Friday, January 31, 2020

Thiem tops Zverev to gain first Australian Open final

Dominic Thiem hoists the trophy at Indian Wells last March after defeating
Roger Federer. Photo by Mal Taam
   Fifth-seeded Dominic Thiem beat seventh-seeded Alexander Zverev 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (4) early today to reach his first Australian Open final.
   Thiem, 26, saved two set points in the third set en route to his third Grand Slam singles final. He has lost to Rafael Nadal in the last two French Opens.
   The 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) Zverev, a 22-year-old German, was playing in his first Grand Slam semifinal. He had pledged to donate the champion's prize money of $2,853,100 (U.S.) to the Australian Bushfire Relief Fund if he won the title.
   Thiem is scheduled to face second-seeded Novak Djokovic, who won his seventh Australian Open singles title last year. ESPN will televise Sunday's match live at 12:30 a.m. California time and taped at 6 p.m.
   Djokovic is 6-4 overall and 3-1 on hardcourts against Thiem, the first Austrian to reach the final in Melbourne. Djokovic is 7-0 in Australian Open finals and ranks third all-time with 16 Grand Slam singles titles. Federer has 20 and Nadal 19.
   Djokovic, 32, much fresher than Thiem, 26, in the final. Not only has Djokovic has won his last two matches in straight sets in less than three hours each, he has two days to rest to Thiem's one. Thiem needed 4 hours, 10 minutes to subdue the top-seeded Nadal in four sets in the quarterfinals and 3:42 to top Zverev.

Djokovic beats ailing Federer to reach Aussie Open final

   Roger Federer was coming off a physically and emotionally draining victory in which he suffered a groin injury.
   The weather was hot and muggy.
   And he was facing a rival who's six years younger.
   So second-seeded Novak Djokovic's 7-6 (1), 6-4, 6-3 victory in the Australian Open semifinals in Melbourne early Thursday (California time) was hardly shocking. The only surprise was that the third-seeded Federer had three break points to lead 5-1 in the first set.
   "Today was horrible, to go through what I did," Federer, whose only Northern California appearance came in a San Jose exhibition in 2018, told reporters. "Nice entrance. Nice send-off. And in between, it's one to forget, because you know you have a 3% chance to win. Once you see it coming, that it's not going to work anymore, it's tough."
   Federer, 38, saved seven match points in a 6-3, 2-6, 2-6, 7-6 (8), 6-3 win over American Tennys Sandgren in the quarterfinals.
   Federer has never handed an opponent a walkover in more than 400 Grand Slam matches or retired from any of his more than 1,500 tour-level matches.
   "I just want to say, respect to Roger for coming out tonight," Djokovic said. "He was obviously hurt. Wasn't at his best."
   Djokovic, who won his seventh Australian Open singles title last year, improved to 27-23 against Federer, a six-time Australian Open singles champion.
   Djokovic will face the winner of today's match between fifth-seeded Dominic Thiem and seventh-seeded Alexander Zverev (12:30 a.m., ESPN). Djokovic is 6-4 (3-1 on hardcourts) against Thiem and 3-2 (2-1 on hardcourts) against Zverev.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Kenin upsets No. 1 Barty to reach first Grand Slam final

Sofia Kenin chats with her father and coach, Alex, after winning in the quarter-
finals of the 2018 Berkeley (Calif.) Challenger. Kenin went on to capture the title.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Only 18 months after winning the Berkeley (Calif.) title in her last Challenger, Sofia Kenin reached her first Grand Slam final.
   The 14th-seeded Kenin, a Moscow-born American, eliminated top-ranked Ashleigh Barty of Australia 7-6 (6), 7-5 tonight in the Australian Open in Melbourne.
   Kenin won the last four points of the tiebreaker, saving two set points, and the last three games of the second set, breaking serve twice and erasing two more set points, as the temperature topped 100 degrees (38 Celsius).
   Kenin won NorCal Challenger singles titles in three consecutive years – Sacramento in 2016 at age 17, Stockton and Berkeley.
   Kenin pocketed $9,199 for winning the Berkeley title. The Australian Open champion will collect $2,853,100, and the runner-up will take home $1,430,012. Regardless of the outcome, the 21-year-old Kenin will crack the top 10 for the first time in Monday's rankings.
   Barty was trying to become the first Aussie, male or female, to win the Australian Open since Chris O'Neil captured the women's title in 1978.
   Kenin, the youngest Australian Open finalist since 20-year-old Maria Sharapova in 2008, will play unseeded Garbine Muguruza. ESPN will televise Saturday's match live at 12:30 a.m. California time and taped at 2 p.m.
   Muguruza, 26, topped fourth-seeded Simona Halep 7-6 (8), 7-5 in a spectacular baseline battle. Muguruza survived four set points in the first set en route to her first Grand Slam final since she won Wimbledon in 2017. Both Muguruza and Halep have won two major singles titles – Wimbledon and the French Open.
   Kenin is 1-0 against Muguruza, winning 6-0, 2-6, 6-2 in the first round at Beijing last September. Even with a loss in the final, Kenin will rise six spots to No. 9.
   In the men's semifinals, second seed and defending champion Novak Djokovic will face third-seeded Roger Federer on Thursday at 12:30 a.m., and fifth-seeded Dominic Thiem will play seventh-seeded Alexander Zverev on Friday at 12:30 a.m. ESPN will televise both matches.

