for her third consecutive title.
   Bellis, who was coming off championships in a pair of $50,000 indoor tournaments in Canada (Saguenay and Toronto), rose to No. 75 in the world with her first WTA crown.
   3. Volynets wins back-to-back junior international titles -- Volynets, only 5-foot-4 1/2 (1.64 meters) and 105 pounds (47.6 kilograms), became the first player to win the girls 16 title in the Eddie Herr International Championships and Orange Bowl in the same year.
   The Eddie Herr is played on hardcourts in Bradenton, Fla., and the Orange Bowl is contested the following week on clay in Plantation, Fla. Volynets rarely plays on clay.
   4. Stanford women, Virginia men win NCAA team titles -- The No. 15 Stanford women became the lowest-seeded team to win an NCAA title, knocking off No. 12 Oklahoma State 4-3 in Tulsa. Four of the Cardinal's six dual matches came down to the last encounter. Stanford trailed 3-1 in the final.
   Collin Altamirano, a sophomore from Sacramento, won his second NCAA team title as No. 1 seed Virginia defeated No. 11 Oklahoma 4-1 in Tulsa. Altamirano's match at No. 2 singles was abandoned, and he won at No. 3 doubles.
   5. McDonald sweeps NCAA men's titles -- Mackenzie McDonald of Piedmont in the Bay Area became the first man in 15 years to sweep the NCAA titles.
   The UCLA junior, seeded sixth, downed top-seeded Mikael Torpegaard of Ohio State 6-3, 6-3 in Tulsa, Okla. McDonald and Martin Redlicki, seeded second, then beat unseeded Arthur Rinderknech and Jackson Withrow of Texas A&M 6-4, 6-1. McDonald turned pro less than three weeks later.
CiCi Bellis, shown in July, climbed to No. 75 in the world at age 17.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   6. Bellis reaches third round of U.S. Open, turns pro -- Bellis, a qualifier, reached the third round of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time by upsetting fellow American Shelby Rogers, a French Open quarterfinalist in June, 2-6, 6-2, 6-2 in the U.S. Open.
   After losing 6-1, 6-1 to second seed and eventual champion Angelique Kerber of Germany in Arthur Ashe Stadium in the third round, Bellis turned pro. That allowed her to keep her singles prize money of $140,000.  
   7. Bellis gains first WTA Premier quarterfinal in home tournament -- As a wild card playing five minutes from home, Bellis defeated fellow American Sachia Vickery 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 in the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford to reach her first WTA Premier Level quarterfinal.
   Bellis then lost to top seed and two-time champion Venus Williams 6-4, 6-1.
   8. Konta tops Venus for Bank of the West title -- Great Britain's Johanna Konta, seeded third, won her first WTA tour title with a 7-5, 5-7, 6-2 victory over Williams, who was seeking her 50th tour-level title in the tournament where she began her career 22 years ago.
   No. 2 seeds Raquel Atawo (formerly Kops-Jones) of nearby San Jose and Abigail Spears of Colorado Springs, Colo., captured their second Bank of the West title.
   9. NorCal juniors win gold balls in Winter Nationals -- Earning earned gold balls in the USTA National Winter Championships in Scottsdale, Ariz., were Austen Huang of Elk Grove in the Sacramento area, Sara Choy of Palo Alto in the Bay Area and Andrew Ton of Milpitas in the Bay Area.
   Huang triumphed in boys 18 singles, Choy prevailed in girls 16 singles, and Ton reigned in boys 16 doubles.
   10. NorCal sweeps boys No. 1 rankings, earns five overall -- Five NorCal juniors earned No. 1 national singles rankings in February.
   Climbing to the top were Sam Riffice of Roseville in the Sacramento region, Huang in the boys 16s, Stefan Leustian of Mather in the Sacramento area in the boys 14s, Hugo Hashimoto of San Jose in the boys 12s, and Volynets in the girls 14s.
   Honorable mention -- Querrey won his first ATP Tour title in four years, in Delray Beach, Fla.
   --Qualifier Nicole Gibbs, a former Stanford star, reached the fourth round of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells.
   --Ex-Stanford standouts Bob and Mike Bryan, who have won a record 16 Grand Slam men's doubles titles, failed to win one for the second consecutive year.
   --Frances Tiafoe, 18, cracked the top 100 in the world for the first time by winning the $100,000 Stockton Challenger.
   --Bradley Klahn, another former Stanford star, reached the quarterfinals of the $50,000 Champaign (Ill.) Challenger after missing almost two years because of injuries.
   --Freshman Olivia Hauger lifted the Cal women to their first national team title, the ITA Team Indoors in Madison, Wis.
   --Jenson Brooksby of Carmichael in the Sacramento region reached the boys 16 singles final in the USTA National Hard Court and Clay Court Championships.
   --Riffice advanced to the boys 18 singles final in the USTA International Spring Championships in Carson, Calif.
   --In an all-NorCal final, Jessi Muljat of Sacramento defeated Volynets to win the USTA International Spring Championships girls 16s.
   --Leustian captured the prestigious Les Petits As title in Tarbes, France.

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