Friday, October 5, 2018

Ex-Wimbledon girls champ reaches Stockton semis

Third-seeded Sofya Zhuk, a Russian who won the Wimbledon girls
singles title three years ago at 15, overcame a big deficit to beat
unseeded American Robin Anderson today in the quarterfinals of
the Stockton (Calif.) Women's $60K. Photo by Paul Bauman
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   STOCKTON, Calif. -- For Sofya Zhuk, winning the Wimbledon girls singles title three years ago at 15 was a bonus.
   "I was dreaming to go to the Wimbledon ball," Zhuk, a Russian based in Bradenton, Fla., who speaks English with no accent, said today. "After I won in the semifinals, I didn't care what's going to happen in the final. I knew I was already in the Wimbledon ball because both finalists go."
   The third-seeded Zhuk spoke after holding off unseeded American Robin Anderson 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 in 2 hours, 27 minutes in the quarterfinals of the Stockton Women's $60K at the University of the Pacific's Eve Zimmerman Tennis Center.
   Zhuk trailed 0-3 in the second set. When asked how she won the match, the 137th-ranked Zhuk said: "That's a very good question. I really don't have an answer for that one."
   Actually, she did.
   "I knew I was really down, and I decided to just try to put every ball in the court," added Zhuk, who has punishing flat groundstrokes. "I didn't even count the score after that. ... I kind of slowed down the pace. I figured out after 0-3 that she didn't like it. That helped me a lot."
   Zhuyk bolted to a 4-0 lead in the third set as the 5-foot-3 (1.61-meter) Anderson, ranked No. 336, hardly could put a ball in the court. But Anderson suddenly found her game again, and Zhuk admittedly got nervous.
Robin Anderson led Sofya Zhuk by a set and 3-0.
Anderson's rally in the third set fell short. Photo by
Paul Bauman
   Anderson, a 25-year-old former UCLA star, broke serve for 4-5 but then netted a backhand for 30-40. Zhuk finally closed out the match with a backhand passing shot down the line.
   So how was the Wimbledon ball?
   "I almost fell asleep because it was kind of boring," Zhuk admitted.
   Still, she wasn't disappointed.
   "The food was really good, and I got to see Serena (Williams) and (Novak) Djokovic," crowed Zhuk, adding that she did not dance. "It was fun, but I was really tired. I left early because I had an early flight in the morning."
   Zhuk didn't have to buy a dress for the ball.
   "In the locker room, they bring so many new dresses, and you can choose, and they do makeup and hair," she noted. "I chose a black dress that was long in the back with a long cut on the side. Then I had some curls in the hair and the smoky eye makeup. I planned it all out."
   Maybe someday Zhuk will go to the Wimbledon ball as a women's finalist. She's off to a good start on the pro tour.
  Zhuk reached the final of a $140,000 tournament in Newport Beach, Calif., in January and the third round of the prestigious BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells in March. In the BNP, she defeated France's Alize Cornet, who beat Serena Williams three times in 2014 (including a third-round win at Wimbledon and a retirement), and Slovakia's Magdalena Rybarikova, a Wimbledon semifinalist last year.
   Zhuk is scheduled to face top-seeded Madison Brengle, 28, for the first time on Saturday at 11 a.m. Brengle, ranked No. 95 after climbing to a career-high No. 35 in 2015, routed fellow American Ann Li, the Wimbledon girls runner-up last year, 6-2, 6-1 in 63 minutes.
   Also on Saturday at 11, second-seeded Jessica Pegula will play unseeded Danielle Lao in an all-American matchup.
Top-seeded Jordan Thompson of Australia beat another
former Wimbledon junior champion, sixth-seeded Noah
Rubin of Long Island, N.Y., 6-7 (4), 7-6 (2), 6-3. Photo
by Paul Bauman
   Pegula, the 24-year-old daughter of Buffalo Bills and Sabres owners Terrence and Kim Pegula, defeated qualifier Amra Sadikovic of Switzerland 6-4, 6-0.
   Lao, 5-foot-3 (1.61 meters) and slightly built, outclassed Whitney Osuigwe, a 16-year-old phenom from Bradenton, 6-2, 6-0 in 90 minutes. Osuigwe (pronounced (Oh-SIG-way) last year became the first American to win the French Open girls singles title since Jennifer Capriati in 1989.
   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.
   Lao, a 27-year-old former USC All-American, has qualified for the last two U.S. Opens, losing in the first round each time.
   Pegula, who has played all week with left thigh wrapped, is 2-1 against Lao. They have not met in more than two years. In their first encounter, Lao won 6-3, 6-1 in the opening round of the inaugural Stockton Challenger in 2015.
   Another former Wimbledon junior champion, Noah Rubin of Long Island, N.Y., did not fare as well as Zhuk. Then again, the sixth-seeded Rubin faced the top seed in the $100,000 men's tournament. Jordan Thompson of Australia defeated the 5-foot-9 (1.75-meter) Rubin 6-7 (4), 7-6 (2), 6-3 in 2 hours, 35 minutes.
   Thompson reached a career-high No. 63 in February 2017 and stunned top-ranked Andy Murray in the first round of a Wimbledon tune-up tournament in London last year. Thompson has dropped to No. 106 after having his tonsils removed late last year.
    Rubin, a product of the John McEnroe Tennis Academy in New York, won the Wimbledon boys singles title in 2014 and advanced to the Stockton final two years ago.
Unseeded Maxime Janvier of France saved four match points in his
7-5, 5-7, 7-6 (3) victory over Barbados' Darian King, last year's
runner-up in Stockton. Photo by Paul Bauman
   The 6-foot (1.83-meter) Thompson, 24, will face 6-foot-5 (1.96-meter) South African Lloyd Harris, 21, for the first time at 11 a.m. Harris, seeded fourth and ranked No. 121, eliminated 6-foot-7 (2.01-meter) Christopher Eubanks, an unseeded American, 6-7 (6), 6-4, 6-3.
   Harris advanced to the final of the $100,000 Aptos (Calif.) Challenger in August and won an ATP match for the first time last week. As a qualifier in Chengdu, China, Harris ousted 38th-ranked Gael Monfils, who attained a career high of No. 6 in November 2016, in the first round before losing to eventual champion Bernard Tomic of Australia in a third-set tiebreaker.
   In Saturday's second men's semifinal, eighth-seeded Marc Polmans of Australia will meet unseeded Maxime Janvier of France for the first time in a matchup of 21-year-olds.
   Polmans, ranked No. 161, topped Liam Broady of Great Britain 4-6, 6-4, 6-2. The 6-foot-4 (1.93-meter) Janvier, ranked No. 272, saved four match points in a 7-5, 5-7, 7-6 (3) victory over Barbados' Darian King, last year's runner-up in Stockton, in 2 hours, 38 minutes.
   "I'm very happy because I played very well at the end of the third set," said Janvier, who survived 32 aces by second-seeded Reilly Opelka, a 6-foot-11 (2.11-meter) American, in the opening round.
   Janvier took a medical timeout at 3-3 in the second set for a left foot injury.
   Daily ticket prices are $25 for courtside/VIP, $20 for general admission and $10 for children 5-12.
   Here are the Stockton men's singles and doubles draws and Saturday's schedule, plus the women's singles and doubles draws and Saturday's schedule. The men's tournament is being streamed live.
   Here are the singles qualifying draw and Saturday's schedule in the $100,000 Northbay Healthcare Men's Pro Championship at Solano Community College in Fairfield, Calif.

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