Resurgent Muguruza reaches Australian Open semis

Garbine Muguruza excelled in the Bank of the West
Classic at Stanford but has withdrawn from both edi-
tions of the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic in San
Jose, Calif., with injuries. File photo by Paul Bauman
   In a matchup of players with Northern California connections, unseeded Garbine Muguruza beat 30th-seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 7-5, 6-3 on Tuesday in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open in Melbourne.
   Muguruza, who has tumbled from No. 1 in 2017 to No. 32, reached her first Grand Slam semifinal since the 2018 French Open. She excelled in the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford but has yet to appear in its replacement, having withdrawn from both editions of the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose, Calif., with injuries.
   At Stanford, Muguruza advanced to the semis in 2017, the tournament's last year, and the quarterfinals in 2014 at age 20. Also in 2014, she won the doubles title with fellow Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro.
   Pavlyuchenkova played for the Sacramento Capitals of World TeamTennis in 2006 at age 15. The team announced in 2014 that it was moving to Las Vegas after 28 years in Sacramento and folded one month later after the owner was charged with orchestrating a $150 million Ponzi scheme. He is serving a 20-year prison sentence.
   Muguruza is set to play fourth-seeded Simona Halep, who crushed 28th-seeded Anett Kontaveit of Estonia 6-1, 6-1 in 53 minutes, today not before 8:30 p.m. PST (ESPN2).
   Muguruza, 26, is 3-2 (3-0 on hardcourts) against Halep, 26. Both players have won two Grand Slam singles titles, taking the Wimbledon and French Open crowns.
   In the other women's semifinal, top-ranked Ashleigh Barty of Australia will meet 14th-seeded Sofia Kenin of Pembroke Pines, Fla., today at 7 p.m. (ESPN2). Barty leads the head-to-head series 4-1.
   On the men's side, seventh-seeded Alexander Zverev of Germany beat 15th-seeded Stan Wawrinka, the 2014 Australian Open champion, 1-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 to reach his first Grand Slam semifinal.
   The 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) Zverev, 22, is scheduled to meet fifth-seeded Dominic Thiem on Friday at 12:30 a.m. on ESPN2. Thiem knocked off top-seeded Rafael Nadal, the 2009 Australian Open champion and a four-time runner-up in Melbourne, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (4), 4-6, 7-6 (6). Nadal was trying to tie Roger Federer's record of 20 Grand Slam singles titles.
   Thiem, 26, is 6-2 (2-1 on hardcourts) against Zverev. If Zverev wins the title, he has pledged to donate his prize money of $2,853,100 (U.S.) to the Australian Bushfire Relief Fund.
   In the first men's semifinal, second seed and defending champion Novak Djokovic will face the third-seeded Federer on Thursday at 12:30 a.m. (ESPN2). Djokovic has won the Australian Open seven times and Federer six.
   Djokovic leads the head-to-head series 26-23 with four victories in the last five meetings. He's six years younger than the 38-year-old Federer, who saved seven match points and suffered a groin injury in a five-set victory over Tennys Sandgren in the quarterfinals.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Federer saves seven match points, tops Sandgren

Roger Federer said he was "incredibly lucky" to defeat Tennys Sandgren tonight
in the Australian Open quarterfinals. 2017 photo by Mal Taam
   Third-seeded Roger Federer saved seven match points tonight in a 6-3, 2-6, 2-6, 7-6 (8), 6-3 victory over unseeded American Tennys Sandgren, the runner-up in the 2017 Tiburon (Calif.) Challenger, in the Australian Open quarterfinals in Melbourne.
   Federer, 38, escaped three match points while serving at 4-5 in the fourth set and four in the tiebreaker.
Tennys Sandgren almost became the lowest-ranked American
to reach the Australian Open semifinals since Patrick McEnroe
in 1991. File photo by Paul Bauman
   "I was incredibly lucky today," Federer, whose only Northern California appearance came in a 2018 San Jose exhibition, said in an on-court interview. " ... I don't deserve this one, but I'm standing here and obviously very, very happy."
   Federer took an 8 1/2-minute medical timeout off the court for a groin problem at 0-3 (one service break) in the second set.
   Sandgren, an Australian Open quarterfinalist in 2018, out-aced Federer 27-5, the biggest discrepancy of the Swiss star's career.
   The 28-year-old Sandgren, at No. 100, almost became the lowest-ranked man to reach the Australian Open semifinals since No. 114 Patrick McEnroe in 1991 and the first American to advance to the final four in Melbourne since Andy Roddick in 2009.
   Federer is set to play second-seeded Novak Djokovic, the defending and seven-time champion. Djokovic eliminated 32nd-seeded Milos Raonic, an Australian Open semifinalist in 2016, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (1).
   Djokovic, 32, is 26-23 against Federer. Djokovic has won four of the past five meetings, including his epic victory in last year's Wimbledon final. Djokovic saved two championship points in the 7-6 (5), 1-6, 7-6 (4), 4-6, 13-12 (3) win. At 4 hours, 57 minutes, it's the longest Wimbledon final ever.

Kenin, closing in on top 10, to face No. 1 Barty in semis

Sofia Kenin, shown in the semifinals of the 2018 Berkeley
(Calif.) Challenger en route to the title, has reached her
first Grand Slam semifinal. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Sofia Kenin, who starred in Northern California Challengers, is on the verge of cracking the top 10 after reaching the Australian Open semifinals.
   The 21-year-old American, seeded 14th, beat unseeded Ons Jabeur of Tunisia 6-4, 6-4 today in Melbourne. Both players were competing in their first Grand Slam quarterfinal.
   Kenin, who was born in Moscow but moved to the United States as a young child, will rise at least four spots to No. 11.  She won NorCal Challenger singles titles in three consecutive years – Sacramento in 2016 at age 17, Stockton and Berkeley.
   Kenin hasn't played a seed in the tournament, but now she faces a huge challenge against top-ranked Ashleigh Barty of Australia. Barty, who won the French Open last year for her only Grand Slam singles title, beat seventh-seeded Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic 7-6 (6), 6-2.
   Kvitova, a 29-year-old left-hander, won Wimbledon in 2011 and 2014 and reached last year's Australian Open final, losing to Naomi Osaka. That was Kvitova's first major final since she suffered career-threatening cuts to her left hand in a December 2016 home invasion.
   Barty, 23, is 4-1 against Kenin, including 3-1 last year and 2-1 on hardcourts. However, most of the pressure will be on Barty as the favorite trying to become the first Australian woman to win in Melbourne since Chris O'Neil in 1978. Kenin, meanwhile, seeks her first Grand Slam final.
   In the second round of Australian Open boys singles, it was Mayot against Mayo. Top-seeded Harold Mayot of France dismissed Aidan Mayo, who grew up in the Sacramento suburb of Roseville, 6-2, 6-3 in 64 minutes.

