Thursday, October 4, 2018

Barbados' King thanks 'best friend' Stephens for help

Barbados' Darian King, last year's runner-up, cele-
brates after beating seventh-seeded Alex Bolt of
Australia in the $100,000 Stockton (Calif.) Pro
Open. King is a close friend of 2017 U.S. Open
champion Sloane Stephens. Photo by Paul Bauman
   STOCKTON, Calif. -- While Sloane Stephens was defending her U.S. Open title recently, Darian King cheered from her box.
   No, they are not an item, even though they are close in age (King is 26 and Stephens 25).
   "We're good friends, kind of best friends," King, the runner-up in last year's $100,000 Stockton Challenger and champion of the $100,000 Tiburon (Calif.) Challenger two years ago, said today. "She brought me up pretty much. I really thank her for all she's done for me."
   King, from Barbados, spoke after beating seventh-seeded Alex Bolt, a 25-year-old Australian left-hander, 6-4, 6-3 to reach the quarterfinals of the $100,000 Stockton Pro Open at the University of the Pacific's Eve Zimmerman Tennis Center.
   King and Stephens -- who was born in Plantation, Fla., grew up in Fresno and lives in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. -- met in the U.S. Open juniors. 
   "She knew my difficulties coming from a Caribbean island and took me in to come practice with her," King said. "I lived with her and got really close to her and her family."
   King was unable to attend Stephens' matches at last year's U.S. Open but said he watched all of them on television.
   That tournament also marked King's only appearance in a Grand Slam main draw. After winning three qualifying matches, he lost to fourth-seeded Alexander Zverev of Germany 7-6 (9), 7-5, 6-4 in the first round.
   Stephens, seeded third in this year's U.S. Open, fell to 19th-seeded Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia in the quarterfinals.   
   King, ranked No. 189 in the world, will meet France's Maxime Janvier, ranked No. 272, for the first time on Friday after the 10 a.m. match between eighth-seeded Marc Polmans of Australia and Liam Broady of Great Britain.
   Janvier, 21, defeated qualifier Alexander Sarkissian of Glendale in the Los Angeles area 7-6 (1), 6-0 after ousting second-seeded Reilly Opelka, a 6-foot-11 (2.11-meter) American, on Tuesday in the first round.
   In Friday's other men's quarterfinals, fourth-seeded Lloyd Harris of South Africa will face 6-foot-7 (2.01-meter) Christopher Eubanks of Atlanta at 10 a.m., followed by top-seeded Jordan Thompson of Australian against sixth seed and 2016 runner-up Noah Rubin of Long Island, N.Y.
Whitney Osuigwe, a 16-year-old U.S. phenom, serves
during her 6-3, 6-1 victory over sixth-seeded Jamie Loeb.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Eubanks, 22, eliminated fifth-seeded Casper Ruud, 19, of Norway 6-1, 7-6 (8) in the completion of a match suspended by rain on Wednesday. Eubanks pounded 15 aces, won 83 percent of the points on his first serve (40 of 48) and saved all three break points against him.
   Harris, 21, defeated Eubanks 6-2, 6-2 in the semifinals of the $100,000 Aptos (Calif.) Challenger in August in their only other meeting. Harris, coming off his first Challenger singles title the previous week in $75,000 Lexington, Ky., then lost to Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia.
   In the Stockton women's $60,000 tournament, three players knocked out seeds to move into the quarterfinals.
   Danielle Lao, a 5-foot-3 (1.61-meter) American, beat fourth-seeded Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic 6-3, 6-3 in the late afternoon after edging U.S. qualifier Sanaz Marand 6-0, 2-6, 7-6 (4) in 3 hours, 1 minute in a morning match postponed from Wednesday.
   Lao will face Whitney Osuigwe, a 16-year-old phenom from Bradenton, Fla., on Friday after the 10 a.m. match between third-seeded Sofya Zhuk of Russia and Robin Anderson of the United States.
   Osuigwe dominated sixth-seeded Jamie Loeb of Ossining, N.Y., 6-3, 6-1 to reach the quarterfinals of a $60,000 tournament or higher for the second time.
   "She played much better as the match went on, but I also just missed a lot of balls," said Loeb, a 23-year-old product of the John McEnroe Tennis Academy in New York who turned pro after winning the 2015 NCAA singles title as a North Carolina sophomore. "I started off well, but then I just made too many unforced errors and kind of gave her more confidence."
   Said Osuigwe (pronounced Oh-SIG-way), who last year became the first American to win the French Open girls singles title since Jennifer Capriati in 1989: "I think I caused her to make the errors. I hit out of her strike zone. She loves low backhands down the line, so getting it up high to her forehand was really a key."
   Osuigwe, who played with a blister on her left foot, hadn't faced Loeb before but said she has "seen her play a lot because we play all the same tournaments."
   Ann Li, 18, topped eighth seed and fellow American Lauren Davis 6-2, 7-5 after beating Jovana Jaksic, a 25-year-old Serbian living in Sacramento, 4-1, retired (mononucleosis) in the morning.
Japan's Mari Osaka, the older sister of reigning U.S. Open champion
Naomi Osaka, lost to Robin Anderson, a former UCLA star, 7-5, 6-4
in the second round. Photo by Paul Bauman 
   Davis, only 5-foot-2 (1.57 meters), has plunged from a career-high No. 26 in May 2017 to No. 249.
   Li, who advanced to the finals of junior Wimbledon last year and a $60,000 tournament in Lexington in August, is scheduled to take on top-seeded Madison Brengle of Dover, Del., at 10 a.m.
   Brengle, who has dropped from a career-high No. 35 in 2015 to No. 95, dismissed her doubles partner, 19-year-old left-hander and 2017 runner-up Ashley Kratzer of Newport Beach, Calif., 6-3, 6-1.
   Zhuk, who won the Wimbledon girls singles title three years ago at 15, defeated qualifier Maegan Manasse, a 23-year-old former Cal All-American from Redondo Beach in the Los Angeles region, 6-4, 6-3.
   Anderson, a 5-foot-3 (1.61-meter) former UCLA star, beat Japan's Mari Osaka, the older sister of reigning U.S. Open champion Naomi Osaka, 7-5, 6-4. Mari Osaka had dispatched Maria Sanchez, who grew up 30 minutes south of Stockton in Modesto, 6-1, 6-3 in the morning.
   In the other women's quarterfinal, second-seeded Jessica Pegula of Charleston, S.C., will play 29-year-old qualifier Amra Sadikovic of Switzerland.
   Pegula reached the final of the inaugural $50,000 Sacramento Challenger in 2012, before injuries derailed her career, and her first WTA final in Quebec City as a qualifier three weeks ago. Her parents, Terrence and Kim Pegula, own the Buffalo Bills of the NFL and Buffalo Sabres of the NHL.
   Daily ticket prices for the Stockton Pro Open through Sunday are $25 for courtside/VIP, $20 for general admission and $10 for children 5-12. Tournament passes are $70 for courtside/VIP, $50 for general admission and $25 for children 5-12.
   Here are the Stockton men's singles and doubles draws and Friday's schedule, plus the women's singles and doubles draws and Friday's schedule. The men's tournament is being streamed live.

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