Saturday, July 21, 2018

Kratzer, 19, prevents all-Stanford semi in $60K Berkeley

Unseeded Ashley Kratzer won the last six games
to beat fourth-seeded Kristie Ahn 6-4, 2-6, 6-1.
Photo by Paul Bauman  
   BERKELEY, Calif. -- There will be no all-Stanford semifinal.
   Nor will there be an all-Japanese semifinal.
   Two 19-year-old Americans, one right-handed and one left-handed, saw to that.
   But not to worry. The semis in the $60,000 Berkeley Tennis Club Challenge remain plenty enticing.
   Unseeded Ashley Kratzer, the lefty, ousted fourth-seeded Kristie Ahn, a 26-year-old Stanford graduate, 6-4, 2-6, 6-1 in Friday's quarterfinals.
   In a matchup of former Sacramento Challenger champions, top-seeded Sofia Kenin of Pembroke Pines, Fla., beat eighth-seeded Mayo Hibi of Japan 6-1, 6-4.
   Hibi, 22, was born in Japan but lived in Foster City in the San Francisco Bay Area as a young child and grew up in Irvine in the Los Angeles area.
   Kratzer will take on second seed and fellow Southern Californian Nicole Gibbs today at 11. Gibbs and Ahn led Stanford to the 2013 NCAA championship.
   "I'm disappointed for Kristie," said Gibbs, 25. "However, I'm always glad not to have to play her. It's never fun playing a really good friend."
   Kenin, who was born in Moscow but moved to the United States as a young child, will meet another Japanese player, third-seeded Nao Hibino, following the Gibbs-Kratzer match.
   After Kratzer double-faulted to lose her serve in the opening game of the third set against Ahn, she reeled off six straight games for the match.
   "I kind of dug deep and remembered back to yesterday, how much energy and my whole self I put into it," Kratzer said, referring to her 5-7, 6-4, 7-6 (7) victory over little Danielle Lao in 3 hours, 9 minutes. Kratzer escaped a match point at 6-7 in the tiebreaker. "I knew I had the match under control. I just needed to settle down and figure out what was working."
Kristie Ahn couldn't raise her level to match Ashley Krat-
zer's in the third set. Photo by Paul Bauman
   The turning point came with Ahn serving at 1-2, 40-0 in the third set. Kratzer won the next five points to break and then overwhelmed Ahn with a barrage of passing shots.
   "She hit some really good returns," said the 5-foot-5 (1.68-meter) Ahn, who's based in Boca Raton, Fla. "Maybe I wasn't aggressive enough, but I didn't play badly. I needed to raise my level a little bit more because obviously she did, and she took advantage of it, and obviously it changed the tone of the match."
   Ahn took a medical timeout early in the second set to have her lower back massaged. Asked if her back bothered her in the third set, Ahn said, "It wasn't great, but it's something you have to play through," before adding sheepishly, "It's from period cramps. I don't like to ... the timing is just unfortunate."
   Gibbs dismissed fifth-seeded Jamie Loeb, a 23-year-old product of the John McEnroe Tennis Academy in New York, 6-3, 6-2 in 61 minutes in a clash of ex-NCAA singles champions.
   Gibbs turned pro after winning her second consecutive NCAA singles title in 2013 as a junior (in addition to capturing the 2012 doubles crown with Mallory Burdette). Loeb made the leap after taking the 2015 title as a North Carolina sophomore.
Top-seeded Sofia Kenin winds up on a back-
hand during her 6-1, 6-4 victory over eighth-
seeded Mayo Hibi. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Gibbs, ranked No. 116 after reaching a career-high No. 68 two years ago, and Kratzer, ranked No. 231, have split two career matches.
   Kratzer won 2-6, 7-5, 6-3 in the second round of an $80,000 hard-court tournament in Tyler, Texas, last fall, and Gibbs triumphed 6-4, 6-4 in the final of a $25,000 clay-court event in Naples, Fla., in early June.
   "She's explosive, she's extremely talented, she's an athlete," said Gibbs, who has reached the third round of a Grand Slam twice and extended then-No. 1 Karolina Pliskova to 6-4 in the third set in the second round of the U.S. Open last September. "I'm definitely looking forward to the contest tomorrow."
   Kratzer, who last summer reached the final of the $60,000 Stockton Challenger (losing to Kenin) and won the USTA girls 18 hardcourt title, said Gibbs "definitely is looking to move forward and trying to attack off the first ball. It's definitely going to be who can make the most balls tomorrow but also staying super offensive."
   Ahn said she could not stay for Gibbs' match but would watch the live stream.
   "I'm curious about that match as well," said Ahn, who is scheduled to play in a $60,000 tournament in Ashland, Ky., next week. "I'm sure it will be a really good match."
   Kenin's athleticism and flat groundstrokes proved to be too much for the slightly built Hibi, but Kenin was frustrated at times by Hibi's unorthodox game. Hibi gives opponents little pace, slices every backhand, chases down almost everything and has a good drop shot and volley.
   "She has good hands and a good slice, and she comes to the net really well," said the 64th-ranked Kenin, who reached the third round of the U.S. Open last year and the second round at Wimbledon this month. "It's really tough to play someone like her.
   "I had to try to somehow (produce) my own pace. Against players like that, people overhit and miss everything. I tried to be patient."
Mayo Hibi, who lived in the San Francisco Bay Area as a
young child, follows through on her trademark slice backhand.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Hibino, the champion of last week's $60,000 Honolulu Challenger, extended her winning streak to eight matches with a 7-6 (3), 6-1 victory over seventh-seeded Francesca Di Lorenzo, a 20-year-old left-hander from New Albany, Ohio.
   Kenin and Hibino, ranked No. 113 after climbing to a career-high No. 56 in 2016, will meet for the first time in a matchup of past Stockton Challenger champions.
   "I didn't really watch her before my match because I didn't want to look ahead," Kenin said. "From what I saw, she hits flat, moves well and fights for every point."
   Gibbs also will play for the doubles title after today's second singles semifinal. She and Asia Muhammad of the United States will face top-seeded Ellen Perez of Australia and Sabrina Santamaria of the United States.
   Gibbs and Muhammad beat Di Lorenzo and Jovana Jaksic, a Serbian living in Sacramento, 6-4, 6-3.
   Here are the Berkeley singles and doubles draws and today's schedule.

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