Bryans bow out of their last Australian Open

No. 13 seeds Bob Bryan, left, and Mike Bryan lost to No. 4
seeds Ivan Dodig and Filip Polasek 6-3, 6-4 in the third
round of the Australian Open. File photo by Paul Bauman
   Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan are out of the Australian Open.
   For good.
   The 13th-seeded Bryans (Stanford, 1997-98) lost to fourth-seeded Ivan Dodig of Croatia and Filip Polasek of Slovakia 6-3, 6-4 on Sunday night (California time) in the third round in Melbourne.
   The Bryan twins, who will turn 42 in April, announced last November that they will retire after this year's U.S. Open.
   The Bryans have collected a record 16 Grand Slam men's doubles titles, including six in the Australian Open. They won their last Slam in the 2014 U.S. Open and their last Melbourne crown in 2013. Bob Bryan underwent right hip surgery in August 2018 and returned at the beginning of 2019.
   Dodig, 35, seeks his second Grand Slam men's doubles title and Polasek, 34, his first. Dodig won the 2015 French Open with Marcelo Melo of Brazil. Polasek retired in 2013 because of back, spine and left leg injuries. After hitting with Mike Bryan in May 2018, Polasek returned the following month.
   In the first round of Australian Open junior doubles:
   –Top-seeded Arthur Cazaux and Harold Mayot beat Lorenzo Claverie of Venezuela and Aidan Mayo, who grew up in Roseville in the Sacramento area, 6-3, 6-2.
   –Savannah Broadus of Carrollton, Texas, and Elizabeth Coleman of Midland, Mich., edged India Houghton, a Stanford commit from Belvedere Tiburon in the San Francisco Bay Area, and Celia Belle Mohr of France 6-4, 6-7 (11) [10-8].

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Raonic, Kenin score big wins to reach Aussie quarters

Milos Raonic beat Marin Cilic, the 2014 U.S. Open
champion, in straight sets tonight in the Australian
Open. File photo by Paul Bauman
   Two players, one man and one woman, who dominated in Northern California tournaments won fourth-round matches in the Australian Open tonight.
   Milos Raonic, a Canadian seeded 32nd, dispatched Marin Cilic of Croatia 6-4, 6-3, 7-5 in Melbourne. The 6-foot-5 (1.96-meter) Raonic, the 2016 Wimbledon runner-up to Andy Murray, has not lost his serve in the tournament. Cilic won the 2014 U.S. Open and reached the final of the 2018 Australian Open.
   Sofia Kenin topped 15-year-old sensation Coco Gauff 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-0 in an all-American matchup to reach her first Grand Slam quarterfinal. Gauff was coming off a 6-3, 6-4 victory over third seed and defending champion Naomi Osaka.
   Raonic never lost a set in three appearances in the SAP Open in San Jose, Calif., winning the last three titles before the tournament moved to Rio de Janeiro in 2014 after 125 years in Northern California.
   Kenin won NorCal Challenger singles titles in three consecutive years – Sacramento in 2016 at age 17, Stockton and Berkeley.
   Kenin, who was voted the WTA Most Improved Player of the Year in 2019, has a much better chance to reach the Australian Open semifinals than Raonic.
   Kenin, 21, will meet unseeded Ons Jabeur, a Tunisian who eliminated 27th-seeded Wang Qiang of China 7-6 (4), 6-1.
Sofia Kenin topped 15-year-old sensation Coco Gauff
to reach her first Grand Slam quarterfinal. Photo by
Paul Bauman
   Jabeur ended former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki's career in the third round. Wozniacki, the 2018 Australian Open champion, announced last month that she would retire after Melbourne this year.
   Wang, meanwhile, shocked eighth seed and seven-time Australian Open champion Serena Williams.
   Kenin, ranked 15th, is 3-1 against Jabeur, ranked 78th.
   Raonic, 29, will face second seed and defending champion Novak Djokovic, who outclassed 14th-seeded Diego Schwartzman of Argentina 6-3, 6-4, 6-4. Raonic is 0-9 against Djokovic.
   In matches involving Northern California players:
   –California natives Steve Johnson and Sam Querrey, who was born in San Francisco, lost to Alexander Bublik and Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan 6-4, 6-2 in the third round of men's doubles.
   Johnson and Querrey were unable to bounce back from their 4-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (12) victory over 14th-seeded Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski of Great Britain on Friday (California time).
   –Aidan Mayo, who grew up in the Sacramento suburb of Roseville, defeated qualifier Viacheslav Bielinskyi of Ukraine 3-6, 7-6 (3), 6-1 in the first round of boys singles.
   –India Houghton, a Stanford commit from Belvedere Tiburon in the San Francisco Bay Area, fell to Ya Yi Yang of Chinese Taipei 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 in the opening round of girls singles.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Bellis falls to Mertens in third round of Aussie Open

