Thursday, January 19, 2017

Istomin shocks Djokovic; Gibbs to face Serena

Denis Istomin lines up a backhand in the
final of the 2012 SAP Open in San Jose.
Istomin lost to Milos Raonic. Photo by
Paul Bauman
   ESPN2 commentator Brad Gilbert called it one of the biggest men's upsets in history.
   Denis Istomin, a 30-year-old wild card from Uzbekistan ranked No. 117, shocked second seed and six-time champion Novak Djokovic 7-6 (8), 5-7, 2-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4 on Wednesday (PST) in the second round of the Australian Open in Melbourne.
   It was Djokovic's earliest exit from a Grand Slam tournament since he fell to Marat Safin in the second round at Wimbledon in 2008 and only his second loss to a player ranked outside the top 100 in the past seven years. He fell to No. 145 Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina in the first round of the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro last August.
   Del Potro, a right-hander with a two-handed backhand, has had three operations on his left wrist and one on his right wrist since beating Roger Federer to win the 2009 U.S. Open.
   Djokovic also lost to Sam Querrey, a San Francisco native, in the third round at Wimbledon last year amid what he called "private issues," believed to be with his wife, Jelena.
   Gilbert said Istomin's victory ranks with losses by seven-time champions Roger Federer and Pete Sampras in the second round at Wimbledon. Federer fell to No. 116 Sergiy Stakhovsky of Ukraine in 2013, and Sampras lost to No. 145 George Bastl of Switzerland in 2002.
   Veteran San Francisco Bay Area fans know Istomin well. In the now-defunct SAP Open in San Jose, he reached the 2012 final (losing to Milos Raonic), 2010 semifinals and 2013 quarterfinals. In the latter matches, Istomin fell to eventual champion Fernando Verdasco and Raonic, respectively.
   Istomin will face 30th-seeded Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain in the third round of the Australian Open. Raonic, seeded third, becomes the favorite to reach the final in the bottom half of the draw. 
   There were also big upsets in women's singles and men's doubles on Wednesday.
   Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, a Croat who will turn 35 in March, ousted No. 3 seed Agnieszka Radwanska, the runner-up to Dominika Cibulkova in the 2013 Bank of the West Classic at Stanford, 6-3, 6-2.
   Querrey and Donald Young of Atlanta surprised second seeds and defending champions Jamie Murray of Great Britain and Bruno Soares of Brazil 6-3, 7-6 (5). Querrey, seeded 31st in singles, is scheduled to play Murray's younger brother, top-ranked Andy, in the third round today not before 7 p.m. PST (ESPN2).
Nicole Gibbs serves in the fourth round at Indian
Wells last March. Gibbs lost to Petra Kvitova.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Meanwhile, Nicole Gibbs (Stanford 2011-13) equaled her best Grand Slam singles result as she advanced to the third round. Her reward is a matchup with No. 2 seed and six-time champion Serena Williams.
   Gibbs, who also reached the third round of the 2014 U.S. Open, improved to 4-0 against fellow American Irina Falconi with a 6-4, 6-1 victory.
   Gibbs, a resident of Marina del Rey in the Los Angeles area, converted six of a whopping 18 break-point opportunities. Falconi, 26, put in only 46 percent of her first serves and committed six double faults. She had one ace.
   Williams dismissed Lucie Safarova, the 2015 French Open runner-up, 6-3, 6-4. It was Williams' 10th victory in as many matches against the Czech left-hander, who will turn 30 on Feb. 4.
   Williams needed three match points to subdue Safarova, who survived nine of them against Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium in the first round.
   Safarova battled a bacterial infection, reactive arthritis, a torn abdominal muscle, a left wrist injury and food poisoning from August 2015 to May 2016.
   Gibbs and Williams have met once. Williams won 6-2, 6-1 in the second round of the Bank of the West Classic in 2012, between Gibbs' sophomore and junior year at Stanford. She turned pro in 2013 after winning her second straight NCAA singles title.
   Gibbs ousted No. 25 seed Timea Babos of Hungary in the first round of the Australian Open in a matchup of 23-year-olds. 
   Babos, at No. 28, is the third-highest-ranked player Gibbs has beaten. She toppled No. 24 Madison Keys of Boca Raton, Fla., in the second round at Indian Wells last year and No. 25 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia in the second round of the 2014 U.S. Open. Gibbs also upset No. 29 Kristina Mladenovic of France in the second round at Miami last year.
   In other first-round doubles matches on Wednesday:
   --No. 11 seeds Raquel Atawo (formerly Kops-Jones) and Xu Yifan of China defeated Jessica Moore and Storm Sanders of Australia 6-4, 3-6, 6-2.
   --Jonathan Erlich, 39, of Israel and Scott Lipsky (Stanford, 2000-03), 35, of Irvine in the Los Angeles area lost to Karen Khachanov and Andrey Kuznetsova of Russia 6-4, 6-4. Erlich won the 2008 Australian Open with countryman Andy Ram.

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