Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Top seed Svitolina sails into San Jose quarterfinals

Elina Svitolina, playing in the 2015 Bank of the West Classic at Stanford,
won easily today in her first match since becoming the first Ukrainian
woman to reach the Wimbledon semifinals. Photo by Mal Taam 
   Top-seeded Elina Svitolina, coming off a historic achievement at Wimbledon, rolled to a 6-3, 6-1 victory over wild card Daria Kasatkina of Russia today to reach the quarterfinals of the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic at San Jose State.
   Svitolina, 24, became the first Ukrainian woman to reach the semifinals at the All England Lawn Tennis Club. It was her best performance in a Grand Slam tournament.
   "I think I played quite a solid match for my first match on hardcourts (since Wimbledon)," the seventh-ranked Svitolina, who received a first-round bye along with the other top four seeds, said in an on-court interview. "We're back on hardcourts, so I'm excited for all the matches here and overall this part of the season."
   Svitolina improved to 5-0 against the 22-year-old Kasatkina, who eliminated defending champion Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania in a first-round clash of slumping players. Kasatkina has plunged from a career-high No. 10 last October to No. 40.
   Svitolina, a semifinalist in the 2015 Bank of the West Classic at Stanford in her only other San Francisco Bay Area appearance, is scheduled to face seventh-seeded Maria Sakkari of Greece on Friday.
   Sakkari, last year's runner-up in San Jose, subdued qualifier Mayo Hibi, who plays for her native Japan but has lived in California since she was 2 years old, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 in 2 hours, 35 minutes. Hibi advanced to the final of the $60,000 Berkeley Tennis Club Challenge two weeks ago.
   Svitolina defeated Sakkari 6-3, 6-7 (1), 6-2 in the third round at Wimbledon this month in their only career meeting.
   Second-seeded Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus dismissed U.S. wild card CoCo Vandeweghe, the runner-up in the Bank of the West Classic in 2012 and 2017, 6-3, 6-3. Vandeweghe, 27, was playing in her first tournament this year after suffering an ankle injury.
   Sabalenka, ranked No. 10, is coached by former top-20 player Dmitry Tursunov, a Moscow native who moved to the Bay Area alone at 12 to train and was based in the Sacramento area for most of his professional career.
   Sabalenka will play sixth-seeded Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain. Suarez Navarro, ranked No. 29, beat U.S. wild card Bethanie Mattek-Sands 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 in a matchup of players in their 30s. Mattek-Sands, 34, eliminated wild card Venus Williams, 39, in the first round.
   The 5-foot-11 (1.82-meter) Sabalenka, 21, is 2-0 against the 5-foot-4 (1.62-meter) Suarez Navarro, 30, including a 6-1, 6-4 victory in the New Haven final last August.
   Suarez Navarro won the doubles title in the 2014 Bank of the West Classic with compatriot Garbine Muguruza.
   Here is Thursday's schedule.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Mattek-Sands shocks Venus early in San Jose

Bethanie Mattek-Sands celebrates her victory over Venus Williams tonight
in the first round of the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic at San Jose State.
Photo by Mal Taam
   The Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic can't seem to get a break.
   For the second year in a row, the two-year-old tournament at San Jose State lost its biggest gate attraction in the first round. Also, several marquee players have withdrawn or been injured each year, and defending champion Mihaela Buzarnescu lost Monday night.
   The latest blow came tonight as 34-year-old Bethanie Mattek-Sands overcame 39-year-old Venus Williams 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-1 in a matchup of U.S. wild cards and former world No. 1s in doubles and singles, respectively.
   Williams was coming off a first-round loss to U.S. phenom Cori Gauff, a 15-year-old qualifier, at Wimbledon.
   Serena Williams suffered the worst loss of her career, 6-1, 6-0 to Johanna Konta, in the first round of last year's tournament. It was later revealed that Williams learned about 10 minutes before the match that the killer of her sister Yetunde Price had been paroled.
   Venus Williams, a San Francisco Bay Area institution, led by a service break at 1-0, 40-0 in the third set against Mattek-Sands, who captured 27 of the last 31 points.
   Mattek-Sands, ranked No. 674, won her first match against Williams, ranked No. 50, in seven years and her first in five career meetings against the seven-time Grand Slam singles champion. This was their first encounter in a non-Grand Slam tournament.
   Mattek-Sands earned her first singles victory in more than a year, dating to the 2018 French Open, and on a hardcourt since the 2017 Miami Open. She suffered a gruesome knee injury while playing Sorana Cirstea of Romania in the second round at Wimbledon in 2017.
   "Venus is a legend, and it was awesome playing here. I love night matches," Mattek-Sands, who has won eight Grand Slam doubles titles (five women's and three mixed) and an Olympic gold medal in mixed doubles, said in an on-court interview. "I really loved the atmosphere. I'm really enjoying it. It's been a tough couple of years. I've had a few surgeries – I feel like I've had 12 surgeries – but I'm feeling really good.
   "I think I neutralized Venus' serve a little bit. A lot of times, she can get some free points on that first serve, so I stood back a little bit, and we were grinding. The reason she's such a champion is she will come up with some good shots, so I wasn't about to take my foot off the pedal there."
Venus Williams, 39, has lost in the first round of her last two tournaments.
Photo by Mal Taam
  Williams made her professional debut 25 years ago indoors in nearby Oakland, won the Bank of the West Classic in 2000 and 2002, reached the final there six other times, and advanced to the Mubadala quarterfinals last year. She praised Mattek-Sands' performance.
   "All credit to her," Williams told reporters. "She came up with her shots. Every time I had a game point or a break point, it was a winner or a drop shot. I definitely put pressure on her, but shots where I would normally expect a short ball, she hit a winner. She played freely with nothing to lose."
   Organizers scheduled the winner to play sixth-seeded Carla Suarez Navarro, who won the doubles title in the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford with fellow Spaniard Garbine Muguruza five years ago, in Wednesday's featured 7 p.m. match. Muguruza, another former world No. 1 in singles, has withdrawn from both editions of the Silicon Valley Classic with injuries.
   Yet another former world No. 1, 30-year-old Victoria Azarenka, beat qualifier Harmony Tan of France 6-2, 6-4 during the day session. Azarenka, the 2010 Bank of the West Classic champion, will meet fifth-seeded Donna Vekic of Croatia.
   The top two seeds in the Silicon Valley Classic, seventh-ranked Elina Svitolina and 10th-ranked Aryna Sabalenka, are scheduled to open Wednesday after receiving first-round byes.
   Svitolina will take on wild card Daria Kasatkina, a former top-10 player from Russia, after the 11 a.m. match between seventh seed and 2018 runner-up Maria Sakkari of Greece and qualifier Mayo Hibi of Japan.
   Sabalenka will play wild card CoCo Vandeweghe, the Bank of the West runner-up in 2012 and 2017, not before 3 p.m.
   Third-seeded Elise Mertens of Belgium and fourth-seeded Amanda Anisimova, a 17-year-old sensation from Aventura, Fla., will open on Thursday.
   Mertens will meet qualifier Kristie Ahn, a 27-year-old Stanford graduate, and Anisimova will play unseeded Madison Brengle.
   Here are the San Jose singles and doubles draws and Wednesday's schedule.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Defending champ Buzarnescu loses early in San Jose

