Friday, August 21, 2020

Bay Area products advance to W&S main draw

Mackenzie McDonald edged Dominik Koepfer in three
tough sets in the first ATP tournament since the men's
and women's tours shut down in March because of the
coronavirus pandemic. File photo by Paul Bauman 

Mackenzie McDonald and CiCi Bellis, wild cards from the San Francisco Bay Area who are rebounding from surgery, won their final-round qualifying matches today in the Western & Southern Open in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.

The 25-year-old McDonald, who was born and raised in the East Bay enclave of Piedmont, edged Dominik Koepfer of Germany 6-7 (0), 7-5, 7-6 (5) in 2 hours, 35 minute in the first ATP tournament since the men's and women's tours shut down in March because of the coronavirus pandemic. Both players have reached the fourth round of singles in a Grand Slam tournament.

Bellis, a 21-year-old San Francisco native who grew up down the peninsula in Atherton, defeated Ysaline Bonaventure of Belgium 4-6, 6-4, 6-1.

Losing today were 24th-seeded Kristie Ahn, a 28-year-old Stanford graduate from Englewood Cliffs, N.J., in the New York area, and wild card Katie Volynets, 18, of Walnut Creek in the Bay Area. 

The Western & Southern Open moved from the Cincinnati area for this year to form a three-week bubble with the U.S. Open, Aug. 31 to Sept. 13, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

CiCi Bellis defeated Ysaline Bonaventure in three sets in
the Western & Southern Open, which moved from the Cin-
cinnati area to the site of the U.S. Open because of the
pandemic. File photo by Paul Bauman

Both McDonald and Bellis are now based at the USTA National Campus in Orlando, Fla. Also, both will rise at least 28 places in the world rankings, Bellis to No. 221 and McDonald to No. 243. 

McDonald evened his record against Koepfer, a 26-year-old left-hander ranked No. 92, at 1-1. Koepfer, a former All-American at Tulane in New Orleans, won 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 in the quarterfinals of the $108,320 Dallas Challenger in February.

McDonald made his ATP Tour debut at 18 in the 2013 Western & Southern Open, shocking No. 79 Nicolas Mahut and No. 128 Steve Johnson in qualifying before losing in the first round of the  main draw.

McDonald won his first Challenger title in Fairfield (Calif.), 40 miles (64.4 kilometers) north of Piedmont, in 2017. He advanced to the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2018 and climbed to a career-high No. 57 in April last year. 

Koepfer reached Northern California Challenger finals in 2018 and 2019. As a qualifier, he advanced to the fourth round of the U.S. Open last summer.

McDonald will face Marcos Giron, a qualifier ranked No. 102, for the second time. McDonald won 6-7 (4), 6-1, 6-2 in the second round of a $25,000 Futures tournament in Los Angeles in 2017.

McDonald and Giron, 27, are virtual clones of each other. Both:

–Are California natives. Giron is from the Los Angeles suburb of Thousand Oaks.

–Are small. McDonald is 5-foot-10 (1.78 meters) and 160 pounds (73 kilograms); Giron is 5-11 (1.78) and 170 (77). 

–Won NCAA singles titles while playing for UCLA, Giron in 2014 and McDonald two years later. They were Bruins teammates in 2014.

–Have undergone surgery, McDonald in June last year (hamstring tendon) and Giron in 2015 (right hip) and 2016 (left hip).

Bellis was named the WTA Newcomer of the Year in 2017 after ascending to a career-high No. 35. But she sat out for almost two years, from March 2018 to November 2019, while undergoing three operations on her right wrist and one on her right elbow.

Bellis will face qualifier Oceane Dodin, a 23-year-old Frenchwoman ranked No. 118, for the first time. Dodin has had health issues of her own. After climbing as high as No. 46 in June 2017, she sat out from July 2018 to April 2019 because of vertigo.

The 97th-ranked Ahn, playing two miles (3.2 kilometers) from the hospital where she was born, fell to Leylah Fernandez, a 17-year-old Canadian ranked No. 111, 6-4, 6-1.

Fernandez, a 5-foot-4 (1.62-meter) left-hander, reached the Acapulco final in February, losing to Heather Watson of Great Britain.

Volynets, who won the USTA 18 National Championships last August and turned pro in December, succumbed to Belgium's Kirsten Flipkens, seeded 12th at No. 79, 6-1, 2-0, retired (apparent muscle strain). Flipkens advanced to the Wimbledon semifinals in 2013, vaulting her to a career-high No. 13. 

Volynets scored her first top-100 win on Thursday, shocking No. 91 Monica Puig, a 2016 Olympic gold medalist in singles rebounding from elbow surgery in December. 

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