Monday, October 2, 2017

Tursunov: 'I felt like I was playing Federer'

Dmitry Tursunov, left, and Frederik Nielsen, both 34, chat after winning their
final-round qualifying matches today in the $100,000 Stockton (Calif.) Chal-
lenger. Tursunov reached No. 20 in the world in 2006, and Nielsen won the
Wimbledon men's doubles title five years ago with Jonathan Marray.
Photo by Paul Bauman 
   STOCKTON, Calif. -- Dmitry Tursunov couldn't believe how well Eric Johnson was playing.
   Johnson, 24, of San Jose reeled off the first seven games of their final-round qualifying match on a windy morning in the $100,000 Stockton Challenger.
   "I couldn't figure out anything to do against him," confessed Tursunov, a former top-20 player from Russia with strong Northern California ties. "I felt like I was playing Roger Federer when Roger is on his 'A' game."
   The 34-year-old Tursunov, however, used his experience to find a solution and prevail 0-6, 6-1, 6-3 today at the University of the Pacific's Eve Zimmerman Tennis Center.
   "I just tried to use a little bit more slice against the wind, and it seemed like it worked," said Tursunov, who's 0-5 against Federer. "Every time I tried to use heavy topspin, it seemed like it was just perfect for him. The slices didn't have a lot of pace, so he had to come up to the ball and generate pace. ...
   "In the second set, I got the break back, kept my serve and threw in like 140 slices in one game, and he kept piling up errors. The same shots that would go in in the first set, he missed them a little bit. Once he went down a break 3-1, he seemed to get a little bit more down on himself and sort of gave away the rest of the set."
Dmitry Tursunov beat Eric Johnson of San Jose 0-6, 6-1, 6-3.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Tursunov broke for 4-2 in the third set and again at 5-3 for the match. In the last game, Johnson pounded a service winner for 30-30 but then slugged two backhands long.
   "In the third set, he was playing a little better, and it turned out to be quite a battle," Tursunov said. "Honestly, the last two days haven't been about tennis (because of the wind). They've been more about intangibles. You just throw the dice and hope you get the better roll."
   Two seeds in the main draw
-- No. 4 Stefan Kozlov, 19, of  Pembroke Pines, Fla., and
No. 6 Darian King of Barbados -- played their first-round matches today. Both won in straight sets, as did 21-year-old Noah Rubin, last year's runner-up to fellow American Frances Tiafoe in the inaugural Stockton Challenger. King and Rubin will meet on Wednesday.
   Tiafoe, 19, did not return to Stockton this year. Ranked No. 74, he lost in the first round of qualifying for this week's Japan Open in Tokyo on the ATP World Tour.
   Tursunov, who has plunged to No. 574 because of injuries, warmed up for his match with 17-year-old U.S. wild card Sebastian Korda. Tursunov then hit about five serves to Korda's Czech father, Petr, who returned them.
   The elder Korda won the 1998 Australian Open to reach a career-high No. 2. Rail thin, he tested positive for doping at Wimbledon that year and was suspended for 12 months but retired shortly before the ban at age 30.
   "(Sebastian's) technique was pretty clean," Tursunov remarked. "I wouldn't say he's very explosive with his shots. I think it's almost a Czech thing. There are very few bruisers in Czech tennis. There's more, like, control of the ball. He's kind of similar to a (Tomas) Berdych.
   "It's definitely an asset to have a father who played pro tennis. I would think they're making the right decisions without guessing. It's sort of like turning on the lights and walking in a room instead of bumping your head into things. He definitely should be using that asset as much as he can."
Sebastian Korda, the 17-year-old son of former world No. 2 Petr
Korda, lost to Frederik Nielsen 7-5, 6-1. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Sebastian's Czech mother, Regina Rajchrtova, also played professionally, climbing to a career-high No. 26 in 1991. Sebastian was born in Bradenton, Fla., and still lives there with his parents.
   Korda, 6-foot-4 (1.93 meters) and only 160 pounds (73 kilograms), did not fare as well as Tursunov today, losing to 34-year-old Frederik Nielsen of Denmark 7-5, 6-1.
   In 2012, Nielsen and Jonathan Marray of Great Britain became the only wild cards in Wimbledon history to win the men's doubles title. Nielsen's grandfather, Kurt, was the Wimbledon singles runner-up in 1953 and 1955.
   Tursunov is scheduled to play seventh-seeded Felix Auger-Aliassime, a 17-year-old Canadian phenom already ranked No. 161, on Tuesday at about 4 p.m. in the first round of the main draw.
   Tursunov moved from his native Moscow to the San Francisco Bay Area at 12, speaking no English, to train and then to the Sacramento region at 18. He owns residences in Moscow and the Sacramento suburb of Folsom but spends little time in California.
   Here are the Stockton singles qualifying draw, singles and doubles main draws and Tuesday's schedule. The tournament is being streamed live.

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