Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Young Americans Tiafoe, Fritz, Anisimova upset seeds

Frances Tiafoe, right, poses with his trophy after beating fellow
American Noah Rubin to win the $100,000 Stockton (Calif.)
Challenger at age 18 in 2016. Photo by Paul Bauman
   The United States' youth brigade is beginning to make a big impact in Grand Slam tournaments.
   For the second time in three days, a U.S. male prospect ousted a top-10 seed in the Australian Open. Also, 21-year-old Taylor Fritz and 17-year-old Amanda Anisimova knocked off low seeds.
   Frances Tiafoe, who will turn 21 on Sunday, stunned 6-foot-8 (2.03-meter) Kevin Anderson, the fifth seed in Melbourne and runner-up in two of the last five majors, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 today in the second round.
   Anderson led 6-4, 3-0 before Tiafoe "just went to a different place," he told reporters. "I dug insanely deep. ... It's all about competing. Guys are so good, it's just how bad do you really want it? I wanted it real bad."
   Afterward, Tiafoe repeatedly slapped his right biceps and yelled in exultation.
   Anderson, 32, received treatment on his right elbow after the third set.
   On Sunday (California time), 6-foot-11 (2.11-meter) Reilly Opelka, 21, eliminated 6-foot-10 (2.08-meter) John Isner, seeded ninth, in the first round.
   Thomas Fabbiano of Italy beat Opelka 6-7 (17-15), 6-2, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (10-5) in a late second-round match. Opelka pounded 67 aces, the fifth-highest match total ever.
   Fabbiano, only 5-foot-8 (1.73 meters), reached the semifinals of the $100,000 Aptos (Calif.) Challenger last August as the top seed.
   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.
   Tiafoe, who won the $100,000 Stockton Challenger in 2016 at 18, reached the third round of a major for the second time. He will face 34-year-old Italian Andreas Seppi, who shocked Roger Federer to reach the fourth round of the 2015 Australian Open.
   Fritz, who won the $100,000 Sacramento and Fairfield Challengers back-to-back at 17 in 2015, topped 30th-seeded Gael Monfils of France 6-3, 6-7 (8), 7-6 (6), 7-6 (5) in 3 hours, 24 minutes.
   "Tiafoe, Opelka and Fritz are the new Big 3," trumpeted ESPN commentator Brad Gilbert, who could have included extremely athletic Michael Mmoh in a Big 4. "That's the future of American men's tennis."
   Fritz will take on the third-seeded Federer, 37, for the second time. Federer, who seeks his third consecutive Australian Open title and seventh overall, beat 5-foot-9 (1.75-meter) Briton Daniel Evans, the Aptos champion in 2016 and runner-up to Stanford graduate Bradley Klahn in 2013, 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-3), 6-3. Evans returned from 10-month cocaine suspension last April.
   Federer edged Fritz 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 in the second round at Stuttgart on grass in 2016.
   Anisimova, who won her first professional title in the $60,000 Sacramento Challenger in 2017 at 15, crushed 24th-seeded Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine 6-0, 6-2 in 54 minutes. Tsurenko advanced to the U.S. Open quarterfinals last September before losing to eventual champion Naomi Osaka.
   Anisimova will play 11th-seeded Aryna Sabalenka, a 20-year-old Belarusian coached by former Northern California resident Dmitry Tursunov of Russia.
   Meanwhile, fifth seed and Fresno product Sloane Stephens dispatched Timea Babos of Hungary 6-3, 6-1. Stephens, the 2017 U.S. Open champion and 2018 French Open runner-up, will meet 31st-seeded Petra Martic of Croatia.
   Russia's Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who played for the Sacramento Capitals of World TeamTennis at 15 in 2006, took out ninth-seeded Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands 3-6, 6-3, 6-3.
   Sixth-seeded Marin Cilic, a 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) Croat, beat 5-foot-10 (1.78-meter) Mackenzie McDonald, a 23-year-old product of Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area, 7-5, 6-7 (11-9), 6-4, 6-4. McDonald reached the fourth round at Wimbledon last July.
   In the first round of men's doubles, fourth seeds and ex-Stanford stars Bob and Mike Bryan beat Australian wild cards Alex Bolt and Marc Polmans 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-1).
   The 40-year-old Bryans seek their seventh Australian Open men's doubles title but first since 2013. Bolt and Polmans reached the singles final in Fairfield and Stockton, respectively, last October.
   Americans Ryan Harrison and Sam Querrey, a 31-year-old San Francisco native, downed 16th-seeded Robin Haase and Matwe Middelkoop of the Netherlands 7-5, 4-6, 6-3.
   Sixth-seeded Raven Klaasen of South Africa and Michael Venus of New Zealand eliminated Bradley Klahn, a 28-year-old Stanford graduate from Los Angeles, and Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.
   Kukushkin lost to Marcos Baghdatis, the 2006 Australian Open runner-up to Federer, in the 2014 Aptos final.

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