Sunday, October 7, 2018

Harris thrives, Brengle survives in windy Stockton finals

Fourth-seeded Lloyd Harris, right, of South Africa beat eighth-seeded
Marc Polmans of Australia 6-2, 6-2 today to win the $100,000 Stockton
(Calif.) Pro Open. Photo by Paul Bauman
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   STOCKTON, Calif. -- Lloyd Harris didn't just beat Marc Polmans today.
   Harris also defeated Mother Nature, quite a feat considering all the damage she is doing around the world with increasing frequency.
   The 6-foot-5 (1.96-meter) South African continued his remarkable rise this year with a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Australia's Polmans in a matchup of 21-year-old friends to win the $100,000 Stockton Pro Open.
   Despite wind gusts that plagued the final for the second consecutive year at the University of the Pacific's Eve Zimmerman Tennis Center, Harris held serve throughout the match.
   "Before the match, I knew it was going to be tricky, so I just got myself in a positive mindset to expect anything and very difficult points," the fourth-seeded Harris said. "I was just mentally ready for it to be very difficult out there. I found my game somehow in the wind, and that was just amazing for me."
   Top-seeded Madison Brengle of Dover, Del., won the women's $60,000 tournament, topping unseeded Danielle Lao of Arcadia in the Los Angeles area 7-5, 7-6 (10). Lao, only 5-foot-2 1/2 (1.59 meters) and 115 pounds (52.2 kilograms), had one set point in the first set and four in the second-set tiebreaker.
Lloyd Harris held his serve throughout the final, saving
three break points against him. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Harris defeated Polmans for the first time in three career matches and pocketed $14,400 for the second and biggest Challenger title of his career. He won a $75,000 tournament in Lexington, Ky., in August and reached the final of the $100,000 Aptos (Calif.) Challenger the following week.
   Two weeks after Aptos, Harris qualified for a Grand Slam tournament in only his third attempt, losing in the first round of the U.S. Open to veteran Gilles Simon in straight sets.
   Harris last week qualified for a tournament on the ATP World Tour, the major leagues of men's tennis, for the third time and shocked Gael Monfils in the opening round in Chengdu, China, for his first ATP victory. Harris then lost to eventual champion Bernard Tomic in a third-set tiebreaker.
   Both Simon and Monfils are Frenchmen who have been ranked as high as No. 6.
   With the Stockton title, Harris rose eight places to a career-high No. 113, up from No. 340 on Feb. 26. Polmans, who collected $8,480, almost has mirrored Harris' year. Ranked No. 323 at the beginning of 2018, he improved 14 spots to a career-high No. 147 by reaching the Stockton final.
   The eighth-seeded Polmans lost his serve in the opening game of each set, the first time when Harris returned a second delivery with an explosive passing shot and the second time on a double fault.
   "Those first games in the first and second set were pretty crucial to try to get in front on the scoreboard and maybe put a bit more pressure on him," admitted Polmans, who moved from his native South Africa to Australia when he was 10. "I think that was a very important key to the match. Hopefully next time I can come out with a better start, and that's something I've got to improve on."
Top-seeded Madison Brengle topped unseeded
Danielle Lao 7-5, 7-6 (10) in an all-American
final. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Harris also broke for 5-2 in the first set when Polmans netted a backhand and for 4-1 in the second set on another big return of a second serve.
   "I definitely played the important points very well, and I think I served a lot better than him in the wind," said Harris, who lost his serve only once in his five matches during the week. "Those were some of the keys to my success today."
   Harris won 71 percent of the points on his second serve (17 of 24) to only 37 percent (7 of 19) for the 6-foot-2 (1.88-meter) Polmans and saved all three break points against him.
   "Lloyd had a really good day today," conceded Polmans, who reached the doubles semifinals in the 2017 Australian Open with Aussie Andrew Whittington and won a preposterous 24 consecutive singles matches (mostly at the lower Futures level) in Australia early this year. "He was returning well and wasn't giving me too many cheap points. It just came down to a few points, and Lloyd was able to play a lot better on the big points. It was still a great week, so I'm not too disappointed."
   Of today's four singles finalists, Harris was the only one who didn't struggle in the wind. The women's final featured 15 service breaks, including six straight entering the second-set tiebreaker.
   The 5-foot-6 (1.68-meter) Brengle converted her second match point when Lao, who had taken a medical timeout for a lower back problem early in the second set, sliced a backhand long.
Danielle Lao wore down after a tough
trip to the final. Photo by Paul Bauman
 Brengle, 28, was much fresher than Lao, 27, for the final.
   After beating Ulrikke Eikeri of Norway 6-4, 7-5 in the first round, Brengle averaged only 68 minutes on the court in her three matches before the final.
   Lao, meanwhile, spent 4 hours, 42 minutes on the court on Thursday alone in two victories after  her first-round match, scheduled for Wednesday, had been postponed by rain.
   Lao then routed 16-year-old phenom Whitney Osuigwe 6-2, 6-0 in 1 hour, 30 minutes on Friday and ousted second-seeded Jessica Pegula 1-6, 6-2, 6-2 in 1 hour, 57 minutes on Saturday.
   "I'm a little banged up right now," Lao, a former USC All-American nicknamed the "Little Giant," admitted after the final. "I think the first day with two matches started to add up, and yesterday night after the tough Pegula match, my back was stiffening up. Thankfully, it loosened up during warmup, but playing in the wind, you reach for a lot of shots, and it stiffened up midway through. Playing someone like Madison, I don't think you can have anything like that limit you, especially when you have to move and adjust a lot in these tough conditions. It's unfortunate, but it's part of the sport."
   Brengle, who improved to 2-1 against Lao, refused to talk to a reporter who had asked about her lawsuit against the WTA and International Tennis Federation on Wednesday. After initially declining to discuss the matter with the reporter, she cooperated and then complained to the tournament supervisor.
Madison Brengle won her third ITF singles title this year and
the 13th of her career. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Brengle, ranked a career-high No. 35 in 2015, rose seven notches to No. 88. She earned $9,119 for her third ITF singles title this year and the 13th of her career.
   Lao, who has qualified for the last two U.S. Opens, improved 24 places to No. 194, one spot below her career high last year. She received $4,863 after appearing in her first final above a $25,000 tournament.
   "New territory," Lao said. "Hopefully I can do a little better next time."
   In the women's doubles final, Hayley Carter of Hilton Head, S.C., and Ena Shibahara of Rancho Palos Verdes in the Los Angeles region edged Quinn Gleason of Mendon, N.Y., and Luisa Stefani of Brazil 7-5, 5-7 [10-7]. Both teams were unseeded.
   Here are the completed Stockton men's singles and doubles draws and women's singles and doubles draws.
   Here are the singles qualifying and main draws, doubles draw and Monday's schedule in the $100,000 Northbay Healthcare Men's Pro Championship at Solano Community College in Fairfield, Calif. The tournament is being streamed live.

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