Friday, August 17, 2018

Tursunov, who reached No. 20, unofficially retires

Dmitry Tursunov, right, chats with former world No. 2 Petr Korda, the father
 of U.S. prospect Sebastian Korda, during the Stockton (Calif.) Challenger last
October. It was the last tournament of Tursunov's career. The Moscow native
was based in Northern California from age 12 to 30. Photo by Paul Bauman 
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   The almost-nonstop injuries finally got to Dmitry Tursunov.
   The Moscow native, who was based in Northern California from age 12 to 30, has unofficially retired at 35.
   Fittingly, Tursunov's last match was in Northern California, and he was unable to complete it. As a qualifier in the $100,000 Stockton Challenger last October, he retired from his quarterfinal against U.S. prospect Michael Mmoh with leg problems after losing the first set 6-3.
   "It was going to take me three months to do rehab, which was going to be a little too long," Tursunov, who owns a townhouse in the Sacramento suburb of Folsom that he rents out, said this week. "There were too many uncertainties. At that stage, it wasn't worth the trouble to try to get back. It's muscular, tendon-related (in the quadriceps above both knees). I don't know the exact diagnosis."
   Then the irreverent Tursunov, who was perhaps the most colorful player in men's tennis, used one of his trademark analogies.
   "It's like a bad car alignment that starts affecting a lot of other things," he said. "Your tires wear, your springs and shocks get all weird, and your suspension goes bad. Then you say, it's time to get a new car instead of always trying to fix this one."
   Tursunov said his retirement "isn't official." But when asked if he's thinking of playing again, Tursunov replied: "Not so much really, no. A lot of people ask me that, but I think those days are over."
Dmitry Tursunov helped Russia win the Davis
Cup in 2006 and played in the 2008 and 2012
Olympics. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Tursunov spoke from Cincinnati, where he's coaching 20-year-old Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus. She is scheduled to play top-ranked Simona Halep on Saturday in the semifinals of the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.
   "I'm enjoying helping a player," Tursunov said. "I like her; she's a nice person. She listens. She wants to get better. I feel like she has very good potential. I feel like I'm part of something a little bit bigger than trying to revive a career."
   Tursunov also coached fellow Russian Elena Vesnina, who reached career highs of No. 1 in doubles in June and No. 13 in singles in March 2017, early this year. Ironically, she has been sidelined with a knee injury since the French Open.
   Tursunov said nothing has been decided when Vesnina returns and he has no plans other than to continue coaching Sabalenka, who will crack the top 30 for the first time in Monday's updated rankings.
   The hard-hitting Tursunov, hobbled by injuries throughout his career, peaked at No. 20 in singles in 2006 and No. 36 in doubles in 2008. He won seven ATP titles in singles and seven in doubles, and collected $5.9 million in prize money.
   Tursunov helped Russia win the Davis Cup in 2006 and played in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. In the match of his life, he outlasted Andy Roddick 17-15 in the fifth set in four hours, 48 minutes on clay in Moscow to clinch Russia's victory over the United States in the 2006 Davis Cup semifinals.
   Off the court, Tursunov became the talk of the tour as the ATP's resident blogger in 2006 but gave it up because it took too much time.
   With his curly, blond hair, blue eyes and impeccable, accent-less English, Tursunov easily could be mistaken for a Southern California surfer. In fact, his countrymen called him "Surfer Dude."
  Tursunov doesn't consider his career in terms of whether he was happy with it. Characteristically, he has a more philosophical view.
   "I don't know. I don't know what to compare it to," he said. "If you compare it to someone who didn't get to 20, then I'm happy. If you compare to someone who got to No. 1, I guess I'm unhappy.
   "I look at it more as a set of experiences. Now that it's sort of, unofficially over, it's a question of, how can I use all of that knowledge and experience? I can't just frame it and post it on the wall. I found a logical use for it by trying to help somebody else correct some of the mistakes a little bit earlier and make her sailing a little bit smoother than mine was."
   Tursunov, who finished with a career record of 231-218, also was philosophical about what he'll miss most and least about playing.
   "When you have a good day at the office, it's always fun," he said. "I never really loved competing. There are some people who love competing, and I wasn't one of them. Still, when you win, everything is good. You feel like your life is good, and you get used to your results (defining you). It's a bad day if you lose and a good day if you win.
   "But there's a lot of work behind the scenes that is not fun, and I'm definitely not missing that part --  working hard and sweating and forcing yourself to do something and setting limits for yourself in order to get better."
   Unlike many players, Tursunov seems to have made a smooth transition to retirement.
   "I'm happy," he said. "My life is a little bit more relaxed. It's a different type of responsibility. I'm out of the limelight, and I'm completely fine with it. I'm happy with my secondary role, not being the priority.
   "Some people can't get over the fact that their career is over, so they search for adrenaline rushes. I'm OK. I'm not trying to do that."

Serena learned of killer's parole before San Jose loss

Serena Williams lost to Johanna Konta 6-1, 6-0 in 51 minutes in the first round
of the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose on July 31. Photo by Mal Taam
   As expected, the parole of the man who killed Serena Williams' sister led to the most lopsided loss of Williams' career on July 31.
   Williams told Time that she learned of Robert E. Maxfield's parole about 10 minutes before her first-round match in the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose.
   "I couldn't shake it out of my mind," Williams said.
   After losing to Johanna Konta of Great Britain 6-1, 6-0 in 51 minutes, Williams told reporters: "She played better in this match than she has in about 18 months, so that's great for her. I know I can play a zillion times better, but I have so many things on my mind, I don't have time to be shocked about a loss that clearly wasn't when I was at my best. I can only try to be there and fight, which is what I was doing out there. I moved a lot better, too, so I'll take the positives where I can."
   Maxfield was convicted of fatally shooting Yetunde Price, a 31-year-old mother of three, in 2003 and paroled three years short of his full sentence earlier this year, ESPN and The Associated Press reported. Williams said she received the news of the parole while checking Instagram on her phone before the match.
   "It was hard because all I think about is her kids," Williams told Time, "and what they meant to me. And how much I love them.
   "No matter what, my sister is not coming back for good behavior. It's unfair that she'll never have an opportunity to hug me."
   Williams added that she wants to forgive but can't yet.
   Williams lives in San Francisco with her husband, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, and their daughter Olympia, who will turn 1 on Sept. 1. Reddit is a social news aggregation, web content rating and discussion website.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Brooksby wins USTA boys 18s for U.S. Open wild card

Jenson Brooksby practices at the Arden Hills Athletic and
Social Club in Sacramento in May. Photo by Paul Bauman
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   Five years ago, Collin Altamirano and Jenson Brooksby from the JMG Tennis Academy in Sacramento won USTA Boys National titles in the 18s and 12s, respectively.
   Today, Brooksby repeated Altamirano's feat to earn a wild card into the U.S. Open main draw later this month.
   The fourth-seeded Brooksby, 17, dominated third-seeded Brandon Nakashima of San Diego 6-4, 6-3, 6-1 in Kalamazoo, Mich. Brooksby, who's headed to Texas Christian in the fall of 2019 or in January 2020, did not lose a set in the tournament.
   The U.S. Open is scheduled for Aug. 27 to Sept. 9 in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.
   Altamirano lost to No. 22 seed Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 in the first round of the 2013 U.S. Open. He turned pro in June 2017 after his junior year at Virginia, which won the NCAA title in all three of his years there.
   Now 22, Altamirano has soared from No. 761 at the beginning of the year to a career-high No. 347.
   WTA tour -- In a rematch of the French Open final, top-ranked Simona Halep outlasted third-seeded Sloane Stephens 7-6 (6), 3-6, 6-4 in 2 hours, 41 minutes to win the Rogers Cup in Montreal.
   Stephens, a 25-year-old Fresno product, led 4-0 in the tiebreaker and had four set points in the first set.
   Halep defeated Stephens 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 at Roland Garros for her first Grand Slam title after going 0-3 in major finals. Stephens won her only Grand Slam title in last year's U.S. Open, beating countrywoman and close friend Madison Keys.
   ITF Pro Circuit -- No. 3 seed Madison Brengle defeated unseeded fellow American Kristie Ahn 6-4, 1-0, retired in the final of the Koser Jewelers $60,000 Tennis Challenge in Landisville, Pa.
   Ahn, a 26-year-old Stanford graduate, suffered a heat-related illness.
   USTA NorCal -- No. 1 seeds Karue Sell of Los Angeles and Chanel Simmonds of South Africa defeated the No. 2 seeds to win the men's and women's singles titles, respectively, in the $25,000 Heritage Bank of Commerce Open Tennis Championships at the Moraga Country Club in the San Francisco Bay Area suburb of Moraga.
   Sell, a former UCLA standout from Brazil, routed Jianhui Li of West Harrison, N.Y., 6-1, 6-1 to repeat as the champion. Simmonds beat Jacqueline Cako of Brier, Wash., 6-0, 6-4.
   The top seeds also won the titles in men's doubles (Austin Rapp and Sell), women's doubles (Cako and Simmonds) and mixed doubles (Cako and Joel Kielbowicz of Scottsdale, Ariz.).