In the fourth tournament of her comeback, San Francisco Bay Area product CiCi
Bellis lost to 16th-seeded Elise Mertens 6-1, 6-7 (5), 6-0 in the third round of the
Australian Open. 2017 photo by Mal Taam
   CiCi Bellis will have to be content with equaling her deepest singles run in a Grand Slam tournament.
   In only the fourth tournament of her comeback, the 20-year-old San Francisco Bay Area product fell to 16th-seeded Elise Mertens of Belgium 6-1, 6-7 (5), 6-0 tonight in the third round of the Australian Open in Melbourne.
   "Mertens is one of the fittest players on the tour, and it's really showing in the third set," ESPN commentator Rennae Stubbs said during the match.
   The 5-foot-10 (1.79-meter) Mertens, an Australian Open semifinalist in 2018 and U.S. Open quarterfinalist last year, pounded 12 aces to none for the 5-foot-7 (1.68-meter) Bellis.
    Mertens evened her record against Bellis at 1-1. Bellis outclassed Mertens 6-3, 6-3 in the first round at Dubai in February 2018, one month before injuries forced Bellis off the tour for 19 months. She had four operations, three on her right wrist and one on her right elbow, during her layoff.
   Bellis, who used her protected ranking to play in the Australian Open, will soar from No. 600 to No. 298 when the next rankings are released on Feb. 3. She reached a career-high No. 35 at age 18 in 2017 and was named the WTA Newcomer of the Year.
   On the men's side in the Australian Open, Tennys Sandgren beat fellow American Sam Querrey 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 in the third round.
   Querrey, a 32-year-old San Francisco native, has never reached the fourth round of the Australian Open in 14 appearances (all consecutive).
   Sandgren, an Australian Open quarterfinalist in 2018, lost to Querrey 6-4, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (3), 7-6 (5) in the round of 16 at Wimbledon last July in their only previous meeting.
   In the second round of men's doubles, Steve Johnson of Redondo Beach in the Los Angeles area and Querrey edged 14th-seeded Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski of Great Britain 4-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (12).
   Murray won the 2016 Australian Open and U.S. Open with Bruno Soares of Brazil and the 2007 SAP Open in San Jose, Calif., with Eric Butorac of Rochester, Minn. Skupski played for the Sacramento-based California Dream in 2015, the team's only year of existence.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Wang shocks Serena in third round of Aussie Open

Serena Williams lost to Wang Qiang four months after crushing
her 6-1, 6-0 in 44 minutes. File photo by Paul Bauman
   All indications were that Serena Williams would easily beat Wang Qiang tonight in the third round of the Australian Open.
   Four months ago in their only previous meeting, Williams crushed Wang 6-1, 6-0 in 44 minutes in the U.S. Open quarterfinals.
   Williams was 7-0 this year entering tonight's match. She won Auckland two weeks ago for her first title since having her first child in September 2017 and undergoing life-threatening complications.
   In her first two Australian Open matches, Williams lost no more than three games in a set.
   Despite all that, the 27th-seeded Wang topped the eighth-seeded Williams 6-4, 6-7 (2), 7-5 in 2 hours, 41 minutes in Melbourne. It was Williams' earliest loss in the Australian Open, a tournament she has won seven times, since she third-round exit in 2006.
   After the U.S. Open debacle, "I worked really hard on and off the court," China's Wang, who turned 28 on Jan. 14, said in an on-court interview.
   Wang had 25 winners and 20 errors to Williams' 43 and 56, respectively.
   "I just made far too many errors to be a professional athlete today," Williams, a 38-year-old part-time resident of Silicon Valley, told reporters.
   Williams again fell short in her quest to tie Margaret Court's record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles. Williams has not won a major since the 2017 Australian Open despite reaching four finals, losing in straight sets twice at Wimbledon and twice at the U.S. Open.
  "She wants No. 24 so much that the pressure is mounting," ESPN commentator Patrick McEnroe declared.
   Wang served for the match at 5-4 in the second set, but Williams broke at 15. After Williams prevailed in the tiebreaker, she saved a break point to hold for 1-1 in the third set.
   Williams served to stay in the match at 5-6 but slugged two backhands long to trail 0-30. Williams pounded a service winner for 15-30, but another backhand long gave Wang two match points. Wang squandered them with two errors, but Williams returned the favor (missing two first serves) to end it.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Bellis ousts 20th-seeded Muchova in Aussie Open

CiCi Bellis, a 20-year-old San Francisco Bay Area product, pulled off the first big
 win of her comeback tonight to reach the third round of the Australian Open. That
equals her best singles result in a Grand Slam tournament. 2018 photo by Mal Taam
   Bellis is back.
   CiCi Bellis scored the first big win of her comeback tonight, knocking off 20th-seeded Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic 6-4, 6-4 in the second round of the Australian Open in Melbourne. They met for the first time.
   Muchova stunned third seed and former world No. 1 Karolina Pliskova to reach the Wimbledon quarterfinals last July. Muchova then lost to Elina Svitolina.
   "I know how hard (Bellis) works, and this is an enormous story for American tennis," crowed ESPN commentator Rennae Stubbs.
   Bellis, a 20-year-old San Francisco native who grew up down the road in Atherton, was coming off a 6-0, 6-2 victory over 87th-ranked Tatjana Maria, a 32-year-old mother from Germany, in 52 minutes.
   Bellis climbed to No. 35 at age 18 in 2017 and was named the WTA Newcomer of the Year. Then came a harrowing 19-month layoff in which she had four operations, three on her right wrist and one on her right elbow.
   By reaching the third round of the Australian Open, Bellis equaled her best singles performance in a major in only the fourth tournament of her comeback. She also advanced to the third round of the 2016 U.S. Open and 2017 French Open.
   Bellis next will play 16th-seeded Elise Mertens of Belgium. Mertens, an Australian Open semifinalist in 2018 and U.S. Open quarterfinalist last year, dismissed Heather Watson of Great Britain 6-3, 6-0 in 56 minutes.
   Bellis outclassed Mertens 6-3, 6-3 in the first round at Dubai in February 2018 in their only previous meeting. Bellis played only two more tournaments before arm injuries forced her off the tour.
   In the first round of Australian Open doubles, Bellis and Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic lost to third-seeded Mertens and Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus 3-6, 6-3, 6-3.
   Mertens and Sabalenka won the U.S. Open last September for their first Grand Slam title of any kind. Bellis and Vondrousova, last year's French Open singles runner-up, reached the 2014 girls final at Roland Garros.
   Early today, eighth-seeded Serena Williams, a part-time Silicon Valley resident, improved to 7-0 this year with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia in the second round.
   Williams, who won Auckland two weeks ago for her first title since having her first child in September 2017, next will meet 27th-seeded Wang Qiang of China. Wang routed Fiona Ferro of France 6-1, 6-2.
   Wang shocked then-No. 2 Ashleigh Barty in the round of 16 in the U.S. Open last September before losing to Williams 6-1, 6-0 in the quarterfinals. That's the only previous meeting between Williams and Wang, not counting a walkover for Wang in the third round at Miami last March.
   In the opening round of men's doubles, No. 13 seeds Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan (Stanford, 1997-98), playing in their last Australian Open 20 years after their first, defeated Rohan Bopanna of India and Yasutaka Uchiyama of Japan 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.
   The Bryan twins, who will turn 42 in April, announced last November that they will retire after this year's U.S. Open. They seek their seventh Australian Open men's doubles crown.
   In other first-round men's doubles matches:
   –No. 10 seeds Mate Pavic of Croatia and Bruno Soares of Brazil beat Luke Bambridge of Great Britain and Ben McLachlan (Cal, 2011-14) of Japan 7-6 (4), 7-5.
   Bambridge and McLachlan, a New Zealand native who plays for his mother's native country, won the Auckland title two weeks ago. McLachlan and Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany reached the Australian Open semifinals two years ago.
   Soares and Jamie Murray of Great Britain captured the Australian Open and U.S. Open in 2016. Pavic and Oliver Marach of Austria won the 2018 Australian Open.
   –U.S. Davis Cup teammates and California natives Steve Johnson and Sam Querrey, who was born in San Francisco, defeated Cheng-Peng Hsieh and Yen-Hsun Lu of Chinese Taipei 6-7 (9), 6-4, 6-4.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Bellis breezes in first Grand Slam match in two years

