Thursday, December 31, 2020

Pandemic — what else? — heads top stories of 2020

Sofia Kenin earned her first Grand Slam crown in the
Australian Open and reached the final of the delayed
French Open. 2018 photo by Paul Bauman
   This was a terrible year for Northern California tennis, as with everything else. Not all the news, however, was bad.
   Here are my picks for the top 10 stories of 2020 with 10 honorable mentions:
   1. Most of season lost — The COVID-19 pandemic shut down competition at all levels in NorCal for the last 9 1/2 months of the year. No WTA tournament in San Jose. No men's or women's Challengers. No NCAA Championships. No college or junior matches after mid-March.
   2. Kenin named WTA Player of the Year — Sofia Kenin was born in Moscow and has lived in Florida since she was a young child. But she won NorCal Challenger singles titles in 2016 at 17, 2017 and 2018. 
   Kenin, who turned 22 last month, earned her first Grand Slam crown in the Australian Open and reached the final of the delayed French Open.
   3. Bryan brothers retire — Former Stanford stars Bob and Mike Bryan, 42, ended their careers after 22 years and a record 16 Grand Slam men's doubles titles.
   The Bryans won six Australian Open, five U.S. Open, three Wimbledon and two French Open championships. They captured an Open Era-record 119 tour titles (including four in the ATP Finals), earned a gold medal in the 2012 London Olympics and helped the United States win its last Davis Cup championship in 2007.
Bob Bryan, left, and Mike Bryan retired after 22 years
and a record 16 Grand Slam men's doubles titles. 2016
photo by Paul Bauman
   4. Cal coach loses doubles heartbreaker in ATP Finals — Seventh-seeded Jurgen Melzer and Edouard Roger-Vasselin saved a match point in their 6-7 (4), 6-3 [11-9] victory over second-seeded Rajeev Ram, a volunteer assistant coach at the University of California, Berkeley, and Joe Salisbury in the semifinals of the Nitto ATP Finals in London.
   Ram, 36, of Carmel, Ind., and Salisbury, a 28-year-old London native and resident, led 7-1 in the match tiebreaker before Melzer, a 39-year-old left-hander from Austria, and Roger-Vasselin, a Frenchman who was 36 at the time, reeled off seven consecutive points.
   5. Stevie Gould says coach sexually abused him — Stevie Gould of Corte Madera in the San Francisco Bay Area told The New York Times that a prominent Bay Area coach sexually abused him.
   Gould, a sophomore at the University of San Francisco, said Normandie Burgos repeatedly abused him for two years, including at hotels during tournaments in other states. Burgos is serving a 255-year prison sentence after being convicted of 60 counts of child molestation. 
   6. Brooksby turns pro after bizarre college career — Jenson Brooksby, a 20-year-old Sacramento-area resident, left Baylor University in Waco, Texas, as a redshirt freshman. He enrolled in January, never played a match for the Bears because of injuries and was on campus for only two months because of the pandemic.
Jenson Brooksby turned pro despite never having played
a match at Baylor University. 2018 photo by Paul Bauman
  Brooksby won the 2018 USTA Boys 18 National Championship and reached the second round of the 2019 U.S. Open as a qualifier, stunning 2010 Wimbledon runner-up Tomas Berdych.
   7. Stanford women sign nation's top two recruits — Connie Ma and Alexandra Yepifanova — ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, by tennisrecruiting.net among high school seniors — signed letters to join the two-time defending NCAA champion Cardinal in 2021-22.
   The tiny Ma, from Dublin in the Bay Area, reached the singles final of a $15,000 tournament in Evansville, Ind., at 15 in 2018 and won the doubles title with Gianna Pielet. Yepifanova, from Lake Worth, Fla., advanced to the girls singles final in last year's U.S. Open, becoming the first qualifier to reach that stage of a junior Grand Slam.
   8. Stanford men's recruiting class ranked first in nation — Coach Paul Goldstein compiled the nation's top recruiting class for 2020, according to tennisrecruiting.net.
   Joining Stanford in the fall were Great Britain's Arthur Fery, the 12th-ranked junior in the world; blue chippers Alex Lee of Oak Brook, Ill., and Aryan Chaudhary of Santa Clara in the Bay Area; and Tristan Boyer of Altadena, Calif., in the Los Angeles region. Boyer was the runner-up to Brooksby in the 2018 Easter Bowl at Indian Wells, Calif.
Connie Ma, the nation's top recruit, signed a letter of intent to stay
in the San Francisco Bay Area and join two-time defending cham-
pion Stanford in 2021-22. 2018 photo by Paul Bauman
   9. Stanford women's conference win streak ends at 38 — The No. 9 Cardinal suffered its first loss in a Pacific-12 Conference match in almost exactly four years, falling to No. 3 UCLA 4-1 at Taube Family Tennis Stadium. 
   Stanford hadn't lost to a Pac-12 opponent in the regular season since a 4-3 decision at Arizona State on March 5, 2016.
   10. NorCal's Quinn claims Orange Bowl 16s doubles title — Fourth-seeded Ethan Quinn of Fresno, Calif., and Nicholas Godsick of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, beat third-seeded Lucas Brown of Plano, Texas, and John Kim of Sunnyvale in the Bay Area 7-6 (0), 6-4 on clay in Plantation, Fla.
   Quinn won the 16s singles title in the USTA Winter Nationals on clay in Orlando, Fla., at the beginnning of the year.
   Honorable mention — CiCi Bellis, who sat out for 19 months in 2018-19 while undergoing four operations, won the $80,000 Mercer Tennis Classic in Macon, Ga., for her first title in four years.
   — Ben McLachlan (Cal, 2011-14), who was born and raised in New Zealand, won his second consecutive Auckland doubles title, this time with Luke Bambridge of Great Britain.
   — Andre Goransson (Cal, 2014-17) of Sweden won his maiden ATP doubles title in Pune, India, with Christopher Rungkat of Indonesia to crack the top 100 for the first time.
   — Giuliana Olmos, who grew up in the Bay Area suburb of Fremont, won her second career WTA doubles title, teaming with Desirae Krawczyk in Acapulco.
   — Katie Volynets, a resident of Walnut Creek in the Bay Area who turned 19 today, shocked 91st-ranked Monica Puig, the reigning Olympic gold medalist in women's singles, 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-3 in the first round of qualifying for the Western & Southern Open in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., for her first victory over a top-100 player.
   — In her first match since 2012, International Tennis Hall of Famer Kim Clijsters, who won four singles titles in the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford (2001, 2003, 2005 and 2006), lost to Garbine Muguruza 6-2, 7-6 (6) in the first round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
   — Dennis Ralston, an International Tennis Hall of Famer, died of cancer at 78 less than 15 months after speaking at the Sutter Lawn Tennis Club's 100th-anniversary gala in Sacramento.
   — Ashley Kratzer, the runner-up to Kenin in the 2017 Stockton (Calif.) Challenger and a semifinalist in the 2018 Berkeley Challenger, was suspended for four years after testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug.
   — The ATP issued Sam Querrey, a 33-year-old San Francisco native, a suspended fine of $20,000 for violating the COVID-19 protocol at the St. Petersburg Open by fleeing Russia after he, his wife and his 8-month-old son tested positive for the coronavirus.
   — Allura and Maribella Zamarripa, 18-year-old identical twins from St. Helena in the Napa Valley, saved two championship points to win the $80,000 Bellatorum Resources Pro Classic in Tyler, Texas, as the fifth alternates for their biggest title by far.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Querrey issued suspended fine for violating protocol

Sam Querrey fled Russia with his wife and 8-month-
old son after all three tested positive for the corona-
virus. Photo courtesy of mvtpr.com
   The ATP ruled that Sam Querrey, a 33-year-old San Francisco native, committed a major offense by violating the COVID-19 protocol at the St. Petersburg Open in October and fined him $20,000, the men's tour announced today.
   However, the fine was suspended because of Querrey's "many years of otherwise good standing with the ATP and other mitigating factors," according to a news release.
   The fine will be lifted if Querrey commits "no further breaches of health and safety protocols related to COVID-19" for six months.
   Querrey, who fled Russia with his wife and 8-month-old son after all three tested positive for the coronavirus, has five days to appeal the decision.
   The Las Vegas resident is ranked No. 53 after reaching a career-high No. 11 in February 2018. He is 0-4 since the professional tours resumed in August after the pandemic halted play for almost five months.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells postponed

