Sunday, September 30, 2018

Mmoh, 20, wins 2nd straight Challenger, cracks top 100

Michael Mmoh, left, of Bradenton, Fla., and Marcel Granollers of Spain
pose after Sunday's final in the $100,000 Wells Fargo Tiburon (Calif.)
Challenger. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Note to readers: If you enjoy my coverage of Northern California tennis, please donate on my homepage. Even $5 or $10 will help. Here's why I need your support. Thank you.   TIBURON, Calif. -- John McEnroe said in an interview in Sacramento four years ago that American tennis, which has not had a men's Grand Slam singles champion since Andy Roddick in 2003, needs great athletes.
   Well, it has one, even if he was born in Saudi Arabia to a former pro from Nigeria and an Irishwoman, lived there until he was 12 and has a German coach.
   Nobody is saying just yet that Michael Mmoh, 20, will end the United States' drought, although he or one of several other prospects could. But reach the top 20 or perhaps top 10? Yes.
   Mmoh took a big step in that direction on Sunday by winning his second Challenger title in two weeks. He rose 12 places in the world rankings to debut in the top 100 at No. 96, surpassing his father Tony's career high of No. 105 in 1987.
   Playing more offensively under his new coach, former pro Alexander Waske, the fifth-seeded Mmoh outclassed top-seeded Marcel Granollers, a Spaniard formerly ranked in the top 20 in singles and top five in doubles, 6-3, 7-5 in the $100,000 Wells Fargo Tiburon Challenger.
   "Michael is one of the most athletic people you will ever see on a tennis court," 6-foot-11 (2.11-meter) Reilly Opelka, a 21-year-old American who's seeded second in this week's $100,000 Stockton (Calif.) Challenger at the University of the Pacific's Eve Zimmerman Tennis Center, told The New York Times in 2015. "There is nothing he can't do out there."
   Mmoh saved all five break points against him against Granollers and broke serve twice, to lead 3-1 in the opening set and 6-5 in the second, in their first career meeting. Mmoh rarely ventures to the net, but with Granollers serving at 5-5, 15-30 in the second set, the American nailed a backhand volley winner and broke when Granollers sailed an inside-out forehand long on the next point. Granollers had done the same on break point against him in the first set.
   Mmoh, a chiseled 6-foot-2 (1.88 meters) and 198 pounds (90 kilograms), ultimately won with his power and athleticism.
Michael Mmoh forms a heart with his
hands after Sunday's final to signify his
love of Tiburon. Photo by Paul Bauman
   "For sure," he said afterward while riding a stationary bicycle in the gym at the Tiburon Peninsula Club to cool down. "I think it was a very good balance of serving really well, hitting my forehand really well, moving really well and passing really well.
   "I think that's what it takes to beat a guy like that. There's not just one formula to beat him -- you have to do a little bit of everything, and I stepped up when I needed to. That's how I got that break (in the second set). I came in and hit that volley. I'm pretty proud of the way I stepped up in the big moments and played my aggressive tennis."
   The 32-year-old Granollers, 6-foot-3 (1.91 meters) with an excellent all-around game, agreed with Mmoh's assessment.
   "Obviously, he's a tough player, very solid, no mistakes," said Granollers, who rose four notches to No. 100 after being ranked No. 177 at the beginning of the year. "He served good, very solid from the baseline. Yeah, was two breaks. He have more chances than me today. He deserves (to win). He played better than me today."
   After Mmoh held serve at love to close out the match, he sprawled on his back in exultation. Then he quickly rose and formed a heart with his hands in front of the near-capacity crowd of about 600 at the Tiburon Peninsula Club.
   Mmoh also reached the 2016 Tiburon final, beating Erik Crepaldi of Italy 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7) in the second round of qualifying, saving three match points against Tennys Sandgren in the first round of the main draw and one against defending champion Tim Smyczek in the semifinals before losing to Darian King of Barbados. Sandgren, who retired from that match with a lower back injury while trailing 0-2 in the third set, reached the quarterfinals of the Australian Open in January.
   "Two-thousand-sixteen was my first run at a Challenger tournament," recalled Mmoh, who lost to eventual champion Cameron Norrie of Great Britain in last year's Tiburon quarterfinals. "I almost lost in qualies. I almost lost in the first round of the main draw.
   "That was like getting to the finals of a tour event for me at that time. That was my first big breakthrough at this level. I've won a lot of matches in Tiburon -- let's put it that way. I love coming back here."
   Mmoh and Waske stayed at their host family's house in downtown San Francisco, a 20-minute drive south of Tiburon (Spanish for "shark"), last week.
   "We had the pleasure of driving over the Golden Gate Bridge every day," Waske gushed. "When you can see San Francisco through the clouds, it's so nice."
Michael Mmoh leaps into a forehand during his 6-3, 7-5
victory on Sunday. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Mmoh was coming off the title in a $75,000 indoor tournament in Columbus, Ohio.
   "Honestly, I was not expecting to do that these two weeks," said Mmoh, who has won four Challenger singles titles, all in the United States. "I was hoping to do the best I can and rack up some wins, but to win back-to-back given the fact that one was indoors and one was outdoors, I surprised myself as well. But I'm putting in a lot of hard work with Alex, and my game is definitely ready. I just put it all out; I was pretty locked in both weeks. Good things happen when you work hard."
   The 43-year-old Waske, who peaked at No. 89 in singles in 2006 and No. 16 in doubles in 2007, said he and agent Olivier van Lindonk, who also manages Kei Nishikori and Garbine Muguruza, told Mmoh "the same thing at the beginning of the week. Winning a Challenger is great. Darian King and Tim Smyczek have won here. But you also have Sam Querrey and Jack Sock -- they go boom, boom. If you win two in a row, I feel a lot of players are realizing, now this is different. This is a different level.
   "Today in the final, that was outstanding. That was by far the best he played all week. His offensive game really came in today, smacking the forehand from the middle (of the court), being aggressive on the short balls. That was really good tennis. (He was) a little lucky on the break points because Marcel missed a couple of shots he normally makes, but I'm really happy with (Mmoh's) performance."
   Mmoh, however, will not try to win his third title in three weeks. He withdrew from this week's $150,000 Challenger in Monterrey, Mexico, where he was seeded second, because of fatigue.
   Mmoh pocketed $14,400 for winning the Tiburon singles title, raising his totals to $276,722 this year and $564,029 for his career. Granollers received $8,480 for reaching the singles final and $640 for advancing to the doubles quarterfinals, giving him $9,753,558 for his career.
   The United States leads all nations with 12 men in the top 100. Next are Spain and France. Mmoh became the third 20-year-old American in the elite group, with No. 41 Frances Tiafoe and No. 60 Taylor Fritz, and fifth overall, with No. 15 Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece and No. 68 Andrey Rublev of Russia. Two teenagers are ranked in the top 100: 19-year-olds Denis Shapovalov of Canada at No. 31 and Alex de Minaur of Australia at No. 38.
   Tiafoe cracked the top 100 for the first time by winning the Stockton Challenger two years ago at 18. Fritz won back-to-back Northern California Challengers three years ago at 17.
Marcel Granollers, formerly ranked in the top 20
in singles and top five in doubles, could not match
Michael Mmoh's power and athleticism. Photo by
Paul Bauman
   Granollers, also seeded first in Monterrey, attained career highs of No. 19 in singles in 2012 and No. 4 in doubles in 2013. Can Mmoh also reach the top 20 in singles?
   "Yes, for sure," declared Granollers, a two-time Grand Slam runner-up in men's doubles who has reached the fourth round in singles at the French Open three times and the U.S. Open once. "He's a hard worker; he will do it."
   Top 10?
   "Why not?" Granollers suggested. "He's 20 years old. He's (now 96) in the world. He's one of the best young players in the world."
   Granollers isn't the first accomplished Spaniard Mmoh has beaten. He knocked off then-No. 15 Roberto Bautista Agut 7-6 (4), 2-6, 6-4 in the second round of the Miami Open on the ATP World Tour, the major leagues of men's tennis, in March before losing to South Korean Hyeon Chung, an Australian Open semifinalist this year, 6-1, 6-1.
   Mmoh is often compared to another 32-year-old, Gael Monfils of France. Six-foot-4 (1.93 meters) and extremely athletic, Monfils climbed to a career-high No. 6 in 2016 after reaching his second career Grand Slam semifinal in the U.S. Open. But Mmoh's idol as a kid was Roddick, an International Tennis Hall of Famer known primarily for his blistering serve.
   "I always loved his whole persona and everything about him -- the way he played, the way he competed, his mental toughness and his personality," Mmoh said in a January 2017 story on thetennischannel.com.
   It all began in Saudi Arabia, where Tony Mmoh had a sports marketing business and met Geraldine O'Reilly, a nurse and avid tennis fan, while coaching the Saudi Davis Cup team.
   Michael was named after Michael Jordan. Tony had become infatuated with the NBA legend while attending St. Augustine's College (now St. Augustine's University) in North Carolina and becoming a U.S. citizen. Tony now lives in Atlanta. Geraldine lives in Australia, where she's a citizen, but plans to move to the United States, Michael said.
   Michael caught the basketball bug as a child before devoting himself to tennis.
   "When I was 6, I wanted to become a basketball player," said Michael, a big fan of the NBA Wizards and NFL Redskins because Tony's family is from Washington, D.C. "My dad got me into tennis when I was 3. Originally, I didn't really like it, and I loved basketball. Right after that, I realized -- given that my dad was a professional tennis player -- it would just be easier to play tennis and have that type of mentor.
Qualifiers Hans Hach Verdugo, left, of Mexico and Luke Saville of Aus-
tralia won the doubles title in their first tournament together. Photo by
Paul Bauman
   "I ended up loving tennis. That's the most important thing. That's the thing with my half-siblings. My dad tried to get them to play tennis, but they just didn't love the sport. I feel like I really love the sport -- that's why I work so hard."
   Michael moved from Saudi Arabia to Bradenton, Fla., to train at the IMG Academy. He does not speak Arabic.
   "I went to a school with Americans and Europeans," explained Mmoh, who is still based in Bradenton. "Obviously, my parents didn't speak Arabic, so I literally don't speak a word of it."
   Mmoh peaked at No. 2 in the world junior rankings in 2015 after reaching the boys singles semifinals in the French Open and boys singles quarterfinals at the U.S. Open. He won the 2016 USTA Boys' 18 National Championship in Kalamazoo, Mich., to earn an automatic wild card into the men's main draw at the U.S. Open and lost to hard-hitting Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 6-4, 6-4, 6-1 in the opening round. Then came his breakthrough in Tiburon.
   Tony Mmoh could not be reached for comment, but in the story on thetennischannel.com, he said: "I have tried to talk to Michael in terms of where he wants to be and what it takes for him to get there. The experiences I have had on the tour I have talked to him about. He is a very intelligent young man and very determined. I see that in him. He is trying hard to be successful, and that makes me proud."
   Tony advises Michael to be a predator on the court.
   "He always tells me to be a lion out there, to really put the hurt on guys," Michael said. "In the past, sometimes I would let guys put the hurt on me. I was so good at defense and whatnot, so he always told me to be a lion and take it to guys and really intimidate them by the way you play and how aggressive you are. I would say that's the best thing he ever told me because that's the way I'm going to become a top player."
   In the Tiburon doubles final, qualifiers Hans Hach Verdugo of Mexico and Luke Saville of Australia beat unseeded Gerard Granollers, Marcel's younger brother, and Pedro Martinez of Spain 6-3, 6-2. Hach Verdugo and Saville, who played in their first tournament together, split $6,200. Saville won the 2011 Wimbledon boys singles title.
   Here are the completed Tiburon singles and doubles draws.