CiCi Bellis, a 20-year-old San Francisco Bay Area product, routed Tatjana Maria,
a 32-year-old mother from Germany, 6-0, 6-2 in 52 minutes today in the first round
of the Australian Open. 2017 photo by Mal Taam 
   CiCi Bellis' first Grand Slam match in two years worked out pretty well.
   The 20-year-old San Francisco Bay Area product demolished Tatjana Maria, a 32-year-old mother from Germany, 6-0 6-2 in 52 minutes late Monday night (California time) in the first round of the Australian Open in Melbourne.
   Bellis, who was born in San Francisco and grew up in nearby Atherton, put in 73 percent of her first serves (33 of 45) to Maria's 46 percent (18 of 39).
   It was Bellis' first Grand Slam match since a three-set loss to 30th-seeded Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands in the 2018 Australian Open and Bellis' first victory in a major since she beat Bertens in the second round of the 2017 French Open.
   Bellis had four operations, three on her right wrist and one on her right elbow, during a 19-month layoff that ended last November.
   Bellis next will face 20th-seeded Karolina Muchova, 23, of the Czech Republic for the first time. Muchova, a Wimbledon quarterfinalist last year, edged Kirsten Flipkens, a 34-year-old Belgian who reached the Wimbledon semifinals in 2013, 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (7) in 2 hours, 26 minutes.
   Muchova is ranked 22nd. Bellis has plummeted from a career-high No. 35 in 2017 to No. 600.
   Another San Francisco native, 32-year-old Sam Querrey, defeated Ricardas Berankis, a 29-year-old Lithuanian, 7-6 (2), 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 in the second round. The 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) Querrey pounded 26 aces as he improved to 3-0 against the 5-foot-9 (1.75-meter) Berankis.
   Querrey advanced to the third round of the Australian Open for the sixth time in 14 appearances (all consecutive). He will try to reach the round of 16 for the first time when he faces countryman Tennys Sandgren, an Australian Open quarterfinalist in 2018.
   Sandgren took out eighth-seeded Matteo Berrettini, a U.S. Open semifinalist last September, 7-6 (7), 6-4, 4-6, 2-6, 7-5 in 3:23. Serving at 3-4 in the fifth set, Sandgren overcame a 0-40 deficit to hold.
   Querrey is 1-0 against Sandgren, prevailing 6-4, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (3), 7-6 (5) in the round of 16 at Wimbledon last summer.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Stephens loses in Australian Open, falls to 0-3 this year

Sloane Stephens, a 26-year-old Fresno, Calif., product, came within two points
of victory against Zhang Shuai. 2016 photo by Mal Taam
   Sloane Stephens' slump continued early today in the Australian Open.
   Seeded 24th, the Fresno, Calif., product fell to 0-3 this year with a 2-6, 7-5, 6-2 loss to Zhang Shuai of China in the first round in Melbourne. Stephens came within two points of victory while serving at 5-4 in the second set.
   "She's not in top physical condition to play her brand of tennis," Tennis Channel commentator Martina Navratilova said. "She has to decide if she wants to play."
   The match was a virtual replay of Zhang's 2-6, 7-6 (2), 6-2 win over Stephens in the opening round of the 2018 Australian Open. That extended Stephens' losing streak to eight after her 2017 U.S. Open title.
   At least Zhang, who will turn 31 on Tuesday, has a high ranking at No. 35. Stephens lost to No. 201 Arina Rodionova 6-2, 6-2 last week and No. 129 Liudmila Samsonova in three sets two weeks ago.
   Zhang, meanwhile, reached the singles and doubles finals in Hobart last week, losing to Elena Rybakina and with Peng Shuai to Nadiia Kichenok and Sania Mirza.
   Stephens, 26, suffered her second consecutive loss in the opening round of a Grand Slam tournament. She fell to Anna Kalinskaya, a qualifier ranked No. 127, 6-3, 6-4 in the U.S. Open last August.
   Stephens has not reached a quarterfinal in any tournament since losing at that stage in last year's French Open. Ranked as high as No. 3 in July 2018, she will drop three spots to No. 30.
   Stephens began playing tennis at 9 at the Sierra Sport and Racquet Club in Fresno. She moved to Boca Raton, Fla., two years later.
   Late tonight or early Tuesday, CiCi Bellis, a 20-year-old San Francisco native who grew up in nearby Atherton, is scheduled to play Tatjana Maria, a 32-year-old mother from Germany, in the first round of the Australian Open.
   It will be Bellis' first Grand Slam match in two years. She had four operations, three on her right wrist and one on her right elbow, during a 19-month layoff that ended last November.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Querrey ousts 25th-seeded Coric in Australian Open