Unseeded Mihaela Buzarnescu, playing in the final of last year's inaugural Mubadala
Silicon Valley Classic, lost to wild card Daria Kasatkina 6-2, 6-2 tonight in the first
round of the San Jose tournament. Photo by Mal Taam
   Defending champion Mihaela Buzarnescu's stay in the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic singles draw lasted 64 minutes.
   Daria Kasatkina, a 22-year-old wild card from Russia, ousted the unseeded, error-prone Buzarnescu 6-2, 6-2 tonight in the first round at San Jose State.
   Buzarnescu, a 31-year-old left-hander from Romania, fell to 9-21 this year with no quarterfinal appearances in 19 tournaments. Ranked a career-high No. 20 last August, she will plunge 66 spots from No. 58 to No. 124 next Monday.
   Kasatkina has had her own woes, tumbling from a career-high No. 10 last October to No. 40. She is scheduled to face top-seeded Elina Svitolina, 24, on Wednesday. The top four seeds received first-round byes.
   Svitolina, ranked seventh, is coming off her best Grand Slam result, a semifinal appearance at Wimbledon.
   Seventh-seeded Maria Sakkari, who lost to Buzarnescu 6-1, 6-0 in last year's Mubadala final, beat Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia 6-1, 6-4.
   Sakkari, 24, of Greece will play Japanese qualifier Mayo Hibi, the runner-up in the $60,000 Berkeley Tennis Club Women's Challenge two weeks ago.
   The 23-year-old Hibi, ranked No. 265, edged Hungarian qualifier Timea Babos, ranked No. 126 in singles and No. 3 in doubles, 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (3) in 2 hours, 48 minutes. Babos had five aces and 12 double faults.
   Wild card CoCo Vandeweghe, playing in her first tournament match of the year after recovering from an ankle injury, defeated 21-year-old Czech Marie Bouzkova 6-2, 6-4.
   Vandeweghe, the runner-up in the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford in 2012 and 2017, climbed to a career-high No. 10 in November 2017. She will play Belarus' Aryna Sabalenka, seeded second and ranked 10th, on Wednesday.
   Sabalenka is coached by Russian Dmitry Tursunov, a former top-20 player who trained in Northern California from age 12 into his 30s.
   Qualifier Kristie Ahn, a 27-year-old Stanford graduate, outlasted Ajla Tomljanovic, a 26-year-old Croatia-born Australian, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4. Tomljanovic reached the quarterfinals in San Jose last year and the final of the 2017 Sacramento Challenger.
   Ahn recorded her first main-draw victory ever in the tournament, which moved from Stanford last year, and on the WTA tour since she stunned top-seeded Jelena Ostapenko, the 2017 French Open champion, in the first round on clay in Bogota in April.
   The 178th-ranked Ahn, a Berkeley semifinalist, will face Belgium's Elise Mertens, seeded third and ranked No. 20, on Wednesday.
   Sixth-seeded Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain dispatched Magda Linette of Poland 6-3, 6-3. Suarez Navarro, who won the doubles title in the 2014 Bank of the West Classic with compatriot Garbine Muguruza, will meet the winner of Tuesday's featured 7 p.m. match between U.S. wild cards Venus Williams, 39, and Bethanie Mattek-Sands, 34.
   In the opening round of doubles, Eri Hozumi and Makoto Ninomiya of Japan eliminated Mattek-Sands and China's Peng Shuai, both formerly ranked No. 1 in doubles, 6-2, 6-4.
   Here are the San Jose singles and doubles draws and Tuesday's schedule. Tennis Channel is televising the tournament.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Ahn beats former Pac-12 rival, qualifies for San Jose

Stanford graduate Kristie Ahn, playing in the Berkeley semifinals last
week, defeated Danielle Lao 6-1, 6-4 today in the final round of qual-
ifying for the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic, a WTA tournament
at San Jose State.
   Kristie Ahn, a 27-year-old Stanford graduate, qualified today for the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic at San Jose State.
   The fifth-seeded Ahn, from Englewood Cliffs, N.J., beat fourth-seeded Danielle Lao, a 28-year-old resident of Arcadia in the Los Angeles area, 6-1, 6-4 in a matchup of former Pacific-12 Conference rivals. Lao, only 5-foot-2 1/2 (1.59 meters) and 115 pounds (52.2 kilograms), starred at USC.
   Ahn, ranked No. 176, is scheduled to play Ajla Tomljanovic, a Croatia-born Australian ranked No. 43, on Monday in the third match on the stadium court. The first one will begin at 10 a.m.
   It will be Ahn's third appearance in the main draw of the WTA tournament, which moved from Stanford last year. She lost in the first round in 2014 and 2017.
   Japan's Mayo Hibi, ranked No. 272, will meet Hungary's Timea Babos, ranked No. 123 in singles and No. 3 in doubles, in Monday's second match on the Stadium Court. Both players survived qualifying.
   Fans may watch Monday's first-round doubles match, featuring the team of former world No. 1s Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Peng Shuai, on Court 1 at 1 p.m. and observe practice for free. Spectators must purchase tickets to watch matches on the Stadium Court.
   Here are the San Jose singles qualifying draw, singles main draw, doubles main draw and Monday's schedule.
   Bryan brothers fall in final – Second-seeded Dominic Inglot of Great Britain and Austin Krajicek of Bryan, Texas, edged top-seeded Bob Bryan of Sunny Isles Beach, Fla., and Mike Bryan of Wesley Chapel, Fla., 6-4, 6-7 (5) [11-9] in the final of the BB&T Atlanta Open.
   The 41-year-old Bryan twins (Stanford, 1997-98) were seeking their third title in the 10-year history of the Atlanta tournament.
   Third-seeded Alex de Minaur of Australia topped second-seeded Taylor Fritz of Rancho Palos Verdes in the Los Angeles region 6-3, 7-6 (2) for the singles title.
   Former Cal, Pacific stars win doubles title – Third-seeded Andre Goransson, a former Cal star from Sweden, and Sem Verbeek, an ex-Pacific standout from the Netherlands, beat top-seeded Zhe Li of China and Hugo Nys of Monaco 6-2, 6-4 Saturday to win the $81,240 Challenger Banque Nationale de Granby, near Montreal.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Ahn beats Volynets, 17, in San Jose qualies

Kristie Ahn, a 27-year-old Stanford grad-
uate, slugs a backhand in the semifinals
of the $60,000 Berkeley Tennis Club Chal-
lenge last Saturday. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Fifth-seeded Kristie Ahn, a 27-year-old Stanford graduate from Englewood Cliffs, N.J., beat Katie Volynets, a 17-year-old wild card from Walnut Creek in the San Francisco Bay Area, 7-5, 6-0 today in the first round of qualifying for the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic at San Jose State.
   Ahn, a semifinalist in last week's $60,000 Berkeley Tennis Club Challenge, will face former Pacific-12 Conference rival Danielle Lao, a 28-year-old resident of Arcadia in the Los Angeles area, on Sunday at about 2 p.m. for a berth in the main draw.
   Lao, a 5-foot-2 1/2 (1.59-meter), 115-pound (52.2-kilogram) former USC All-American, topped Mai Hontama of Japan 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.
   Mayo Hibi, who plays for her native Japan but has lived in California since she was 2, drubbed Jovana Jaksic, a Serb living in Sacramento, 6-1, 6-0 in 69 minutes.
   Hibi, the Berkeley runner-up, will face second-seeded Xiyu Wang of China. Wang dominated Ashley Kratzer, the runner-up in the 2017 Stockton (Calif.) Challenger, 6-3, 6-1.
   Phenom beats ex-Cal standout – Top-seeded Cori Gauff, a 15-year-old sensation from Delray Beach, Fla., returned to action with a 6-4, 6-2 victory over Maegan Manasse, a former Cal All-American from Redondo Beach in the Los Angeles region, in the first round of qualifying for the Citi Open in Washington, D.C.
   Gauff competed for the first time since becoming the youngest player to reach the round of 16 at Wimbledon since Jennifer Capriati in 1991.
   Bryan brothers reach final – Top-seeded Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan outclassed fourth-seeded Radu Albot of Moldova and Artem Sitak, a Russia native who plays for New Zealand, 7-5, 6-3 in the semifinals of the BB&T Atlanta Open.
   The 41-year-old Bryan twins (Stanford, 1997-98), two-time Atlanta champions, will play second-seeded Dominic Inglot of Great Britain and Austin Krajicek of Bryan, Texas, on Sunday.
   Krajicek reached the singles final in the 2015 Aptos (Calif.) Challenger, losing to John Millman of Australia.
   Cal player falls in pro doubles final – Unseeded Sanaz Marand and Caitlin Whoriskey of the United States defeated wild cards Vladica Babic, a former Oklahoma State All-American from Montenegro, and Julia Rosenqvist, a Cal junior from Sweden, 7-6 (4), 6-4 to win the Braidy Industries $60,000 Women's Tennis Classic in Ashland, Ky.

