Sunday, January 13, 2019

Stephens ends Aussie Open drought; Isner, Murray lose

Reilly Opelka, serving during his first-
round loss in the $100,000 Stockton
(Calif.) Challenger last October, ousted
ninth seed and fellow U.S. giant John
Isner today in the opening round of the
Australian Open in Melbourne. Photo
by Paul Bauman
   Sloane Stephens won her first match in the Australian Open in five years today, beating fellow American Taylor Townsend 6-4, 6-2 in Melbourne.
   Stephens, a 25-year-old Fresno product now based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., lost in the first round of the Australian Open in 2015, 2016 and 2018. She missed the 2017 tournament because of foot surgery but won the U.S. Open nine months later for her first Grand Slam title.
   Townsend, a 22-year-old left-hander, played for the Sacramento Capitals of World TeamTennis in 2013, the team's final year of existence.
   Stephens, seeded fifth, is scheduled to play Timea Babos of Hungary on Tuesday (California time). Babos, also 25, defeated Tunisia's Ons Jabeur, the 2011 French Open girls singles champion, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3).
   Stephens and Babos know each other well, having won three of four major girls doubles titles in 2010.
   Stephens made her first big splash in the 2013 Australian Open, stunning Serena Williams to reach the semifinals before losing to eventual champion Victoria Azarenka.
   Meanwhile, Reilly Opelka's first main-draw victory in a Grand Slam tournament was a big one — in more ways than one.
   The 6-foot-11 (2.11-meter) Opelka ousted 6-foot-10 (2.08-meter) John Isner, seeded ninth, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (6), 6-7 (4), 7-6 (5) in an all-American matchup. Isner blasted 47 aces, and Opelka had 40.
   Opelka lost in the first round of back-to-back $100,000 Challengers in Northern California last October as the second seed in Stockton and fourth seed in Fairfield.
   Five-time runner-up Andy Murray played his last match in the Australian Open -- if not his career -- losing 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-7 (4), 6-2 to 22nd-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain.
   The 31-year-old Murray, who won the first two of his 45 tour-level singles titles in San Jose (2006-07), announced Friday that he will retire by Wimbledon because of chronic hip pain.
   Bautista Agut won his ninth career ATP singles title two weeks ago in Doha, stunning top-ranked Novak Djokovic in the semifinals.
   Mackenzie McDonald, a 23-year-old product of Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area, defeated Andrey Rublev, a promising 21-year-old Russian rebounding from a stress fracture in his lower back, 6-4, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4. McDonald, only 5-foot-10 (1.78 meters) and 160 pounds (73 kilograms), next will face sixth-seeded Marin Cilic, who's 6-foot-6 (1.98 meters).
  McDonald, ranked No. 81, is making his second appearance in the Australian Open. He lost to third-seeded Grigor Dimitrov 8-6 in the fifth set in the second round last year as a qualifier.
   ATP Challenger Tour -- Bernardo Saraiva, a 25-year-old former University of San Francisco star from Portugal, won his first Challenger doubles title.
   Unseeded Maxime Cressy, a 6-foot-7 (2.01-meter) American originally from France, and Saraiva beat second-seeded Robert Galloway and Nathaniel Lammons of the United States 7-5, 7-6 (3) in the final of the $54,160 Columbus Challenger.
   In the $54,160 Canberra (Australia) Challenger, third-seeded Marcelo Demoliner of Brazil and Hugo Nys of France topped unseeded Andre Goransson of Sweden and Sem Verbeek of the Netherlands 3-6, 6-4 [10-3] for the crown. Goransson and Verbeek played at Cal and Pacific, respectively.

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