Sam Querrey, a 32-year-old San Francisco native,
has a good chance to reach the third round of the
Australian Open. That would equal his best result
in Melbourne. File photo by Paul Bauman
   Sam Querrey, a 32-year-old San Francisco native, surprised 25th-seeded Borna Coric of Croatia 6-3 6-4, 6-4 today in the first round of the Australian Open in Melbourne.
   The 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) Querrey had 18 aces and only one double fault. He won 82 percent of the points on his first serve (41 of 50) and 65 percent on his second (17 of 26).
   Coric, 23, shocked No. 4 Dominic Thiem two weeks ago in the round-robin phase of the inaugural ATP Cup in Sydney.
   Querrey has a good chance to reach the third round in Melbourne, which would equal his best result in 14 career appearances there. He will play 5-foot-9 (1.75-meter) Ricardas Berankis, a 29-year-old Lithuanian, in the second round. Berankis defeated Roberto Carballes Baena of Spain 6-4, 6-2, 6-2.
   Querrey, who now lives in Las Vegas, has not lost more than four games in a set in two matches against Berankis. They will meet for the first time since 2013. The winner likely will face eighth-seeded Matteo Berrettini, a U.S. Open semifinalist last September.
   Also today, 30th-seeded Daniel Evans of Great Britain topped Mackenzie McDonald, a 24-year-old product of Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area, 3-6, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 in a matchup of undersized players. Evans is 5-foot-9 (1.75 meters) and 165 pounds (75 kilograms); McDonald is 5-foot-10 (1.78 meters) and 160 pounds (73 kilograms).
   McDonald had right hamstring surgery in June and missed the rest of the year. He reached the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2018.
   On the women's side, eighth-seeded Serena Williams began her quest for a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title with a 6-0, 6-3 victory over Anastasia Potapova, 18, of Russia in 58 minutes.   
   Williams, a 38-year-old part-time Silicon Valley resident, next will meet Tamara Zidansek, a 22-year-old Slovenian, for the first time. Zidansek, ranked 64th, beat wild card Na-Lae Han of South Korea 6-3, 6-3.
   Kristie Ahn, a 27-year-old Stanford graduate from Englewood Cliffs, N.J., lost to former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki 6-1, 6-3.
   Ahn reached the fourth round of last year's U.S. Open. Wozniacki, who won her only Grand Slam title in the 2018 Australian Open, announced last month that she will retire after this year's tournament in Melbourne.
   No. 24 seed Sloane Stephens, a 26-year-old Fresno, Calif., product, is scheduled to play Zhang Shuai of China early Friday. Both players broke through in the Australian Open, with Stephens reaching the 2013 semifinals at 19 and Zhang advancing to the 2016 quarterfinals at 27.
   Zhang lost in the singles and doubles finals in Hobart last week. Stephens is 0-2 this year, falling to No. 129 Liudmila Samsonova of Russia in three sets in Brisbane and to No. 201 Arina Rodionova of Australia 6-2, 6-2 in Adelaide.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Cal alum McLachlan retains Auckland doubles title

   Ben McLachlan (Cal, 2011-14) of Japan won his second consecutive Auckland doubles title today, this time with Luke Bambridge of Great Britain.
   In a matchup of unseeded teams, Bambridge and McLachlan defeated Marcus Daniell of New Zealand and Philipp Oswald of Austria 7-6 (3), 6-3. Bambridge and McLachlan did not lose a set in their four matches.
   McLachlan, 27, was born and raised in New Zealand but plays for his mother's native country,
   "It means a lot to win this tournament," McLachlan said on atptour.com. "I grew up watching this tournament and was a ball kid here. To be able to do this in front of my parents, my brother and friends is awesome."
   This was McLachlan's fifth tour-level doubles title and first with Bambridge. McLachlan won last year's Auckland title with Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany.
   Bambridge captured the doubles title in the $100,000 Fairfield (Calif.) Challenger in 2017 with David O'Hare of Ireland.
   In an all-French singles final in Auckland, unseeded Ugo Humbert edged fifth-seeded Benoit Paire 7-6 (2), 3-6, 7-6 (5) for his first ATP Tour title.
   Humbert, a 21-year-old left-hander, became the first Frenchman to win the crown. He ousted second-seeded Denis Shapovalov and fourth-seeded John Isner en route to the final.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Serena could face Osaka in Australian Open showdown