U.S. veterans Venus, Mattek-Sands to meet in San Jose

Venus Williams made her professional debut 25 years
ago indoors in Oakland. File photo by Paul Bauman
   U.S. veterans Venus Williams and Bethanie Mattek-Sands – wild cards formerly ranked No. 1 in singles and doubles, respectively – are scheduled to meet for the first time since 2012 on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the first round of the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic at San Jose State.
   Williams, 39, made her professional debut 25 years ago indoors in nearby Oakland, won the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford in 2000 and 2002, and reached the final there six other times. She is 4-0 against Mattek-Sands, 34. This will be their first meeting in a non-Grand Slam tournament.
   Another former world No. 1 in singles, Victoria Azarenka, will play a qualifier to be determined during Tuesday's day session, which will begin at 10 a.m.
   The singles draw for the second annual tournament was conducted on Friday night. The top four seeds – No. 1 Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, No. 3 Elise Mertens of Belgium and No. 4 Amanda Anisimova, 17, of Aventura, Fla. – received first-round byes.
   Sabalenka, 21, is coached by Dmitry Tursunov, a 36-year-old Moscow native who moved alone to the San Francisco Bay Area at 12 to train.
   Defending champion Mihaela Buzarnescu, a 31-year-old Romanian left-hander ranked No. 58, will meet wild card Daria Kasatkina, a 22-year-old Russian who has tumbled from a career-high No. 10 last October to No. 40, on a day to be announced. The winner will play Svitolina.
   CoCo Vandeweghe, a two-time runner-up in the Bank of the West Classic, will meet Marie Bouzkova, a 21-year-old Czech, on Monday at 7 p.m. It will be the first tournament match for Vandeweghe, who has been sidelined with an ankle injury, since last September. The survivor will face Sabalenka.
   Here are the San Jose singles main drawsingles qualifying draw and today's schedule.
   Brengle quits match – Top-seeded Madison Brengle, who won last week's $60,000 Berkeley Tennis Club Challenge, retired from her second-round match against defending champion Maegan Manasse (Cal, 2014-17) on Thursday in the Braidy Industries $60,000 Women's Tennis Classic in Ashland, Ky.
   Brengle, 29, of Bradenton, Fla., quit while trailing 1-5 against Manasse, the NCAA doubles runner-up with Denise Starr in 2016. The reason was not available.
   Manasse lost to seventh-seeded Ellen Perez of Australia 6-2, 6-3 in Friday's quarterfinals. Perez and Sabrina Santamaria of Los Angeles reached the Berkeley doubles final last year, losing to Americans Nicole Gibbs (Stanford, 2011-13) and Asia Muhammad.
   Wild cards Vladica Babic, a former Oklahoma State star from Montenegro, and Julia Rosenqvist, a Cal junior from Sweden, ousted top-seeded Hayley Carter of Hilton Head, S.C., and Manasse 7-6 (5), 6-4 in the doubles semifinals.
   Babic and Rosenqvist will play U.S. veterans Sanaz Marand and Caitlin Whoriskey in today's final. Marand and Whoriskey beat unseeded Maria Sanchez, a 29-year-old Modesto product, and Katie Swan of Great Britain 6-2, 6-2.
   Francesca Di Lorenzo, from Columbus, Ohio, and Swan lost to Brengle and Sachia Vickery, from Miramar, Fla., in the Berkeley doubles final.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Casper saves 7 championship points, wins Natl. Clay 16s

Luke Casper, shown last November, earned his second gold
ball of the year and his career. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Saving seven championship points, second-seeded Luke Casper of Santa Cruz outlasted top-seeded Samir Banerjee of Basking Ridge, N.J., 3-6, 7-6 (1), 7-6 (6) Thursday to win the USTA Boys 16 National Clay Court Championships in Delray Beach, Fla.
   Banerjee saved four championship points.
   Casper, 16, earned his second gold ball of the year and his career. He captured the boys 16 title in the USTA National Winter Championships in Orlando, Fla., in January.
   Also in Delray Beach, 17th-seeded Aryan Chaudhary of Santa Clara and Logan Zapp of Fleming Island, Fla., won the USTA Boys 18 National Clay Court doubles title with a 6-4, 6-2 victory over eighth-seeded Luke Vandecasteele and Quinn Vandecasteele of Murray, Utah.
   Chaudhary, seeded 15th in singles, reached the semifinals, losing to top seed and eventual champion Leighton Allen of Austin, Texas, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.
   In Fort Lauderdale, Fla., unseeded Nishesh Basavareddy of Carmel, Ind., routed sixth-seeded Dylan Tsoi of El Dorado Hills in the Sacramento area 6-1, 6-0 to win the USTA Boys 14 National Clay Court Championships.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Muguruza withdraws from San Jose tourney again

Former world No. 1 Garbine Muguruza pulled out of the Mubadala Silicon
Valley Classic in San Jose for the second consecutive year, this time with a
right leg injury. 2017 photo by Mal Taam
   Here we go again.
   One year after the inaugural Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic was plagued by withdrawals of marquee players, the tournament incurred another.
   Garbine Muguruza pulled out of the Silicon Valley Classic for the second consecutive year, this time with a right leg injury, tournament organizers announced today.
   Muguruza withdrew with an arm problem last year, hours before she was to play Victoria Azarenka in a second-round matchup of former world No. 1s and two-time Grand Slam singles champions. Muguruza, seeded first, had received a first-round bye.
   The draw for this year's tournament will be held Friday at 6 p.m. Qualifying is scheduled to begin Saturday at 10 a.m., and the main draw is set for Monday through Aug. 4.
   Since winning Wimbledon in 2017, Muguruza has failed to reach the third round at the All England Lawn Tennis Club. She lost to 47th-ranked Alison Van Uytvanck of Belgium in the second round last year and to 121st-ranked qualifier Beatrice Haddad Maia of Brazil in the first round three weeks ago.
   Also withdrawing from last year's Silicon Valley Classic were second-seeded Madison Keys (right wrist) before her second-round match and former world No. 1 Maria Sharapova (fatigue) 10 days before the tournament began.
   Keys won the 2017 Bank of the West Classic at Stanford. Sharapova, a right-hander, also withdrew from her second-round match in that tournament with left arm soreness.
   With the U.S. Open beginning in late August, players are very cautious.
   The Bank of the West Classic moved to San Jose in 2018 after 21 years at Stanford.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Vandeweghe, two others receive San Jose wild cards