Veteran Granollers, promising Mmoh reach Tiburon final

   TIBURON, Calif. -- Marcel Granollers has reached the top 20 in the world in singles.
   Michael Mmoh could get there.
   Granollers, a 32-year-old Spaniard, and Mmoh, a 20-year-old American, will meet for the first time today in the final of the $100,000 Wells Fargo Tiburon Challenger.
   The top-seeded Granollers, ranked No. 104, outclassed sixth-seeded Noah Rubin, a 5-foot-9 (1.75-meter) American, 6-2, 6-2 with his impressive all-around game on Saturday at the Tiburon Peninsula Club.
   "It was not easy; it was a bit windy today," said the 6-foot-3 (1.91-meter) Granollers, who has fallen from career highs of No. 19 in singles in 2012 and No. 4 in doubles in 2013 to No. 104 and No. 22, respectively. "I think I played a very solid match, a smart match with no mistakes."
   The fifth-seeded Mmoh, ranked a career-high No. 108, coped with not only the wind but Australian alternate James Duckworth's unusual game to prevail 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 in a matchup of the last two Challenger champions.
   Mmoh won last week's $75,000 tournament in Columbus, Ohio, and the Duckworth triumphed as a qualifier in a $50,000 tourney in Cary, N.C., two weeks ago in his comeback from five operations (three on his right foot and one each on his right shoulder and right elbow).
    "I hadn't really played a guy with that type of game style in a very long time, if ever," said Mmoh, the Tiburon runner-up two years ago as a qualifier. "Some of the plays he was coming up with I've never seen. He has a really good short slice where he kind of baits you. He hits it short and wants you to come in; he has pretty good passing shots. Nobody really uses that play except for maybe (Roger) Federer.
   "And it's a different slice. He puts a lot of undercut on it. In this wind, it's pretty tough to play against his slice. The stuff he does with his slice and sometimes with his drop shots, his volleys ... he's a very creative, crafty tennis player."
   Mmoh said Duckworth did not play the same way in their only other match, which the Aussie won  6-3, 6-4 two years ago in the first round of qualifying in Winston-Salem (N.C.) on the elite ATP World Tour.
     "I think two years ago he was just better than me.," Mmoh admitted. "He was beating me from the back, but I feel like I've improved a lot, so he felt he had to change it up, and it almost threw me off guard."
   This time, Mmoh served and returned better than Duckworth, 26, in a match that featured many long rallies. Mmoh's first-serve percentage for the match was almost double Duckworth's: 70 to 38.
   After Mmoh broke serve to lead 3-2 in the third set, Duckworth pleaded, "One first serve, one first serve!"
   The sixth game of the second set was almost a match in itself. It went to 13 deuces, and Duckworth saved seven break points before holding serve for 4-2.
   "I couldn't believe I didn't win it," Mmoh said. "I thought I played a good game, had so many chances. I felt like every single break point he was down he was playing a very tough point. He made sure he hit that slice with a lot of undercut and just didn't miss. Sometimes on the deuce point, he wasn't doing that. He was little streaky.
   "That game was a momentum changer. It gave him a lot of confidence and kind of defeated me in a way."
   But only temporarily. Mmoh recovered in the third set to advance.
   Not only are Mmoh and Granollers ranked near each other now, they were No. 175 and No. 177, respectively, at the beginning of the year.
   Granollers, who has earned $9.74 million in career prize money, attributed his rise to "playing more matches, and this gives you more confidence. Last year, I lost many first rounds, so I don't play many matches during the week, and you are out of your rhythm."
   Mmoh, meanwhile, credited "a lot of hard work last offseason" with his former coach, Glenn Weiner, and help from his new coach, Alexander Waske, a 43-year-old former pro from Germany.
   "He's taken my game to the next level," said Mmoh, who played in the main draw at Wimbledon for the first time as a qualifier in July and reached his second career ATP quarterfinal at Los Cabos later in the summer. "The fact I've been doing so well so consistently the second half of the year is all due to him, honestly."
   Mmoh, a chiseled 6-foot-2 (1.88 meters) and 198 pounds (98 kilograms), added that Waske has helped him add offense.
   "I'm a very good defensive player. It's tough to get by me and whatnot, but my offensive tennis wasn't fully developed, and I didn't exactly know how to execute it. I felt like he gave me a very good template," Mmoh said.
   Waske, who peaked at No. 16 in doubles in 2007 and No. 89 in singles in 2006, agreed that "offense is the thing that's missing in order to do the next step. There's a couple more steps he needs to do in order to get even higher -- get to top 50, top 20, whatever -- but Michael has incredible potential. His physical abilities are very strong. He has a lot of power, and he hasn't been using his power for offense, only for defense. In my opinion, he's too strong and too big to play defensive tennis purely. He will never be a chip-charger, but he needs to realize in which situation to play what. If he has a good serve and gets a short return, he needs to play offensive.
   "He's a smart guy. We had a lot of video analysis and looked at certain things. He's worked on it, and it's getting better."
   It figures that Mmoh, a one-man United Nations, would hire a non-American.
   Mmoh was born in Saudi Arabia to Tony Mmoh, a former journeyman professional and Olympian from Nigeria, and Geraldine O'Reilly, an Irishwoman who moved to Australia in 2016.
   Tony was coaching the Saudi Arabian Davis Cup team, and Geraldine, an avid tennis fan, was working in Saudi Arabia as a nurse at the time.
   Michael was named after Michael Jordan. Tony had become infatuated with the NBA legend while attending St. Augustine's College (now St. Augustine's University) in North Carolina and becoming a U.S. citizen. Michael moved from Saudi Arabia to Bradenton, Fla., at 12 to train at the IMG Academy and still is based there.
   Here are the Tiburon singles and doubles draws and today's schedule. The tournament is being streamed live.
   Here are the singles qualifying and main draws and today's schedule in the men's $100,000 Stockton (Calif.) Challenger and the singles qualifying draw and today's schedule in the Stockton Women's $60K.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Mmoh tops Paul in dramatic clash of U.S. prospects

No. 5 seed Michael Mmoh held off wild card Tommy Paul 7-6 (7), 2-6,
6-3 today in the quarterfinals of the $100,000 Wells Fargo Tiburon
Challenger. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Note to readers: If you enjoy my coverage of Northern California tennis, please donate on my homepage. Even $5 or $10 will help. Here's why I need your support. Thank you.
   TIBURON, Calif. -- If today's match between Michael Mmoh and Tommy Paul is any indication, American fans have a lot to look forward to.
