Monday, January 22, 2018

Sandgren stuns Thiem; ex-Cal star in doubles QFs

Unseeded Tennys Sandgren, who has played regularly in
Northern California Challengers, beat fifth-seeded Dom-
inic Thiem in five sets today to reach the Australian Open
quarterfinals. File photo by Paul Bauman
   Two weeks ago, Hyeon Chung defeated Tennys Sandgren in the first round of the ASB Classic in Auckland.
   Little did anyone know that the young South Korean and unheralded American would meet in the Australian Open quarterfinals.
   Chung, 21, ousted six-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic 7-6 (4), 7-5, 7-6 (3) today in the fourth round in Melbourne and became the first Korean to reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal. Djokovic later said the 58th-ranked Chung, who won the inaugural Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan last November, has top-10 potential.
   Djokovic, seeded 14th, was playing in his first official tournament in six months because of a sore right elbow. He also was treated for a hip injury during his 6-2, 6-3, 6-3 victory over 21st-seeded Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain in the previous round.
   Sandgren, the last remaining U.S. man, stunned fifth-seeded Dominic Thiem of Austria 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-7 (7), 6-3 in 3 hours, 54 minutes. 
   Thiem saved a match point while serving at 5-6 in the fourth-set tiebreaker with a spectacular one-handed backhand down-the-line passing shot. Sandgren applauded with one hand on his racket strings.
   "I'm starting to disbelieve what is happening now," Sandgren, a 26-year-old resident of Gallatin, Tenn., in the Nashville area, said in an on-court interview. "But maybe it's not a dream? He played some really, really great tennis, especially in the fourth-set tiebreak. Goodness gracious! I knew I had to take my chances and he, from behind the court, would outlast me. I had to stay aggressive and serve well."
   Meanwhile, ex-Cal star Ben McLachlan continued his surprising doubles run. McLachlan and Jan-Lennard Struff, playing in their first tournament together, defeated Pablo Carreno Busta and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 6-4, 7-6 (5) in a clash of unseeded teams to reach the quarterfinals.
   Carreno Busta and Garcia-Lopez, both from Spain, advanced to the semifinals of last year's Australian Open and the final of the 2016 U.S. Open.
   Sandgren, who lost to Chung 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 in Auckland, became the first man to reach the Australian quarterfinals in his main-draw debut since Alexandr Dolgopolov seven years ago and the first American man to advance to the quarters in Melbourne since Andy Roddick in 2010.
   In the second round, Sandgren dismissed ninth seed and 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka 6-2, 6-1, 6-4. Wawrinka was playing in his first official tournament since undergoing knee surgery five months ago.
   Sandgren's mother, Lia, suffered a broken rib in Gallatin while celebrating Tennys' success in the tournament. While jumping up and down, she fell on a pool table and was hospitalized. Tennys, who was named after his Swedish great grandfather, said Lia did not suffer a concussion, as reported by ESPN's Brad Gilbert.
   Sandgren will add at least $352,398 (U.S.) to his career prize money of $488,735 and jump from No. 97 in the world to about No. 52 or better.
   A former University of Tennessee All-American, Sandgren has played on the U.S. Challenger circuit for most of the past six years. A regular in Northern California, he won the Sacramento doubles title in 2012 with ex-Volunteers teammate Rhyne Williams, had hip surgery in 2014 and reached the singles final in Tiburon in the San Francisco Bay Area last fall.
   Sandgren had been 0-2 in Grand Slam singles matches entering the Australian Open and had won only two tour-level singles matches.
   After last season, Sandgren cut his long hair and shaved off his handlebar mustache.
   "I decided I couldn't go through life like this," Sandgren quipped to reporters. "I thought it was time to look more professional."
   McLachlan, a 25-year-old New Zealand native who plays for his mother's native Japan, and Struff, a 27-year-old German, were coming off a victory over ninth-seeded Feliciano Lopez and Marc Lopez of Spain. The Lopezes, who are not related, won the 2016 French Open and advanced to the final of last year's U.S. Open.
   McLachlan and Struff will take on top-seeded Lukasz Kubot of Poland and Marcelo Melo of Brazil. Kubot, the 2014 champion with Robert Lindstedt of Sweden, and Melo beat 16th-seeded Rajeev Ram of Carmel, Ind., and Divij Sharan of India 3-6, 7-6 (6), 6-4.

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