CoCo Vandeweghe, a two-time runner-up in the Bank of the West Classic at
Stanford, sat out this year with an ankle injury before returning Monday night
in a World TeamTennis match for her hometown San Diego Aviators. 2017
photo by Mal Taam
   Two-time tournament runner-up CoCo Vandeweghe, former doubles world No. 1 Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Russian No. 1 Daria Kasatkina received the three remaining singles wild cards for next week's Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic, organizers announced today.
   Thirty-nine-year-old Venus Williams, a two-time tournament champion and six-time runner-up, previously was granted a wild card for the Silicon Valley Classic, Monday through Aug. 4 at San Jose State.
   Vandeweghe reached the final of the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford in 2012, losing to Serena Williams, and 2017, falling to Madison Keys. The tournament moved to San Jose last year after 21 years at Stanford.
   Vandeweghe, 27, climbed to a career-high No. 10 in 2017 after advancing to the semifinals of the Australian Open and the U.S. Open and the quarterfinals at Wimbledon. She won the U.S. Open doubles title last year with Ashleigh Barty, now No. 1 in singles.
   Vandeweghe withdrew from last year's Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic with an ankle injury, ended 2018 with an eight-match losing streak in singles and sat out this year because of the ankle until returning Monday night in a World TeamTennis match for her hometown San Diego Aviators.
   Mattek-Sands, a 34-year-old Phoenix resident, has won eight Grand Slam doubles titles (five women's and three mixed). She reached a career-high No. 30 in singles in 2011 and claimed the 2016 Olympic gold medal in mixed doubles with countryman Jack Sock in Rio de Janeiro.
   Mattek-Sands suffered a gruesome knee injury while playing Sorana Cirstea of Romania in the second round at Wimbledon in 2017.
   Kasatkina, 22, has tumbled from a career-high No. 10 last October to No. 40.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Six years after loss, Brengle beats Hibi for Berkeley title

Madison Brengle rejoices after winning the singles title
in the $60,000 Berkeley Tennis Club Women's Challenge
today. Photo by Paul Bauman
   BERKELEY, Calif. – Madison Brengle scoffed at the notion that she had extra motivation in the final of the $60,000 Berkeley Tennis Club Women's Challenge.
   The top-seeded Brengle beat unseeded Mayo Hibi 7-5, 6-4 today in their second career meeting. The first also was in the final of a Northern California Challenger as the unseeded Hibi, then a 17-year-old amateur, shocked the fifth-seeded Brengle, who was suffering from an intestinal illness, 7-5, 6-0 six years ago in Sacramento. Hibi saved nine set points and won the last 12 games of that match.
   Time for revenge, right? Prove that the result was a fluke. Show the upstart who's boss.
   Nope. Brengle, 29, had to be reminded about Sacramento.
   "That's a blast from the past," marveled Brengle, who also won the singles title in Stockton, 75 miles (120 kilometers) east of Berkeley, last October. "I think as a tennis player your memory is maybe a little shorter than that. We always have a tournament the next week. Every time I step on the court, I have plenty of motivation."
   Indeed, whether it's Wimbledon or Berkeley, Brengle has Rafael Nadal-like focus and consistency. She stunned 16th seed and French Open runner-up Marketa Vondrousova in the first round at the All England Lawn Tennis Club two weeks ago before losing to eventual quarterfinalist Karolina Muchova in the second round.
Madison Brengle and Mayo Hibi have met twice, both times in the
final of a Northern California Challenger. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Isn't it a letdown to go from the most prestigious tournament in the world to the minor leagues?
   "No," Brengle insisted Wednesday. "Every match I get to play, it's an opportunity to go out and give it my best. I'm very happy to be here.
   "It's my first time playing here, I think. People are saying to me, 'You played (the Girls 18 National) Hardcourts here,' but I don't think I played it when it was here. But it's really nice."
   Brengle, a 5-foot-6 (1.68-meter) native of Dover, Del., now based in Bradenton, Fla., will improve five places in the world rankings to No. 78 on Monday. She earned $9,119 in singles and collected $1,672 for winning the doubles crown Saturday with Sachia (pronounced SAH-shuh) Vickery of Miramar, Fla.
   Brengle climbed to a career-high No. 35 in singles in 2015, but she has a soft, stiff-armed serve because of what she says is incurable hand and arm pain from an anti-doping blood test at the 2016 U.S. Open. She sued the Women's Tennis Association and International Tennis Federation in April 2018. The WTA and ITF have not publicly commented on the case.
   Hibi, a longtime resident of Irvine in the Los Angeles area who plays for her native Japan, will jump 30 spots to No. 272. She pocketed $4,863 in singles and did not play doubles.
Madison Brengle "gets every ball back," Mayo Hibi said.
"It's very tough to finish the point against her ... " Photo
by Paul Bauman
   Brengle faced only one player ranked in the top 300 during the week – No. 180 Kristie Ahn, a Stanford graduate, in the semifinals –  but barely survived in the second round against 18-year-old qualifier Alycia Parks of Port St. Lucie, Fla. Brengle prevailed 3-6, 7-5, 6-3, saving eight break points to avoid trailing by two service breaks at 0-3 in the second set.
   Brengle showed her mental toughness again in the final, winning the last four games of the first set and final three games of the second set. The match featured many long, entertaining rallies.
   "It was a very physical match with a lot of running," Brengle said. "She has such good control of the ball, so I just kept trying to fight and work the point and be aggressive when I could. She's very tough, and it was a difficult match to play, so I'm happy to get through it."
   Hibi, who reached a career-high No. 166 in 2016, relied on her trademark slice backhand throughout the match and tried to disrupt Brengle's timing with forehand moonballs in the first set.
   "I thought that was working until 5-3," said Hibi, formerly coached by 1983 Wimbledon runner-up Chris Lewis from New Zealand and 1990 NCAA singles champion Debbie Graham from Stanford. "Then I felt like she started to adjust to that. She didn't take any risks on those high balls. I just didn't have a second option."
Defensive-minded Mayo Hibi said she needed to
be more aggressive against Madison Brengle.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   The defensive-minded Hibi, only 5-foot-5 (1.65 meters) and 120 pounds (55 kilograms), added that she needed to be more aggressive against Brengle.
   "It's a balance of cutting the unforced errors but also taking risks and putting pressure (on opponents)," Hibi said. "I think it's going to be really important in the future for my game. You can't just have the one or the other.
   "I wasn't taking enough risks from the beginning. I wasn't putting too much pressure on her, like coming to the net, just giving her a message that, you know, I can go for it if I want to. I couldn't do that today.
   "But she gets every ball back. It's very tough to finish the point against her, but I feel like to get to a higher level I need to be able to do that."
   Here are the complete Berkeley singles and doubles draws.