   The BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif., will not be held March 8-21, 2021, as scheduled because of the COVID pandemic, tournament officials announced today.
   The decision was made after thorough consultation with state and local health authorities and tournament owner Larry Ellison, according to a news release.
   Organizers plan to announce new dates in 2021 soon and provide credit and refund options for ticket holders.
   The BNP Paribas Open was the first tournament canceled last year because of the pandemic.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

NorCal's Brooksby turns pro after bizarre college career

Jenson Brooksby, who reached the second round of the 2019 U.S. Open as a qualifier,
turned pro after never playing a match for Baylor University. 2018 photo
by Paul Bauman
   Jenson Brooksby turned pro earlier this month, ending a bizarre college career in which he never played a match.
   The 20-year-old resident of Carmichael in the Sacramento, Calif., area announced on Dec. 8 that he was leaving Baylor University in Waco, Texas, as a redshirt freshman.
   "I've been putting in more fitness work and feel like my body is more ready, and I feel my game has improved in the last year," Brooksby, who reached the second round of the 2019 U.S. Open as a qualifier, said in a Cracked Racquets podcast on Dec. 11. "I just think I'm ready to go out there and compete week in and week out."
   There likely is more to it than that. Had Brooksby remained at Baylor, he could have missed a second consecutive season because of the COVID-19 pandemic while players such as American Sebastian Korda, 20, Italian Lorenzo Musetti, 18, and American Brandon Nakashima, 19, have turned pro and soared to No. 118, No. 128 and No. 166 in the world, respectively. 
   Korda, the 6-foot-5 (1.96-meter) son of former world No. 2 Petr Korda, reached the fourth round of the French Open as a qualifier in October. 
   The 6-foot-1 (1.85-meter) Nakashima won his first Challenger singles title in Orlando, Fla., last month in his final tournament of the year. 
   Brooksby defeated Nakashima 6-2, 6-3 in the quarterfinals of the 2018 Easter Bowl en route to the title in Indian Wells, Calif., and 6-4, 7-5 five months later in the quarters of the U.S. Open Junior Championships before losing to Musetti in the semifinals.
   Musetti, 18, advanced to the third round of the Italian Open as a qualifier in September, stunning three-time Grand Slam singles champion Stan Wawrinka and 2014 U.S. Open runner-up Kei Nishikori, both rebounding from surgery. 
   "I wouldn't say it had any effect on my decision to go pro," Brooksby, 6-foot-4 (1.93 meters), said of the prospects' success. However, Brooksby added, "I've seen their results, and it makes me a little motivated because I believe I can go out there and do that as well." 
   Furthermore, Brian Boland abruptly resigned in July after two years as Baylor's coach. Boland guided Virginia to four NCAA team titles in five years (2013-17). Collin Altamirano, who like Brooksby has trained at the JMG Tennis Academy in Sacramento since childhood, played on three of those NCAA championship teams. Altamirano and Brooksby won the USTA Boys 18 National Championships in Kalamazoo, Mich., in 2013 and 2018, respectively.
   Brooksby shocked former Wimbledon runner-up Tomas Berdych in the opening round of last year's U.S. Open before losing to Georgia's Nikoloz Basilashvili, seeded 17th and ranked 18th, in four sets in the second round. Brooksby came within a tiebreaker of leading Basilashvili two sets to none.
   The Brooksby match turned out to be the last of Berdych's career, in which he peaked at No. 4 and amassed almost $30 million in prize money. The Czech retired at age 34 in November last year after missing most of the previous 16 months because of a back injury.
   Also in 2019, Brooksby won three $25,000 tournaments (all in the United States), including two in two weeks. Ranked a career-high No. 266 in November last year, Brooksby has slipped to No. 307. He has not played in a professional tournament or college match since reaching the third round of the Houston Challenger in November 2019.
   Brooksby verbally committed to Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas, in April 2018 as the nation's top recruit but changed his mind after Boland took the Baylor job following one year as the head of men's tennis for USTA Player Development. 
   Brooksby enrolled at Baylor in January but missed all 16 of the Bears' matches because of turf toe and a related bone bruise. He was on campus for only two months before the pandemic ended the NCAA season in mid-March. 
    "Baylor means a lot to me," Brooksby said on baylorbears.com. "The facilities, the staff, the resources, and most importantly the kindness of the people of Waco (are) second to none. I will cherish these relationships for the rest of my life. You will see me proudly wearing my Baylor gear at my future tournaments around the world."

Monday, December 21, 2020

Djokovic heads ATP honor roll for 2020

 2020 ATP AWARDS
   Year-end No. 1 (singles) — Novak Djokovic
   Year-end No. 1 (doubles) — Mate Pavic and Bruno Soares
   Most Improved Player — Andrey Rublev
   Coach of the Year (voted by ATP coaches) — Fernando Vicente (Rublev's coach)
   Newcomer of the Year (voted by ATP players) — Carlos Alcaraz
   Comeback Player of the Year (voted by ATP players) — Vasek Pospisil
   Sportsmanship Award (voted by ATP players) — Rafael Nadal
   Humanitarian Award (by ATP) — Frances Tiafoe

Friday, December 18, 2020

Australian Open will be 'historic'; Stanford signs Ma

   Australian Open officials confirmed on Thursday that the tournament will be postponed three weeks until Feb. 8-21 in Melbourne.
   Tournament director Craig Tiley put a positive spin on the move, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
   "This will be a historic Australian Open on so many levels," Tiley said on ausopen.com. "For the first time in more than 100 years, the Australian Open will start in February, and we look forward to offering the players what we believe will be one of their best playing experiences in 2021."
   The tournament will feature singles, doubles and wheelchair competitions. Qualifying will be held Jan. 10-13 in Dubai (women) and Doha (men). The junior championships will be postponed until later in the year.
   Players will compete for more than $80 million in prize money, according to ausopen.com. First-round losers will take home $100,000, up 15 percent from 2020. Prize money for qualifying and the other early rounds also have been increased, with the full breakdown to be released in the coming weeks.
   Stanford women Connie Ma and Alexandra Yepifanova — ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, by tennisrecruiting.net among high school seniors — have signed National Letters of Intent to join the two-time defending champion Cardinal in 2021-22, the school announced.
   Ma, from Dublin in the San Francisco Bay Area, led the United States Junior Fed Cup team to two championships, going 9-0 in singles and doubles in 2019. 
   Yepifanova, from Lake Worth, Fla., advanced to the girls singles final in last year's U.S. Open. She became the first qualifier to reach that stage of a junior Grand Slam.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Australian Open postponed three weeks by pandemic

   The Australian Open in Melbourne has been postponed three weeks to Feb. 8-21 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the men's tour announced today.
   Men's qualifying for the year's first Grand Slam tournament will be moved to Doha, Qatar, and played Jan. 10-13, the ATP said. That will allow time for travel and, as required by Australian public health and immigration authorities, a 14-day quarantine in Melbourne.
   Two ATP 250 tournaments are scheduled for Jan. 31-Feb. 6 in Melbourne, and the 12-team ATP Cup is set for Feb. 1-5 in Melbourne.
   The season will begin Jan. 5-13 with ATP tournaments in Delray Beach, Fla., and Antalya, Turkey. 
   The men's schedule for the six weeks after the Australian Open will be announced later. Subsequent tournaments are planned to take place as originally scheduled.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Unseeded Fils beats top seed for Orange boys 18 title

   Unseeded Arthur Fils of France surprised top-seeded Peter Fajta of Hungary 6-1, 4-6, 6-2 today to win the boys 18 title in the Orange Bowl on clay in Plantation, Fla.
   Fajta had needed more than 2 1/2 hours to subdue another unseeded French 16-year-old, Luca Van Assche, in the semifinals, while Fils had breezed past 12th-seeded Juncheng Shang of China.
   In the girls 18 final, wild card Ashlyn Krueger of Highland Village, Texas, in the Dallas-Fort Worth area beat seventh-seeded Jana Kolodynska of Belarus 6-4, 6-4. 
   Last year, Krueger won the 16s, and Kolodynska fell to Robin Montgomery of Washington, D.C., in the 18s final.

Top seed Jacquemot falls in Orange Bowl girls 18 semis

ORANGE BOWL
In Plantation, Fla.
Girls 18-under
Singles semifinals
   Jana Kolodynska (7), Belarus, def. Elsa Jacquemot (1), France, 6-1, 1-6, 6-1.   
   Ashlyn Krueger, Highland Village, Texas, def. Laura Hietaranta, Finland, 6-3, 6-2.
Doubles final
   Reese Brantmeier, Whitewater, Wis., and Kimmi Hance, Torrance, Calif., def. Elise Wagle, Niskayuna, N.Y., and Katja Wiersholm, Kirkland, Wash., 6-1, 4-6 [10-8].
Boys 18-under
Singles semifinals
   Peter Fajta (1), Hungary, def. Lucas Van Assche, France, 7-5, 2-6, 6-4.
   Arthur Fils, France, def. Juncheng Shang (12), China, 6-2, 6-0.
Doubles final
   Peter Fajta, Hungary, and Zsombor Velcz (2), Hungary, def. Juncheng Shang, China, and Adolfo Vallejo (8), Paraguay, 6-4, 6-3.

