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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