Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Stephens' U.S. Open title heads top stories of 2017

Sloane Stephens, playing at Indian Wells last year, won the U.S. Open less
than two months after returning from foot surgery. Photo by Mal Taam
   Everyone who predicted that Jelena Ostapenko and Sloane Stephens would win Grand Slam singles titles this year, please raise your hand.
   Serena Williams' absence for the last three majors while expecting and delivering her first child didn't hurt. That opened the way for Ostapenko, a 20-year-old Latvian, and Stephens, a 24-year-old Fresno product, to break through.
   Here are the top 10 stories of the year, plus 10 honorable mentions:
   1. Stephens wins U.S. Open -- Only two months after returning from foot surgery, Stephens routed her close friend Madison Keys 6-3, 6-0 in 61 minutes to win the U.S. Open.
   It was the first Grand Slam final for both players, the first all-American women's final in the U.S. Open since Serena Williams defeated Venus Williams in 2002 and the most lopsided women's final at Flushing Meadows since Kim Clijsters trounced Vera Zvonareva 6-2, 6-1 in 2010.
   Stephens became only the second unseeded woman to win the U.S. championships in the Open Era (since 1968) and the first American woman not named Williams to capture the title since Lindsay Davenport in 1968.
   2. Bellis named WTA Newcomer of the Year -- CiCi Bellis, an 18-year-old product of Atherton in the San Francisco Bay Area, jumped from No. 90 at the beginning of the year to a career-high No. 35  in August.
   Bellis defeated four top-20 players during the season: No. 6 Agnieszka Radwanska in Dubai, No. 8 Svetlana Kuznetsova in Toronto, No. 14 Petra Kvitova at Stanford and No. 18 Kiki Bertens in the French Open.
   Bellis ended the year at No. 60 after withdrawing from the Hawaii Open, for an undisclosed reason, in November as the defending champion.
   3. Querrey upsets Nadal for title -- San Francisco native Sam Querrey completed a dream week with a 6-3, 7-6 (3) victory over Rafael Nadal for the Mexican Open title in Acapulco in March. Querrey, unseeded at No. 40 in the world at the time, beat a top-20 player for the fourth time in four days. Two of them, Nadal and defending champion Dominic Thiem, were ranked in the top 10.
   Querrey, who turned 30 in October, ended the year with a career-high ranking of No. 13.
   4. Querrey reaches Wimbledon semifinals -- Coming off three consecutive five-set victories, Querrey lost to 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic 6-7 (6), 6-4, 7-6 (3), 7-5 in a semifinal matchup of 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) players at Wimbledon.
   Querrey, the first player to win three straight five-set matches at Wimbledon since Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia 10 years ago, became the only active U.S. man to advance to a Grand Slam semifinal.
   5. Stanford's Geller tops world junior rankings -- Stanford freshman Axel Geller of Argentina rose to No. 1 in the ITF world junior boys rankings in November. It's uncertain if another college player has achieved that distinction.
   Geller reached the Wimbledon and U.S. Open junior finals this year, losing to Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain and Wu Yibing of China, respectively. Geller won the Wimbledon doubles title with Hsu Yu Hsiou of Taiwan.
   6. Altamirano helps Virginia win third straight NCAA title -- Collin Altamirano, a junior from Sacramento, helped the Virginia men win their third consecutive NCAA title, and fourth in five years, with a 4-2 victory over Atlantic Coast Conference rival North Carolina in Athens, Ga.
   Virginia became the first team from outside the Pacific-12 Conference to win three straight NCAA titles or more. Altamirano turned pro after the departure of longtime coach Brian Boland, forgoing a chance to join Stanford's Paul Goldstein (1995-98) and USC's Steve Johnson (2009-12) as the only men to win four NCAA team titles. Virginia senior Henrik Wiersholm also could add his name to the list.
Australian qualifier Chris O'Connell and his coach, David Moore, headed
straight into a wildfire near Sonoma before quickly turning around.
Photo courtesy of Chris O'Connell
   7. Aussie reaches semis after harrowing evacuation -- Chris O'Connell called it the "scariest moment of my life."
   The 23-year-old Australian, who was trying to qualify for the $100,000 Fairfield Challenger, had been evacuated with his coach and their host family as wildfires raged in nearby Napa. But as O'Connell and coach David Moore of Australia headed to Greenbrae in the San Francisco Bay Area, they encountered a wall of flames 200 yards ahead. O'Connell and Moore quickly turned around and took another route to safety.