Friday, December 11, 2020

NorCal's Quinn claims Orange Bowl 16s doubles title

   Ethan Quinn of Fresno, Calif., and Nicholas Godsick of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, won the Orange Bowl boys 16 doubles title today.
   The fourth-seeded Quinn and Godsick beat third-seeded Lucas Brown of Plano, Texas, and John Kim of Sunnyvale in the San Francisco Bay Area 7-6 (0), 6-4 on clay in Plantation, Fla.
   Quinn won the 16s singles title in the USTA Winter Nationals on clay in Orlando, Fla., in January.
   Godsick's mother, Mary Joe Fernandez, won consecutive Orange Bowl singles titles in the 12s, 14s, 16s and 18s (1982-85). A former top-five player in singles and doubles as a professional, Fernandez now works as a tennis commentator for ESPN. Godsick's father, Tony Godsick, is Roger Federer's agent.
   In the other 16s finals:
   —Fifteenth-seeded Jonah Braswell of Sarasota, Fla., crushed fifth-seeded Ignacio Buse of Peru 6-0, 6-1.
   —Valeria Ray of Doral, Fla., downed Tatum Evans of McLean, Va., 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 in a matchup of unseeded players.
   —Vivian Miller of Sullivans Island, S.C., and Maddy Zampardo of Grosse Pointe Farms, Mich., edged Ahmani Guichard of Seminole, Fla., and Lexington Reed of Orlando 6-4, 3-6 [10-6]. Both teams were unseeded.
   The boys and girls 18s singles semifinals and doubles finals are scheduled for Saturday.

Two NorCal boys to meet in Orange 16s doubles final

   Northern Californians John Kim and Ethan Quinn are scheduled to meet today in the Orange Bowl boys 16 doubles final.
   Third-seeded Lucas Brown of Plano, Texas, and Kim of Sunnyvale in the San Francisco Bay Area beat unseeded Marko Mesarovic and Connor Smillie of Austin, Texas, 7-5, 7-5 Thursday on clay in Plantation, Fla.
   Brown and Kim are scheduled to meet fourth-seeded Nicholas Godsick of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, and Quinn of Fresno, Calif., at 7 a.m. PST. Live scoring is available.
   Godsick — the son of former star player and current ESPN commentator Mary Joe Fernandez and Tony Godsick, Roger Federer's agent — and Quinn outplayed sixth-seeded Jonah Braswell of Sarasota, Fla., and Brayden Michna of Taylor, Texas, 6-4, 6-4.
   In boys 18 singles, top-seeded Peter Fajta of Hungary dominated 15th-seeded Aidan Mayo, who grew up in the Sacramento, Calif., suburb of Roseville, 6-2, 6-1 to reach the quarterfinals.
    In today's other 16s finals:
   —Fifth-seeded Ignacio Buse of Peru will face 15th-seeded Braswell not before 11 a.m. Braswell eliminated the ninth-seeded Quinn 0-6, 6-2, 6-3.
   —Valeria Ray of Doral, Fla., will play Tatum Evans of McLean, Va., not before 11 a.m. in a matchup of unseeded players.
   —Ahmani Guichard of Seminole, Fla., and Lexington Reed of Orlando, Fla., will meet Vivian Miller of Sullivans Island, S.C., and Maddy Zampardo of Grosse Pointe Farms, Mich., at 7 a.m. Both teams are unseeded.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

NorCal product advances in Orange Bowl boys 18s

   No. 15 seed Aidan Mayo, who grew up in the Sacramento suburb of Roseville, outlasted qualifier Giulio Perego of Italy 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 on Wednesday in the second round of the Orange Bowl boys 18s on clay in Plantation, Fla.
   Mayo is scheduled to face top-seeded Peter Fajta of Hungary on Thursday at 7 a.m. PST for a quarterfinal berth. Live scoring is available.
   In the second round of the girls 18s, seventh-seeded Jana Kolodynska of Belarus routed wild card Vivian Ovrootsky of San Jose, Calif., 6-1, 6-2.
   Ovrootsky, a quarterfinalist in the 16s last year, has verbally committed to the University of Texas for the fall of 2022. She will join Allura and Maribella Zamarripa on the Longhorns. The identical twins from St. Helena, Calif., in the Napa Valley signed National Letters of Intent to play at Texas as freshmen in 2021.
   In the boys 16 doubles quarterfinals, third-seeded Lucas Brown of Plano, Texas, and John Kim of Sunnyvale in the San Francisco Bay Area edged seventh-seeded Sebastian Gorzny of Fountain Valley in the Los Angeles region and Will Mayew of Cary, N.C., 1-6, 7-6 (2) [12-10].
   Brown and Kim are set to play unseeded Marko Mesarovic and Connor Smillie of Austin, Texas, on Thursday not before 11 a.m. Mesarovic and Smillie surprised second-seeded Gianluca Ballotta and Ignacio Buse of Peru 6-7 (6), 6-3 [10-4].
   The University of Texas is located in Austin.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Osaka, Kenin earn prestigious honors

2020 SPORTS ILLUSTRATED SPORTSPERSONS OF THE YEAR
   Naomi Osaka, WTA
   Patrick Mahomes, NFL
   Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, NFL
   LeBron James, NBA
   Breanna Stewart, WNBA
   2020 WTA AWARDS
   Singles Player — Sofia Kenin
   Doubles Team — Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic
   Most Improved — Iga Swiatek
   Newcomer — Nadia Podoroska
   Comeback — Victoria Azarenka
   Sportsmanship — Marie Bouzkova

Monday, December 7, 2020

Miller upsets Bay Area rival in Orange Bowl 16s

   In a battle of San Francisco Bay Area players, Kurt Miller of Los Gatos eliminated 12th-seeded John Kim of Sunnyvale 7-5, 7-6 (5) today in the second round of the Orange Bowl 16s in Plantation, Fla.
   Miller is scheduled to face seventh-seeded Jackson Armistead of Hilton Head Island, S.C. Armistead defeated qualifier Quang Duong of Manhattan Beach, Calif., in the Los Angeles area 7-5, 6-0.
   Another Bay Area resident, Anushka Khune of Palo Alto, lost to 16th-seeded Salma Farhat of Bellevue, Wash., 6-3, 6-4 in the second round of the girls 16s.
    In the first round of girls doubles, Khune and Jasmin Makela of Boca Raton, Fla., are set to play Kate Kim of Lake Worth, Fla., and Amber Yin of Ballwin, Mo., tonight. The winner will take on top-seeded Gabriella Broadfoot of South Africa and Eva Elbaz of France. Broadfoot and Elbaz received a first-round bye.

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Hall of Famer Ralston dies of cancer at 78

   Dennis Ralston, an International Tennis Hall of Famer, died of cancer today at 78 in Austin, Texas, where he lived.
   "It's a sad day as my former coach of six years, Dennis Ralston, has passed away," Chris Evert tweeted. "A deeply religious man, a devoted family man, and a superb player and coach.... he will be missed. RIP Dennis" 
   Ralston and Hall of Famers Pam Shriver, Rosemary Casals and Charlie Pasarell spoke at the Sutter Lawn Tennis Club's 100th anniversary gala in Sacramento, Calif., in September last year. Ralston, who underwent eight operations on each knee and had his lower left leg amputated in 2010, detailed his battle with opioid addiction. 

Bay Area residents win openers in Orange Bowl 16s

   Two San Francisco Bay Area residents, one boy and one girl, won their first-round matches today in the Orange Bowl 16s on clay in Plantation, Fla.
   Kurt Miller of Los Gatos routed Humza Noor of Olathe, Kan., 6-0, 6-1, and Anushka Khune of Palo Alto topped Maddy Zampardo of Grosse Pointe Farms, Mich.,  6-3, 5-7, 6-2.
   On Monday, Miller is scheduled to play 12th-seeded John Kim of Sunnyvale in the Bay Area, and Khune is set to meet 16th-seeded Salma Farhat of Bellevue, Wash. Kim and Farhat received first-round byes.
   In the final round of boys 18 qualifying, top-seeded Alvaro Guillen Meza of Ecuador edged Karl Lee of Sacramento, Calif., 6-7 (5), 7-5 [11-9]. The first round of the main draw is scheduled to begin Monday.   
   Fifteenth-seeded Aidan Mayo, who grew up in the Sacramento suburb of Roseville, drew a first-round bye in the boys 18s. Mayo, who reached last year's doubles final, could face top-seeded Peter Fajta of Hungary in the third round.
   Wild card Vivian Ovrootsky of San Jose, Calif., is set to play qualifier Katja Wiersholm of Kirkland, Wash., in the opening round of the girls 18s on Tuesday.
   Ovrootsky reached the quarterfinals in the 16s last year. The high school junior has verbally committed to Texas for the fall of 2022.