   In a dramatic battle between two of the United States' many men's prospects, the fifth-seeded Mmoh held off Paul, a wild card, 7-6 (7), 2-6, 6-3 in the quarterfinals of the $100,000 Wells Fargo Tiburon Challenger on a chilly evening at the Tiburon Peninsula Club.
   Mmoh saved four set points and Paul two in the first set, which lasted 1 hour, 13 minutes. Mmoh bolted to a 5-0 lead in the third set before Paul reeled off the next three games to make matters interesting. Mmoh needed five match points, including four in the last game, to prevail in 2 hours, 37 minutes.
   Mmoh, 20, said it was the highest-quality match in which he has ever played.
   "I've played a lot of great players, and that was a really high level," he asserted.
   Mmoh attributed his victory to "mental toughness. I think he sometimes went through waves in the match where he was super locked-in and he wouldn't miss a ball, then at the beginning of the third set where he literally couldn't make a ball for five games. I think I was mentally locked in the entire time. I think that was the difference."
   Mmoh improved to 3-0 against the 21-year-old Paul, who was not available for comment. Each match has gone three sets.
   "I think Tommy Paul is going to be a name to remember in years to come just like my name, and I think we're going to have a lot of great battles in the future as well," said Mmoh, who was born in  Saudi Arabia to Nigerian pro Tony Mmoh and an Irish mother and named after Michael Jordan. "I'm looking forward to it."
Tommy Paul saved four match points before
succumbing. Photo by Paul Bauman
   And it's hardly just Mmoh, ranked No. 108, and Paul, ranked No. 343 after reaching a career-high No. 149 in January and then missing 4 1/2 months with a right elbow injury.
   The United States has four players 23 or younger in the top 100 -- No. 41 Frances Tiafoe (20), No. 62 Taylor Fritz (20), No. 80 Mackenzie McDonald (23) from Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area and No. 99 Jared Donaldson (21) -- and 11 more in the top 350. Two of them -- No. 138 Noah Rubin and No. 223 Christopher Eubanks, both 22 -- met earlier today in Tiburon.
   The 5-foot-9 (1.75-meter) Rubin, seeded sixth, beat the 6-foot-7 (2.01-meter) Eubanks 6-4, 6-3 in a matchup of the shortest and tallest players in the draw.
   "I don't think there are too many of us (little guys) left (on the pro tours)," Rubin said with a laugh. "The small guys coming out now are like 6-1 (1.85 meters). That's considered small, so 5-9 is incredibly small. It's tough, but at the same time, I'm willing to work to get where I need to be."
   Beating giants is nothing new for Rubin, a product of the John McEnroe Tennis Academy in New York. He toppled 6-foot-10 (2.08-meter) John Isner 6-4, 7-6 (6) in the second round in Washington, D.C., on the elite ATP World Tour this summer for his first victory over a top-10 player. Rubin then lost to 20-year-old Russian Andrey Rublev.
   Asked how he beats players like Isner and Eubanks in an era of power, Rubin said: "I think my power is underestimated. For a guy my size, I can come up with the goods. I can still attack if needed, but when I need to dig down balls for six straight games, my legs are able to do it. It's kind of the best of both worlds. I might not get the aces on big points, but at the same time, I'm going to steal some points."
   In Saturday's semifinals, which follow an 11 a.m. doubles match, Rubin will face top-seeded Marcel Granollers of Spain for the first time, and Mmoh will play Australian alternate James Duckworth in a matchup of the last two Challenger champions.
Tommy Paul tries to stay warm during one of Michael Mmoh's
two medical timeouts. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Duckworth won a $50,000 tournament in Cary, N.C., two weeks ago in his comeback from five operations (three on his right foot and one each on his right shoulder and right elbow), and Mmoh triumphed in last week's $75,000 tourney in Columbus (Ohio). In their only previous meeting, Duckworth won 6-3, 6-4 two years ago in the first round of qualifying for Winston-Salem on the ATP World Tour.
   "He was just coming out of juniors then, so he wasn't playing anywhere near the level he's playing at now," Duckworth said after beating Marcelo Arevalo of El Salvador 7-5, 6-3. "He's obviously pretty confident coming off a win in Columbus."
   Granollers, who reached career highs of No. 19 in singles in 2012 and No. 4 in doubles in 2013, dismissed John-Patrick Smith of Australia 6-2, 6-3.
   Smith, a 29-year-old left-hander, had beaten the 32-year-old Granollers 6-3, 6-4 on grass in the second round of qualifying at Wimbledon in June.
   "Every match is different," explained Granollers, now ranked No. 104. "At Wimbledon, he played a really good match. Today I served very good, I was aggressive, and I was very focused on the return also. I knew he's a great server, so I'm very happy to be in the semifinals."
   The first set of the Mmoh-Paul match featured two long, breathtaking rallies, including one on the last point that Mmoh won with a spectacular backhand passing shot down the line to elicit a roar from the crowd.
   Mmoh said he had "no idea" how many balls he and Paul, who won the Columbus doubles title with Peter Polansky of Canada, hit during the rallies.
   "It was just a blur, honestly. I don't even remember a lot of the points that I played. Every single point was a grind, and the whole match was a battle," said Mmoh, who reached his first Challenger final in Tiburon two years ago as a qualifier.
Top-seeded Marcel Granollers of Spain exults
during his 6-2, 6-3 victory over John-Patrick
Smith of Australia. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Mmoh lost his serve in the opening game of the second set on a double fault, and Paul coasted the rest of the set.
   "I didn't feel like I could have hung in that set and been ready for the third," Mmoh said. "I was competing in the second set but getting ready for the third. I knew I had to ramp it up, and that's what I did."
   But Paul wouldn't go quietly. He came up with one tremendous shot after another on the first four match points, prompting Mmoh to yell at his coach, Alexander Waske, in frustration. Finally, Mmoh pounded a service winner to end matters.
   "I felt like I was playing just as good when it went to 5-3 as when I went up 5-0," Mmoh said. "I didn't think I did anything wrong, especially on all those match points. I thought I did the right thing and played well. He just came up with the goods."
   Mmoh, a right-hander with a two-handed backhand, took medical timeouts at 3-2 in the first set for a dried skin on his left little finger that had split and after the second set for a tight right shoulder.
   Paul, meanwhile, continually patted his lower back and tweaked his left ankle in the second game of the third set but never called for the trainer in the match.
   Here are the Tiburon singles and doubles draws and Saturday's schedule. The tournament is being streamed liveAdmission is $30 on Saturday and $35 on Sunday ($55 for both days).
   Here are the singles qualifying draw and Saturday's schedule in the $100,000 Stockton (Calif.) Challenger.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