Kokkinakis ends title drought, Harris streak

Fourth-seeded Thanasi Kokkinakis, serving in the
first round on Tuesday, beat unseeded Lloyd Harris
6-2, 6-3 today to win the $100,000 Nordic Naturals
Challenger in Aptos, Calif. Photo by Paul Bauman
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   It's only a Challenger title, but Thanasi Kokkinakis will take it.
   Kokkinakis, who was on his way to stardom three years ago before injuries derailed his career, dominated Lloyd Harris 6-2, 6-3 in 67 minutes today to win the $100,000 Nordic Naturals Challenger at the Seascape Sports Club in Aptos, Calif.
   It was Kokkinakis' first title since he won the 85,000 euro ($96,781) Bordeaux Challenger on clay as a qualifier in May 2015. The following month, he reached a career-high No. 69 in the world at age 19.
   Later that year, the right-hander hurt his right shoulder lifting weights -- not to improve his tennis but to look better in Nike's new sleeveless shirts -- and had surgery. Because of that and numerous other injuries, he played only one match in 2016 and seven tournaments last year.
   Kokkinakis reached his first ATP final last August in Los Cabos but lost to promising American Taylor Fritz 7-6 (6), 7-6 (5) in the first round there last week. That dropped Kokkinakis' ranking 104 places to No. 268. He will rise to No. 201 on Monday.
   Before losing to Kokkinakis in Saturday's semifinals, top-seeded Thomas Fabbiano of Italy predicted the 22-year-old Australian, who stunned Roger Federer in the second round at Miami in March, eventually will crack the top 10.
   Kokkinakis, seeded fourth, emphatically ended the unseeded Harris' winning streak at nine matches. Harris, who won his first Challenger title last week in a $75,000 tournament in Lexington, Ky., lost no more than four games in a set during his streak.
   Kokkinakis dropped only one set during the week. He trailed eighth-seeded Prajnesh Gunneswaran of India by a set and an early service break before prevailing 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 on Friday night in the quarterfinals.
   Against Harris, the 6-foot-4 (1.93-meter) Kokkinakis had 12 aces and one double fault, lost only one point on his first serve (26 of 27) and did not face a break point.
   The 6-foot-5 (1.96-meter) Harris finished with six aces and six double faults, and won only 8 of 27 points on his second serve (30 percent).
   Harris, appearing tight, lost his serve in the opening game when he netted a forehand putaway and for 1-4 on a double fault. Both players held serve for 3-3 in the second set before Kokkinakis broke twice on unforced errors.
   Harris, 21, of South Africa will crack the top 150 for the first time at No. 145. He was ranked No. 221 at the beginning of July.
   Kokkinakis also won the doubles title with countryman Matt Reid. Unseeded, they nipped top-seeded Jonny O'Mara and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain 6-2, 4-6 [10-8].
   Kokkinakis became the first player to sweep the Aptos singles and doubles crowns since Chris Guccione of Australia in 2009 and the fourth in the tournament's 31-year history.
   Past competitors in the Aptos Challenger, the oldest in the United States, include International Tennis Hall of Famers Patrick Rafter and Michael Chang and future Hall of Famers Andy Murray, Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan. The Bryan twins played at Stanford in 1997 and 1998, winning the NCAA doubles title as sophomores.
   Kokkinakis collected $14,400 for the singles title and $3,100 for the doubles crown. Harris, who lost in the first round of doubles, pocketed $8,480 for reaching the singles final.
   Both Kokkinakis and Harris are scheduled to play in next week's $100,000 Vancouver Challenger. Kokkinakis drew second seed and countryman Jordan Thompson, ranked No. 100, and Harris will play a qualifier to be determined.
   Here are the complete Aptos singles and doubles draws.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Brooksby reaches USTA boys 18 final; Quan wins 12s

Jenson Brooksby practices at the Arden Hills Athletic and
Social Club in Sacramento in May. Photo by Paul Bauman
   No. 4 seed Jenson Brooksby of Carmichael in the Sacramento area crushed No. 6 Drew Baird of Holly Springs, N.C., 6-1, 6-0 in 45 minutes today in the semifinals of the USTA Boys 18 National Championships in Kalamazoo, Mich.
   Brooksby, 17, has not lost a set in the tournament. He reached the 16s final two years ago.
   Brooksby, who's headed to Texas Christian in the fall of 2019 or in January 2020, will face No. 3 seed Brandon Nakashima of San Diego. The winner will earn a wild card into the U.S. Open men's main draw, and the loser will receive a berth in men's qualifying in Flushing Meadows.
   Nakashima, last year's champion in the 16s, beat No. 26 seed Stefan Dostanic of Irvine in the Los Angeles area 6-2, 4-6, 6-2.
   Brooksby dominated Nakashima 6-2, 6-3 in the Easter Bowl quarterfinals and went on the win the title at Indian Wells in March.
   Meanwhile, No. 1 seed Rudy Quan from the Sacramento suburb of Roseville routed No. 5 Dylan Charlap of Palos Verdes Estates in the Los Angeles region 6-2, 6-1 to win the USTA Boys 12 National Championships in Mobile, Ala.
   Quan lost no more than five games in any of his seven matches. He also won the 12s title in the USTA National Winter Championships in Tucson, Ariz., in January, Easter Bowl and USTA Clay Court Championships in Orlando, Fla., last month.
   In the final of the USTA Girls 16 National Championships in San Diego, No. 3 seed Fiona Crawley of San Antonio defeated No. 4 seed Allura Zamarripa of Saint Helena in the Napa area 6-4, 6-0. Crawley will receive a wild card into the U.S. Open girls tournament next month.
   In the girls 18 doubles semifinals in San Diego, No. 1 seeds Caty McNally of Cincinnati and Whitney Osuigwe of Bradenton, Fla., outclassed No. 4 Katie Volynets of Walnut Creek in the San Francisco Bay Area and Natasha Subhash from the Washington, D.C., suburb of Fairfax, Va., 6-1, 6-2.