Ahn flings racket into crowd during Berkeley loss

Sixth-seeded Kristie Ahn, a 27-year-old Stanford graduate, said she had
intended to throw her racket to the bottom of the net during her loss to
top-seeded Madison Brengle on Saturday. Photo by Paul Bauman
   BERKELEY, Calif. – As her frustration mounted, Kristie Ahn finally snapped.
   Standing behind the baseline, the 27-year-old graduate of Stanford, across San Francisco Bay from Berkeley, flung her racket high in the air Saturday on the court where Billie Jean King was crowned the girls 18 national champion.
   The racket sailed into the crowd on one sideline, and a man dived to catch it.
   "If it gives you any indication of how my day went, I was aiming for the bottom of the net," the sixth-seeded Ahn said after losing to top seed, fellow American and good friend Madison Brengle 6-1, 6-3 in the semifinals of the $60,000 Berkeley Tennis Club Women's Challenge. "Somehow, my hand caught onto the grip, and (the racket) just went floating away in the crowd unfortunately. Luckily, no one got hurt."
   Chair umpire Carrie Hinueber warned Ahn for unsportsmanlike conduct and turned to International Tennis Federation supervisor Marc Bell, who was sitting the stands, to see if he needed to intervene and possibly default Ahn. Bell shook his head.
   "We check three things," Bell said after the match. "We check the action, intent and result. The intent was not to hurt anybody; the intent was to throw it to the (racket) bag. Nobody got hurt, so the result wasn't really bad. Her action? She's responsible for herself.
   "Any one of these three could be enough to be defaulted. In this case, none of these there were bad enough. The action itself was not so bad. That thing flew very lightly – the rest does not exist."
Madison Brengle complained to the chair umpire but later said it wasn't her de-
cision whether Kristie Ahn should have been defaulted. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Had Ahn hurled the racket on a line into the crowd, that would have been different, Bell noted.
   Ahn, who will be fined up to $500, went into the crowd to retrieve her racket but said nothing, and play continued.
   On the next changeover, Brengle complained to Hinueber, saying, "This is unacceptable." Brengle, who will play unseeded Mayo Hibi of Japan today at 2:30 p.m., then turned around and glared at Bell.
   After the subsequent doubles final, won by Brengle and Sachia (prounounced SAH-shuh) Vickery, Brengle was asked what was unacceptable.
   "I don't remember. Sorry," she said.
   Did Brengle think Ahn, who did apologize after their match to two fans sitting in the area, should have been defaulted?
   "That's not my call," she said. "That has nothing to do with me."
   Ahn, ranked No. 180 after reaching a career-high No. 105 in January 2018, had survived a grueling baseline battle against unseeded Arina Rodionova, who's No. 206, on Friday and faced the prospect of an even tougher one against Brengle, ranked No. 83 after climbing as high as No. 35 in 2015.
   Then Ahn, a right-hander with a two-handed backhand, bruised her left hand hitting a shot on the first point of the match.
Unseeded Mayo Hibi will play Madison Breng-
le in a rematch of the 2013 Sacramento final,
won by Hibi, then 17, in shocking fashion.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   "It just went downhill from there," she lamented.
   Ahn was victimized by a bad line call in the second game and in the first game of the second set. In the next game, she had control of a point but watched helplessly as Brengle laced a spectacular running forehand passing shot down the line.
   That's when Ahn lost her temper.
   "Maddie obviously is super tough to play," said Ahn, who stunned 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in the first round on clay in Bogota in April. "She gets a lot of balls back and puts you in really uncomfortable situations. I played a really good, solid point and was just unable to execute, and it was just a bit of frustration there.
   "You come out to play regardless of the circumstances, and it's just a bit disappointing that I couldn't mentally get over my demons."
   Ahn was bidding to become the second former Stanford star in the two-year history of the Berkeley tournament to reach the final. Her ex-teammate and close friend, Nicole Gibbs, lost to Sofia Kenin last year. Kenin, a Moscow-born American, is now ranked No. 27 at age 20.
   It was Ahn's second consecutive debacle against Brengle, who leads the head-to-head series 3-0. Ahn vomited on the court and retired with Brengle leading 6-4, 1-0 last August in the final of a $60,000 tournament in hot, humid Landisville, Pa.
   Ahn said she had never thrown a racket into the seats.
   "No, no. I don't really throw my racket to begin with, but when I do, I aim for the bottom of the net or bottom of the fence," she said.
   Nor, Ahn said, has she ever been defaulted from a match.
   "I've barely even gotten (warnings), so it's not part of my routine," she said.
   Bell estimated that he has seen a player throw his or her racket into the stands four times in his 32 years as a linesman, chair umpire or supervisor, adding that sometimes nobody is sitting in them. He said he has never seen a player get defaulted for throwing a racket or a fan get hurt by one.
   "I saw a guy throw it out of the stadium on Center Court once," Bell said. "I don't want to say who it was or where. It was maybe seven or eight years ago. Nobody can throw it out of a stadium – the wind caught it."
   Vickery also had a bad day in singles – although nothing compared to Ahn's – at the Berkeley Tennis Club, which has a rich history. It was founded in 1906, and legends Don Budge, Helen Wills Moody, Helen Hull Jacobs and Hazel Hotchkiss Wightman once were members. Fellow International Tennis Hall of Famers Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall, Stan Smith and Arthur Ashe – in addition to King – played in tournaments there.
Second-seeded Sachia Vickery said she wasn't
herself in a 6-3, 6-0 loss to Mayo Hibi. Photo by
Paul Bauman
   The second-seeded Vickery, rebounding from lingering knee and elbow injuries, dropped the last eight games and lost to Hibi, who was born in Japan but has lived in California since she was 2 years old, 6-3, 6-0.
   "I woke up and wasn't really myself," said the 5-foot-4 (1.63-meter) Vickery, 24. "It was just one of those days where I couldn't get anything right. Even in the warmup, I wasn't feeling great. I thought as the match went on it would get better, but it didn't.
   "I haven't played this amount of matches in a row in a while since I have been a little bit injured, so my body was not used to the everyday routine, but she played a good match. Like I said yesterday, she's a tricky opponent to play, especially when you're not 100 percent."
   Still, Brengle and Vickery, playing their second tournament together, defeated Francesca Di Lorenzo from Columbus, Ohio, and Katie Swan of Great Britain 6-3, 7-5 for the doubles title. Both teams were unseeded.
   Brengle, 29, and the 23-year-old Hibi, who has tumbled from a career-high No. 166 in 2016 to No. 302, will meet for the second time. The first was also in the final of a Northern California Challenger as the unseeded Hibi, then 17, shocked the fifth-seeded Brengle, suffering from an intestinal illness, 7-5, 6-0 in Sacramento in July 2013.
   Hibi, who saved nine set points and won the last 12 games of that match, signed a letter of intent that November to attend UCLA but turned pro five months later instead. The Sacramento tournament moved to Berkeley last year.
   Hibi, only 5-foot-5 (1.65 meters) and 121 pounds (55 kilograms), said she's happy with her decision to turn pro but admitted that was not always the case.
   "There was definitely a point of time when I did kind of regret it," she said. "In your career, you have ups and downs. After I turned pro, all the pressure came to me. I was worrying about every single thing – money, I need a coach ...
   "College had been an (option) – if I don't do well enough, I can go to college. Now, I didn't have that anymore. I had so much more responsibility, so much more pressure that sometimes I wish I (had) gone to college.
   "Now I feel different. I feel those experiences also helped me and will help me in the future."
   The Bay Area is a second or third home for Hibi, whose father, Soichi, is a tennis fanatic and sales manager for a branch of a Japanese music company. She lived with her parents in Foster City, near San Francisco International Airport, from age 2 to 4, and her 19-year-old brother, Leo, was born in San Francisco. He is helping Mayo at the Berkeley tournament.
   The Hibis moved from Foster City to the Los Angeles area, first to Rancho Palos Verdes for two or three years and then to Irvine, where they still reside.
   Here are the Berkeley singles and doubles draws.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Ahn survives battle to reach $60K Berkeley semis

