Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Sandgren, with quirky game, gains Stockton quarters

   STOCKTON, Calif. — Tennys Sandgren is a bit of an enigma.
   Let's start with his first name. No, he was not named after tennis. He was given his great grandfather's Swedish name.
   Then there's Sandgren's game. He's a strapping American with a whipping forehand but stands far behind the baseline, loves to chase down balls and slides on hard courts as if he was playing on clay.
   "I'm 6-2 — 6-3 with shoes — but play like I'm 5-8, 155 pounds ... with a serve," the second-seeded Sandgren quipped after outslugging Liam Broady of Great Britain 7-6 (7), 6-4 today to reach the quarterfinals of the $100,000 Stockton Challenger. "I use my height and reach to play defensively."
   Sandgren is the only top-100 player in the field at No. 97. Top-seeded Ruben Bemelmans, a Belgian who lost to Elias Ymer of Sweden in the first round on Tuesday, was No. 92 when the draw came out on Saturday but fell to No. 101 in the latest rankings on Monday.
   Both Sandgren, 26, of Gallatin, Tenn., in the Nashville area and Broady, a 23-year-old left-hander, have reached recent $100,000 Challenger finals in Northern California. Sandgren lost to Cameron Norrie of Great Britain on Sunday in Tiburon in the San Francisco Bay Area. Broady fell to Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan in Aptos, a two-hour drive south of Tiburon, in August.
   On a warm, calm morning at the University of the Pacific's Eve Zimmerman Tennis Center, Broady squandered leads of 5-1 in the tiebreaker — making numerous errors, including one on set point with an open court — and 3-1 in the second set.
   "At 5-1 in the breaker, I was like, OK, I'm just gonna make as many balls as I can, at least make him beat me the next two points — I'm not gonna give him one free point," Sandgren said. "One point turned into two points, and maybe he got a little tight and gave me one. Then I'm back serving at 4-5.
   "It went back and forth, and he ended up having set point at 7-6. I was able to turn it around, thankfully, but the first set was huge because we were going back and forth against each other and whoever got that one had a lot of momentum, especially if it was him because I thought maybe he outplayed me a little bit in the first set and I was able to sneak away with it."
   Sandgren, who weighs 192 pounds (87 kilograms), hammered eight aces in the match.
   "My serve gets me out of a lot of jams," Sandgren said. "I put myself in jams, and my serve gets me out of them. I rely on my serve a lot. I've been serving well the last five matches, and it helped me out a ton (today). (Eight) aces in a match where we're scrapping for every point is a big deal."
   Sandgren played with his lower left leg taped.
   "Too many landings on the serve," Sandgren complained, "but it's better than feeling 100 percent fresh because I lost in the first round last week. I'll take that and work with that as best I can. I don't think it will affect me too much.
   "I had some plantar fasciitis in this foot at the beginning of the year, and I've been playing on it, so it hasn't really gotten better. It just moved up my leg into the shin. Something has to take the load. I've been dealing with this on and off for a couple months now."
   Sandgren will face Norrie, seeded eighth, on Friday. Norrie, a 22-year-old left-hander, outlasted Brydan Klein of Great Britain 4-6, 7-6 (1), 6-4 in 2 hours, 37 minutes this afternoon. Norrie is ranked No. 136 only four months after turning pro, forgoing his senior year at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth.
   "I feel like I may be the underdog in that match," Sandgren said before Norrie's battle against Klein. "He's gotten me the last two times, and he's playing well. I don't feel I have as much to lose. I feel like I can go out there and try to do some different things, try some different tactics, because what I've been doing the last couple times hasn't been the most efficient. He's been running me around and wearing me down too much.
   "I'll be excited about it for sure. I wish we were in different halves, but it is what it is. He's a great player and a good competitor. If I can rise to the occasion, it will be a good match. If I don't, he'll take me down."
   In another quarterfinal, fourth-seeded Stefan Kozlov, 19, of Pembroke Pines, Fla., will meet sixth-seeded Darian King of Barbados.
   Kozlov defeated Denis Kudla, who has tumbled from a career-high No. 53 in May last year, to No. 166 in the world, 6-4, 6-4. King eliminated Noah Rubin, the runner-up in last year's inaugural Stockton Challenger, 2-6, 6-1, 6-2. Both Kudla, 25, and Rubin, 21, are American.
   The other quarterfinal matchups will be determined Thursday. 
   Here are the Stockton singles and doubles draws and Thursday's schedule. The tournament is being streamed live.

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