Kokkinakis, Harris to meet for 100K Aptos title

Fourth-seeded Thanasi Kokkinakis, shown Tuesday, beat
top-seeded Thomas Fabbiano 7-5, 6-1 today in the semi-
finals in Aptos, Calif. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Thanasi Kokkinakis, who beat Roger Federer in March, and red-hot Lloyd Harris will meet for the first time Sunday in the final of the $100,000 Nordic Naturals Challenger.
   The fourth-seeded Kokkinakis, a 22-year-old Australian, beat top-seeded Thomas Fabbiano, 29, of Italy 7-5, 6-1 today at the Seascape Sports Club.
   Harris, a 21-year-old South African, dismissed 6-foot-7 (2.01-meter) Christopher Eubanks, 22, of Atlanta 6-2, 6-2 in only 46 minutes in a matchup of unseeded players.
   Harris' four matches in the tournament have averaged 55 minutes. His longest one, a 6-2, 6-2 decision over Liam Broady in the quarterfinals, lasted 64 minutes.
   Harris, who won his first Challenger title last week in a $75,000 tournament in Lexington, Ky., extended his winning streak to nine matches. He has not lost more than four games in any of them.
   Kokkinakis, 6-foot-4 (1.93 meters), is rebounding from multiple injuries. He had 11 aces and three double faults against the 5-foot-8 (1.73-meter) Fabbiano, ranked No. 105 after reaching a career-high No. 70 last September. Kokkinakis converted all four of his break points and saved six of seven against him.
   "He started playing really well, and I immediately felt I needed to raise my level and be a bit more switched-on," said Kokkinakis, who has plunged from a career-high No. 69 in June 2015 to No. 268. "I couldn't really sustain that at the start, but then I started to find my way into the match. I started to serve a lot better and played really well toward the end."
   Harris, 6-foot-5 (1.96 meters) finished with eight aces and one double fault. He won 73 percent of the points on both his first serve (22 of 30) and second delivery (11 of 15).
   "Really good performance once again," said Harris, ranked a career-high No. 161. "I felt I played tremendously well the whole match. I think I retrieved so many serves that he didn't expect. I was making him play every single point and really found my range to get the balls nice and deep and made it difficult for him to attack and play his game."
   Eubanks had no aces after hammering 10 in his 6-4, 7-6 (6) semifinal victory over former top-70 players Ernesto Escobedo. Eubanks, ranked No. 236, flexed his right wrist late in today's match.
   WTA tour -- No. 3 seed Sloane Stephens, a 25-year-old Fresno product, beat No. 5 Elina Svitolina of Ukraine 6-3 6-3 to reach the Rogers Cup final in Montreal.
   Stephens, now based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., will meet No. 1 seed Simona Halep in a rematch of the French Open final in June. Halep won that match 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 for her first Grand Slam title after going 0-3 in major finals.
   Halep advanced to the Montreal final with a 6-4, 6-1 victory over No. 15 seed Ashleigh Barty of Australia.
   Stephens won her only Grand Slam singles title in last year's U.S. Open, beating countrywoman and close friend Madison Keys.
   ITF Pro Circuit -- Unseeded Kristie Ahn, a 26-year-old Stanford graduate, topped fellow American Jessica Pegula 6-7 (3), 7-6 (7), 6-4 in the semifinals of the Koser Jewelers $60,000 Tennis Challenge in Landisville, Pa.
   Ahn will play third-seeded Madison Brengle, a 28-year-old American who beat Priscilla Hon of Australia 7-5, 7-5.

Zamarripa, Quan to play for USTA National junior titles

   No. 4 seed Allura Zamarripa of Saint Helena in the Napa area defeated No. 1 Gianna Pielet of El Paso, Texas, 6-4, 7-6 (4) on Friday in the semifinals of the USTA Billie Jean King Girls 16 National Championships in San Diego.
   Zamarripa is scheduled to face No. 3 seed Fiona Crawley of San Antonio today. Crawley outplayed No. 17 Misa Malkin of Tucson, Ariz., 6-2, 6-3 after eliminating Zamarripa's twin, Maribella, 6-2, 6-2 in Thursday's quarterfinals.
   Rudy Quan of Roseville in the Sacramento area also will play for a gold ball. Quan, seeded No. 1, dominated No. 3 Alexander Razeghi of Humble, Texas, 6-3, 6-1 in the boys 12 semifinals in Mobile, Ala.
   Quan will meet No. 5 seed Dylan Charlap of Palos Verdes Estates in the Los Angeles region. Charlap beat No. 2 Andrew Salu of Sarasota, Fla., 6-4, 6-2.
   In the boys 12 doubles final, No. 2 seeds Razeghi and Cooper Woestendick of Olathe, Kan., topped No. 3 Maxwell Exsted of Savage, Minn., and Quan 6-4, 6-3.
   Herrick Thomas Legaspi of Sacramento won the boys 14 doubles crown in Mobile with Nicholas Heng of Madison, Ala. Seeded No. 8, they upended No. 1 Lucas Brown of Plano, Texas, and Aidan Kim of Milford, Mich., 6-2, 7-5.
   Meanwhile, No. 4 seed Jenson Brooksby from the Sacramento suburb of Carmichael defeated No. 25 Jacob Bullard of Calabasas in the Los Angeles area 6-3, 6-1 in the quarterfinals of the USTA Boys 18 National Championships in Kalamazoo, Mich.
   Brooksby, 17, will meet No. 6 seed Drew Baird of Holly Springs, N.C. Baird saved five match points in a 5-7, 7-6 (8), 6-2 victory over No. 9 Kevin Zhu of Houston after beating No. 16 Keenan Mayo of Roseville in the Sacramento region 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 in Thursday's round of 16.
   In the quarterfinals of the USTA Girls 18 National Championships in San Diego, No. 2 seed Whitney Osuigwe of Bradenton, Fla., beat No. 9 Katie Volynets of Walnut Creek in the San Francisco Bay Area 6-2, 6-4. Both players are 16.
   Osuigwe in 2017 became the first American to win the French Open girls singles title in 28 years and ended the year as the top-ranked junior in the world.
   Volynets remains alive in doubles with Natasha Subhash from the Washington, D.C., suburb of Fairfax, Va. Seeded No. 4, they will take on No. 1 Caty McNally of Cincinnati and Osuigwe in the semifinals.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Harris extends win streak with another rout in Aptos

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   APTOS, Calif. -- Liam Broady accomplished an impressive feat today.
   He kept Lloyd Harris on the court for more than an hour.
   Not much more, and Broady still lost, but he has plenty of company lately.
   In a matchup of unseeded players, Harris rolled past Broady 6-2, 6-2 in 64 minutes today to reach the semifinals of the $100,000 Nordic Naturals Challenger on a gorgeous, 64-degree (17.8 Celsuis) day at the Seascape Sports Club.
   Harris, a 21-year-old South African, dispatched third-seeded Quentin Halys of France 6-4, 6-2 in 59 minutes in the first round and Joris De Loore of Belgium 6-2, 6-0 in 52 minutes in the second round.
   "I'm happy to keep the matches short and keep my body fresh for every round to come," said Harris, 6-foot-5 (1.96 meters) and only 176 pounds (80 kilograms).
   Harris, who won his first Challenger title last week in a $75,000 tournament in Lexington, Ky., extended his winning streak to eight matches. He has not lost more than four games in a set in any of them.
   "I've really just been focused on tennis and to keep on working and improving my game," Harris explained. "Every day I've just been practicing and trying to improve, and that's been the key for me."
   Harris soared 47 places to a career-high No. 161 with the Lexington title in Monday's updated rankings. That would have given him the fourth seed in Aptos, but the singles draw was held on Saturday based on last week's rankings.
   Harris had 10 aces and no double faults against Broady, a 24-year-old left-hander who reached last year's Aptos final as a qualifier. Harris won 83 percent of the points on his first serve (29 of 35) and 60 percent on his second delivery (6 of 10), and escaped both break points against him.
   "I felt I played tremendously well today," Harris crowed. "I came out of the starting blocks very (well) again and just kept that level up throughout the match. I felt I really served well, was defending well, attacking well, coming forward well -- all around a good performance."
   Harris turned pro three years ago out of high school.
   "I was never really interested in the college route," he said.
   In contrast, Harris' 32-year-old countryman, Kevin Anderson, starred at the University of Illinois for three seasons (2005-07). The 6-foot-8 (2.03-meter) Anderson has reached two of the last four Grand Slam singles finals, losing to Rafael Nadal in last year's U.S. Open and to Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon last month.
   "We touch base here and there and send texts back and forth," Harris said of Anderson. "When I'm in the bigger tournaments and I get to see him, we'll talk. I wouldn't say I know him very well."
   Asked whether Anderson has been a mentor to him, Harris said with a laugh: "It's hard to say. His results definitely have been a positive influence on me and the country."
   Harris will play 6-foot-7 (2.01-meter) Christopher Eubanks, who beat former top-70 player Ernesto Escobedo 6-4, 7-6 (6) in a hard-hitting battle of unseeded 22-year-old Americans.
   As he did against second-seeded Michael Mmoh in the second round, Eubanks frustrated Escobedo with his booming serve. Eubanks had 10 aces and two double faults and did not face a break point. He won 75 percent of the points on his first serve (36 of 48) and a whopping 74 percent on his second delivery (14 of 19).
   "I think I served well at critical times," said the 236th-ranked Eubanks, who turned pro last fall after his junior year at Georgia Tech in his hometown of Atlanta. "I think I did a good job of keeping my composure when I was under pressure a little bit on my service games. Anytime you play a match and don't get broken, it's usually a pretty good day. I was very pleased with how I served and how I played overall."
   Eubanks and Harris will meet for the first time in Saturday's second semifinal at about 3 p.m.
   "Eubanks has a massive game and can play anyone off the court," Harris said. "It's going to be a really tough match, but I'm looking forward to it. It's going to be a great challenge for me."
   Finally.
   In the top half of the draw, Fabbiano, one of the smallest players in men's pro tennis at 5-foot-8 (1.73 meters) and 152 pounds (69 kilograms), won 6-2, 6-2 for the second consecutive match. This time, he outclassed U.S. wild card Martin Redlicki, a 6-foot-5 (1.96-meter) left-hander, in one hour.
   "The key was the same as (Thursday against countryman Stefano Napolitano)," said Fabbiano, who's ranked No. 105 after reaching a career-high No. 70 last September. "Good return, put the ball in -- he's a good server -- then do my shots. It was not that difficult today, but I had to be focused from the first to last point."
   Redlicki, a two-time NCAA doubles champion who graduated from UCLA in June, said he was most impressed by Fabbiano's "rally ball -- his regular, normal ball has that much more bite, it's that much heavier -- his ability to open the court, and his first ball. I would hit what I felt were some pretty decent returns off his serve, and he would just be able to take it and hit a winner off the first ball, which is something I wasn't expecting off the return I was hitting. I guess that's the next level I'm working for.
   "It was a really good learning experience, a good eye-opener. Lots to build on, lots to work on, a lot to look forward to."
   Fabbiano, who stunned Stan Wawrinka to reach the third round at Wimbledon last month, will face either fourth-seeded Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia for the first time on Saturday not before 1 p.m. 
   Kokkinakis, who shocked Roger Federer in the second round in Miami in March, topped eighth-seeded Prajnesh Gunneswaran of India 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 after trailing by an early service break in the second set. Gunneswaran, a 28-year-old left-hander, double-faulted for the only break in the third set to trail 2-4.
   The 6-foot-4 (1.93-meter) Kokkinakis, who's rebounding from multiple injuries, has plummeted from a career-high No. 69 three years ago at age 19 to No. 268. But Fabbiano predicted Kokkinakis eventually will reach the top 10.
   "He's solid, big serve," Fabbiano said. "He's doing the right things. He's still young, so he can get his body even better than now. He will be on top in the next few years, for sure. He's a next-generation guy."
   Here are the updated Aptos singles and doubles draws and Saturday's schedule. Live streaming is available.

