Thursday, August 27, 2020

Osaka to play; Bryans retire; U.S. Open draws held

Naomi Osaka, shown at 16 in 2014, said postponing the
semifinals of the Western & Southern Open one day brings
more attention to police violence. Photo by Paul Bauman

Naomi Osaka said today that she will play Friday in the semifinals of the Western & Southern Open in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.

The semifinals had been scheduled for today, but Osaka, a two-time Grand Slam singles champion, said she would not play to protest the shooting of Jacob Blake, an African-American, by police in Kenosha, Wis., on Sunday. Tournament officials then postponed all of today's matches until Friday.

Osaka, 22, was born in Japan to a Haitian father and Japanese mother and grew up in Florida. Although based in Los Angeles, she plays for Japan.

"As you know, I pulled out of the tournament yesterday (to protest) racial injustice and continued police violence," Osaka, who's Black with a Haitian father and Japanese mother, said in a statement. "I was (and am) ready and prepared to concede the match to my opponent.

"However, after my announcement and lengthy consultation with the WTA and USTA, I have agreed at their request to play on Friday. They offered to postpone all matches until Friday and in my mind that brings more attention to the movement."

Osaka is scheduled to play 14th-seeded Elise Mertens of Belgium at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Friday at 8 a.m. PDT (ESPN2). They have split two career matches. Osaka won the last meeting 6-4, 6-1 in the Osaka semifinals en route to the title last September.

Osaka made her WTA main-draw debut in the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford at 16 in 2014, stunning 2011 U.S. Open champion Samantha Stosur.

Mertens reached the semifinals of the Australian Open and inaugural Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose, Calif., in 2018. The tournament replaced the Bank of the West Classic.

Here's Friday's schedule (times EDT). 

Bryans retire – Former Stanford stars Bob and Mike Bryan, who won a record 16 Grand Slam men's doubles titles, announced their retirement after a 22-year career.

"We just both feel it in our guts that it is the right moment," Mike Bryan, the older of the 42-year-old twins by 2 minutes, told The New York Times. "At this age, it takes so much work to go out there and compete. We love playing still, but we don't love getting our bodies ready to get out there. The recovery is tougher. We feel like we were competitive this year, last year, the year before. We want to go out right now where we still have some good tennis left."

The Bryans won six Australian Open, five U.S. Open, three Wimbledon and two French Open titles. They captured an Open Era-record 119 tour titles together (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.

The Bryans spent 438 weeks at No. 1 and ended 10 seasons as the top-ranked team (2003, 2005-07, 2009-14). They played at Stanford in 1997 and 1998, helping the Cardinal win the NCAA team championship each year. Bob Bryan achieved a rare Triple Crown in 1998, sweeping the NCAA singles, doubles (with Mike) and team titles.

Stanford students are not allowed to choose roommates. The Bryans were given rooms on opposite sides of campus, but Bob brought a mattress to Mike's dorm and slept on the floor.

The Bryans' father, Wayne Bryan, coached the now-defunct Sacramento Capitals of World TeamTennis for 12 years (2002-13). He led Sacramento to two WTT titles (2002 and 2007) and was named the league's Coach of the Year three times (2004-06).

U.S. Open draws – Third-seeded Serena Williams, a part-time Silicon Valley resident, will open her quest for a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title against Kristie Ahn, a 28-year-old Stanford graduate.

The U.S. Open is scheduled for Monday through Sept. 13 at the National Tennis Center. No fans will be allowed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Williams, a six-time U.S. Open champion who will turn 39 next month, and Ahn, who reached the fourth round at Flushing Meadows last year, will meet for the first time. They are ranked No. 9 and No. 97, respectively.

Ahn was born two miles (3.2 kilometers) from the National Tennis Center and lives a 30-minute drive away in Englewood Cliffs, N.J.

Sloane Stephens, a 27-year-old Fresno, Calif., product who won the 2017 U.S. Open, is set to meet Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania for the first time.

Buzarnescu, a 32-year-old left-hander, claimed her only career WTA singles title in the first Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic

Wild card CiCi Bellis, a 21-year-old San Francisco native who grew up down the peninsula in Atherton, will play Tamara Korpatsch of Germany in another first-time matchup. 

Bellis, rebounding from three operations on her right wrist and one on her right elbow, first made headlines by shocking 12th-seeded Dominika Cibulkova in the first round of the 2014 U.S. Open at 15.

The men's draw features three players with strong Northern California ties. 

Sam Querrey, another San Francisco native, will meet Andrey Kuznetsov of Russia. The winner could face 11th-seeded Karen Khachanov of Russia.

Left-hander Bradley Klahn, a 30-year-old Stanford grad, will play Sumit Nagal of India, with the survivor potentially facing second-seeded Dominic Thiem.

Mackenzie McDonald, who was born and raised in Piedmont in the East Bay, drew 30th-seeded Casper Ruud, a 21-year-old Norwegian and son of former top-40 player Christian Ruud. McDonald, 25, underwent hamstring tendon surgery in June 2019 and missed the rest of the year.

All three men's matches are first-time meetings. 

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