Friday, December 4, 2020

San Jose native Dy named Fresno State women's coach

   Denise Dy was hired as the women's head coach at Fresno State, Bulldogs athletic director Terry Tumey announced Thursday.
   Dy, a 31-year-old native of San Jose, Calif., served as an assistant coach for the last two seasons at Arizona under Ryan Stotland. Before taking the Arizona job, Stotland won two Mountain West Conference championships (2014 and 2018) during his six-year tenure (2013-18) as the women's head coach at Fresno State.
   Dy previously served as an assistant coach at Washington (2016-18) and Iowa (2014-16). 
   As a player, Dy was a three-time All-American at Washington ranked as high as No. 3 nationally in singles and No. 6 in doubles. She competed professionally and on the Philippines' national team.
   Dy replaces Mariana Cobra, who resigned in June after going 7-7 in one abbreviated season at Fresno State.
   Orange Bowl — Vivian Ovrootsky of San Jose received a wild card in the Orange Bowl 18s main draw, which begins Monday in Plantation, Fla. Ovrootsky reached the quarterfinals in the 16s last year. The high school junior has verbally committed to Texas for the fall of 2022.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Winter Nationals canceled; Orange Bowl to begin soon

Roger Federer won the Orange Bowl in 1998. This year's tournament is scheduled
to begin on Sunday (16s) and Monday (18s).
   The USTA has canceled the National Winter Championships, a junior tournament that had been scheduled for Dec. 28 to Jan. 3 in Arizona and Florida, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
   However, the Orange Bowl remains set for Sunday (16s) and Monday (18s) through Dec. 13 on clay in Plantation, Fla.
   The top three seeds in the Orange Bowl boys 18s are, in order, Peter Fajta of Hungary, Dali Blanch of Deerfield Beach, Fla., and Lukas Neumayer of Austria.
   Also entered is Aidan Mayo, who grew up in the Sacramento suburb of Roseville, Calif. Mayo reached last year's boys 18 doubles final with Lorenzo Claverie of Venezuela.
   Heading the field in the girls 18s are Elsa Jacquemot of France, Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva of Andorra and Kristina Dmitruk of Belarus. Jacquemot, 17, captured the French Open girls singles title in October, and Kasintseva, a 15-year-old left-hander, won this year's Australian Open girls singles crown at 14. 
   Andorra, situated between France and Spain, is 2.5 times the size of Washington, D.C., with a population of about 77,000 and one indoor tennis court.
   The Orange Bowl was founded by Eddie Herr in 1947. It was played on clay until 1998, then on hardcourts until 2011. It has been contested on clay again since then.
   Past winners of the Orange Bowl 18s include International Tennis Hall of Famers Chris Evert (1969-70), Bjorn Borg (1972), John McEnroe (1976), Ivan Lendl (1977), Gabriela Sabatini (1984) and Jim Courier (1987).
   Winners of the tournament on hardcourts include Roger Federer (1998), Andy Roddick (1999) and Caroline Wozniacki (2005).

Saturday, November 28, 2020

NorCal's Altamirano loses in Lima doubles final

Collin Altamirano fell in his first Challenger final in singles
or doubles. 2018 photo by Paul Bauman
   Inigo Cervantes and Oriol Roca Batalla of Spain beat Collin Altamirano of Sacramento, Calif., and Vitaliy Sachko of Ukraine 6-3, 6-4 in a matchup of unseeded teams today in the final of the $52,080 Lima (Peru) Challenger on clay.
   Cervantes, 30, and the 5-foot-8 (1.73-meter), 165-pound (75-kilogram) Roca Batalla, 27, shared $3,100. Altamirano, 24, and Sachko, 23, split $1,800. 
   Sachko also lost in the singles semifinals, 6-2, 6-4 to fellow qualifier Thiago Tirante, a 19-year-old Argentine who won last year's Orange Bowl. 
   Altamirano, who fell in the opening round of singles as a lucky loser, was playing in his first tournament since March and first Challenger final ever in singles or doubles. He has won three Futures doubles titles.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Top doubles seeds lose in Lima Challenger

   Unseeded Inigo Cervantes and Oriol Roca Batalla of Spain ousted top-seeded Gonzalo Escobar of Ecuador and Artem Sitak, a Russia native who plays for New Zealand, 7-6 (7), 7-5 today in the semifinals of the $52,080 Lima (Peru) Challenger on clay.
   Sitak teamed with Chris Guccione of Australia to win the $100,000 Aptos, Calif., Challenger in 2015 and with Divij Sharan of India to reach the Wimbledon quarterfinals in 2018. Sitak climbed to a career-high No. 32 in doubles later in 2018.
   Cervantes and Roca Batalla, only 5-foot-8 (1.73 meters) and 165 pounds (75 kilograms), are scheduled to meet unseeded Collin Altamirano of Sacramento, Calif., and Vitaliy Sachko of Ukraine on Saturday. 
   Altamirano, 24, will appear in his first Challenger final in singles or doubles. He has won three Futures doubles titles.
   Altamirano, playing in his first tournament since March, and Sachko have lost only 11 games in two matches. They received a walkover in the semifinals. 
   Sachko, 23, also remains alive in singles. He is set to face qualifier Thiago Tirante, a 19-year-old Argentine who won last year's Orange Bowl, in a matchup of qualifiers. Altamirano fell in the first round of singles as a lucky loser. 

Thursday, November 26, 2020

NorCal's Altamirano gains first Challenger doubles final

   Collin Altamirano advanced to his first Challenger final in singles or doubles in unexpected fashion today.
   The 24-year-old Sacramento, Calif., resident and Vitaliy Sachko of Ukraine defeated Marcelo Tomas Barrios Vera and Alejandro Tabilo of Chile 6-4, 6-1 in a quarterfinal matchup of unseeded teams in the $52,080 Lima (Peru) Challenger on clay. 
   Altamirano and Sachko then received a walkover from unseeded Daniel Elahi Galan of Colombia and Agustin Velotti of Argentina. 
   Altamirano and Sachko, who surrendered only six games in the first round, are scheduled to play either top-seeded Gonzalo Escobar of Ecuador and Artem Sitak, a 34-year-old Russia native who plays for New Zealand, or unseeded Inigo Cervantes and Oriol Roca Batalla of Spain on Saturday.
   Sitak teamed with Chris Guccione of Australia to win the $100,000 Aptos, Calif., Challenger in 2015 and with Divij Sharan of India to reach the Wimbledon quarterfinals in 2018. Sitak climbed to a career-high No. 32 in doubles later in 2018.
   Altamirano has won three Futures doubles crowns.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

NorCal's Altamirano advances in doubles, avenging loss

   Collin Altamirano gained a measure of revenge today in the $52,080 Lima (Peru) Challenger.
   In the first round of doubles in the clay-court tournament, the 24-year-old Sacramento, Calif., resident and Vitaliy Sachko of Ukraine defeated Jesper De Jong and Jelle Sels of the Netherlands 6-3, 6-3 in a matchup of unseeded teams.
   De Jong, 20, beat lucky loser Altamirano, playing in his first tournament since March, 6-2, 6-4 on Tuesday in the opening round of singles.
   Altamirano and Sachko, the last direct acceptances, are scheduled to play unseeded Marcelo Tomas Barrios Vera and Alejandro Tabilo of Chile on Thursday in the quarterfinals. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

After losing, NorCal's Altamirano has shot at revenge

Collin Altamirano will face Jesper De Jong in doubles after
losing to him in singles. 2018 photo courtesy of Steve Pratt
   The bad news for Collin Altamirano is he lost.
   The good news is he won't have to wait long for a chance at revenge.
   Jesper De Jong, 20, of the Netherlands defeated Altamirano, a 24-year-old lucky loser from Sacramento, Calif., 6-2, 6-4 today in the first round of the $52,080 Lima (Peru) Challenger on clay. 
   Altamirano fell in the final round of qualifying on Sunday but advanced to the main draw when Jaume Munar of Spain withdrew because of a right-foot injury.
   De Jong reached the semifinals of last week's $52,080 Guayaquil (Ecuador) Challenger on clay as a qualifier.
   Altamirano and Vitaliy Sachko of Ukraine are scheduled to play De Jong and compatriot Jelle Sels in the opening round of doubles on Wednesday.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Altamirano lucky loser in Lima; college destinations