Fabbiano routs countryman during Italian renaissance

No. 1 seed Thomas Fabbiano dominated
fellow Italian and friend Stefano Napoli-
tano 6-2, 6-2 Thursday to reach the quar-
terfinals of the $100,000 Nordic Naturals
Challenger in Aptos, Calif. Photo by
Paul Bauman
   Note to readers: If you enjoy my coverage of Northern California tennis, please donate on my homepage. Here's why I need your help.
   APTOS, Calif. -- You don't have to be Brad Gilbert to figure out the three countries with the most men in the top 200.
   The United States has 19, and Spain and France are next with 17 each.
   But No. 4 might come as a surprise. That's long-slumbering Italy with 13, ahead of Germany and Argentina with 12 each.
   Two Italians in the club met for the first time on Thursday night in the second round of the $100,000 Nordic Naturals Challenger at the Seascape Sports Club, and it wasn't close. Thomas Fabbiano, seeded first at No. 105, routed No. 194 Stefano Napolitano 6-2, 6-2 in one hour to reach the quarterfinals as fog rolled in from the nearby Pacific Ocean.
   The Italian renaissance began when Francesca Schiavone became the first Italian woman to win a Grand Slam singles title in the 2010 French Open. Schiavone and Sara Errani were the runners-up at Roland Garros the following two years, respectively.
   Errani and Roberta Vinci completed a career Grand Slam in women's doubles in 2014, and Fabio Fognini and Simone Bolelli won the Australian Open men's doubles title in 2015.
   Vinci pulled off one of the biggest upsets in sports history when she ended Serena Williams' bid for the first calendar-year Grand Slam since Steffi Graf's in 1988 in the semifinals of the 2015 U.S. Open. Vinci then lost to 33-year-old Flavia Pennetta in the first all-Italian Grand Slam final in the Open era.
   Fognini, 31, leads the current crop of Italian men at No. 14 in the world. Only 5-foot-10 (1.78 meters), he won his third title of the year, eighth of his career and first on hard courts last week in Los Cabos, shocking top-seeded Juan Martin del Potro in the final.
   Fognini and Pennetta married in June 2016.
   Also, Marco Cecchinato reached the semifinals of the French Open in June, ousting Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals.
Stefano Napolitano fell behind 4-0 in each
set against Thomas Fabbiano. Photo by
Paul Bauman
   Fabbiano stunned Stan Wawrinka, a three-time Grand Slam singles champion rebounding from knee surgery, to reach the third round at Wimbledon last month before losing to 19-year-old Greek sensation Stefanos Tsitsipas.
   Napolitano advanced to the final of last week's $75,000 Lexington (Ky.) Challenger, falling to Lloyd Harris of South Africa.
   On the women's side, Camila Giorgi gained her first Grand Slam quarterfinal last month at Wimbledon before losing to Williams.
   "We are many, we have good coaches, we are positive people," Fabbiano said of Italy's success. "Now we are waiting for the top 10, for the big name to get in the top 10.
   "Schiavone helps the women (with her success). Now with (Andreas) Seppi, Fognini, we are trying to do the same career (as) them. They are bringing us the new level. We are hoping there are new players coming in the next few years."
   Cecchinato and Errani, however, have been embroiled in controversy.
   In 2016, the Italian Tennis Federation suspended Cecchinato for 18 months and fined him 40,000 euros ($43,900) for fixing two matches and using confidential information for gambling, but he successfully appealed.
   Errani said she was "disgusted" that her two-month doping suspension recently was increased to 10 months. She argued that she had accidentally ingested her mother's breast cancer medicine at a family meal.
   Fabbiano and Napolitano, aside from being Italian, are opposites in many ways. Fabbiano is 29, one of the smallest men in pro tennis at 5-foot-8 (1.73 meters) and 152 pounds (69 kilograms), and swarthy. Napolitano is 23, prototypically tall at 6-foot-5 (1.96 meters) and movie star handsome.
   "(We are) very good friends," said Fabbiano, who lives five hours by car from Napolitano. "We know each other since many years. (On) the court, we try to win, but outside the court we have dinner together, which is not usual with tennis players. But it's nice to spend time with good friends on the tour."
Wild card Martin Redlicki overpowered qualifier
Marcos Giron in a matchup of former NCAA
champions from UCLA. Photo by Paul Bauman
  Even though Italians grow up on clay, Fabbiano prefers outdoor hard courts.
   "So this is my season, actually," cracked Fabbiano, who also advanced to the third round of last year's U.S. Open. "That's my weapon you saw today. I like to play on hard courts -- no more bad bounce."
   The sets against Napolitano were almost identical. Fabbiano broke serve in the first and third games to lead 4-0, and both players held serve the rest of the way.
   Fabbiano, playing in Aptos for the first time this year, won 86 percent of the points on his first serve (19 of 22) and survived all three break points against him.
   "I was more solid than him, less mistake, high intensity," said Fabbiano, who reached a career-high No. 70 last September. "It was not difficult match. There were many mistake from his side, but I was very solid. I did my thing in the best way, and I bring the win from my side."
   In addition to his speed and superb groundstrokes, Fabbiano has an outstanding return of serve.
   "It was actually a good key," added Fabbiano, who won 62 percent of the points on Napolitano's second serve (13 of 21). "When he put the first serve in, he made good points, but with the second serve, I put all my aggression on his game, and he fell from the first game."
   Fabbiano will play Martin Redlicki, a 22-year-old wild card from Boca Raton, Fla., today not before 1 p.m. The 6-foot-5 (1.96-meter) left-hander overpowered 5-foot-11 (1.80-meter) Marcos Giron, a 25-year-old qualifier from Thousand Oaks in the Los Angeles area, 6-3, 6-4 in a matchup of former NCAA champions from UCLA to reach his second Challenger quarterfinal.
Marcos Giron fell to Martin Redlicki 6-3, 6-4 in the second
 round in Aptos, Calif. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Redlicki, who was born and raised in the Chicago area, captured the NCAA doubles title as a sophomore in 2016 with Mackenzie McDonald, a San Francisco Bay Area product, and this year with Evan Zhu. Giron won the NCAA singles crown in 2014.
   Today at 11 a.m., Harris will meet Liam Broady of Great Britain. Although both players are unseeded, it's an intriguing matchup.
   The 6-foot-5 (1.96-meter) Harris, 21, whipped Joris De Loore of Belgium 6-2, 6-0 in 52 minutes to extend his winning streak to seven matches. He dispatched third-seeded Quentin Halys of France 6-4, 6-2 in 59 minutes in the first round.
   Broady, last year's runner-up in Aptos as a qualifier, defeated seventh seed and countryman Jay Clarke 7-6 (3), 6-4 to ensure that an unseeded player will reach the final.
   Broady, a 24-year-old left-hander, came to Aptos with an eight-match losing streak. Clarke, 20, won his first Challenger title two weeks ago in Binghamton, N.Y.
   Here are the updated Aptos singles and doubles draws and Friday's schedule. Live streaming is available.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Hoop dreams gone, Eubanks ousts No. 2 seed in Aptos

