Saturday, August 22, 2020

Sakkari stops Gauff, 16, in Western & Southern Open

Maria Sakkari, playing in San Jose, Calif., last year, dismissed
Coco Gauff 6-1, 6-3 in the first round of the Western & South-
ern Open in Flushing Meadows, N.Y. Photo by Paul Bauman 
Maria Sakkari did Coco Gauff a big favor by withdrawing from the WTA tournament in Linz, Austria, last October. 

That allowed Gauff to advance to the main draw as a lucky loser, and she went on to win her first WTA title at age 15. 

Gauff was not as fortunate today. Now 16, she lost to the 25-year-old Greek 6-1, 6-3 in 65 minutes in the first round of the Western & Southern Open in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.

The tournament, normally held in the Cincinnati area, is being played at the site of the U.S. Open with no fans in attendance because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sakkari, seeded 13th at No. 21, won 84 percent of the points on her first serve (21 of 25) and saved the only break point against her.

It was Sakkari's second match since the WTA tour resumed after a hiatus of almost five months. She fell to 69th-ranked Kristyna Pliskova, the twin sister of No. 3 Karolina Pliskova, 6-4, 6-4 on clay in the first round in Palermo two weeks ago.

"I think I really played a good match," Sakkari, the runner-up in the inaugural Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose, Calif., in 2018, said on-court after the match. "I played a match in Palermo, but for me, it doesn't count. It wasn't even a match (there), the way I played. Coming back the way I did, it's really important, and (I take) a lot of confidence from this." 

Sakkari is scheduled to play either No. 33 Yulia Putintseva or No. 36 Zhang Shuai on Monday. 

Former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka, who won the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford 10 years ago, dispatched 15th-seeded Donna Vekic, a semifinalist in San Jose last year, 6-2, 6-3. 

Azarenka, the Australian Open champion in 2012 and 2013, will face either wild card Sloane Stephens, a Fresno, Calif., product who won the 2017 U.S. Open, or Carolina Garcia of France. 

Amanda Anisimova, 18, ousted 11th-seeded Alison Riske 6-3, 6-3 in an all-American encounter. 

Anisimova, who won her first professional title in the 2017 Sacramento, Calif., Challenger at 15 and reached the French Open semifinals last year, will face another American in the second round on Monday. She will take on either Jennifer Brady, coming off her first WTA title last week in Lexington, Ky., or qualifier Jessica Pegula, the runner-up in the 2012 Sacramento Challenger at 18.

No. 16 seed Dayana Yastremska, ranked 25th at age 20, eliminated 40-year-old Venus Williams, who has won seven Grand Slam and two Bank of the West singles titles, 7-5, 2-6, 7-5.

On the first day of ATP Tour matches since March, winners included wild card Andy Murray and Milos Raonic, who combined to go 23-0 and win five singles titles in the now-defunct SAP Open in San Jose.

Murray, 33, defeated American wild card Frances Tiafoe, who won the 2016 Stockton (Calif.) Challenger, 7-6 (6), 3-6, 6-1. 

Murray, who captured the first of his three Grand Slam singles title in the 2012 U.S. Open, is playing in his first tournament of the year as he continues his comeback from hip operations in 2018 and 2019. He is set to play fifth-seeded Alexander Zverev of Germany on Monday.

The 6-foot-5 (1.96-meter) Raonic, who has struggled with injuries since reaching the 2016 Wimbledon final, hammered 19 aces in a 6-4, 6-4 victory over 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) Sam Querrey, a 32-year-old San Francisco native.

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