Sixth-seeded Kristie Ahn, a 27-year-old Stanford graduate, won
 a fierce baseline battle against unseeded Arina Rodionova, a 29-
year-old Australian from Russia. Photo by Paul Bauman
   BERKELEY, Calif. – The first meeting between Kristie Ahn and Arina Rodionova was memorable.
   Point after point, the veterans traded blistering groundstrokes and made amazing gets on another warm, sunny day at the venerable Berkeley Tennis Club.
   Set after set, Ahn took a lead only for Rodionova to fight back.
   Ahn, a 27-year-old Stanford graduate, finally prevailed 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 in 2 hours, 13 minutes today in the quarterfinals of the $60,000 Berkeley Tennis Club Women's Challenge.
   Ahn led 3-0 in the third set, but Rodionova, a 29-year-old Australian from Russia, got back on serve at 3-4. Rodionova then played an uncharacteristically loose game to trail 3-5, and Ahn held serve at 15 for the match, ending a string of four consecutive breaks.
   "She's an incredible competitor, and we had so many good points," said the 5-foot-5 (1.65-meter) Ahn, seeded sixth. "I just tried to stay as tough as I could and hang in there."
   The unseeded Rodionova, a chiseled 5-foot-6 (1.68 meters), was coming off a 6-7 (5), 7-6 (6), 6-3 victory over Jovana Jaksic, a Serb living in Sacramento, that lasted 2 hours, 56 minutes.
   "If you know Arina, you know she's one of the fittest players out there," said Ahn, who's ranked No. 180 after reaching a career-high No. 105 in January 2018. "She can do that all day, so I tried to stay aggressive but hang in there as well."
   Ahn, a right-hander, again played with her right arm heavily taped to protect a hyperextended elbow. The arm, she said Wednesday, is "much better than it looks."
Arina Rodionova was coming off a three-set victory over Jovana
Jaksic, a Serb living in Sacramento, that lasted almost three
hours. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Both Ahn and Rodionova qualified for Wimbledon this month and lost in the first round. Rodionova also reached the second round of doubles there with Kateryna Kozlova of Ukraine. They lost to eventual runners-up Gabriela Dabrowski of Canada and Yifan Xu of China.
   Ahn, a resident of Englewood Cliffs, N.J., was named after Kristi Yamaguchi, who won the Olympic gold medal in figure skating in 1992, the year Ahn was born.
   Ahn, who stunned 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in the first round on clay in Bogota in April, will take on good friend and top seed Madison Brengle, a 29-year-old native of Dover, Del., now based in Bradenton, Fla., on Saturday not before 1:30 p.m.
   Brengle, ranked No. 83 after climbing as high as No. 35 in 2005, beat unseeded Gail Brodsky, a 28-year-old mother of two who grew up in Brooklyn, 6-0 6-4 in 55 minutes. They embraced after their meeting since 2012.
   "We talked about it," Brengle said. "It's been a long time, but we've known each other for so long (since Brengle was 10 or 11), and we're very good friends."
   Brodsky quit tennis in 2012 because of burnout and returned last year.
   Brengle is 2-0 against Ahn. But their first meeting was nine years ago, and Ahn retired from the second one with Brengle leading 6-4, 1-0 in the final of a $60,000 tournament in Landisville, Pa., last August. Ahn vomited on the court in the heat and humidity.
   "(Brengle) has an incredible tennis IQ," Ahn said. "She knows exactly how to play the game and how to play to her strengths. She can read the ball really well."
Second-seeded Sachia Vickery, who beat unseeded
Caroline Dolehide 6-3, 7-5, is the only semifinalist
who hasn't lost a set this week. Photo by Paul Bauman
   But Brengle has a soft, stiff-armed serve because of what she says is incurable hand and arm pain caused by a reaction to an anti-doping blood test at the 2016 U.S. Open. She sued the Women's Tennis Association and International Tennis Federation in April 2018. The WTA and ITF have not publicly commented on the case.
   "Everyone says, 'Oh, attack the serve,' but it's really tricky," Ahn said. "She defends so well, so if you go for too much, you miss. If you don't go for enough, she's right back on you."
   In Saturday's other semifinal, second-seeded Sachia (pronounced SAH-shuh) Vickery, 24, of Miramar, Fla., will face unseeded Mayo Hibi, 23, of Japan at 11 a.m.
   Vickery, only 5-foot-4 (1.63 meters), eliminated unseeded but powerful Caroline Dolehide, a 20-year-old native of Hinsdale, Ill., 6-3, 7-5.
   Hibi, a resident of Irvine in the Los Angeles region, topped fifth-seeded Na-Lae Han, a 27-year-old left-hander from South Korea, 7-5, 6-4 in a matchup of players with an unusual stroke. Hibi has a one-handed backhand, and Han possesses a two-handed forehand.
   Both Vickery, ranked No. 163, and Dolehide, ranked No. 256, have struggled this year after emerging in 2018.
   Vickery reached a career-high No. 73 last July but suffered tears in her knees late last year, came back too soon and hurt her elbow last month.
   "I wasn't even supposed to play this week," said Vickery, the only semifinalist who hasn't lost a set this week. "I was supposed to be doing another week of rehab."
   Dolehide, 5-foot-10 (1.78 meters), has plunged from a career-high No. 102 last July to No. 256 but reached the singles semifinals and doubles final in a $60,000 tournament in Honolulu last week.
Last year at age 19, Caroline Dolehide played in the main
draw of three Grand Slam tournaments, reaching the sec-
ond round of the French Open, and almost upset Simona
Halep at Indian Wells. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Last year, Dolehide played in the main draw of three Grand Slam tournaments, reaching the second round of the French Open as a qualifier, and advanced to the third round at Indian Wells, coming within a tiebreaker of beating Simona Halep, then ranked No. 1.
   Vickery and Hibi, ranked No. 302 after climbing as high as No. 166 in 2016, have split four career matches. They will meet for the third time this year and second time in five weeks.
   Vickery beat Hibi  6-4, 3-6, 7-5 in the first round of a $100,000 tournament in Manchester, England, last month and 6-3, 6-4 in the opening round of a $25,000 hard-court tourney in the San Diego suburb of Rancho Santa Fe in February.
   Vickery described the 5-foot-5 (1.65-meter) Hibi's game as "frustrating. She makes you work for everything. She doesn't play like anyone else on tour. Her ball is very flat and skiddy. She has kind of an underspin with a continental grip, so the ball comes very differently. She serves-and-volleys, and she chips-and-charges. She has very good hands, so that's something you don't see very often.
   "Playing her on grass is probably anyone's worst nightmare because her game is so suited to it. But I think here with the bouncier courts, I may have a little more time to take her shots. Her balls won't come through as quickly."
   In Saturday's doubles final, Brengle and Vickery will play Francesca Di Lorenzo from Columbus, Ohio, and Katie Swan of Great Britain in a matchup of unseeded teams.
   Brengle and Vickery crushed unseeded Ahn and Catherine Harrison, from Germantown, Tenn., in the Memphis area, 6-1, 6-0 in 54 minutes.
   Di Lorenzo and Swan edged top-seeded Giuliana Olmos, a product of Fremont in the San Francisco Bay Area who plays for Mexico, and Luisa Stefani of Brazil 6-3, 6-7 (2) [11-9].
   Here are the Berkeley singles and doubles draws and Saturday's schedule. Live streaming is available.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Top seed Brengle rallies to beat qualifier in Berkeley