After five operations, Aussie survives Tiburon thriller

James Duckworth, 26, of Australia winds up on a forehand
during his 4-6, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (6) victory over 19-year-old
countryman Alexei Popyrin today. Duckworth escaped
six match points. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Note to readers: If you enjoy my coverage of Northern California tennis, please donate on my homepage. Even $5 or $10 will help. Here's why I need your support. Thank you.
   TIBURON, Calif. -- James Duckworth is lucky to be playing tennis at all, lucky to be in the main draw of the $100,000 Wells Fargo Tiburon Challenger and lucky to be in the quarterfinals.
   A big serve, mental toughness and experience also had a lot to do with the 26-year-old Australian alternate's nerve-wracking victory today at the Tiburon Peninsula Club.
   Duckworth, who underwent five -- yes, five -- operations from February 2017 to February this year, survived six -- yes, six -- match points to beat 19-year-old countryman Alexei Popyrin 4-6, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (6) in a 2-hour, 25-minute thriller filled with spectacular shots by both players. Only one of the match points came on Popyrin's serve.
   When asked how he pulled out the match, his first against Popyrin, Duckworth replied with a laugh: "I have no idea. I was down a few match points. I was just thinking one point at a time. I was thinking, don't make an unforced error; make him win the point. I got pretty lucky in the end. I'm thrilled to have won."
   Duckworth is scheduled to play Marcelo Arevalo of El Salvador on Friday. Arevalo, coming off a victory over second-seeded Jordan Thompson of Australia in the first round, defeated Mikael Torpegaard, a 24-year-old former Ohio State star from Denmark, 6-3, 0-6, 6-3 in a matchup of the top players from their countries. Torpegaard reached the semifinals of last week's $75,000 Columbus (Ohio) Challenger on his former home courts.
   In the other quarterfinal in the bottom half of the draw, fifth-seeded Michael Mmoh will meet wild card Tommy Paul in a clash of top American prospects. Both advanced by retirement.
   Mmoh, who reached the Tiburon final two years ago as an 18-year-old qualifier and won the Columbus title last week, led 6-2, 3-0 when compatriot Ernesto Escobedo quit with a hip injury.
Alexei Popyrin showed great potential in his loss to James
Duckworth. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Paul, who won the 2015 French Open boys singles title and upset fourth-seeded Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland in the opening round this week, was up 5-0 when wild card Brandon Holt, a USC junior and the son of International Tennis Hall of Famer Tracy Austin, couldn't continue because a shoulder problem. 
   In the doubles quarterfinals, Spaniards Gerard Granollers and Pedro Martinez beat wild cards and defending champions Andre Goransson and Florian Lakat -- former Cal teammates from Sweden and France, respectively -- 6-4, 6-4. Granollers is the younger brother of Marcel Granollers, the top seed in Tiburon singles. 
   Duckworth escaped three match points while serving at 4-5 in the third set and three more when the 6-foot-5 (1.96-meter) Popyrin, last year's French Open boys singles champion, led 6-3 in the subsequent tiebreaker.
   Duckworth, a muscular 6 feet (1.83 meters), saved the first two match points with aces. Then Duckworth missed his first serve, but Popyrin netted a backhand return of the second delivery.
   With Duckworth serving at 3-6 in the third-set tiebreaker, Popyrin netted a backhand off Duckworth's net-cord backhand. Duckworth then blasted another ace and pulled even at 6-6 when Popyrin converted his first serve but netted a forehand.
   After Popyrin missed his first serve on the next point, he shanked a forehand off another net-cord shot by Duckworth, inducing Popyrin to yell in frustration, "How many net tapes?"
   Duckworth then converted his first match point with an overhead.
   Experience "definitely helped" Duckworth in the match, he said.
   "I was probably a little bit more composed than he was in those bigger moments, which probably got me over the line in the end," Duckworth surmised.
Marcelo Arevalo of El Salvador celebrates after
beating Mikael Torpegaard of Denmark in a
matchup of the top players from their countries.
Photo by Paul Bauman 
   Duckworth's spot in the main draw would have gone to countryman Luke Saville as a "special exempt" if he had won his quarterfinal in Columbus. That would have prevented Saville, then ranked No. 488, from playing in Tiburon qualifying. But he lost, opening a main-draw berth for Duckworth, the highest-ranked player at No. 289 to sign up for Tiburon qualifying. Got it?
   Duckworth attained a career high of No. 82 in 2015, reached the second round of a Grand Slam tournament for the fifth time in the 2016 U.S. Open and ended that year at No. 103. Then came surgery on his right foot in February 2017, right shoulder the following month, right foot in August 2017 and January this year, and right elbow in February.
   "I had a navicular stress fracture, and they put two pins in my navicular bone," Duckworth said of his foot injury. "From that, there were just different complications. I had pains in different areas, from what I can't really tell you. I had to have two more operations on my foot.
   "I also had shoulder and elbow issues that needed to be (addressed) at some stage, and we thought we may as well do them at the same time. The foot was the main thing that held me back for such a long time."
   It was all "extremely" frustrating, averred Duckworth, who used a protected ranking to return at the French Open in late May and lost to third-seeded Marin Cilic 6-3, 7-5, 7-6 (4) in the first round.
   "At the end of 2016, I felt like I was really playing my best tennis," he said. "I was pretty close to the top hundred, and I had no (ranking) points to defend for six months. I thought I could push for the top 50.
   "It was a terrible 18 months, really. I went through five surgeries and was doing lots and lots of boring rehab. I was struggling to get healthy. I was in pain for such a long period of time, and I couldn't run for so long because of my foot. It was really tough, but I had a great team that helped me back in Brisbane. I went through everything, and I'm really excited to be back out here playing again."
Brandon Holt, the son of International Tennis Hall
of Famer Tracy Austin, retired with a shoulder in-
jury after trailing Tommy Paul 0-5 in a matchup
of American wild cards. Photo by Paul Bauman 
   Duckworth said he didn't consider retiring but "there were lots of times I thought I was never going to be able to run again. I didn't want to quit, but I thought my body might get the best of me."
  It didn't. Duckworth reached the third round in Washington on the elite ATP Tour in early August and won the $50,000 Cary (N.C.) Challenger two weeks ago. His last three matches in Cary were moved indoors because of light rain from Hurricane Florence.       
   After his ordeal, Duckworth is enjoying tennis more than ever.
   "I always loved tennis, and I've never really taken it for granted," he cautioned. "But I guess now -- I don't want to say I appreciate it more because I did really appreciate it -- but I'm just trying to soak up every tournament I go to. Every time I'm practicing and playing matches, I'm thinking, Gee, this is so much better than being on the operating table or doing rehab."
   Here are the Tiburon singles and doubles draws and Friday's schedule. The tournament is being streamed liveAdmission is $25 on Friday, $30 on Saturday and $35 on Sunday ($55 for a Saturday-Sunday pass).

