Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Top seed Brengle plays through pain amid lawsuit

Top-seeded Madison Brengle of Dover, Del., beat Ulrikke Eikeri of Norway
6-4, 7-5 today in the first round of the $60,000 Stockton Pro Open.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   STOCKTON, Calif. — Aside from her abbreviated service motion, Madison Brengle looks fine.
   Seeded first at No. 95 in the world, the 28-year-old American scurried around the court as usual in her 6-4, 7-5 win over Ulrikke Eikeri of Norway today in the first round of the $60,000 Stockton Pro Open at the University of the Pacific's Eve Zimmerman Tennis Center.
   "She's very smart; she's got a good head," said the 25-year-old Eikeri, ranked No. 254. "She reads the game well and gets everything back. She's a great fighter."
   But Brengle is not fine. Far from it. The right-hander said the last of three anti-doping blood tests in 2016 at the U.S. Open has caused lingering severe pain in her right forearm and hand.
   "This is the test my body never recovered from," Brengle told The New York Times in April, the week before she sued the Women's Tennis Association and International Tennis Federation for battery, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress. "This is the one that changed my career, changed my life, more than you can know."
   Stuart Miller, the ITF's anti-doping chief, said in The Times that urine samples are inadequate. The WTA and ITF did not respond to a request for comment about the lawsuit.
   Months after the blood test at the U.S. Open, Brengle was diagnosed with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). Intense reactions to needles have been an issue in her family for generations, she told the Times. Brengle, who has earned $2.4 million in prize money, seeks damages of more than $10 million.
   "After here, I'm flying back to see my neurologist because I'm playing in an amount of pain I shouldn't have to deal with," Brengle, from Dover, Del., said today. "This nerve disease is incurable, so I'll be doing physical therapy for the rest of my life. I'm in a lot of pain.
   "The majority of it is in my hand. It just burns and burns. It's like putting your hand in an oven for the rest of your life. But I enjoy playing tennis. I don't want to stop."
Qualifier Maegan Manasse, who had right elbow surgery
after her senior year at Cal, defeated Rebecca Marino of
Canada 7-6 (4), 4-6, 6-0. Photo by Paul Bauman
   The pain has forced Brengle to alter her serve. Ranked a career-high No. 35 in 2015, she has not returned to the top 50 since the 2016 U.S. Open. But last year, she stunned Serena Williams in Auckland and two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova at the famed tournament. Both were second-round matches.
   In the last three months, Brengle has reached the second round at Wimbledon, won a $60,000 tournament in Landisville, Pa., lost to 19-year-old American Sofia Kenin 7-6 in the third set in the first round of the U.S. Open as a lucky loser, and reached the semifinals of last week's $60,000 tourney in Templeton in Southern California. In the latter tournament, she fell to eventual champion Asia Muhammad 6-4, 6-4.
   "I work really hard with my physical therapist," Brengle said of her success since her diagnosis. "There's a lot that I'm doing, down to my diet. I try not to eat inflammatory food because it's so much burning.
   "Sugar is an inflammatory. I eat a lot of salad, a lot of seafood, a lot of veggies. I've kind of given up desserts, which is probably not the worst thing for me. If it can give me .1 percent improvement, I'm going to try and do it. There's only so much I can control about this, so I will try and do everything that's still in my control.
   "You have good days and bad days. The bad days are really tough, and the good days make it kind of worth it."
   Brengle, the runner-up in the $50,000 Sacramento Challenger in 2013, cited footwork as her greatest strength.
   "I love my (two-handed) backhand," she said, "but if I move well, that keeps me in matches because I'm not able to generate that much (power) with my right arm."
   And if Brengle is told to take another blood test?
   "That's not in the cards," she asserted. "That's not going to happen."
Rebecca Marino battled depression during a five-year
hiatus. She returned in January. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Jessica Pegula, Maegan Manasse and Rebecca Marino have had their own issues.
   Pegula, the runner-up in the inaugural $50,000 Sacramento Challenger in 2012 and daughter of Buffalo Bills and Sabres owners Terrence and Kim Pegula, played in just one tournament in 2014 after having knee surgery and did not compete from January to August last year because of injury. She reached her first WTA final in Quebec City last month as a qualifier and, seeded second in Stockton, beat Nadia Podoroska of Argentina 6-0, retired.
   Manasse, a right-hander from Redondo Beach in the Los Angeles area, underwent right elbow surgery in August 2017 after her senior year at Cal. As a qualifier, she advanced to the final of a $60,000 tournament in Ashland, Ky., in July and defeated the 6-foot (1.83-meter) Marino 7-6 (4), 4-6, 6-0 today in 2 hours, 21 minutes in 80-degree (26.7 Celsius) heat.
   Marino, after attaining a career high of No. 38 in 2011, became depressed by cruel tweets from people who had lost money betting on her matches.
   "They'll say, 'You gave that match away; you cost me such-and-such amount of money; you should go burn in hell,' or 'You should go die,' " Marino told The New York Times in 2013. "And oh, my gosh, that is really scary."
   After a five-year hiatus, the sensitive Marino returned to pro tennis in January. Since then, she has won two $25,000 tournaments, including Lubbock (Texas) two weeks ago, and reached the final of another.
   Also today, Robin Anderson edged fifth-seeded Kristie Ahn 6-1, 4-6, 7-6 (4) just before an afternoon downpour halted play for the day. The match had been suspended by darkness at 4-4 in the third set on Tuesday. Overall, it lasted 3 hours, 5 minutes.
   Anderson, 25, and Ahn, 26, embraced afterward. They grew up a one-hour drive from each other in New Jersey before starring at UCLA and Stanford, respectively. Both have reached finals recently, the 5-foot-3 (1.61-meter) Anderson in Lubbock and the 5-foot-5 (1.68-meter) Ahn in Landisville in August.
Robin Anderson, left, and Maegan Manasse run for cover after
a canopy on an elevated concourse blew onto a court during a
downpour. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Whitney Osuigwe of Bradenton, Fla., defeated qualifier Katie Volynets of Walnut Creek in the San Francisco Bay Area 7-5, 6-1 in a matchup of 16-year-olds.
   Osuigwe (pronouned Oh-sig-way) last year became the first American to win the French Open girls singles title since Jennifer Capriati in 1989.
   In the Stockton men's $100,000 tournament, fourth-seeded Lloyd Harris of South Africa moved into the quarterfinals with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Thai-Son Kwiatkowski of Charlotte, N.C.
   Harris advanced to the final of the $100,000 Aptos (Calif.) Challenger in August. Kwiatkowski led Virginia to its third consecutive NCAA championship and won NCAA singles title last year as a senior.
   Christopher Eubanks, 6-foot-7 (2.01 meters) from Atlanta, leads fifth-seeded Casper Ruud, a 19-year-old Norwegian, 6-1, 2-2. Eubanks gained the semifinals in Aptos and quarterfinals in last week's $100,000 Tiburon (Calif.) Challenger.
   Daily ticket prices for the Stockton Pro Open are:
   Through Thursday — $15 courtside/VIP, $10 general admission, $5 children 5-12.
   Friday through Sunday — $25 courtside/VIP, $20 general admission, $10 children 5-12.
   Tournament passes cost $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 Thursday's schedule, plus the women's singles and doubles draws and Thursday's schedule. The men's tournament is being streamed live.


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