Collin Altamirano, shown in 2018, is scheduled to play
Jesper De Jong of the Netherlands in the first round of
the Lima (Peru) Challenger. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Collin Altamirano of Sacramento, Calif., advanced to the main draw in the $52,080 Lima (Peru) Challenger on clay today when Jaume Munar of Spain withdrew because of a right-foot injury.
   The 24-year-old Altamirano, who lost in the final round of qualifying on Sunday, is scheduled to play Jesper De Jong, 20, of the Netherlands on Tuesday in the first round.
   De Jong reached the semifinals of last week's $52,080 Guayaquil (Ecuador) Challenger on clay as a qualifier to jump 44 places in the world rankings to No. 305.
   Altamirano, who until Sunday had not played since March (he received a first-round bye in qualifying), is ranked No. 393. He qualified for the 2018 U.S. Open, losing to Ugo Humbert of France in the opening round.
   Altamirano and De Jong also are set to meet in the opening round of doubles in Lima on Wednesday. Altamirano will team with Vitaliy Sachko of Ukraine, and De Jong will pair with compatriot Jelle Sels. 
   JuniorsVivian Ovrootsky, 16, of San Jose, Calif., swept the girls titles without losing a set in last week's ITF Grade 5 Championships in San Diego.
   The fifth-seeded Ovrootsky, who has verbally committed to enroll at the University of Texas in 2022, beat seventh-seeded Kimmi Hance, a resident of Torrance in the Los Angeles area who recently signed with UCLA, 6-3, 6-2. Ovrootsky lost no more than five games in any of her five singles matches.
   Seeded second in doubles, Ovrootsky and Hance downed third-seeded Leyden Games of Irvine in the L.A. region and Katherine Hui of San Diego 6-4, 6-4 in the final.
   Amber Lee of Orinda in the San Francisco Bay Area signed a National Letter of Intent to attend Arizona State in the fall. Other Northern Californians signing letters or making verbal commitments are:
   —Connie Ma, Dublin, senior, Stanford.
   —Allura Zamarripa, St. Helena, senior, Texas.
   —Maribella Zamarripa, St. Helena, senior, Texas.
   —Makenna Thiel, Piedmont, senior, California.
   —Muskan Mahajan, San Ramon, senior, Boston College.
   —Tomi Main, Seaside, junior, Texas Tech.
   —Madison Weekley, Alamo, junior, Saint Mary's (Calif.).
   —Luke Casper, Santa Cruz, senior, Texas A&M.
   —Hugo Hashimoto, San Jose, senior, Columbia.
   —Karl Lee, Sacramento, senior, UCLA.
   —Luke Neal, Larkspur, senior, Yale.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Medvedev tops Thiem for title; Sherif falls in final

   Daniil Medvedev won the biggest title of his career today, defeating Dominic Thiem 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-4 in the Nitto ATP Finals in London.
   The 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) Medvedev, a 24-year-old Russian, also beat five-time champion Novak Djokovic and second-ranked Rafael Nadal during the week. Medvedev, seeded fourth, became the first player to sweep the top three players in the world rankings in the season finale, according to atptour.com.
   Medvedev, who went 0-3 in his ATP Finals debut last year, also became the fifth consecutive first-time champion in the indoor hardcourt tournament. He followed Stefanos Tsitsipas last year, Alexander Zverev in 2018, Grigor Dimitrov in 2017 and Andy Murray in 2016.
   Medvedev made $1.564 million, and Thiem took home $861,000.
   In the doubles final, fifth-seeded Wesley Koolhof of the Netherlands and Nikola Mektic of Croatia topped seventh-seeded Jurgen Melzer of Austria and Edouard Roger-Vasselin of France 6-2, 3-6 [10-5] for their first title together.
   Koolhof and Mektic, who joined forces at Adelaide in January, split $254,500. They reached the U.S. Open final, losing to Mate Pavic of Croatia and Bruno Soares of Brazil.
   ITF Women's Circuit — Top-seeded Kaia Kanepi of Estonia rolled to a 6-3, 6-2 victory over second-seeded Maiar Sherif Ahmed Abdelaziz (Fresno State, 2015-16) of Egypt to win the $25,000 Open Gran Canaria on clay in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, off the coast of northwestern Africa.
   Since losing in the second round of the French Open, Kanepi has won 15 of 16 matches, all in $25,000 tournaments, with three titles. The 35-year-old veteran has reached the quarterfinals of the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open twice each and been ranked as high as No. 15 in 2012.
   Sherif, 24, lost for the first time in 12 matches. She won a $100,000 clay-court tournament in Charleston, S.C., as a qualifier two weeks ago.
   ATP Challenger Tour — Unseeded Brandon Nakashima, 19, of San Diego beat fourth-seeded Prajnesh Gunneswaran of India 6-3, 6-4 in the $52,080 Orlando (Fla.) Open for his first Challenger title.
   Nakashima, who will soar 37 places to a career-high No. 165 on Monday, saved all eight break points against him and did not lose a set in the hardcourt tournament. He ousted top-seeded Thiago Monteiro in the second round and eighth-seeded Mackenzie McDonald, a San Francisco Bay Area product, in the quarterfinals.
   Gunneswaran, a 31-year-old left-hander, lost a Challenger final for the second consecutive week. He fell to Denis Kudla last Sunday in Cary, N.C.
   Nakashima reached his first Challenger semifinal in Fairfield, Calif., last fall, and Gunneswaran advanced to the semis of the 2017 Tiburon, Calif., Challenger. Both were $100,000 tournaments.
   In the final round of qualifying for the $52,080 Lima Challenger on clay, fifth-seeded Thiago Agustin Tirante, 19, of Argentina beat top-seeded Collin Altamirano, 24, of Sacramento, Calif., 6-4, 6-4. Altamirano, who received a first-round bye, played his first match since March.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Cal coach Ram loses doubles heartbreaker in ATP Finals

   Much like Dominic Thiem earlier in singles, Jurgen Melzer and Edouard Roger-Vasselin staged an amazing comeback in a decisive tiebreaker today to reach the title match in the Nitto ATP Finals.
   The seventh-seeded Melzer and Roger-Vasselin saved a match point in their 6-7 (4), 6-3 [11-9] victory over second-seeded Rajeev Ram, a volunteer assistant coach at the University of California, Berkeley, and Joe Salisbury in the indoor hardcourt tournament in London.
   Ram, 36, of Carmel, Ind., and Salisbury, a 28-year-old London native and resident, led 7-1 in the match tiebreaker before Melzer, a 39-year-old left-hander from Austria, and Roger-Vasselin, a 36-year-old Frenchman, reeled off seven consecutive points. 
   Ram then won both points on his serve to earn a match point at 9-8. After Roger-Vasselin, the son of 1983 French Open singles semifinalist Christophe Roger-Vasselin, missed his first serve, Melzer nailed a forehand volley while falling to the court. 
   Roger-Vasselin held for 10-9 to garner his own match point. On Salisbury's second serve, Melzer ripped a backhand passing shot down the middle to end the thriller.
   In the second set, Roger-Vasselin saved two break points to hold for 4-2 and two more to win the set.
   Melzer and Roger-Vasselin are scheduled to play fifth-seeded Wesley Koolhof of the Netherlands and Nikola Mektic of Croatia on Sunday at 7:30 a.m PST (Tennis Channel). Koolhof and Mektic dispatched fourth-seeded Marcel Granollers of Spain and Horacio Zeballos of Argentina 6-3, 6-4.
   Thiem, seeded third, edged top-ranked Novak Djokovic 7-5, 6-7 (10), 7-6 (5) in 2 hours, 54 minutes to reach the final for the second consecutive year. Thiem, who lost to Stefanos Tsitsipas last year, trailed 0-4 in the third-set tiebreaker.
   Djokovic saved four match points in the second-set tiebreaker and one in the decisive tiebreaker. He entered the match 15-1 in tiebreakers this year.
   In Sunday's final at 10 a.m. (ESPN2), Thiem will face fourth-seeded Daniil Medvedev, who eliminated second-seeded Rafael Nadal 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-3. Nadal, who has never won the ATP Finals, served for the match at 6-3, 5-4. 
   ITF Women's Circuit — Second-seeded Maiar Sherif Ahmed Abdelaziz (Fresno State, 2015-16) of Egypt beat unseeded Jule Niemeier of Germany 7-5, 5-7, 6-1 in 2 hours, 59 minutes to reach the final of the $25,000 Open Gran Canaria on clay in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, off the coast of northwestern Africa. 
   Sherif, who won a $100,000 clay-court tournament in Charleston, S.C., as a qualifier two weeks ago, extended her winning streak to 11 matches. She will face top-seeded Kaia Kanepi of Estonia for the first time. 
   Kanepi, 35, dismissed sixth-seeded Richel Hogenkamp of the Netherlands 6-2, 6-2. Kanepi has reached the quarterfinals of the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open twice each and been ranked as high as No. 15 in 2012. 
   ATP Challenger Tour — Fourth-seeded Prajnesh Gunneswaran of India advanced to his second final in two weeks, beating unseeded Christopher Eubanks of Atlanta 6-4, 7-6 (2) on a hardcourt in the $52,080 Orlando (Fla.) Open.
   Gunneswaran, a 31-year-old left-hander who lost to Denis Kudla last week in Cary, N.C., is set to meet unseeded Brandon Nakashima, 19, of San Diego for the first time on Sunday at 8 a.m. The match will be streamed live.
   Nakashima, who ousted top-seeded Thiago Monteiro of Brazil in the second round, routed unseeded Mitchell Krueger of Dallas 6-1, 6-3 to reach his first Challenger final. 
   Gunneswaran advanced to the semifinals of the 2017 Tiburon, Calif., Challenger, and Nakashima reached his first Challenger semifinal in Fairfield, Calif., last fall. Both were $100,000 tournaments.
   In the doubles final, second-seeded Andrey Golubev and Aleksandr Nedovyesov of Kazakhstan beat unseeded Mitchell Krueger of Dallas and Jackson Withrow of Omaha, Neb., 7-5, 6-4.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Djokovic reaches ATP semis; McDonald falls in Florida