Christopher Eubanks eyes a backhand volley
while warming up to play No. 2 seed Michael
Mmoh on Wednesday. Photo by Paul Bauman
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   APTOS, Calif. -- U.S. men's tennis has waited a long time for a player like this.
   Christopher Eubanks, a 6-foot-7 (2.01-meter) African-American, is the type of athlete who typically goes to the NBA.
   "I love basketball," Eubanks admitted Wednesday. "If I could have a second life, I definitely would be a very serious basketball player, but things just didn't work out that way. My dad felt tennis was going to be the best career path for me, and reluctantly I went along with it. I think he made the right decision."
   Eubanks, a 22-year-old lifelong Atlanta resident, continued his rapid rise with a 7-6 (4), 6-4 victory over another African-American, second-seeded Michael Mmoh, in the second round of the $100,000 Nordic Naturals Challenger at the Seascape Sports Club.
   Eubanks likely is the tallest African-American pro player ever. Chip Hooper, a San Francisco Bay Area product who peaked at No. 17 in the world in 1982, comes close at 6-foot-6 (1.98 meters).
   But Hooper, who weighed 210 pounds (95 kilograms), was pure power. Eubanks, only 180 pounds (82 kg.) with Manute Bol-like arms and legs, has plenty of that and can move, although there's room for improvement.
   Eubanks converted his sixth match point against Mmoh, the 20-year-old son of Nigerian former pro Tony Mmoh, with an inside-out forehand on the alley line. Mmoh briefly questioned the call.
   Mmoh -- "the most athletic player you'll ever see on a tennis court," according to friend and fellow U.S. hopeful Reilly Opelka -- was almost helpless against Eubanks' booming serve on a typically brisk night in this seaside resort. Eubanks finished with seven aces and four double faults, won 88 percent of the points on his first serve (43 of 49) and escaped the only break point against him.
Michael Mmoh, warming up on Wednesday, lost to Christopher
Eubanks for the first time in four matches. Photo by Paul Bauman  
   The 236th-ranked Eubanks, who also displayed a punishing forehand and one-handed backhand, recorded his first victory over the 135th-ranked Mmoh in four career matches.
   "A lot of our matches tend to be a little bit like (tonight's) -- (my) offense versus (his) defense," Eubanks said. "On the other occasions, Mike just played too good. I might have let some moments go when we played in the past, but he plays how he plays. He's a fighter; he's a competitor. He made me come up with the goods, and I couldn't do it before. Today I did a good job of staying consistent, playing very dominant first point to last."
   Also Wednesday, 20-year-old Frances Tiafoe upset Milos Raonic to reach the third round of the Rogers Cup in Toronto, and Evan King and Nathan Pasha advanced to the doubles quarterfinals in the Nordic Naturals Challenger. Tiafoe, who will crack the top 40 for the first time on Monday, King and Pasha are African-American.
   It appears African-Americans are making progress in men's professional tennis.
    "Absolutely," Eubanks asserted. "I've said it before: The more kids are able to see it and believe it, the more you'll see -- I don't want to say a rush -- but more African-American boys and girls introduced to the sport. If I hadn't had guys from the south side of Atlanta who were high-level tennis players, honestly I wouldn't have believed it was possible.
   "I feel like it's a visual thing. Kids will be whatever they see and believe is possible. The more Frances Tiafoe, Michael Mmoh, Donald Young and hopefully myself can get out there and show kids this life is possible -- it just takes work, a little luck and a lot of resources -- if you devote your time and you find the right people around you, it's definitely a possible career path."
No. 8 seed Prajnesh Gunneswaran of India narrowly avoided an
upset by young American JC Aragone in a 2-hour, 30-minute
slugfest. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Eubanks will meet unseeded Ernesto Escobedo, also 22, in Friday's quarterfinals. Escobedo, who has plummeted from a career-high No. 67 in July 2017 to No. 188, topped qualifier Aleksandar Vukic of Australia 7-6 (6), 7-6 (1).
   In the other half of the draw, fourth-seeded Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia will meet eighth-seeded Prajnesh Gunneswaran of India.
   Kokkinakis, who stunned Roger Federer in the second round at Miami in March, wore down Kaichi Uchida of Japan 7-5, 6-0.
   Gunneswaran, a 28-year-old left-hander, was fortunate to outlast 5-foot-10 (1.78-meter) JC Aragone, 23, of Yorba Linda in the Los Angeles area, 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 in a 2-hour, 30-minute slugfest. Aragone, who helped Virginia win the NCAA title in all three of his years there, double-faulted while holding a match point at 5-4 in the second set and on break point in that game.
   Eubanks began playing at 2.
   "I have an older brother (Mark Jr.) who played, and when I came along (12 years later), my dad put me in the sport with him," Eubanks said.
   Eubanks' father prohibited him from playing on his high school basketball team.
   "I took advanced courses in high school," Eubanks explained. "I'd tell my dad that I would stay after school for tutoring, and I would go to tutoring for about 10 minutes, then I would scrimmage with the basketball team.
   "The basketball coach told me I had a spot on the team if I wanted it. I told my dad eagerly, 'Coach Rogers said I could play on the team.' Sternly he looked me in the face and said, 'No.' That was the extent of my basketball dreams."
JC Aragone was brilliant from the baseline against Prajnesh
Gunneswaran but double-faulted while holding a match point
and on break point in that game. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Eubanks has been mentored by Atlanta products Donald Young, who reached a career-high No. 38 in 2012, and Jarmere Jenkins, the 2013 NCAA singles runner-up and doubles champion from Virginia with Mac Styslinger and now Serena Williams' hitting partner.
   "Traveling with Donald Young kind of opened my eyes to see what professional tennis was like," said Eubanks, who has the one thing the former prodigy lacks -- size. "If it hadn't been for him, I wouldn't have known how to go about playing Challengers or preparation or how to be diligent in practice every day.
   "He allowed me to travel with him to the French Open, Wimbledon, U.S. Open and a few other tournaments. I said, 'Wow, this is what professional tennis is; this is what I really want to do.' 
   Eubanks played at Georgia Tech in Atlanta for three years, earning Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year honors in his last two (2016 and 2017). He reached the quarterfinals of his hometown tournament on the ATP World Tour last summer, defeating top U.S. prospects Taylor Fritz and Jared Donaldson, and turned pro last October.
   Eubanks' first and only Challenger title, in Leon, Mexico, at an elevation of 5,955 feet (1,815 meters) in April, was particularly satisfying.
   "I made the final (the previous week) in Guadalajara (at an elevation of 5,138 feet or 1,566 meters) and lost 7-6 in the third," Eubanks recalled. "I left that tournament feeling like I was at rock bottom to go to Leon. I ended up winning that tournament 7-6 in the third in the final, so to go from as low as I felt like I could -- because I honestly didn't know if I was good enough to get back to a Challenger final anytime soon -- to not only get back but to win it in the same fashion I lost the first one was pretty cool."
   It isn't difficult to identify Eubanks' biggest strength.
   "Definitely my serve," he proclaimed. "I think my match today definitely revolved around my serve. If I don't serve well, I definitely don't win this match."
   Eubanks is working on "getting stronger. Movement is a big thing. Getting out of the corners is a thing I tend to struggle with a little bit right now. I'm hoping as I continue to grow I will get stronger and work a little more diligently on the return and the movement out of the corners.
   "Those are two areas I'm really focusing on. I think I can be a much better player. And always continuing to get the serve as good as possible. The better the serve can be, the higher my trajectory is."
   Eubanks is making his second appearance in Aptos. He played the 2016 tournament on Young's recommendation.
   "Young said, 'I won my first Challenger title in Aptos (in 2007). You'll love it there,' " Eubanks said. "I lost 6-2, 6-1 to Eric Quigley in the first round and was on the next flight home. Now I know what (Young) meant."   
   Here are the updated Aptos singles and doubles draws and Thursday's schedule. Live streaming is available.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Kokkinakis continues comeback after beating Federer