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Eubanks overpowers third seed, ex-Tiburon champ

Christopher Eubanks serves during his 6-3, 6-3 victory
over Peter Polansky, the third seed and 2013 champion,
today in the $100,000 Wells Fargo Tiburon Challenger.
Photo by Paul Bauman 
   Note to readers: If you enjoy my coverage of Northern California tennis, please donate on my homepage. Even $5 or $10 will help. Here's why I need your support. Thank you.
   TIBURON, Calif. -- Add Peter Polansky to the list of accomplished players Christopher Eubanks has frustrated with his power in Northern California Challengers lately.
   Eubanks, a 22-year-old lifelong Atlantan, dispatched Canada's Polansky, the third seed and 2013 champion, 6-3, 6-3 in 57 minutes today to reach the quarterfinals of the $100,000 Wells Fargo Tiburon Challenger at the Tiburon Peninsula Club.
   Eubanks, 6-foot-7 (2.01-meter) and only 180 pounds (82 kilograms), pounded nine aces and ripped numerous passing shots and winners with his flat forehand and one-handed backhand.
   After Polansky broke serve for 3-5 in the second set on a rare unforced error by Eubanks, Polansky cracked, "Back on earth, baby!"
   Following their first career meeting, the 6-foot (1.83-meter) Polansky said Eubanks "played very, very aggressively today, especially in the first set. I don't think he missed one return. He was slapping everything, making me play extremely difficult balls. I felt under pressure every single game. I thought eventually he might slow down a little bit or just throw in some mistakes at key moments, but he didn't. I got frustrated with just how well he was playing.
   "In the second set, I felt I had a little chance to come back there at the end. I was still down a break, and I wasn't serving well. Mentally I was not quite there as well, but he played like four levels above what I expected him to play. I don't know if that's his normal game."
   In terms of aggression, at least, it is.
   "That's pretty much how I play," Eubanks allowed. "It's been a staple of my game for a long time."
   Eubanks proudly donned an Atlanta Braves cap before and after the match. The Braves clinched their first National League East crown since 2013 on Saturday.
Peter Polansky said Christopher
Eubanks "played like four levels
above what I expected him to play."
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Americans Michael Mmoh and Ernesto Escobedo can empathize with Polansky, who made news at the recent U.S. Open by becoming the first lucky loser (a player who falls in the last round of qualifying but advances to the main draw because of a withdrawal) at all four Grand Slam tournaments in a calendar year.
   Mmoh, a promising 20-year-old, and Escobedo, who reached a career-high No. 67 last year in July, were almost helpless against Eubanks' booming serve in back-to-back matches in last month's $100,000 Challenger in Aptos, 98 miles (158 kilometers) south of Tiburon. Both Mmoh, seeded second, and Escobedo lost in two close sets, and Eubanks subsequently fell to South African Lloyd Harris, who had won the $75,000 Lexington (Ky.) Challenger the previous week, in the semifinals.
   Mmoh, however, defeated Eubanks 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 three weeks ago in the first round of the $150,000 Chicago Challenger to improve to 4-2 in the head-to-head series. Mmoh is seeded fifth in Tiburon, where he reached the final as a qualifier two years ago.
   Polansky hedged when asked if Eubanks, who's ranked No. 223, has top-20 potential or better.
   "It's tough to say right now," said Polansky, who reached a career-high No. 110 in June and is now No. 120. "He's still pretty far away from that. Does he have top-hundred potential? Yeah. Once he's top hundred, it's, 'OK, push for 90, push for 80.' A lot of players take that route rather than aiming straight for top 20, top 30."
   Eubanks will meet his former Atlantic Coast Conference rival, 5-foot-9 (1.75-meter) Noah Rubin, in Friday's quarterfinals. The sixth-seeded Rubin, also 22, beat another former ACC star, wild card JC Aragone (Virginia,  2015-17), 7-6 (3), 6-4 after trailing 0-4 in the first set.
   "He's a great ball-striker, especially (in conditions) like this -- the court is fast and the ball is slow," Rubin, a product of the John McEnroe Tennis Academy in New York and the runner-up in the $100,000 Stockton Challenger in 2016, said regarding his early deficit. "It's good for him just to keep ripping. I came out relatively slow moving-wise and was kind of playing into his game. Then I said, 'Stop (playing like that),' and found my openings in a couple games. I was like, 'Just stick with this set and see what you can do,' and I found my way back."
John-Patrick Smith of Australia reacts
after beating eighth-seeded Bjorn Frat-
angelo of Orlando, Fla., 1-6, 6-4, 6-2.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Eubanks turned pro last year after his junior season at Georgia Tech, where he was named the ACC Player of the Year in 2016 and 2017. Rubin made the leap after reaching the 2015 NCAA final, in which he lost to 6-foot-4 (1.93-meter) Ryan Shane of Virginia, as a freshman at Wake Forest.
   Rubin was 2-0 against Eubanks in college, but Eubanks won in the first round of the $50,000 Champaign (Ill.) Challenger in 2016 in their only meeting in a pro tournament. All three matches were straight-set wins.
   Also Friday, top-seeded Marcel Granollers, a 32-year-old Spaniard, will play unseeded John-Patrick Smith, a 29-year-old left-hander from Australia.
   Granollers, who attained career highs of No. 19 in singles in 2012 and No. 4 in doubles in 2013, defeated qualifier Cem Ilkel of Turkey 6-2, 7-5.
   Smith, the doubles champion in Tiburon two years ago and in San Francisco last year with countryman Matt Reid, beat eighth-seeded Bjorn Fratangelo of Orlando, Fla., 1-6, 6-4, 6-2. Fratangelo advanced to the Tiburon singles quarterfinals for three consecutive years (2014-16).
   The quarterfinal matchups in the bottom half of the draw will be determined Thursday.
   In the first round of doubles, wild cards and defending champions Andre Goransson and Florian Lakat -- former Cal teammates from Sweden and France, respectively -- topped third-seeded Polansky and Jackson Withrow of College Station, Texas, 4-6, 6-3 [10-4].
   Here are the Tiburon singles and doubles draws and Thursday's schedule. The tournament is being streamed live.
   Admission is $20 through Thursday (free for club members), $25 on Friday, $30 on Saturday and $35 on Sunday ($55 for a Saturday-Sunday pass).