Novak Djokovic, playing at Indian Wells in 2017, avenged a loss to Alexander
Zverev in the title match of the 2018 ATP Finals. Photo by Mal Taam

   Top-ranked Novak Djokovic beat fifth-seeded Alexander Zverev 6-3, 7-6 (4) today to reach the semifinals of the Nitto ATP Finals in London.
   Djokovic, a five-time champion, avenged a loss to Zverev, a 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) German, in the 2018 final of the indoor hardcourt tournament.
   Djokovic finished 2-1 and Zverev 1-2 in the four-man Group Tokyo 1970. The ATP Finals began 50 years ago in Tokyo.
   Both players have come under fire recently. Djokovic was defaulted from the U.S. Open in September for flicking a ball in anger and accidentally hitting a line judge in the throat. Zverev has denied accusations of domestic abuse by his former girlfriend Olga Sharypova.
   In Saturday's semifinals, Djokovic is scheduled to face third-seeded Dominic Thiem at 6 a.m. PST (Tennis Channel), and second-seeded Rafael Nadal is set to take on fourth-seeded Daniil Medvedev not before noon. 
   In a doubles semifinal, second-seeded Rajeev Ram, a 36-year-old volunteer assistant coach at the University of California, Berkeley from Carmel, Ind., and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain will meet seventh-seeded Jurgen Melzer of Austria and Edouard Roger-Vasselin of France at 10 a.m.
   ATP Challenger Tour — Unseeded Brandon Nakashima, 19, of San Diego eliminated eighth-seeded Mackenzie McDonald, a 25-year-old product of Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area, 6-3, 7-6 (8) on another windy day in the quarterfinals of the $52,080 Orlando (Fla.) Open.
   Nakashima, who ousted top-seeded Thiago Monteiro of Brazil 6-4, 6-3 in the second round, won seven straight games from 1-3 in the opening set of his first career match against McDonald, playing on his adopted home courts at the USTA National Campus. 
   In the second set, Nakashima saved a set point serving at 5-6 with a backhand passing shot down the line and later converted his fourth match point.
   Nakashima is scheduled to meet unseeded Mitchell Krueger of Dallas on Saturday after the 8 a.m. PST semifinal between fourth-seeded Prajnesh Gunneswaran of India and unseeded Christopher Eubanks of Atlanta. Both matches will be streamed live.
   Krueger, 26, defeated qualifier Alexander Ritschard of Switzerland 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-1. Krueger, a quarterfinalist in the $100,000 Tiburon (Calif.) Challenger in 2015 and 2016, topped Nakashima 7-6 (7), 7-5 in the first round of qualifying for the 2018 Indian Wells Challenger in their only previous meeting.
   Gunneswaran, a 31-year-old left-hander who reached last week's final in Cary, N.C., routed sixth-seeded Dmitry Popko, a Russia native who plays for Kazakhstan, 6-0, 6-3. 
   The 6-foot-7 (2.01-meter) Eubanks, 24, subdued second-seeded Denis Kudla, an Arlington, Va., resident who won the Cary title, 5-7, 7-6 (3), 6-3 in 3 hours, 5 minutes.
   Eubanks, who trailed by a service break in the second set, blasted 17 aces, committed 10 double faults and saved 16 of 18 break points against him.
   Gunneswaran and Eubanks will meet for the first time. They reached the semifinals of $100,000 tournaments in Tiburon (2017) and Aptos (2018), respectively, in Northern California. 
   ITF Women's Circuit — Second-seeded Maiar Sherif Ahmed Abdelaziz (Fresno State, 2015-16) of Egypt beat Lara Selden, a 21-year-old qualifier from Belgium, 7-5, 6-3 in the quarterfinals of the $25,000 Open Gran Canaria on clay in Las Palmas de Gran Carania, off the coast of northwestern Africa.
   Sherif, who won a $100,000 clay-court tournament in Charleston, S.C., as a qualifier two weeks ago, extended her winning streak to 10 matches. She will play another 21-year-old, Jule Niemeier of Germany.
   In the other semifinal, top-seeded Kaia Kanepi of Estonia will meet sixth-seeded Richel Hogenkamp of the Netherlands.
   Kanepi, 35, has reached the quarterfinals of the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open twice each and been ranked as high as No. 15 in 2012. Hogenkamp, 28, climbed to a career-high No. 94 in 2017.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Cal coach Ram advances to doubles semis in ATP Finals

   Second-seeded Rajeev Ram, a volunteer assistant coach at the University of California, Berkeley from Carmel, Ind., and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain edged third-seeded Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies of Germany 7-6 (5), 6-7 (4) [10-4] today to reach Saturday's semifinals in the Nitto ATP Finals in London.
   Ram, nicknamed "Rampras" because his serve is similar to Pete Sampras', and Salisbury, playing in his hometown, saved two set points to break for 5-5 in the first set of the indoor hardcourt tournament. On the second set point, Krawietz and Mies failed to put away several overheads.
   Ram and Salisbury won their first Grand Slam men's doubles title, together or separately, in the Australian Open early this year. Krawietz and Mies earned their second consecutive French Open crown last month.
   In a late singles match, second-seeded Rafael Nadal beat sixth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas, the defending champion, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 for a semifinal berth. Nadal, 34, has never won the ATP Finals.
   Nadal, 34, and Roger Federer, 39, each have won a record 20 Grand Slam singles titles. Tsitsipas, 22, has yet to reach a major final.
   The ATP Finals, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary, consists of the top eight singles players and eight best doubles teams of the year.
   ATP Challenger Tour — Eighth-seeded Mackenzie McDonald, a 25-year-old product of Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area, dismissed Elias Ymer of Sweden 6-3, 6-3 to gain the quarterfinals of the $52,080 Orlando (Fla.) Open.
   McDonald is scheduled to play Brandon Nakashima, 19, of San Diego for the first time on Friday after the 7 a.m. PST match between second-seeded Denis Kudla, who won the title in Cary, N.C., last week, and unseeded Christopher Eubanks. The hardcourt tournament is being streamed live.
   Nakashima ousted top-seeded Thiago Monteiro of Brazil 6-4, 6-3.
   McDonald won the first of his two Challenger singles titles in Fairfield, Calif., 38 miles (61.2 kilometers) northeast of Piedmont, in 2017. Nakashima reached his first Challenger semifinal last fall in Fairfield.
   ITF Women's Circuit — Second-seeded Maiar Sherif Ahmed Abdelaziz (Fresno State, 2015-16) of Egypt beat Marta Custic, an 18-year-old wild card from Spain, 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 to reach the quarterfinals of the $25,000 Open Gran Canaria on clay in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, off the coast of northwestern Africa.
   Sherif, who won a $100,000 clay-court tournament in Charleston, S.C., as a qualifier two weeks ago, extended her winning streak to nine matches. She is set to play Lara Salden, a 21-year-old qualifier from Belgium, on Friday.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Medvedev dominates Djokovic in ATP Finals

