Monday, October 8, 2018

NorCal's Altamirano wins by 'learning how to lose'

Collin Altamirano, a 22-year-old wild card from Sacramento, leaves the court
with Steve Sutter, left, and Jimmy Roberts after beating former top-50 player
Daniel Evans of Great Britain 7-6 (2), retired today in the first round of the
$100,000 Fairfield (Calif.) Challenger at Solano Community College. Sutter's
son, Brandon, trained with Altamirano at the JMG Tennis Academy in Sacra-
mento before playing at Stanford. Roberts helps coach Altamirano and shares
shares a rented house with him. Photo by Paul Bauman
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   FAIRFIELD, Calif. -- It didn't take long for Collin Altamirano to get discouraged at the beginning of the summer.
   Can you blame him? The 22-year-old Sacramentan hadn't lost much -- ever.
   Altamirano played few junior tournaments because his coach then and now, Joseph Gilbert, likes his players to stay fresh and reflect on wins and losses.
   Altamirano then became the first unseeded player to win the USTA Boys 18 National Championships in Kalamazoo, Mich., five years ago and helped Virginia capture the NCAA title in all three of his years there. He went 64-14 (.821) in singles and 59-16 (.787) in doubles overall with the Cavaliers and turned pro in September 2017, forgoing his senior season.
   In his first 13 entry-level Futures tournaments, Altamirano went 27-11 (.711) in singles. But after winning $15,000 Singapore in late May for his second pro title, Altamirano went 1-3 (including a retirement) in his next three Futures tourneys.
   Then came Altamirano's breakthrough. He survived three qualifying matches and reached the semifinals of the $75,000 Winnetka (Ill.) Challenger, equivalent to Triple A in baseball.
   In his next three tournaments, Altamirano advanced to the semifinals of the $25,000 Iowa City (Iowa) Futures and quarterfinals of the $75,000 Lexington (Ky.) Challenger, and qualified for the U.S. Open, beating 6-foot-11 (2.11-meter) Ivo Karlovic of Croatia in the second round before losing to Ugo Humbert of France in straight sets in the first round of the main draw. The loss was worth $54,000, by far Altamirano's biggest payday.
   "I had kind of a bad start to the summer," explained Altamirano, a wild card who defeated former top-50 player Daniel Evans of Great Britain 7-6 (2), retired (shoulder) today in the first round of the $100,000 NorthBay Healthcare Men's Pro Championship at Solano Community College. "I just wasn't playing well mentally. I knew it had to change or you can't keep doing this. It kind of hit a point where I just had to accept that I was going to lose, and if I was going to lose, try to lose the right way. I feel like I've done a good job of that. I'm not doing a great job of it, but I'm doing a better job than I was.
   "I feel like learning how to lose is huge out here. To be able to come back from a tough loss last week and follow it up with a good start here, it makes me happy. It makes me know we're doing the right things at home. I owe my coaches (Gilbert, Thom Billadeau and Jimmy Roberts) all the credit in the world. They're there for me when things are tough."
   Altamirano took two weeks off after the U.S. Open because of a back injury, then lost to Isaiah Strode, a wild card from El Cajon in the San Diego area ranked No. 1,245, 6-4, 6-0 in the first round of qualifying for last week's $100,000 Stockton (Calif.) Pro Open.
   "Unfortunately, it was probably a bad decision to play it," said the 306th-ranked Altamirano. "I thought I was going to get into the main draw. I saw I got in the qualies and picked up a racket just two days before playing. I thought it would be good, maybe try to get some matches under my belt, but I realized I wasn't ready yet. It was good that I had a week and a half to train for this and get everything back to where it was."
   Altamirano still trains at the JMG Tennis Academy, founded by Gilbert, at the Arden Hills Club & Spa in Sacramento. Gilbert also coaches Jenson Brooksby, this year's USTA Boys 18 national champion.
   Altamirano, 6-foot-2 (1.88 meters), and the 28-year-old Evans, only 5-foot-9 (1.75 meters) and 165 pounds (75 kilograms), traded punishing groundstrokes for most of their 64-minute set in 85-degree (29.4 Celsius) heat.
   "I felt like I was willing to work the points a little bit more than he was toward the end," Altamirano said.
  Altamirano added that he didn't notice anything wrong with his opponent until the tiebreaker, when Evans "didn't run for a shot. I thought maybe he was tired because we played a long point before that."
   Evans won the $100,000 Aptos (Calif.) Challenger in 2016 and reached the final there in 2013. He attained a career high of No. 41 in March 2017, tested positive for cocaine the following month and  returned from a 10-month suspension in April.
  Karlovic, seeded seventh in Fairfield, could have met another 6-foot-11 player, Reilly Opelka, in the semifinals. but the 21-year-old American lost to Lucas Miedler of Austria 7-6 (2), 7-6 (5) in tonight's late match. Opelka also fell in the first round in Stockton after reaching two consecutive Challenger finals.
   In the final round of qualifying today, ex-Stanford star Tom Fawcett lost to fourth-seeded Evan King of Chicago 1-6, 6-2, 6-1.
   Altamirano, who's in the opposite half of the draw as Karlovic, will face the winner of Tuesday's 10 a.m. match between Australians Alex Bolt, seeded eighth, and Thanasi Kokkinakis, who climbed to a career-high No. 69 in 2015 at age 19 before injuries derailed his career.
   Altamirano has never played Bolt and is 0-1 against Kokkinakis, who won 7-6 (4), 6-2 on clay in the first round of qualifying for the $50,000 Savannah (Ga.) Challenger in 2014.
   Kokkinakis stunned Roger Federer in the second round in Miami in March and won the Aptos title in August. Altamirano trained with the Swiss star in Dubai in 2013.
   "I think the nicest part about it was he's such a good person and has such good people around him," Altamirano said. "It's nice to see that's what's at the top of the game. It makes me feel good about playing this game."
   Here are the singles qualifying and main draws, doubles main draw and Tuesday's schedule. The tournament is being streamed live.

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