   O'Connell not only qualified but reached the semifinals, losing to Bay Area native and eventual champion Mackenzie McDonald.
   8. Norrie wins back-to-back Challengers -- Eighth-seeded Cameron Norrie, a 22-year-old left-hander from Great Britain, routed sixth-seeded Darian King of Barbados 6-1, 6-3 in 68 minutes in the wind in Stockton for his second consecutive NorCal Challenger title.
   The previous week, Norrie rolled to a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Tennys Sandgren of Gallatin, Tenn., for the Tiburon crown.
   9. Phenom Anisimova wins first pro title -- Fifteen-year-old Amanda Anisimova, a potential superstar from Aventura, Fla., won her first professional title when Croatia's Ajla Tomljanovic (pronounced Eye-la Tom-lee-on-o-vich) withdrew from the final of the $60,000 Sacramento Challenger with a right shoulder injury.
   Missy Malool said the walkover is only the second she has experienced in a final in her 21 years as a USTA on-site supervisor. Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia pulled out against former Stanford star Laura Granville in a $50,000 clay-court tournament in Charlottesville, Va., in 2006 with a leg injury.
   10. Ovrootsky, Keenan Mayo win Eddie Herr titles -- Second-seeded Vivian Ovrootsky, from San Jose, beat fourth-seeded Linda Fruhvirtova of the Czech Republic 7-6 (4), 6-4 for the girls 14 title in the prestigious Eddie Herr International Championships in Bradenton, Fla., in November.
   Unseeded Adrian Andreev of Bulgaria and Keenan Mayo, from the Sacramento suburb of Roseville, topped eighth-seeded Alan Fernando Rubio Fierros of Mexico and Dostanbek Tashbulatov of Kazakhstan 3-6, 6-4 [10-4] for the boys 18 doubles crown.
Madison Keys sits on CoCo Vandeweghe's
lap after beating her close friend for the title
in the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford.
Photo by Mal Taam 
   Honorable mention -- The Bank of the West Classic, a WTA tournament held at Stanford since 1997, will move to an undisclosed site in or out of the Bay Area.
   --Bellis earned her first victory over a top-10 player, ousting No. 6 Radwanska 6-4, 2-6, 6-2 to reach the quarterfinals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships in February.
   --Bellis crushed Kvitova, a two-time Wimbledon champion, 6-2, 6-0 in 62 minutes in the quarterfinals of the Bank of the West Classic.
   --Maria Sharapova defeated Jennifer Brady 6-1, 4-6, 6-0 in the first round of the Bank of the West Classic in the former world No. 1's first tournament match in North America in more than two years. Sharapova, 30, returned from a 15-month doping suspension in April.
   --After beating fellow American CoCo Vandeweghe 7-6 (4), 6-4 for the title in the Bank of the West Classic, Madison Keys walked to Vandeweghe's chair, hopped on her close friend's lap and hugged her.
   --McDonald, a 22-year-old Piedmont product, defeated former Stanford star Bradley Klahn 6-4, 6-2 in Fairfield for his first Challenger singles title after going 0-7 in semifinals at that level.
   --Qualifier Zhang Ze subdued seventh-seeded Vasek Pospisil of Canada 7-5, 3-6, 6-2 in San Francisco to become the second Chinese man to win a Challenger singles title. Wu Di took the Maui crown in January 2016.
   --San Francisco Bay Area residents Katie Volynets and Ryder Jackson won titles in the USTA Junior Clay Court Championships. Volynets triumphed in girls 18 singles in Memphis, Tenn., and Jackson prevailed with Robert Cash of New Albany, Ohio, in boys 16 doubles in Delray Beach, Fla.
   --Ovrootsky swept the girls 12 singles and doubles crowns in the USTA National Winter Championships in January in Tucson, Ariz.
   --Priya Nelson of Sacramento dominated Eleana Yu of Mason, Ohio, 6-1, 6-3 in a matchup of unseeded players in the Easter Bowl girls 12s final at Indian Wells, Calif.

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