Thanasi Kokkinakis called himself "an idiot" for lifting weights to look better.
He hurt his shoulder and needed surgery. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Note to readers: If you enjoy my coverage of Northern California tennis, please donate on my homepage. Here's why I need your support.
   APTOS, Calif. -- Beating Roger Federer is a pretty good indication that you're back from injuries.
   Thanasi Kokkinakis stunned Federer 7-6 in the third set in the second round at Miami in March as a qualifier.
   "It was a bit of a reward for all the setbacks and hard work I've had, so hopefully I can get a few more of those," Kokkinakis, seeded fourth in the $100,000 Nordic Nationals Challenger, said after overpowering fellow Australian Max Purcell 6-2, 6-2 in 56 minutes today in the first round at the Seascape Sports Club.
   As usual, though, Kokkinakis' euphoria didn't last long. 
   In his next tournament, the Monte-Carlo Masters in April, Kokkinakis chased a deep ball from Russian Karen Khachanov and stumbled on a sponsor sign. Kokkinakis completed the match, losing 7-5, 6-4, but sat out more than a month with a small fracture in his left kneecap and a deep bone bruise.
Illya Marchenko, a former top-50 player from Ukraine, fell
to 0-8 since returning in May from shoulder surgery.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   It was the latest in a long line of injuries for Kokkinakis over the past 2 1/2 years, causing him to consider retirement. Name a part of the anatomy, and he likely has had a problem there: shoulder, groin, chest, abdomen, elbow and ankle.
   Kokkinakis' right shoulder injury was the most serious. He had surgery in December 2015 and played only one match in 2016. Other injuries limited him to seven tournaments last year, from May through August.
   "It's been pretty s--- -- I'm not going to lie," said the 22-year-old Kokkinakis, a 6-foot-4 (1.93-meter) right-hander. "I've hated it. But that's a part of sport. Some people get more (injuries) than others, but it's just something you have to try to deal with. I'm on the comeback trail now, and I'm trying to get a few matches. That's why I'm trying to play a few Challengers. Hopefully, I can do well and get my ranking back up where it should be."
   Kokkinakis has tumbled from a career-high No. 69 at age 19 to No. 268. He plunged 104 places on Monday after losing to U.S. prospect Taylor Fritz 7-6 (6), 7-6 (5) in the first round in Los Cabos last week. Kokkinakis reached his first ATP final there last year, losing to San Francisco native Sam Querrey.
   Kokkinakis blames himself for his shoulder injury.
   "I'm an idiot," Kokkinakis told 20FOUR, a sports social media site. "Looking back, it was probably my biggest regret. The back end of 2015, I started lifting weights (because) I heard Nike was bringing out sleeveless tops. So I was like, 'All right, I've got to bulk up a little bit.' Terrible idea. Never do bench press. And then yeah, my shoulder's screwed.
   "I remember I came back home -- I was in a taxi -- and I went to hand the driver a credit card, and I couldn't lift my arm above here. I had a couple of cortisones. I was like, 'No, I'm screwed.'
   "So I knew I was going to have surgery, which was pretty shattering."
Liam Broady, last year's runner-up in Aptos as a qual-
ifier, snapped his losing streak at nine matches.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Kokkinakis' surgeon told him he could start hitting in three to four months, news.com.au reported. But after completing a 12-week rehabilitation program, Kokkinakis learned otherwise.
   "I picked up a racket, hit a serve, and it felt like my shoulder just disclocated again," he said. "I was like, 'Oh, I can't handle this.' I piffed (threw) my racket over to the other side. I smashed it. I was crying."
   Goodbye 2016 French Open and Wimbledon. While Kokkinakis was preparing for the U.S. Open, misfortune struck again.
   "I hit a high forehand, and I tear my pec," he said. "And I was like, 'Oh man, I'm so over this.' "
   Illya Marchenko, 30, is trying to rebound from his own shoulder operation. The former top-50 player from Ukraine lost to seventh-seeded Jay Clarke of Great Britain 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 today to fall to 0-8 since returning in May.
    "My confidence is not there," sighed Marchenko, who has plunged from a career-high No. 49 in 2016 to No. 337. "During the important points, I'm shaking all the time. It's a long process."
   Clarke, who won his first Challenger title two weeks ago in Binghamton, N.Y., will meet countryman Liam Broady on Thursday. Broady, last year's runner-up in Aptos as a qualifier, ended his losing streak at nine matches with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Marc Polmans of Australia.
Lloyd Harris, who won his first Challenger title
last week in Lexington, Ky., needed only 59 min-
utes to beat No. 3 seed Quentin Halys. Photo by
Paul Bauman  
   Two seeds lost today, both in less than an hour.
   No. 3 Quentin Halys of France fell to Lloyd Harris, a 21-year-old South African who won his first Challenger title last week in Lexington, Ky., 6-4, 6-2 in 59 minutes. Halys reached the final of the $100,000 Fairfield Challenger in Northern California in 2016.
   Also, No. 5 Kevin King of Atlanta bowed out to qualifier Aleksandar Vukic of Australia 6-1, 6-3 in 55 minutes.
   In the featured night match, top-seeded Thomas Fabbiano of Italy topped promising Miomar Kecmanovic, an 18-year-old Serb based in Bradenton, Fla., 6-4, 7-6 (0).
   Kecmanovic, the No. 1 junior in the world in 2016, reached the final of the $100,000 San Francisco Challenger indoors in February. Aptos, situated on the Pacific Ocean, is 82 miles (132 kilometers) south of San Francisco.
   Fabbiano, only 5-foot-8 (1.73 meters) and 152 pounds (69 kilograms), advanced to the third round at Wimbledon as a qualifier last month and at last year's U.S. Open. He will face countryman Stefano Napolitano, the Lexington runner-up who defeated 24-year-old San Jose product Dennis Novikov 6-4, 6-3.
   Here are the updated Aptos singles and doubles draws and Wednesday's schedule. Live streaming is available.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Wild card Redlicki ousts sixth seed in 100K Aptos

   Wild card Martin Redlicki of Boca Raton, Fla, surprised sixth-seeded Mohamed Safwat of Egypt 7-6 (3), 6-4 today in the first round of the $100,000 Nordic Naturals Challenger at the Seascape Sports Club in Aptos.
   Redlicki, a 6-foot-5 (1.96-meter) left-hander ranked No. 772, had seven aces and no double faults and won 65 percent of the points on his second serve (13 of 20).
   Safwat, a 6-foot (1.83-meter) right-hander ranked No. 173, finished with 10 aces and seven double faults and won only 29 percent of the points on his second delivery (11 of 38).
   Redlicki, 22, turned pro in June after a decorated four-year career at UCLA. He won two NCAA doubles titles (2016 and 2018), reached this year's NCAA singles semifinals as the top seed, and was named the 2018 Pac-12 Singles Player of the Year and Men's Tennis Scholar-Athlete of the Year. Redlicki compiled a 3.61 grade-point average with a double major in political science and communications.
   Safwat, 27, played his first Grand Slam main-draw singles match in the French Open in May, falling to fourth-seeded Grigor Dimitrov in the first round as a lucky loser.
   Redlicki, who grew up in the Chicago area, is scheduled to play 5-foot-11 (1.80-meter) qualifier Marcos Giron, the 2014 NCAA singles champion from UCLA, on Wednesday. Giron, a 25-year-old Los Angeles-area resident, dismissed Tommy Paul, a 21-year-old U.S. prospect rebounding from an injury, 6-3, 6-0 in 58 minutes.
   Giron had surgery on his right hip on Christmas 2015 and on his left hip six weeks later. During his 14-month layoff, he returned to UCLA as a volunteer coach.
   Kaichi Uchida of Japan eliminated another U.S. hopeful, 20-year-old Stefan Kozlov, 6-4, 6-1. Kozlov, who reached the final of the 2014 Sacramento Challenger at 16, has dropped from No. 167 at the beginning of this year to No. 252.
   In the featured night match, wild card and second seed Michael Mmoh beat fellow American and 2016 Aptos quarterfinalist Evan King 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.
   Mmoh, the 20-year-old son of Nigerian former pro Tony Mmoh, reached his second career ATP quarterfinal last week in Los Cabos. He also advanced to the quarters in Brisbane in January in his first tournament of the year.
   King, a 26-year-old left-hander, lost in the opening round for the fourth consecutive tournament and fell to 3-18 since March. He qualified for last year's U.S. Open, defeating Mmoh 6-3, 6-3 in the final round before losing to eventual semifinalist Pablo Carreno Busta in straight sets.
   Eighth-seeded Prajnesh Gunneswaran, 28, of India held off wild card Brandon Holt, the 20-year-old son of International Tennis Hall of Famer Tracy Austin, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2. As a USC sophomore in the spring, Holt was named an All-American in singles for the second time and in doubles for the first time.
   Gunneswaran reached the second round in Stuttgart on grass on the ATP World Tour as a qualifier in June. He stunned 19-year-old Canadian sensation Denis Shapovalov, who was ranked 23rd at the time and is 26th now.
   Gunneswaran also advanced to the semifinals of the $100,000 Tiburon Challenger in the San Francisco Bay Area last September, losing to eventual champion Cameron Norrie.
   Ernesto Escobedo, a 22-year-old Los Angeles-area resident, beat Egor Gerasimov of Belarus 7-5, 7-6 (6). Escobedo has plunged from a career-high No. 67 in July 2017 to No. 188.
   Gerasimov, 25, reached the quarterfinals in Los Cabos last week, ousting fifth seed and defending champion Sam Querrey 7-5, 5-7, 7-6 (6) in the second round before losing to top-seeded Juan Martin del Potro 6-1, 6-1.
  Here are the Aptos singles and doubles draws and Tuesday's schedule. Live streaming is available.

