Thursday, July 18, 2019

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.

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