Novak Djokovic, practicing at Indian Wells last year,
remains in the running for his sixth title in the ATP
Finals. Photo copyright by Harjanto Sumali
   Fourth-seeded Daniil Medvedev beat top-seeded Novak Djokovic 6-3 6-3 today in the round-robin phase of the Nitto ATP Finals in London.
   Medvedev, a 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) Russian, defeated Djokovic, who's still in the running for his sixth title in the ATP Finals, for the third time in their last four matches.
   Medvedev clinched a berth in Saturday's semifinals at 2-0 in the indoor hardcourt tournament. Djokovic will meet Alexander Zverev, both of whom are 1-1, on Friday for the other semifinal spot in the four-man Tokyo 1970 Group. The ATP Finals began 50 years ago in Tokyo.
   The fifth-seeded Zverev, who has denied recent accusations of domestic abuse, eliminated Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.
   In doubles, second-seeded Rajeev Ram, a volunteer assistant coach at the University of California, Berkeley from Carmel, Ind., and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain are scheduled to play third-seeded Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies of Germany on Thursday at 10 a.m. PST (Tennis Channel) for a semifinal berth.
   ATP Challenger Tour — This time, Teymuraz Gabashvili and Dennis Novikov's opponents went on a run to win a match tiebreaker. 
   Playing their fifth consecutive match tiebreaker, Gabashvili of Russia and Novikov, a 27-year-old San Jose, Calif., product, fell to second-seeded Andrey Golubev and Aleksandr Nedovyesov of Kazakhstan 6-7 (4), 6-2 [10-5] in the first round of the $52,080 Orlando (Fla.) Open on a windy day at the USTA National Campus. 
   Gabashvili and Novikov won the doubles title in last week's $52,080 Atlantic Tire Championships in Cary, N.C., prevailing in match tiebreakers in all four of their contests. They reeled off the last nine points against fourth-seeded Golubev and Nedovyesov in the quarterfinals and the last four points against Hunter Reese of Knoxville, Tenn., and Sem Verbeek (University of the Pacific, 2013-16) of the Netherlands in the semifinals.
   Reese and Verbeek also lost today, 6-4, 4-6 [10-7] to Sadio Doumbia and Fabien Reboul of France.
   In singles, eighth-seeded Mackenzie McDonald, a 25-year-old product of Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area, is set to play Elias Ymer of Sweden on Thursday at 7 a.m. for a quarterfinal berth. The match on McDonald's adopted home courts will be streamed live
   ITF Women's Circuit — Second-seeded Maiar Sherif Ahmed Abdelaziz (Fresno State, 2015-16) of Egypt beat wild card Marina Bassols Ribera of Spain 6-2, 7-6 (1) in the opening round of the $25,000 Open Gran Canaria on clay in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, off the coast of northwestern Africa.
   Sherif won a $100,000 clay-court tournament in Charleston, S.C., as a qualifier two weeks ago.
   Kaia Kanepi, 35, of Estonia is seeded first in the Open Gran Canaria. She has reached the quarterfinals of the French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open twice each and been ranked as high as No. 15 in 2012. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Ram, Salisbury lose but stay alive in ATP Finals doubles

   Second-seeded Rajeev Ram, a volunteer assistant coach at the University of California, Berkeley, and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain lost to fifth-seeded Wesley Koolhof of the Netherlands and Nikola Mektic of Croatia 7-6 (5), 6-0 today to fall to 1-1 in the Nitto ATP Finals in London.
   Ram, 36, and Salisbury, a 28-year-old London native and resident, won the Australian Open early this year. They will face third-seeded Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies of Germany on Thursday at 10 a.m. PST (Tennis Channel) in the indoor hardcourt tournament. The winner will advance to the semifinals.
   Krawietz and Mies, who won their second consecutive French Open title last month, eliminated eighth-seeded Lukasz Kubot of Poland and Marcelo Melo of Brazil 6-2, 7-6 (5).
   In singles, third-seeded Dominic Thiem topped second-seeded Rafael Nadal 7-6 (7), 7-6 (4), and sixth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas, the defending champion, saved a match point in his 6-1, 4-6, 7-6 (6) victory over seventh-seeded Andrey Rublev.
   Thiem, last year's runner-up, clinched a semifinal berth at 2-0. Nadal and Tsitsipas, both 1-1, will meet on Thursday not before noon for the other semifinal spot in their four-man group. Nadal seeks his first ATP Finals title.
   ATP Challenger Tour — Eighth-seeded Mackenzie McDonald, a 25-year-old product of Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area, routed Teymuraz Gabashvili, a 35-year-old Georgia native who plays for Russia, 6-2, 6-1 in the first round of the Orlando (Fla.) Open at the USTA National Campus.
   Gabashvili, a former top-50 singles player, and Dennis Novikov, a 27-year-old San Jose, Calif., product, won the doubles title in last week's Atlantic Tire Championships in Cary, N.C.
   McDonald, playing on his adopted home courts, is scheduled to face Elias Ymer, a 24-year-old Swede, on Thursday for a quarterfinal berth. In their only previous meeting, McDonald defeated Ymer 6-4, 6-3, 4-6, 6-1 in the first round of the 2018 Australian Open. 
   Wild card Sam Riffice, a University of Florida junior who grew up in the Sacramento suburb of Roseville, withdrew with a "medical" issue.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Kudla conquers Gunneswaran for Cary crown

Denis Kudla, the Tiburon, Calif., runner-up in 2015,
won his seventh Challenger singles title and first
since 2018. File photo by Paul Bauman 
   Second-seeded Denis Kudla of Arlington, Va., beat fourth-seeded Prajnesh Gunneswaran of India 3-6, 6-3, 6-0 today to win the $52,080 Atlantic Tire Championships in Cary, N.C.
   Kudla, 28, pounded six aces, committed no double faults and converted six of 12 break points on a windy day.
   Gunneswaran, a 31-year-old left-hander, had 11 aces and three double faults and capitalized on all three of his break points. He won third-set tiebreakers in the second round and quarterfinals but received a walkover in the semifinals.
   "It's a big deal that we're allowed to play and pursue our dreams, especially during the tough times," Kudla, the runner-up in the 2015 Tiburon, Calif., Challenger, said after playing Gunneswaran for the first time.
   Kudla collected $7,200 for his seventh Challenger singles title and first since 2018. Gunneswaran, a semifinalist in the 2017 Tiburon, Calif., Challenger, earned $4,240.
   Kudla will rise 10 places to No. 114 in Monday's new rankings, increasing his chances of getting straight into the Australian Open in January. Gunneswaran will improve nine spots to No. 137. 
   Dennis Novikov, a 27-year-old San Jose, Calif., product, won the doubles title with Teymuraz Gabashvili of Russia on Saturday.
   Kudla and Gunneswaran have the same seedings in next week's $52,080 Orlando (Fla.) Open. Kudla is scheduled to play lucky loser Kevin King of Atlanta in the first round, and Gunneswaran drew Sam Riffice, a University of Florida junior who grew up in the Sacramento, Calif., suburb of Roseville.
   ITF women — Alycia Parks, a 19-year-old qualifier from Port St. Lucie, Fla., defeated Robin Montgomery, a 16-year-old Washington, D.C., native, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 to win a $25,000 tournament in Orlando. Parks reached the final of last year's $25,000 tourney in Redding, Calif.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