Kids Day set at Stockton Pro Open

   Kids Day is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 6, during the Stockton (Calif.) Pro Open at the Eve Zimmerman Tennis Center on the campus of the University of the Pacific.
   Kids will be admitted free, and their adult chaperones will receive half off the ticketed price.
   Kids Day will feature the USTA Net Generation 10 and Under Tennis programs and introduce tennis to all ages. There will also be a fast-serve booth, hitting for prizes, and autographs by the pros.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Arevalo, from troubled nation, rallies to beat No. 2 seed

Marcelo Arevalo of El Salvador ousted
No. 2 seed Jordan Thompson of Australia
2-6, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (5) today in the first round
of the $100,000 Wells Fargo Tiburon (Calif.)
Challenger. Photo by Paul Bauman
   TIBURON, Calif. -- Jordan Thompson appeared to be on his way to an easy victory.
   The Australian, seeded second, led Marcelo Arevalo of troubled El Salvador 6-2, 4-1 today in the first round of the $100,000 Wells Fargo Tiburon Challenger.
   Suddenly, though, Thompson began to make errors, and the 6-foot-3 (1.91-meter) Arevalo found the range on his powerful serve and forehand.
   Arevalo finally prevailed 2-6, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (5) in 2 hours, 32 minutes on a sunny, 68-degree (20 Celsius) day at the Tiburon Peninsula Club, nestled in the hills across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco.
   "I was not feeling (comfortable on the court), to be honest," Arevalo, 27, said of the first half of the match, his first against Thompson. "I was not hitting the ball clean, but I knew that I need an opportunity to break back and come back. I did when I was 4-2 down (in the second set). I played a better game on his serve and broke at zero. That gave me the confidence to come back. After that, my level went up a lot. I think he started to realize he had the match. It could (have been) like 6-2, 6-1 in 45 minutes."
   Thompson, 24, agreed with Arevalo.
   "I lost -- simple as that. I didn't hit many balls in the court, and he started to get better, lifted his game," muttered Thompson, ranked No. 106 after reaching a career-high No. 63 in February 2017.
   Thompson added that he was not physically or mentally tired after reaching the final of last week's $75,000 Columbus (Ohio) Challenger as the top seed.
   "Not at all. I wouldn't have lost 7-6 in the third if I was tired. It was cold (today), not very tough outside. I lost by two points. It had nothing to do with (anything) physical," said Thompson, who has "107" tattooed on his chest to signify that he's the 107th player in history named to the Australian Davis Cup team.
   Also falling today were No. 4 seed Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland and No. 7 Marc Polmans of Australia, leaving No. 5 Michael Mmoh of Bradenton, Fla., as the only remaining seed in the bottom half of the draw after the first round.
   Tommy Paul, a 21-year-old wild card from Greenville, N.C., defeated Laaksonen 6-4, 6-3. Paul, who won the French Open boys singles title in 2015, is scheduled to face another wild card, Brandon Holt, on Thursday for a berth in the quarterfinals.
Jordan Thompson said he was not tired after reaching the
final of last week's $75,000 Columbus (Ohio) Challenger
as the top seed. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Holt, a USC junior and the son of International Tennis Hall of Famer Tracy Austin, beat qualifier Steven Diez of Canada 6-3, 7-6 (4) for his first Challenger main-draw victory.
   Alexei Popyrin, a 19-year-old Aussie who won the 2017 French Open boys singles crown, defeated Polmans 6-4, 6-4.
   Canada's Peter Polansky, the third seed and 2013 Tiburon champion, topped 6-foot-5 (1.96-meter) wild card Tom Fawcett, who completed his eligibility at Stanford in May, 6-4, 6-4. Polansky, 30, served at 1-4, 15-40 in the second set.
   "That could have easily been the set right there," said the 120th-ranked Polansky. "I went for a couple bigger shots there and just tried to let loose and won that game, which gave me a bit of momentum, and I was surprised to get the break back the next game, but that's how it is sometimes with sports."
   The 20-year-old Mmoh, coming off the Columbus title, outplayed Darian King of Barbados 6-2, 6-4 in a rematch of the 2016 Tiburon final. King wore down Mmoh, then a qualifier, 7-6 (2), 6-2 in that encounter.
   Arevalo, ranked No. 192 in singles and No. 59 in doubles, is the best professional player ever from El Salvador. Then again, the Central American nation about the size of New Jersey with a population of 6.1 million has produced only three of them.
   Miguel Merz -- who moved with his family from Germany to El Salvador, according to Arevalo -- peaked at No. 254 in singles in 1992. Arevalo's older brother, Rafael, retired at 22 because of insufficient financial support and is now the president of the Salvadoran Tennis Federation.
Canada's Peter Polansky, the third seed and 2013 Tiburon
champion, beat wild card Tom Fawcett, who starred at
Stanford, 6-4, 6-4. Polansky served at 1-4, 15-40 in the
second set. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Marcelo, also lacking enough money, played at the University of Tulsa (Okla.) for two years before turning pro in 2012.
   "Then I found my way," Arevalo said.
   Meanwhile, bedlam reigns in parts of El Salvador. The nation's murder rate of 83 per 100,000 people in 2016 was the highest in the world, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday in a cover story on the epidemic of homicides in Latin America.
   "Of course, I don't feel proud of that, but I feel like I can't do anything about it right now because what I do is play professional tennis," Arevalo said. "I just go (to El Salvador) a couple of weeks a year to visit my family. I live with my girlfriend in Florida. That's where I spend all the time practicing, and the rest of the time, I'm traveling playing tournaments.
   "I know it's not a great situation (in El Salvador). There's a war between two gangs, and all the murders you see in the newspaper and on TV, it's all about them killing each other. If you don't go to their places, nothing is going to happen to you."
   Without his brother, Arevalo probably would still be in El Salvador.
   "I'm lucky that my brother wanted to play professionally before me, so he was always an inspiration for me," Arevalo said. "After that, it has not been easy, but I really like what I'm doing. I really love the sport. I have achieved a lot of goals, and I want to achieve many, many, many more. I just want to be better every day and hopefully one day become one of the best players in the world."
   Here are the Tiburon singles and doubles draws and Wednesday's schedule. The tournament is being streamed live.
   Admission is $20 through Thursday (free for club members), $25 on Friday, $30 on Saturday and $35 on Sunday ($55 for a Saturday-Sunday pass).

