Sunday, February 10, 2019

Fed Cup woes, Novikov doubles title, Stanford thriller

Danielle Collins, shown in the 2017 Sacramento Challenger, and Nicole Melichar
of the United States lost to Ashleigh Barty and Priscilla Hon of Australia 6-4, 7-5
today in the deciding match in the first round of the Fed Cup in Asheville, N.C.
Australia won 3-2. Photo by Rob Vomund
   Wondering why the International Tennis Federation changed the Davis Cup format, beginning this year, from four weekends throughout the year to one week in November?
   Look no further than the first round of the Fed Cup. Only three of the top-10 singles players in the world competed this weekend.
   Romania had No. 3 Simona Halep, while the Czech Republic, the defending champion, was missing No. 2 Petra Kvitova. Guess which team won 3-2 on the road. Correct, Romania.
   Belarus had No. 9 Aryna Sabalenka, while Germany was missing No. 6 Angelique Kerber. Guess which team won 4-0 on the road. Right, Belarus.
   Australia does not have a top-10 singles player. But Ashleigh Barty -- the nation's top singles and doubles player at No. 13 and No. 6, respectively -- played against the United States, last year's runner-up. The U.S., meanwhile, was missing its top two singles players, No. 4 Sloane Stephens and No. 11 Serena Williams. Guess which team won 3-2 on the road. Yes, Australia.
   By the way, Halep, Sabalenka and Barty went a combined 7-0 in their matches.
   Halep dominated Katerina Siniakova 6-4, 6-0 and pulled out a 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 victory over No. 5 Karolina Pliskova in 2 hours, 37 minutes.
   Sabalenka, coached by former Northern California resident Dmitry Tursunov of Russia, lost five games total in her two singles matches.
   Barty did not lose a set in her three matches (two singles and one doubles).
   In the April 20-21 semifinals, France will host Romania, and Australia will host Belarus. The United States will face an opponent to be determined on the same weekend for the right to play in the World Group next year.
   The ITF has no plans to change the Fed Cup format -- yet.
   ATP Challenger Tour -- One former UCLA star from NorCal won a title in the $135,400 RBC Tennis Championships of Dallas, at least.
   Wild cards and ex-Bruins teammates Marcos Giron and Dennis Novikov, a 25-year-old San Jose product, defeated unseeded Ante Pavic of Croatia and Ruan Roelofse of South Africa 6-4, 7-6 (3).
   It was Novikov's fifth Challenger doubles title and first since 2016.
   In the singles final, 14th-seeded Mitchell Krueger, playing in his hometown, beat top-seeded Mackenzie McDonald, a 23-year-old product of Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area, 4-6, 7-6 (3), 6-1.
    McDonald, who swept the NCAA singles and doubles titles as a UCLA junior in 2016, had been 4-1 against Krueger, 25. But Krueger, in addition to having the home-court advantage, was more rested physically and mentally than McDonald.
   Krueger advanced by walkover in Saturday's semifinals, while the 5-foot-10 (1.78-meter) McDonald beat 6-foot-11 (2.11-meter) Reilly Opelka, seeded third, 6-4, 7-6 (13) in a night match. McDonald converted his fourth match point and saved four set points in the tiebreaker.
   ITA National Women's Team Indoors -- No. 14 Emily Arbuthnott defeated Fernanda Labrana 6-4, 4-6, 6-1 on Court 4 to give top-ranked Stanford, the defending NCAA champion, a 4-3 victory over No. 6 Texas in the quarterfinals of the ITA National Team Indoor Championships in Seattle.
   No. 23 Michaela Gordon, a Stanford sophomore from Saratoga in the Bay Area, defeated Bianca Turati 6-4, 6-3 on Court 1. No. 13 Arbuthnott and Gordon were tied 5-5 with twins Anna and Bianca Turati when their match was abandoned.
   No. 13 Melissa Lord and Niluka Madurawe, a Cardinal freshman from Sunnyvale in the Bay Area, topped Katie Poluta and Tijana Spasojevic 7-5 on Court 3 to clinch the doubles point for Stanford.
   The Cardinal (5-0) will face No. 5 Georgia (5-0), which edged No. 2 Vanderbilt 4-3.

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