San Jose product Novikov claims Cary crown in doubles

Unseeded Dennis Novikov (above) and Teymuraz Gabash-
vili won all four of their matches in the Cary, N.C., Challen-
ger in match tiebreakers. 2018 photo by Paul Bauman
   Here's a shocker: the doubles title in the Cary, N.C., Challenger was decided by a match tiebreaker.
   Unseeded Teymuraz Gabashvili, a Georgia native who plays for Russia, and Dennis Novikov, a San Jose, Calif., product who was born in Moscow, nipped top-seeded Luke Bambridge of Great Britain and Nathaniel Lammons of Dallas 7-5, 4-6 [10-8] today in the Atlantic Tire Championships.
   All six matches played by the finalists in the $52,800 hardcourt tournament went to match tiebreakers. Bambridge and Lammons won by walkover in the semifinals.
   Gabashvili and Novikov, playing in his first tournament since late February, led 5-2 in the match tiebreaker before Bambridge and Lammons reeled off four consecutive points. Novikov netted two forehands during the run but came up big late.
   With Bambridge serving at 7-7, Novikov ripped a forehand passing shot down the middle and pounded a service winner to earn two championship points. Lammons saved the first one, crushing a backhand winner on Novikov's first serve, but Novikov converted the second one with another forehand passing shot down the middle.
   In Sunday's singles final, second-seeded Denis Kudla, 28, of Arlington, Va., is scheduled to meet fourth-seeded Prajnesh Gunneswaran, a 31-year-old left-hander from India, for the first time at 9 a.m. PST. The match will be streamed live.
   Kudla, the runner-up in the 2015 Tiburon (Calif.) Challenger, outlasted third-seeded Daniel Elahi Galan of Colombia 6-7 (6), 6-1, 6-4. Gunneswaran, a semifinalist in the 2017 Tiburon (Calif.) Challenger, beat unseeded Mikael Torpegaard, a former three-time NCAA runner-up (singles, doubles and team) at Ohio State from Denmark, by walkover.
   Gabashvili, 35, and Novikov, 27, split $3,100 after winning their first title together. Bambridge, 25, and Lammons, 27, shared $1,800.
   Novikov, the Cary singles champion in 2015 and a singles semifinalist in the $100,000 San Francisco Challenger in 2018, won his seventh career Challenger doubles title and second of the COVID-shortened season. Novikov and Goncalo Oliveira, a left-hander from Portugal, took the Dallas crown in early February. 
   Gabashvili, a former top-50 singles player who has reached the fourth round of the French Open twice, claimed his 10th career Challenger doubles title and first of the year.
   Bambridge has won three ATP doubles titles, most recently Auckland in January with former University of California, Berkeley star Ben McLachlan. Bambridge also owns seven Challenger doubles crowns, including Fairfield, Calif., in 2017 with David O'Hare of Ireland.
   Novikov will jump 22 places to No. 156 in doubles in Monday's new world rankings, and Gabashvili will rise six spots to No. 149. Bambridge will remain No. 62, and Lammons will improve four notches to No. 99. All of the finalists have been ranked higher in doubles.
   Novikov played junior hockey for six years and tennis at UCLA for two years, helping the Bruins reach the 2013 NCAA final. Lammons played at Southern Methodist University in Dallas from 2013 to 2016 while earning a degree in mechanical engineering.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Almost 100, famed artist Thiebaud still painting the lines

Sacramento's Wayne Thiebaud, shown last month,
plans to play tennis on his 100th birthday Sunday.
Photo by Colleen Casey  
   Wayne Thiebaud plans to celebrate his 100th birthday on Sunday doing what he loves most.
   Painting and playing tennis.
   Not only does the renowned Sacramento, Calif., artist still work seven days a week, he plays tennis two or three times a week at the venerable Sutter Lawn Tennis Club, which is even older than he is — by one year.
   Thiebaud (pronounced TEE-bo) doesn't just go out and slap a few balls around, either. He plays up to two sets of doubles.
   "I try to keep exercising and play with some pretty old guys," the humble, self-deprecating Thiebaud said. "We all go out and sort of insult each other but have a good time trying to hit the ball still."
   Thiebaud plays with two young bucks in their 80s and a whippersnapper in his 70s.
   "He does very well," said Larry Crabbe, the kid of the group at 74. "He's not fanatically competitive out there. He mainly really, really, really enjoys being outside in the sun and loves the exercise. 
   "He's still pretty tough. For 100 years old, he's not a pushover. He makes you work. I have played sincerely against Wayne (in doubles) and lost — in recent times."
   Larry O'Connor, another member of the foursome, added that he's "amazed (Thiebaud) can move as well as he does. I'm 85, and he almost moves better than I do."
   Thiebaud's attitude on the court is no less impressive.
   "He's a gentleman," observed O'Connor, who worked in the family mechanical and electrical contracting business. "He never gets upset, never gets mad."
   In honor of Thiebaud's 100th birthday, the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento had scheduled an exhibition, "Wayne Thiebaud 100: Paintings, Prints and Drawings," from Oct. 16, 2020, through Jan. 3, 2021. However, the museum closed today until further notice because of a local surge in COVID-19 cases. 
   Thiebaud, who worked his way through high school at restaurants in Long Beach, Calif., is best known for his colorful paintings of desserts (not deserts). A vintage Thiebaud recently sold at auction for — brace yourself — $19 million.
   Thiebaud was inducted into the California Hall of Fame in 2010 with Barbra Streisand, Serena Williams and 11 others. He received the National Medal of Arts from President Clinton in 2014.
Wayne Thiebaud plays at the Sutter Lawn Tennis Club in Sacramento
in the 1990s. Photo courtesy of Colleen Casey
   Any discussion of Thiebaud and tennis inevitably returns to art.
   His game?
   "He's also artistic on the court," said Crabbe, a retired school district administrator who has played in Thiebaud's foursome for 15 years. "He was all about finesse. The balls very seldom came at you on a straight line. They either arced or (went) up or down or left or right, or were sliced and fell just over the net. His lobs would go way up, and you'd wait for them to bounce, and if you did, you'd better be way back because they'd go way, way up, typically out of reach.
   "He was a very scientific player and was into physics and geometry. He knew how to make that ball work for him."
   International Tennis Hall of Famer Bill Tilden's 1925 book, "Match Play and the Spin of the Ball," strongly influenced Thiebaud.
  "I was really interested in that idea of the spin, so I think I made some pretty interesting spin shots," he said. "I had a decent forehand and backhand. I was not very good at rushing the net and volleying."
   Tennis' appeal? 
   "Well, a great number of things, but I suppose the way the game was designed so that primarily you can never lose until the last point, unlike so many sports," Thiebaud mused. "You can be down all the way and still manage to come back by that curious and interesting scoring method. I like that a lot.
   "Plus, I like the beauty of the court because it's somewhat like a Mondrian painting."
   His favorite player?
   "The Swiss guy," Thiebaud exclaimed in reference, of course, to Roger Federer. "My background is also partially Swiss. He's probably the most beautiful player who ever played the game."
A reproduction of Wayne Thiebaud's painting of the outside
courts at Wimbledon hangs on a wall at Sutter Lawn.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   In some ways, tennis is similar to painting. Players execute their strokes with rackets instead of brushes and express themselves on courts instead of canvas. Yet tennis is everything painting isn't: physical, outdoors and social.
   And yes, Thiebaud sometimes combines his passions. Sports Illustrated commissioned him to paint at Wimbledon in 1968, the first year in which prize money was offered and professionals were allowed to compete. Thiebaud painted a ball lying on a line on the grass, the outside courts before the day's matches have begun, a female player toweling off during a changeover and the trophy on top of the British flag. Reproductions of the ball and courts hang on the walls in the upstairs lounge at Sutter Lawn.
   Thiebaud said he has "made a few drawings and paintings of tennis" since then. Through his late son Paul, an art dealer, Wayne became a friend of John McEnroe, an art collector who owned a gallery in New York. McEnroe bought a painting of a slot machine by Thiebaud for $5 million four or five years ago, the artist said.
   Thiebaud has not specifically painted McEnroe but has depicted a left-handed server like him.
   "That's really sort of an homage to him," Thiebaud said. "I liked the way he played, his serve-and-volleying technique."
   Thiebaud got a late, comical start in tennis. After serving in the Army and working as a commercial artist, he attended San Jose State College (now San Jose State University) in 1949-50. Shortly before turning 30, Thiebaud transferred to Sacramento State College (now California State University, Sacramento).
   "I decided I'd try to take tennis classes, but they didn't have any," Thiebaud said of the 3-year-old school.
   Sac State, however, did have a tennis team, and Thiebaud recalled a conversation he had with coach Jack Jossi, who died in 2007.
    Jossi: "Do you play tennis?"
   Thiebaud: "No, I'm trying to learn how to play."
   Jossi: "Well, I have only five guys for a tennis team, and I need another one."
   Thiebaud: "I'm not good enough to play tennis with a team."
   Jossi: "Let me see how you hit the ball."
   Jossi (after hitting a few balls with Thiebaud): "No, you don't know how to play. But I've got to get another person, so you're going to be the sixth man on the tennis team."
   A quarter of a century later, Thiebaud began competing in USTA age-group tournaments. His late wife Betty Jean was a nationally ranked player.
   Thiebaud initially said his highest ranking in Northern California was No. 8 in the 70s before correcting himself.
   "I was about 4 in the 90s because there weren't many of us," Thiebaud said with a chuckle.
   Thiebaud has no plans to stop playing.
   "If he were to spend his last day on a court, I think that's exactly what he would want," Crabbe said.
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