Serena Williams will try again to tie Margaret Court's record of 24 Grand Slam
singles titles. 2018 photo by Mal Taam
   Eighth-seeded Serena Williams, a part-time Silicon Valley resident, could face third seed and defending champion Naomi Osaka in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open.
   The winner could play top-ranked Ashleigh Barty in the semifinals.
   The singles draws for the year's first Grand Slam tournament, which will begin Sunday (California time) in Melbourne, was held late Thursday night.
   Osaka, 22, is 2-1 against Williams, 38. Osaka stunned Williams 6-2, 6-4 in the tumultuous 2018 U.S. Open final, but Williams gained revenge with a 6-3, 6-4 victory in the Toronto quarterfinals last August.
   Williams drew Anastasia Potapova, an 18-year-old Russian ranked 90th, in the first round of the Australian Open. Potapova made her French Open debut last year, ousting former world No. 1 Angelique Kerber 6-4, 6-2 in the opening round before losing to eventual runner-up Marketa Vondrousova in the second round.
   Williams still seeks her 24th Grand Slam singles title, which would tie Margaret Court's record. Williams won her last major title in the 2017 Australian Open, had her first child in September that year and suffered life-threatening complications. She has played in four Grand Slam finals since then, losing each in straight sets.
   Osaka, meanwhile, has not reached a Grand Slam quarterfinal since winning her second consecutive major title last year in Melbourne.
   In other first-round Australian Open matchups:
   –No. 24 seed Sloane Stephens, who grew up in Fresno, Calif., will meet Zhang Shuai. Both players broke through in the Australian Open, with Stephens reaching the 2013 semifinals at 19 and Zhang advancing to the 2016 quarterfinals at 27. Zhang will play in Friday's singles and doubles finals in Hobart.
   –Kristie Ahn, a 27-year-old Stanford graduate, will try to end the singles career of former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki. Wozniacki, who won her only Grand Slam title in the 2018 Australian Open, announced last month that she will retire after this year's tournament in Melbourne.
   –CiCi Bellis, a 20-year-old San Francisco native who grew up in nearby Atherton, will play Tatjana Maria, 32, of Germany. It will be Bellis' first Grand Slam match since she lost to 30th-seeded Kiki Bertens in the first round of the 2018 Australian Open. Bellis had three operations on her right wrist and one on her right elbow during a 19-month layoff that ended last November.
   –Another San Francisco native, 32-year-old Sam Querrey, will take on 25th-seeded Borna Coric of Croatia. Coric, 23, shocked then-No. 4 Dominic Thiem last week in the round-robin phase of the inaugural ATP Cup in Sydney.
   –Mackenzie McDonald, a 24-year-old product of Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area, will face 30th-seeded Daniel Evans of Great Britain for the first time in a matchup of undersized players. McDonald is 5-foot-10 (1.78 meters) and 160 pounds (73 kilograms); Evans is 5-foot-9 (1.75 meters) and 165 pounds (75 kilograms). McDonald had right hamstring surgery in June and missed the rest of the year.
   Australian Open qualifying – Harriet Dart of Great Britain beat 15th-seeded Nicole Gibbs (Stanford, 2011-13) 6-2, 6-3 early today in the second round.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Klahn loses in first round of Aussie Open qualifying

   Viktor Troicki of Serbia completed a 6-4, 6-2 victory over 22nd-seeded Bradley Klahn, a Stanford graduate from Los Angeles, tonight in the first round of Australian Open qualifying in Melbourne.
   The match had been suspended by rain Tuesday night with Troicki, who reached a career-high No. 12 in 2011, leading 6-4, 4-1.
   Troicki, 33, evened his career record against Klahn, a 29-year-old left-hander, at 1-1. Klahn won 7-5, 6-3 in the opening round of qualifying in Montreal last August.
   Another former NCAA singles champion from Stanford, 15th-seeded Nicole Gibbs, is scheduled to meet Harriet Dart of Great Britain for the first time early Thursday morning (California time) in the second round of Australian Open qualifying.
   Gibbs reached the third round of the 2017 Australian Open, equaling her best Grand Slam result. She lot to second seed and eventual champion Serena Williams 6-1, 6-3. It's Williams' last major title.
   Dart made her Australian Open debut last year, qualifying before losing 6-0, 6-0 to 2008 champion Maria Sharapova in the opening round.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Klahn trails in suspended Aussie Open qualifying match

Bradley Klahn, a 29-year-old Stanford graduate, trails Viktor
Troicki of Serbia 6-4, 4-1 in the first round of Australian Open
qualifying. 2018 photo by Paul Bauman
   Viktor Troicki of Serbia served at 6-4, 4-1 against 22nd-seeded Bradley Klahn, a 29-year-old Stanford graduate from Los Angeles, tonight in the first round of Australian Open qualifying when the match was suspended by rain in Melbourne.
   The rain was welcome as Australia has been ravaged by deadly wildfires, blanketing Melbourne in smoke.
   Troicki, 33, and Novak Djokovic won the deciding doubles match against Spain in the final of the inaugural ATP Cup on Sunday night in Sydney. In 2010, Troicki gave Serbia its first Davis Cup championship with a singles victory against France.
   Both Troicki and Klahn have tumbled in the rankings because of back problems.
   Troicki, ranked as high as No. 12 in 2011, has plunged to No. 159. He missed three months in 2018 with a lower-back injury.
   Klahn, the 2010 NCAA singles champion, had back surgery for the second time in 2015. He is ranked No. 131 after reaching a career-high No. 63 in 2014.
   Klahn played in the main draw of all four Grand Slam tournaments for the second time last year, advancing to the second round of the U.S. Open. In the first round of the Australian Open, he led Hyeon Chung of South Korea two sets to none before falling 6-4 in the fifth set.
   Chung reached the semifinals of the 2018 Australian Open, ousting Djokovic in straight sets in the round of 16.