Monday, September 24, 2018

Tiburon players divided on new Davis Cup format

Liam Broady, 24, of Great Britain said making his
Davis Cup debut in February at Spain "was prob-
ably one of the best experiences of my life."
Photo by Paul Bauman
   TIBURON, Calif. -- Liam Broady has played on Centre Court at Wimbledon in his home country.
   But making his Davis Cup debut for Great Britain in February meant more to him.
   "It was probably one of the best experiences of my life, to be honest, and I've played a fair few matches on a fair few big courts in my time," the top-seeded Broady said after losing to eighth-seeded Steven Diez of Canada 6-1, 6-3 today in the final round of qualifying for the $100,000 Wells Fargo Tiburon Challenger at the Tiburon Peninsula Club. "It's a different feeling to play for your country. I know each week obviously every player represents their country in a way. There's a 'GBR' next to my name on every drawsheet, but actually playing with 'Great Britain' on the scoreboard instead of your name gives you chills.
   "Players grow up wanting to play Davis Cup for their country, and that was certainly one of my dreams. I'll never have that experience again, I suppose, because it's changing now."
   In an effort to boost stars' participation in the Davis Cup and increase global interest and revenue, the International Tennis Federation voted last month to revamp the 118-year-old competition beginning next year.
   Teams will play during one week in November at one site instead of four weeks spread throughout the year at host nations, countries will play the best of three matches (two singles and one doubles) instead of the best of five (four singles and one doubles), and matches will be the best of three sets instead of the best of five.
   Kosmos, a European investment group led by Spanish soccer star Gerard Pique, will invest $3 billion over 25 years in the new Davis Cup. Oracle founder Larry Ellison, who owns the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, also has pledged financial support.
   When asked if he favors or opposes the new format, Broady said: "It's quite a tricky one, isn't it? I'm quite old-fashioned. I think the tradition and history behind the Davis Cup is something that probably needed protecting a little bit more. Quite a few players made that obvious, but obviously players didn't really get a say in it this time, which was a shame.
   "I saw (Roger) Federer kind of said, 'Obviously there's going to be more money with the new backers and new way it's going to be played, and hopefully that money will go to the players.' So if it does, I guess I've got to support that as well."
Sixth-seeded Noah Rubin serves during his 6-0, 6-0
victory over Thiemo de Bakker, a former top-40 player,
today in the first round of the $100,000 Wells Fargo
Tiburon (Calif.) Challenger. Photo by Paul Bauman
    Two years ago at Wimbledon, Broady lost to countryman and eventual champion Andy Murray 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 on Centre Court in the first round.
   "Obviously, it's another dream for any player to play on Centre Court," said Broady, a 24-year-old left-hander whose older sister, Naomi, plays on the women's tour. "I can't take anything away from that, but my instant reaction is to play Davis Cup. Again, to represent your country in that way and to have your teammates by your side and on the side of the court, and to play for your captain with the badge on your chest, there's nothing like it because you're part of something bigger, which is an incredible experience."
   Broady got his chance when injuries knocked out Murray, a three-time Grand Slam singles champion and former world No. 1, and Kyle Edmund, who had reached the Australian Open semifinals the previous week. Broady fell to Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (6) in the first rubber of host Spain's 3-1 victory on outdoor clay in Marbella. It was Broady's only match during the competition, which Rafael Nadal also missed.
   "I think there were two or three thousand Brits (in the crowd) because there are quite a few ex-pats in and around Marbella from the (United Kingdom), and we had the Stirling Barmy Army, which is a fantastic fan group," recalled Broady, the runner-up in last year's $100,000 Aptos (Calif.) Challenger as a qualifier. "We bring crazy fan support no matter where we play. It was amazing. The first day, the Spanish crowd didn't really turn out, but then the next day and the third day, they made a real effort to get more fans because I don't think they expected so many Brits.
   "Again, you never play in front of a crowd as passionate as a Davis Cup crowd, which I think is one of the reasons so many upsets happen."
   By losing to Spain, Great Britain was relegated to the World Group playoffs, in which it beat Uzbekistan 3-1 on Sept. 14-16 in Glasgow, Scotland.
   "Dan Evans (of Great Britain) won his tie on the first day against (Denis) Istomin, and he was crying," Broady marveled. "There was another guy playing for Hungary (Zsombor Piros) who beat (the Czech Republic's Jiri) Vesely, and he was on the floor after a (4-hour, 20-minute) match."
Top-seeded Marcel Granollers of Spain cele-
brates his 6-2, 7-5 victory over Evan King
in the first round of the Tiburon Challenger.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Two seeds who won their first-round matches in the main draw of the Tiburon Challenger today agreed with the ITF that Davis Cup changes were necessary. But 22-year-old American Noah Rubin, a Davis Cup practice partner in 2014, was more supportive than 32-year-old Marcel Granollers, who played on Spain's Davis Cup championship teams in 2008 and 2011.
   "I think tennis needs some changes, and this is one of them," the sixth-seeded Rubin said after demolishing Thiemo de Bakker, a former top-40 player from the Netherlands, 6-0, 6-0 in 46 minutes in a matchup for former Wimbledon boys champions. "They're going in the right direction toward making it better for spectators. Obviously there's tradition involved in the old format that people are going to be upset about. With change comes rejection, and you have to deal with that and move forward."
   Playing Davis Cup, added the runner-up in the $100,000 Stockton (Calif.) Challenger in 2016, "is a tremendous dream of mine. The Olympics and Davis Cup have always been a dream of mine, seeing the incredible ties that have been played against the U.S. and the victories we've had. Hopefully soon."         
   Granollers, who reached career highs of No. 19 in singles in 2012 and No. 4 in doubles in 2013, has some reservations about the new Davis Cup format.
   "I think we need some changes in the Davis Cup," he conceded after defeating Evan King, a 26-year-old left-hander from Chicago, 6-2, 7-5. "I don't know if this is the right one or not, but I think we have to give at least one chance to see how it goes next year because with the old system, the best players are not playing."
   Under the current format, the four rounds of the Davis Cup immediately follow, in order, the Australian Open, the Miami Open, the U.S. Open and the ATP Finals, leaving many top players unwilling to play for their countries.
   Granollers likes golf's system of playing the Ryder Cup every other year.
   "The (current Davis Cup) system, you cannot play every year," Granollers maintained. "It's too much, too much traveling, and the best players are focusing on their (individual) careers. I think at least we have to play every two or three years."
   Granollers ranks his Davis Cup championships with his four ATP singles titles, especially Valencia on an indoor hardcourt in 2011, as the highlights of his career. He also owns 15 doubles crowns and doubles runner-up finishes with countryman Marc Lopez at the French Open and U.S. Open in 2014.
   "For sure, one of the top," Granollers said of the Davis Cup titles. "When you represent your country, it's one of the best feelings you can have -- more exciting feelings on the court. But also the titles I won in singles are one of my best memories. Same level.
   "Grand Slam finals in doubles is good, but I'm more proud of my singles titles. Valencia was in my country, 500 (level), so it was a big tournament for me and the best week in my life."
   Here are the Tiburon singles qualifying, singles main and doubles main draws and Tuesday's schedule. The tournament is being streamed live.
   Admission is $20 through Thursday (free for club members), $25 on Friday, $30 on Saturday and $35 on Sunday ($55 for a Saturday-Sunday pass).