Madison Brengle has altered her serve because of what she
says is incurable hand and arm pain caused by a reaction to
an anti-doping blood test at the 2016 U.S. Open. Photo by
Paul Bauman
   BERKELEY, Calif. – Madison Brengle had a simple explanation for how she beat the French Open runner-up at Wimbledon two weeks ago and almost lost to a qualifier ranked No. 526 today.
   "Everybody's good," Brengle observed. "That's all there is to it."
   After ousting 16th-seeded Marketa Vondrousova in the first round at Wimbledon two weeks ago, the top-seeded Brengle gutted out a 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 victory over 18-year-old fellow American Alycia Parks in the second round of the $60,000 Berkeley Tennis Club Women's Challenge.
   Serving at 0-2 in the second set, Brengle saved eight break points and held.
   "'Concerned' is the wrong word," Brengle, ranked No. 83 after reaching a career-high No. 35 in 2015, said after her second consecutive match against a U.S. teenage qualifier. "I will go out and compete and give it my best, and whatever happens happens. This is not the be all, end all."
   Why so many break points? That, too, is simple. Brengle, 29, has altered her serve because of what she says is incurable hand and arm pain caused by a reaction to an anti-doping blood test at the 2016 U.S. Open. She sued the Women's Tennis Association and International Tennis Federation in April 2018. The WTA and ITF have not publicly commented on the case.
   Throughout today's match, the explosive Parks jumped all over Brengle's soft, stiff-armed deliveries and rifled returns. Ultimately, though, unforced errors doomed Parks.
   "I kind of lost focus, I guess," said Parks, who easily got discouraged and continually asked her father, Michael Parks, sitting at one end of the court not to comment during the match. "If I (had) stayed focused, I would have (gotten) through that match, for sure."
Alycia Parks, 18, has often been compared to the Williams sisters.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Alycia Parks took the loss philosophically.
   "I'm not disappointed," she insisted. "I never lose; I learn."
   Parks turned pro at 16. In a Palm Beach (Fla.) Post story last December, Michael Parks said his daughter's game was "too good for college. She's a freak-of-nature athlete."
   Parks has often been compared to Venus and Serena Williams. Like the Williams sisters, Parks is an African-American who skipped the juniors to let her body develop. Like Venus, she's tall (5-foot-11 or 1.80 meters) and slender. They even look alike facially. Like Serena, Parks has a booming serve.
   "Serena called me when I was 7 or 8," Alycia Parks recalled in the Palm Beach Post story. "She was saying positive things and telling me to stick with it. Now that I'm here, I'm sure she's proud. ... "
   Brengle suffered a toe injury during the match but said it didn't bother her.
   "I think I just lost a toenail, but that's fine," she said. "Who needs 'em, right? Just paint them and make believe."
   Brengle is scheduled to play unseeded American Gail Brodsky, a 28-year-old mother of two who quit tennis in 2012 and returned early last year, on Friday at noon. They have split four matches, the last one in 2012.
   Also in the top half of the draw, sixth-seeded Kristie Ahn, a 27-year-old Stanford graduate from Englewood Cliffs, N.J., will face unseeded Arina Rodionova, a 29-year-old Australian from Russia, for the first time at about 2 p.m. Both players qualified for Wimbledon this month and lost in the first round.
Kristie Ahn, a 27-year-old Stanford graduate, serves during
her 7-5, 6-2 victory over Usue Arconada, whose winning
streak ended at 11 matches. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Ahn, ranked No. 180, ended Usue (pronounced OO-sway) Arconada's winning streak at 11 matches, beating the 20-year-old American 7-5, 6-2 to reach the Berkeley quarterfinals for the second consecutive year.
   Ahn, a 5-foot-5 (1.65-meter) right-hander, played with her right arm heavily taped to protect a hyperextended elbow. The arm, she said, is "much better than it looks."
   Rodionova, ranked No. 206, outlasted Jovana Jaksic, a 25-year-old Serb living in Sacramento, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (6), 6-3 in 2 hours, 56 minutes despite committing 10 double faults.
   In the bottom half of the draw, second-seeded Sachia (pronounced Sa-sha) Vickery will play unseeded but powerful fellow American Caroline Dolehide for the first time at about noon.
   Also, fifth-seeded Na-Lae Han of South Korea will take on unseeded Mayo Hibi, who grew up in Irvine in the Los Angeles region but plays for her native Japan, at 10 a.m. Hibi, who also advanced to the Berkeley quarterfinals for the second straight year, is 3-1 against Han.
   Here are the Berkeley singles and doubles draws and Friday's schedule. Live streaming is available. 

Teens Volynets, Ma show promise in Berkeley losses

Katie Volynets, a 17-year-old wild card from Walnut
Creek in the San Francisco Bay Area, celebrates after
winning a point during her 5-7, 6-2, 7-6 (3) loss to
unseeded Caroline Dolehide on Wednesday in the
first round of the $60,000 Berkeley Tennis Club
Club Women's Challenge. Photo by Paul Bauman
   BERKELEY, Calif. – The wave began with CiCi Bellis, now an "old lady" of 20.
   Bellis, who grew up across San Francisco Bay in Atherton, burst onto the international tennis scene at 15 by stunning 12th-seeded Dominika Cibulkova in the first round of the 2014 U.S. Open.
   Bellis reached a career-high No. 35 in 2017 and was named the WTA Newcomer of the Year.
   The right-hander is practicing after undergoing four operations on her right wrist/arm in one year and hopes to return by the U.S. Open, which begins Aug. 26. She has been sidelined since March 2018.
   Now, along come three more promising Northern California teenagers: 17-year-old Katie Volynets  and 16-year-olds Connie Ma, Allura Zamarripa and Maribella Zamarripa. Volynets and Ma, like Bellis, are undersized players from the Bay Area.
   One day after the Zamarripas, identical twins from Saint Helena in the Napa region, narrowly lost to Madison Brengle and Sachia (pronounced Sa-sha) Vickery, seeded 1-2 in singles in the $60,000 Berkeley Tennis Club Women's Challenge, in the first round of doubles, Volynets and Ma showed top-100 potential in opening-round singles losses on Wednesday.
   The appropriately named Volynets, a 5-foot-6 (1.68-meter) wild card from Walnut Creek, fell to unseeded Caroline Dolehide, a 20-year-old native of Hinsdale, Ill., now based in Orlando, Fla., 5-7, 6-2, 7-6 (3) in 2 hours, 34 minutes in the featured evening match.
   Dolehide has plunged from a career-high No. 102 last July to No. 256 but reached the singles semifinals and doubles final in a $60,000 tournament in Honolulu last week.
   Last year, Dolehide played in the main draw of three Grand Slam tournaments, reaching the second round of the French Open as a qualifier, and advanced to the third round at Indian Wells, coming within a tiebreaker of beating Simona Halep, then ranked No. 1.
   Volynets, ranked No. 393, needed some time to put her loss in perspective.
   "Right after the match, it's always difficult to look at it (as encouraging) because it was so close," said Volynets, a rising high school senior who's still deciding whether to attend college or turn pro. "But I can see that my level can be there, so that's definitely encouraging to me."
Connie Ma, a 16-year-old qualifier from Dublin in the Bay Area,
rips a forehand during her 6-3, 6-1 loss to top-seeded Madison
Brengle. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Ma, a 5-foot-4 (1.63-meter), 100-pound (45.4-kilogram) qualifier from Dublin, lost to Brengle, an American ranked No. 83 in the world after reaching a career-high No. 35 in 2015, 6-3, 6-1 in 64 minutes. But Ma held her own in rallies.
   "It was good experience and a good match for me to be able to play someone like her," Ma, ranked No. 732, said after her first match against a top-100 player.
   Volynets, who relies on consistency and mental toughness, ultimately succumbed to the 5-foot-10 (1.78-meter) Dolehide's power, disappointing a vocal group of supporters including Volynets' Ukrainian parents, Andrey and Anna.
   "There's always room for improvement," said Volynets, who recently added renowned Joseph Gilbert of Sacramento to her coaching team. "She's definitely one of the biggest servers I've ever seen. That tells me that I'd also like to improve my return against these huge servers."
   Many of Dolehide's kick second serves bounced above Volynets' head. The match ended when Volynets sailed one of them long.
   In the January/February issue of Tennis Magazine, International Tennis Hall of Famer Tracy Austin wrote of Dolehide: "Her kick serve is already one of the best on tour. She's got so much power but also has all-court abilities, including net coverage. She's still maturing."
   So is Ma. When Brengle was asked if Ma reminds her of herself at 16, Brengle cracked: "No, she's a little more composed than I was at that time."
   Brengle has a soft, stiff-armed serve because of arm pain caused by a long-term reaction to an anti-doping blood test for which she sued the Women's Tennis Association and International Tennis Federation in April 2018. The WTA and ITF have not publicly commented on the case.
   That Brengle has remained in the top 100 says something about her groundstrokes, return of serve and intelligence.
Madison Brengle will face another U.S. teenage
qualifier, 18-year-old Alycia Parks, today at noon
in the second round. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Is her arm OK?
   "It will never be OK," Brengle lamented.
   Also Wednesday:
   –Hailey Baptiste, 17, of Washington, D.C., surprised eighth-seeded Katie Swan of Great Britain 7-5, 6-3. Baptiste is scheduled to face Dolehide in today's featured match not before 5 p.m.
   –Qualifier Alycia Parks, an 18-year-old Venus Williams lookalike from Port St. Lucie, Fla., defeated Giuliana Olmos, a 26-year-old product of Fremont in the Bay Area, 6-2, 6-3. Parks will face Brengle at noon.
   –Sixth-seeded Kristie Ahn, a 27-year-old Stanford graduate, beat qualifier Tara Moore of Great Britain 6-3, 6-3. Ahn will take on unseeded Usue (pronounced OO-sway) Arconada, a 20-year-old American who has won 11 consecutive matches and 18 or her last 19, today at about 2 p.m. Ahn has played Arconada once, winning 6-1, 6-1 in the semifinals of a $25,000 tournament in Rancho Santa Fe in the San Diego area in February.
   –Vickery, 24, of Miramar, Fla., defeated U.S. wild card Maegan Manasse, a 24-year-old former Cal star, 6-4, 6-4.
   –Jovana Jaksic, a 25-year-old Serb who lives in Sacramento, eliminated Natasha Subhash, a 17-year-old wild card from Fairfax, Va., 6-2, 6-4.
   Here are the Berkeley singles and doubles draws and today's schedule. Live streaming is available.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

25 years after debut in Oakland, Venus to play in S.J.