Gibbs advances in Australian Open qualifying

No. 15 seed Nicole Gibbs, who starred at Stanford, beat
Cristina Bucsa of Spain 6-0, 2-6, 7-5 in the first round of
Australian Open qualifying. 2018 photo by Paul Bauman
   No. 15 seed Nicole Gibbs (Stanford, 2011-13) defeated Cristina Bucsa of Spain 6-0, 2-6, 7-5 early today in the first round of Australian Open qualifying in Melbourne.
   The 26-year-old Gibbs, ranked No. 123, had 19 winners and 26 unforced errors to 28 and 55, respectively, for the 22-year-old Bucsa, ranked No. 167.
   Heavy smoke from Australia's massive wildfires blanketed Melbourne. One player, Dalila Jakupovic of Slovenia, retired after dropping to her knees and suffering a coughing fit while leading Stefanie Voegele of Switzerland 6-4, 5-6. Eugenie Bouchard of Canada also had breathing problems but won.
   Gibbs, who won three NCAA titles at Stanford (two in singles and one in doubles), is playing in her second Grand Slam tournament since undergoing surgery for a rare cancer in the roof of her mouth last May 17. As a qualifier, she lost to fourth-seeded Simona Halep 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 in the first round of the U.S. Open.
   Gibbs reached the third round of the 2017 Australian Open, equaling her best Grand Slam result. She lost to second seed and eventual champion Serena Williams 6-1, 6-3. It's Williams' last major title.
   Gibbs is scheduled to face Harriet Dart, 23, of Great Britain for the first time on Wednesday (California time). Dart, ranked No. 169, eliminated Elitsa Kostova of Bulgaria 6-4, 6-1.
   Dart played in the main draw of three Grand Slam tournaments last year, advancing to the third round at Wimbledon before losing to top-ranked Ashleigh Barty of Australia 6-1, 6-1.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Quinn wins all-NorCal boys 16 final in Winter Nationals

   Sixth-seeded Ethan Quinn of Fresno, Calif., beat fifth-seeded Kurt Miller of Los Gatos, Calif., in the San Jose area 6-2, 6-2 today to win the boys 16 singles title in the USTA National Winter Championships on clay in Orlando, Fla.
   Quinn did not lose a set in seven matches. Miller was coming off a 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 victory over third-seeded Michael Zheng of Montville, N.J., on Thursday.
   In the boys 18 doubles final on a hardcourt in Orlando, fourth-seeded Keshav Chopra of Marietta, Ga., and Coy Simon of Charleston, S.C., topped third-seeded Aryan Chaudhary of Santa Clara, Calif., also near San Jose, 4-6, 6-2, retired.
   Chaudhary and Zapp, who won the singles title, will enroll at Stanford and North Carolina, respectively.
   Top-seeded Natalie Block of Plantation, Fla., and Aubrey Nisbet of Wilmington, Del., won the girls 16 doubles crown on clay in Orlando. They wore down unseeded Katie Codd of Carlsbad in the San Diego region and Tomi Main of Seaside, near Monterey, 6-3, 3-6, 6-0. Codd claimed the singles title.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Winter Nationals to feature all-NorCal boys 16 final

   A Northern Californian will win the boys 16 singles title in the USTA National Winter Championships.
   Fifth-seeded Kurt Miller of Los Gatos in the San Jose area and sixth-seeded Ethan Quinn of Fresno advanced to Friday's final on clay in Orlando, Fla.
   Miller topped third-seeded Michael Zheng of Montville, N.J., 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 today, and Quinn defeated 17th-seeded Michael Ross of Charleston, S.C., 6-2, 6-4. Ross had ousted top-seeded Louis Cloud of San Antonio 6-2, 6-1 in the third round.
   Meanwhile, two Northern Californians will play for separate doubles titles in Orlando.
   Third-seeded Aryan Chaudhary of Santa Clara and Logan Zapp of Fleming Island, Fla., will meet fourth-seeded Keshav Chopra of Marietta, Ga., and Coy Simon of Charleston, S.C., on a hardcourt in the boys 18s. Chaudhary and Zapp will enroll at Stanford and North Carolina, respectively.
   Also, unseeded Katie Codd of Carlsbad in the San Diego area and Tomi Main of Seaside in the Monterey region will face top-seeded Natalie Block of Plantation, Fla., and Aubrey Nisbet of Wilmington, Del., on clay in the girls 16s.
   Main, seeded 10th in singles, lost to 17th-seeded Lucinda Gatsiounis of Studio City in the Los Angeles area 6-2, 6-1 in the quarterfinals.
   In the boys 16 doubles semifinals on clay, top-seeded Lucas Brown of Plano, Texas, and Aidan Kim of Milford, Mich., beat unseeded Quinn and Gabriele Brancatelli of Westhampton Beach, N.Y., 7-6 (2), 6-2.
   In the girls 14 singles semifinals on hardcourts in Tucson, Ariz., 10th-seeded Ava Bruno of Bronxville, N.Y., beat 17th-seeded Emily Novikov of Campbell in the San Jose area 6-2, 7-6 (5).

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

NorCal players reach National Winter quarters in 16s

   Three Northern Californians, two boys and one girl, reached the 16-and-under singles quarterfinals of the USTA National Winter Championships on clay in Orlando, Fla.
   Advancing today were fifth-seeded Kurt Miller of Los Gatos in the San Jose area, sixth-seeded Ethan Quinn of Fresno and 10th-seeded Tomi Main of Seaside (near Monterey).
   Miller topped 14th-seeded Nathan Nguyen of McLean, Va., 5-7, 6-0, 6-3, and Quinn defeated 11th-seeded Maxwell Sheldon of Arlington Heights, Ill., 7-6 (2), 6-2. Main beat unseeded Abby Nugent of Springboro, Ohio, 7-6 (1), 6-2.
   Quinn, playing with Gabriele Brancatelli of Westhampton Beach, N.Y.,  and Main, teaming with Katie Codd of Carlsbad in the San Diego region, also advanced to the doubles semifinals on hardcourts. Both teams are unseeded.
   In boys 18 doubles on hardcourts in Orlando, third-seeded Aryan Chaudhary of Santa Clara in the Bay Area and Logan Zapp of Fleming Island, Fla., moved into the semifinals. Chaudhary and Zapp will play at Stanford and North Carolina, respectively.
   In girls 14 singles on hardcourts in Tucson, Ariz., 17th-seeded Emily Novikov of Campbell in the San Jose area dispatched eighth-seeded Nina Wiese of Flushing, N.Y., 6-3, 6-2 in the quarterfinals.
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