Buzarnescu blitzes Sakkari for San Jose title

Mihaela Buzarnescu poses with her trophy in front
of two San Jose State Spartan statues and a Spartan
helmet. The inaugural Mubadala Silicon Valley Clas-
sic was held at San Jose State University. Photo by
Paul Bauman
   Note to readers: If you enjoy my coverage of Northern California tennis, please donate on my homepage. Here's why I need your support.
   SAN JOSE, Calif. -- After the inaugural Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic, it's safe to say the tournament has nowhere to go but up.
   Not that there was anything wrong with the event itself at San Jose State. The organizers did a remarkable job pulling it together in six months after the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford abruptly ended after 21 years.
   But Mihaela Buzarnescu's 6-1, 6-0 shellacking of Maria Sakkari in Sunday's final capped a bizarre week marked by the exits of all five marquee players before the semifinals. One came by a shocking loss, two by withdrawal, one by retirement and one by a big upset.
   Serena Williams' stay lasted all of 51 minutes. Admittedly distracted, she suffered the worst loss of her career -- also 6-1, 6-0 -- to Johanna Konta on Tuesday night in a first-round matchup of former Bank of the West champions.
   The top two seeds, Garbine Muguruza (arm) and 2017 Bank of the West champion Madison Keys (wrist), pulled out on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively, before hitting a ball in a match.
   Victoria Azarenka retired with a back injury against American Danielle Collins in a Friday afternoon quarterfinal, and third-seeded Venus Williams, 38, blew multiple leads in a straight-set loss to the unseeded Sakkari that night.
   As if all that wasn't enough, the fifth-seeded Buzarnescu topped an ailing Elise Mertens, seeded fourth, in three sets in a Saturday afternoon semifinal.
   The Williams sisters, Muguruza and Azarenka are all former world No. 1s with multiple Grand Slam singles titles. Keys climbed to a career-high No. 7 in 2016 and reached last year's U.S. Open final.
   Withdrawals and retirements are common at this time of year. Players are cautious, especially in the heat, with the U.S. Open only three weeks away.
   Today's final was the most lopsided in the 48-year history of the San Francisco Bay Area stop of the WTA tour, the longest-running women's tournament in the world. Four times, the champion had surrendered two games in the final. Most recently, Martina Hingis thrashed both Monica Seles 6-2, 6-0 indoors in Oakland in 1996 and Conchita Martinez 6-0, 6-2 outdoors at Stanford the following year. All three are International Tennis Hall of Famers. 
   The left-handed Buzarnescu claimed her first career WTA singles title at age 30 in her third final, all this year. Unable to play for 2 1/2 years because of two knee surgeries, she earned a Ph.D. in sports science in her native Romania in December 2016.
   Buzarnescu, who also has had shoulder problems, notched her 35th tour-level win of 2018. Before this season, her career total was three. Ranked No. 142 one year ago, she rose four notches to No. 20 with the title.
   "I just didn't give up because I had my closest friends and family who supported me, and the other coach (Fratila Septimiu) I started working with last year, they all trusted me and believed in me," said Buzarnescu, who pocketed $136,695 for the title. "They said I'm capable to come back and reach top hundred, which I never believed would be possible."
   The low point, Buzarnescu said, was "after my second surgery when I got the result and there was nothing good with my knee and I still had the pain. I didn't know what to do anymore. I was seeing so many doctors and doing everything that I was able to do in order to get the pain away, but it didn't happen. That's when I thought that maybe I have no chances to play tennis and I started the Ph.D. because I thought I have to find some other job. I was really sad and depressed that I wasn't able to play tennis."
Mihaela Buzarnescu, who earned a Ph.D. while recovering from two knee
operations, won her first WTA title at age 30. Photo by Mal Taam
   Sakkari, 23, of Greece could not overcome the physical and mental toll of come-from-behind victories on the previous two nights and a case of nerves in her first WTA final. After upsetting Venus Williams, a two-time Bank of the West champion (2000 and 2002) and six-time runner-up, Sakkari rallied from a set and two breaks down to stun Collins on Saturday night.
   "I woke up, and I was still tired from yesterday," conceded Sakkari, who jumped 18 places to a career-high No. 31 by reaching the final and collected $72,835. "I didn't have so many hours to recover, but that's not an excuse. I didn't lose the match because I was tired. She was very good today. I was not a hundred percent. I was not moving great. It's one of my weapons. It wasn't easy after two long matches and very intense days to go out there and be exactly the same person I was the last couple of days."
   Sakkari's 19-year-old countryman, Stefanos Tsitsipas, reached the semifinals of the concurrent Citi Open in Washington, D.C., on the ATP World Tour. Recent wildfires on the outskirts of Athens, like those that have ravaged Northern California the past two summers, have killed 91 people. Arson is suspected.
   "I left Greece 10 days ago, and it was maybe the worst situation we've had for the last ... for a long time with fires, and a lot of people died," Sakkari said. "Me and Stefanos, we made people a little bit more happy. I received so many messages saying, 'We're very proud of you two.' "
   On a breezy, 85-degree (29.4 Celsius) afternoon, the slender, 5-foot-9 (1.75-meter) Buzarnescu was as steady as the muscular, 5-foot-8 (1.72-meter) Sakkari was erratic in their first career meeting.
   "She was extremely solid from the beginning of the match," said Sakkari, whose mother, former player Angeliki Kanellopoulou, peaked at No. 43 in 1987. "She was not hitting winners, but she was not missing. She was serving clever. I was doing nothing on court, so she could do anything she wanted. She took the opportunity because I was not playing good."
Maria Sakkari said her success and that of Stefanos Tsitsipas last week lifted
the spirits of their fellow Greeks after wildfires near Athens killed 91 people.
Photo by Mal Taam
   Buzarnescu -- backed by a vocal group of flag-waving Romanians in the half-full, 3,100-seat stadium -- triumphed in 1 hour, 13 minutes. The last two games of the first set, one of which Sakkari actually won, consumed a good chunk of that time with nine deuces and Sakkari surviving four set points. But that was all the fight she had left.
   Buzarnescu saved all four break points against her in the match and won 72 percent of the points on Sakkari's second serve (18 of 25).
   Three of Buzarnescu's five singles matches in the tournament went to three sets, bringing her total to a tour-leading 19 this year.
   As for Sakkari, how's this for irony? She crushed eighth-seeded Timea Babos of Hungary 6-0, 6-1 in 56 minutes in the second round. Now she knows how Babos felt.
   "I have to erase it once I leave this tennis club," Sakkari declared. "I play in two days (against 12th-seeded Daria Kasatkina in Montreal), I have to travel tonight, (and) I have to practice tomorrow. You don't have so much time to think.
   "OK, it was a very good week. I lost today, but it's over. Now my mind has to be on the next tournament."
Romanian fans wave flags during Sunday's final. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Buzarnescu, meanwhile, eyes another milestone after cracking the top 20.
   "Maybe reaching top 10 is the next goal for me," she said. "First of all, I need to stay healthy. Then we will see."
   In the doubles final, top-seeded Latisha Chan (formerly Chan Yung-jan) of Chinese Taipei and Kveta Peschke, 43, of the Czech Republic beat third-seeded Lyudmyla Kichenok and Nadiia Kichenok, 26-year-old twins from Ukraine, 6-4, 6-1.
   Both Peschke and Chan, who were playing in their first tournament together, have won one Grand Slam championship in women's doubles to reach No. 1. Peschke took the 2011 Wimbledon crown with Katerina Srebotnik of Slovenia, and Chan captured last year's U.S. Open title with Hingis.
   Here are the complete San Jose singles and doubles draws.
   Here are the singles and doubles main draws, qualifying draw and Monday's schedule in the $100,000 Nordic Naturals Men's Challenger at the Seascape Sports Club in Aptos, a one-hour drive south of San Jose.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Bob Bryan has hip surgery, vows to return

