Sunday, September 16, 2018

U.S. rally falls short; Sanchez wins WTA doubles title

Sam Querrey, a late pick by U.S. captain Jim Courier, upset
Marin Cilic of host Croatia today in the Davis Cup semi-
finals. Croatia, however, defeated the United States 3-2.
File photo by Paul Bauman
   The United States, receiving an unexpected boost from Sam Querrey, almost pulled off an amazing comeback today in the Davis Cup semifinals.
   The U.S. came within one set of stunning host Croatia after trailing 2-0 on outdoor clay in Zadar on the Adriatic Sea. However, Borna Coric defeated Frances Tiafoe 6-7 (0), 6-1, 6-7 (11), 6-1, 6-3 in 4 hours, 6 minutes to give Croatia a 3-2 victory. 
   Tiafoe, ranked No. 40, trailed 4-0 and 5-1 in the third set. against Coric, ranked No. 18.
   Coric, 21, was playing in his 16th Davis Cup singles match and Tiafoe, 20, his second after debuting on Friday with a loss to 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) Marin Cilic. Coric shocked Roger Federer to win Halle (Germany) on grass in June.
   U.S. captain Jim Courier chose Querrey, a 30-year-old San Francisco native who has struggled this year, over Steve Johnson at the last minute to face Marin Cilic in today's first singles match. Cilic, the 2014 U.S. Open champion and a two-time Grand Slam runner-up, was 6-0 against Querrey and 5-0 against Johnson.
   Querrey, who has plummeted from a career-high No. 11 in February to No. 61, responded with a 6-7 (2), 7-6 (6), 6-3, 6-4 victory. He trailed 6-1 in the second-set tiebreaker.
   The United States was missing its top two players. Six-foot-10 (2.08-meter) John Isner, ranked No. 10, is awaiting the birth of his first child. Jack Sock, ranked No. 17 in singles and No. 2 in doubles, withdrew with a hip injury after winning his second consecutive Grand Slam men's doubles title with Mike Bryan in the U.S. Open.
   Bryan and Ryan Harrison began the United States' comeback on Saturday by edging Ivan Dodig and Mate Pavic 7-5, 7-6 (6), 1-6, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (5) in 4 hours, 41 minutes. Bryan and Harrison came within two points of losing at 5-6 in the fifth set.
   Croatia, slightly smaller than West Virginia with a population (4.2 million) comparable to metropolitan Detroit's, improved to 5-0 against the United States. In the teams' previous meeting, Croatia stunned the U.S. 3-2 after trailing 2-0 in Portland, Ore., in the 2006 quarterfinals.
   Only once in the 118-year history of the Davis Cup has the United States overcome a 2-0 deficit, accomplishing the feat in 1934 against Australia in London. 
   The U.S. has failed to reach the Davis Cup final since winning its record 32nd Davis Cup championship in 2007. Australia is next with 28.
   Croatia, which won its only Davis Cup title in 2005, reached the final for the second time in three years. It will play at defending champion France on Nov. 23-25 in a rematch of the World Cup soccer final in July won by France in Moscow.  
Asia Muhammad, left, and Maria Sanchez won
the doubles title in Quebec City on the WTA
tour. File photo by Paul Bauman
   WTA tour -- Unseeded Americans Asia Muhammad and Maria Sanchez, a 28-year-old product of Modesto, Calif., surprised second-seeded Darija Jurak of Croatia and Xenia Knoll of Switzerland 6-4, 6-3 to win the doubles title in Quebec City. It was Muhammad's third WTA doubles crown and Sanchez's second.
   Sanchez claimed the singles title in the inaugural Sacramento Challenger in 2012. Muhammad won the doubles crown in Sacramento in 2012 with local product Yasmin Schnack, who retired the following year at 25, and in Berkeley in July with former Stanford star Nicole Gibbs.
   Also today, two U.S. qualifiers who excelled in Sacramento singles lost in their first career WTA finals to 32-year-olds.
   Amanda Anisimova, 17, fell to second-seeded Hsieh Su-Wei of Chinese Taipei 6-2, 6-2 in Hiroshima. Anisimova, who won her first professional title in last year's Sacramento Challenger at 15 before the tournament moved to Berkeley, became the first player born in 2001 to crack the top 100. She zoomed 39 places to No. 95.
   Jessica Pegula, 24, lost to eighth-seeded Pauline Parmentier of France 7-5, 6-2 in Quebec City. Pegula, the daughter of Buffalo Bills and Sabres owners Terrence and Kim Pegula, fell to Sanchez in the 2012 Sacramento final.
   Pegula soared 86 spots to No. 141, 18 notches below her career high of No. 123 in 2013 before injuries derailed her career.

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