Venus Williams, shown last year in San Jose, plans to return this month at age 39.
Photo by Mal Taam
   In 1994, Venus Williams made her professional debut indoors in Oakland at 14 years old.
   A quarter of a century later, Williams plans to return to the Bay Area to compete in the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic.
   Williams will play the featured evening match on Tuesday, July 30, at 7 p.m., officials announced Tuesday. The tournament is scheduled for July 29-Aug. 4 at San Jose State.
   The Bay Area practically has been a third home to Williams, who grew up in Compton in the Los Angeles region and lives in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. She will make her 15th appearance in the tournament, which moved to Stanford in 1997 and San Jose last year. Williams reached the Stanford final eight times, winning in 2000 and 2002, and the San Jose quarterfinals in 2018.
   Williams won the last of her seven Grand Slam singles titles in 2008 at Wimbledon. She was diagnosed with Sjogren's Syndrome, an incurable energy-sapping disease, in 2011.
   Williams becomes the third former world No. 1 to enter the Silicon Valley Classic, joining two-time Grand Slam champions Victoria Azarenka and Garbine Muguruza.
   The field also includes seventh-ranked Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, No. 10 Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, 17-year-old U.S. sensation Amanda Anisimova, 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia, defending champion Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania and 2018 runner-up Maria Sakkari of Greece.
   Sabalenka is coached by Dmitry Tursunov, a former longtime Northern California resident from Russia.
   International Tennis Hall of Famers Andy Roddick and Michael Chang and former top-10 players James Blake and Mark Philippoussis will play a one-night tournament as part of the Invesco Series on Saturday, Aug. 3.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

16-year-olds take spotlight in $60K Berkeley tourney

Little Connie Ma, 16, of Dublin in the San Fran-
cisco Bay Area, qualified in Berkeley for the
second year in a row. Photo by Paul Bauman
   BERKELEY, Calif. – Today was Kids Day at the $60,000 Berkeley Tennis Club Women's Challenge.
   No, a horde of ragamuffins wasn't running amok and making a – ahem – racket.
   Four 16-year-old Northern Californians played on a beautiful day at the former home of International Tennis Hall of Famers Don Budge and Helen Wills Moody, one in the last round of singles qualifying and three in the first round of main-draw doubles.
   Only Connie Ma, the singles player, won, but the doubles team of identical twins Allura and Maribella Zamarripa put up a fight against a formidable pair. So did Makenna Thiel for a set.
   Ma, a 5-foot-4 (1.63-meter), 100-pound (45.4-kilogram) resident of nearby Dublin, outplayed China's Xiaodi You, seeded third in qualifying, 6-4, 7-6 (4) to reach the main draw for the second consecutive year.
   Ma lost to eighth-seeded Mayo Hibi, who grew up in Irvine in the Los Angeles area and plays for her native Japan, 6-0, 6-3 in the first round in 2018. Hibi was ranked No. 187 at the time.
   Ma's reward this time? A matchup against top-seeded Madison Brengle on Wednesday after the 10 a.m. encounter between eighth-seeded Katie Swan of Great Britain and 17-year-old Hailey Baptiste of Washington, D.C.
   Brengle, ranked No. 83 after reaching a career-high No. 35 in 2015, will be the 732nd-ranked Ma's first top-100 opponent. The winner will play another qualifier, either Giuliana Olmos, a product of nearby Fremont who plays for Mexico, or Alycia Parks, an 18-year-old professional from Port St. Lucie, Fla.
   You, ranked No. 293, also advanced to the main draw when third-seeded Sofya Zhuk, a Russian who won the Wimbledon girls singles title at 15 in 2015, withdrew.
Identical twins Allura Zamarripa, left, and Maribella Zamarripa,
16, of Saint Helena in the Napa region, pushed Madison Brengle
and Sachia Vickery, seeded 1-2 in singles, in the first round of
doubles. Photo by Paul Bauman
   The Zamarripas, wild cards from Saint Helena in the Napa region, lost to American veterans Brengle and Sachia Vickery, seeded second in singles, 6-7 (5), 6-2 [10-5].
   Wild cards Thiel, a resident of neighboring Piedmont playing on her home courts, and former UCLA All-American Chanelle Van Nguyen fell to fourth-seeded Pei Hsuan Chen and Fan-Hsien Wu of Taiwan 6-2, 6-4.
   Both main-draw singles seeds in action today lost. Arina Rodionova, an Australian veteran ranked 206th, ousted fourth-seeded Francesca Di Lorenzo, an American ranked 153rd, 6-4, 7-5.
   Di Lorenzo, a 21-year-old left-hander from Columbus, Ohio, who won the 2017 NCAA doubles title as an Ohio State sophomore, led 3-0 in the first set and had a set point in the second set.
   Japan's Hiroko Kuwata ranked 271st, eliminated seventh-seeded Zoe Hives, an Australian ranked 201st, 6-3, 6-4. 
   Ma wore down You mentally with outstanding defense and consistency.
   "It was clear," Ma said. "You could tell she was getting kind of frustrated. She was spraying balls wide that she usually wouldn't, and some of the calls kind of made her frustrated, too."
   There was late drama, though. Ma served for the match at 6-4, 5-4 but was broken when she made a rare error, slugging a cross-court backhand wide.
   When asked if she got tight serving for the match, Ma paused and said, "Um, maybe a little, but I think more of the problem was that the sun is in your eyes over there, so you have to adjust your toss. It is what it is. Obviously, you can't control the sun."
Makenna Thiel, 16, playing on her home courts, and Chan-
elle Van Nguyen tested fourth-seeded Pei Hsuan Chen and
Fang-Hsien Wu of Taiwan in the opening round of doubles.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   After You held for 6-5, Ma saved two set points and forced a tiebreaker. You double-faulted to give Ma a 4-1 lead, and Ma laced a forehand winner to go up 6-2 with four match points. She converted the third one when You slugged a backhand down the lie that smacked the tape and bounced back.
   The Zamarripas, who won back-to-back doubles titles in $15,000 clay-court tournaments in Florida last month, charged the net, volleyed impressively and pinned Brengle and Vickery on the baseline for much of their match.
   Brengle has a soft, stiff-armed serve because of arm pain caused by a long-term reaction to an anti-doping blood test for which she sued the Women's Tennis Association and International Tennis Federation. The WTA and ITF have not publicly commented on the case. Vickery had her own serving woes in the first set.
   But the Zamarripas relaxed a bit after winning the first set, while Brengle and Vickery increased their intensity and used their experience.
   "They raised their level a little bit, but I feel like our focus was a little off," Maribella Zamarripa said. "Something happened. It's ups and downs. You can't always control them."
   Fortunately, Maribella is right-handed, and Allura is a lefty. Otherwise, it would be almost impossible to tell them apart. Guess who their idols are.
   "Definitely the Bryan brothers," Allura asserted. "We took a couple pictures with them. I always remember that, and we're just hoping to be like them one day."
   Added Maribella: "I would say so, since they're lefty-righty, mirror (images) – who else to idolize? They've won so many Slams. It's very encouraging."
   So was the Zamarripas' performance today.
   Here are the Berkeley qualifying draw, singles and doubles main draws, and Wednesday's schedule. Live streaming is available.
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