Bob, left, and Mike Bryan acknowledge the crowd's ap-
plause during the 2016 U.S. Open. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Bob Bryan (Stanford, 1997-98) underwent surgery on Thursday and will miss the rest of the season.
   Bryan, 40, has not played since getting hurt in the Madrid final in May. Playing with twin Mike (Stanford, 1997-98) against Nikola Mektic of Croatia and Alexander Peya of Austria, Bob landed awkwardly on his right foot while serving in the first set. Then, for the first time in 1,408 career matches, one of the brothers retired.
   "After 3 months of doctors visits & physical therapy I came to the conclusion that surgery was my only path back to the tour & living pain free," Bob Bryan tweeted on Friday. "Yesterday's procedure went smoothly & I look forward to a healthier and stronger future on the court. Thanks for the (heart) and support."
   Mike Bryan won Wimbledon with Jack Sock last month for his 17th Grand Slam men's doubles title, an ongoing record, and first without Bob. Mike also returned to No. 1 in the rankings.
   Mike Bryan and Edouard Roger-Vasselin of France reached Sunday's Washington final. Sock is recovering from an ankle injury but plans to play with Bryan in Toronto, Cincinnati and the U.S. Open, tennis.com reported.

Buzarnescu, Sakkari reach San Jose final

   Mihaela Buzarnescu continued her meteoric rise at age 30 today, beating Elise Mertens 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 in the semifinals of the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic at San Jose State.
   Buzarnescu, seeded fifth, reeled off the last six games in a rematch of the Hobart final in January that Mertens won in three sets.
   The 15th-ranked Mertens, a 22-year-old right-hander from Belgium, had her right forearm taped after losing her serve for 1-2 in the third set today.
   Buzarnescu, a left-hander from Romania, will play Maria Sakkari, 23, of Greece for the first time on Sunday at 2 p.m. California time. ESPN2 will televise the match.
   Sakkari rallied from a set and two breaks down to beat Danielle Collins, 24, of St. Petersburg, Fla., 3-6, 7-5, 6-2 tonight in a matchup of unseeded players.
   "I think at 4-1 in the second, she started really stepping up to the baseline and putting her foot on the gas," Collins told reporters. "It helped her get back in her rhythm and playing more aggressive.
   "It threw me off a little bit. She played some really great tennis, so kudos to her."
   Buzarnescu will play in her third and biggest WTA final, all this year, and Sakkari her first. Buzarnescu also lost to Petra Kvitova in three sets in the Prague final in early May.
   Shoulder and knee injuries, the latter requiring two surgeries, forced Buzarnescu off the tour for years. She went back to school and earned a Ph.D. in sports science at the National Academy of Physical Education and Sport in Bucharest in December 2016.
   Last year at this time, Buzarnescu had not played a main-draw match on the WTA tour. She created a buzz by reaching the round of 16 at the French Open in June, stunning then-No. 4 Elina Svitolina in the third round.
   Depending on the outcome of Sunday's final, Buzarnescu will rise from No. 24 to a career high of No. 21 or No. 20 in Monday's updated rankings.
   "It's something new that I always dreamed about since I was young," Buzarnescu told reporters. "Since I started to play tennis, my dad always used to say, 'You hit once with a forehand, then once with a backhand, and everything will be OK for you.' Easy to say, hard to do.
   "So for me, after all my injuries, it's really a dream come true to get the chance to be at this level and play high-level matches."
   In Sunday's doubles final, top-seeded Latisha Chan of Taiwan and Kveta Peschke, 43, of the Czech Republic will face third-seeded Lyudmyla Kichenok and Nadiia Kichenok, Ukrainian twins, at noon.
   Here are the San Jose singles and doubles draws.
   Here are the singles main draw, qualifying draw and Sunday's schedule for next week's $100,000 Nordic Naturals Challenger in Aptos, a one-hour drive south of San Jose.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Azarenka retires, Venus falls in San Jose quarters

Victoria Azarenka, playing on Monday night, retired from her San Jose quar-
terfinal against Danielle Collins today with an undisclosed "medical condition."
Photo by Mal Taam
    Note to readers: If you enjoy my coverage of Northern California tennis, please donate on my homepage. Here's why I need your help.
   At least Venus Williams played a full, competitive match.
   In a tournament marked by premature exits, Maria Sakkari of Greece ousted the third-seeded Williams 6-4, 7-6 (2) tonight in the quarterfinals of the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic at San Jose State.
   Williams, 38, led 3-0 in the first set and 2-0 in the second set and had two set points with Sakkari serving at 4-5 in the second set. It wasn't enough as the Silicon Valley Classic lost its fourth and last former world No. 1.
   After reaching two Grand Slam finals and one major semifinal last year, Williams has gone 2-3 in Slams this year. She won the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford in 2000 and 2002 and reached six other finals there.
   It was Sakkari's first victory over Williams and the first time they have met in a non-Grand Slam tournament. Williams won 6-3, 6-4 in the third round of last year's U.S. Open and in three sets in the second round at Wimbledon in 2016.
   "She's my idol, but now I'm used to playing her," Sakkari, 23, said in an on-court interview. "That was the key."
   In Saturday's semifinals, fourth-seeded Elise Mertens of Belgium will meet fifth-seeded Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania at 1 p.m. PDT, and Sakkari will play Danielle Collins of St. Petersburg, Fla., for the first time at 7 p.m. in a matchup of unseeded players. ESPN2 will televise both matches.
   Collins, a 24-year-old University of Virginia graduate and two-time NCAA singles champion, reached the semifinals in Miami as a qualifier in March.
   Mertens defeated Johanna Konta of Great Britain 7-6 (4), 6-3, and Buzarnescu beat Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia 6-1, 7-5. Konta won the 2016 Bank of the West Classic.
   Mertens, 22, is 3-0 against Buzarnescu, a 30-year-old left-hander who earned a Ph.D. in sports science in December 2016 while recovering from shoulder and knee injuries.
   Unseeded Victoria Azarenka, who won the 2010 Bank of the West Classic, retired from her quarterfinal against Collins with a back injury after leading 7-6 (4), 0-3.
   Azarenka, who won the Australian Open in 2012 and 2013, has tumbled to No. 108 after having her first child in December 2016 and missing tournaments because of a custody battle.
   Sixth-seeded Serena Williams suffered the worst loss of her career on Tuesday night, falling 6-1, 6-0 to Konta in the first round.
   Top-seeded Garbine Muguruza pulled out of her second-round match against Azarenka on Wednesday night with a right arm injury.
   And second-seeded Madison Keys, last year's Bank of the West Classic champion and U.S. Open runner-up, withdrew from her second-round encounter against Tomljanovic on Thursday afternoon with a right wrist problem.
   The top four seeds received first-round byes.
   Withdrawals and retirements from the San Francisco Bay Area tournament, the longest-running women's event in the world in its 48th year, are common because players are cautious with the U.S. Open starting in late August.
   Here is Saturday's schedule in the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic.
   Here are the entry list, qualifying draw and Saturday's schedule for the $100,000 Nordic Naturals Men's Challenger in Aptos, a one-hour drive south of San Jose,
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