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Brooksby, 17, narrowly loses in $100K Tiburon qualifying

Jenson Brooksby practices in May at the
Arden Hills Club & Spa in Sacramento.
Three months later, he won the USTA
boys 18 national title to earn a wild card
into the men's main draw of the U.S. Open.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Teenager Jenson Brooksby put up a fight but lost in the second round of qualifying for the $100,000 Wells Fargo Tiburon Challenger in the San Francisco Bay Area.
   The 17-year-old wild card from the Sacramento suburb of Carmichael fell to second-seeded Cem Ilkel of Turkey 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 today at the Tiburon Peninsula Club. Affluent Tiburon is located across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco.
   Brooksby won the USTA boys 18 national title in Kalamazoo, Mich., last month to earn an automatic wild card in the men's main draw of the recent U.S. Open and lost to John Millman of Australia 6-4, 6-2, 6-0 in the first round. Millman later stunned Roger Federer in the fourth round before losing to eventual champion Novak Djokovic in straight sets in the quarterfinals, and Brooksby reached the boys semifinals.
   The 23-year-old Ilkel, ranked No. 244, is scheduled to play Australia's Luke Saville, ranked No. 444 after reaching a career-high No. 152 in 2015, on Monday at 10 a.m. on Center Court for a berth in the main draw. 
   Saville, the boys champion at Wimbledon in 2011 and in the 2012 Australian Open, reached the quarterfinals of last week's $75,000 Columbus (Ohio) Challenger as a qualifier.
   In the first round of the main draw on Monday, No. 1 seed Marcel Granollers, 32, of Spain will meet Evan King, a 26-year-old left-hander from Chicago, for the first time not before 11:30 a.m. 
   Granollers attained career highs of No. 19 in singles in 2012 and No. 4 in doubles in 2013. He and countryman Marc Lopez reached the French Open and U.S. Open doubles finals in 2014.
   After the Granollers-King match, No. 8 seed Bjorn Fratangelo of Pittsburgh and Orlando, Fla., will play Pedja Krstin of Serbia.
   Fratangelo, who was named after Bjorn Borg, is one of only three Americans to win the French Open boys singles title in the Open era, which began 50 years ago. The others are John McEnroe (1977) and Tommy Paul (2015). Paul, a 21-year-old wild card, will take on No. 4 seed Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland on Tuesday in the first round in Tiburon.
   Following the Fratangelo-Krstin clash, No. 6 seed Noah Rubin of Long Island, N.Y., will face Thiemo de Bakker, a former top-40 player from the Netherlands, in a matchup of former Wimbledon boys singles champions. De Bakker won the crown in 2006, and Rubin, a product of McEnroe's academy in New York, triumphed in 2014.
   Here are the Tiburon singles qualifying and main draws and Monday's schedule. Matches will be streamed live.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Brooksby, 17, upsets veteran in $100K Tiburon qualifying

Jenson Brooksby practices at the Arden Hills Club
& Spa in Sacramento in May. Three months later,
he won the USTA boys 18 national title to earn a
wild card into the men's main draw of the U.S. Open.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Jenson Brooksby, a 17-year-old wild card from Carmichael in the Sacramento area, defeated Joao Souza, a former top-70 player from Brazil, 7-5, 6-1 today in the first round of qualifying for the $100,000 Wells Fargo Tiburon Challenger at the Tiburon Peninsula Club in the San Francisco Bay Area.
   Brooksby won the USTA boys 18 national title in Kalamazoo, Mich., last month to earn an automatic wild card in the men's main draw of the recent U.S. Open and lost to John Millman of Australia 6-4, 6-2, 6-0 in the first round. Millman later stunned Roger Federer in the fourth round before losing to eventual champion Novak Djokovic in straight sets in the quarterfinals, and Brooksby reached the boys semifinals.
   The 6-foot-4 (1.93-meter) Souza, 30, has plunged from a career-high No. 69 in 2015 to No. 410. He played in the longest singles match in Davis Cup history in 2015, losing to Leonardo Mayer of Argentina 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5), 5-7, 5-7, 15-13 in 6 hours, 42 minutes.
   Brooksby will face second-seeded Cem Ilkel of Turkey on Sunday not before 1 p.m. on Court 1. The 23-year-old Ilkel, ranked No. 243, beat Sebastian Korda, 18, of Bradenton, Fla., 7-6 (3), 6-2.
   Korda, 6-foot-4 (1.93 meters) and only 165 pounds (75 kilograms), is ranked third in the world among juniors. He won the Australian Open boys title in January, 20 years after his Czech father, Petr, captured the men's title in Melbourne.
   Brooksby was the only one of the six wild cards in qualifying to win today. Top-seeded Liam Broady of Great Britain outplayed Florian Lakat, a 23-year-old former Cal star from France, 6-4, 6-4.
   Broady, a 24-year-old left-hander, reached the final of last year's $100,000 Aptos (Calif.) Challenger as a qualifier and advanced to the quarterfinals in Aptos, 98 miles (158 kilometers) south of Tiburon, last month. Lakat won last year's Tiburon doubles title with ex-Cal teammate Andre Goransson of Sweden.
   Fourth-seeded Jan Choinski of Germany dominated Ryder Jackson of Nicasio 6-0, 6-3 in 58 minutes, and Alejandro Gomez of Colombia overwhelmed Stevie Gould of Corte Madera 6-0, 6-1 in 48 minutes. Tiburon, Nicasio and Corte Madera are located across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco.
   Brooksby, Jackson and Gould are high school seniors who have verbally committed to universities. Brooksby is headed to Texas Christian, Jackson to USC and Gould to Washington.
   Alexander Sarkissian, 28, of Glendale in the Los Angeles area held off 2012 Wimbledon doubles champion Frederik Nielsen, 35, of Denmark 6-4, 7-5. 
   Sarkissian advanced to the 2014 NCAA final as a Pepperdine senior, losing to Marcos Giron of UCLA. Giron, from Thousand Oaks in the Los Angeles region, defeated Marc-Andrea Huesler, a 6-foot-5 (1.96-meter) left-hander from Switzerland, 6-2, 7-6 (1) today.
   Third-seeded Mitchell Krueger, 24, of Orlando, Fla., beat Laurent Lokoli of France 7-6 (2), 6-1. Krueger, a Tiburon quarterfinalist in 2015 and 2016, qualified for a Grand Slam tournament for the first time in 13 attempts in this year's U.S. Open and lost to Roberto Carballes Baena of Spain in the opening round.
   Lokoli made news in last year's French Open by refusing to shake Martin Klizan's hand after losing to the Slovakian 6-4 in the fifth set in the first round. Klizan had celebrated and pointed to his head after a double fault by Lokoli. Lokoli also accused Klizan of faking a leg injury.
   Here are the Tiburon singles qualifying draw and Sunday's schedule
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