Thursday, August 20, 2020

Volynets, 18, shocks Olympic gold medalist Puig

Katie Volynets, from Walnut Creek in the San
Francisco Bay Area, beat 19th-seeded Monica
Puig 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-3 in the first round of quali-
fying for the Western & Southern Open in Flush-
 ing Meadows, N.Y. 2019 photo by Paul Bauman 

Katie Volynets scored her first victory over a top-100 player today.

The 18-year-old wild card from Walnut Creek in the San Francisco Bay Area stunned Puerto Rico's Monica Puig, seeded 19th at No. 91 in the world, 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-3 in the first round of qualifying for the Western & Southern Open in Flushing Meadows, N.Y. 

The tournament moved from the Cincinnati area this year to form a bubble with the U.S. Open, Aug. 31 to Sept. 13, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

Volynets, who won the USTA 18 National Championships last August and turned pro in December, pounded three aces and committed 11 double faults in the 2-hour, 24-minute battle. Puig had zero and six, respectively.

Puig, a singles gold medalist in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, was competing in her first tournament since reaching the quarterfinals in Luxembourg last October, although she played World TeamTennis for the Las Vegas Rollers last month. Puig underwent elbow surgery in December.

Volynets also defeated Shelby Rogers, a 2016 French Open quarterfinalist, in Acapulco in February for her first win on the WTA Tour. Rogers had knee surgery in May 2018 and missed the rest of the season.

Volynets, who will rise at least 23 places in the world rankings to a career-high No. 328 on Monday, is scheduled to meet 12th-seeded Kirsten Flipkens, 34, of Belgium for the first time on Friday at 8 a.m. PDT in the final round of qualifying.

The 79th-ranked Flipkens, a Wimbledon semifinalist in 2013, outlasted Katarina Zavatska of Ukraine 5-7, 7-5, 7-6 (2) in 3 hours, 13 minutes.

Also advancing 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 CiCi Bellis, a 21-year-old San Francisco native who grew up in nearby Atherton.

The 97th-ranked Ahn, who reached the fourth round of the U.S. Open last year, defeated Anna-Lena Friedsam of Germany 7-5, 6-0. 

Ahn, playing two miles (3.2 kilometers) from the hospital where she was born, is set to face Leyla Fernandez, a 17-year-old Canadian left-hander, for the first time on Friday at about 10 a.m.

Fernandez, the Acapulco runner-up to Heather Watson of Great Britain as a qualifier, ousted second-seeded Anna Blinkova of Russia 6-1, 6-4.

Bellis outplayed 13th-seeded Madison Brengle, 30, of Bradenton, Fla., 6-3, 7-6 (4). Brengle won Northern California Challengers in Stockton (2018) and Berkeley (2019). She has beaten Serena Williams once and two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova three times, including at the All England Lawn Tennis Club.

Both Bellis, ranked No. 249, and Brengle, ranked No. 82, own career highs of No. 35. 

Bellis is playing in her sixth tournament since undergoing three operations on her right wrist and one on her right elbow. She is scheduled to play Ysaline Bonaventure, a 25-year-old left-hander from Belgium at about 10 a.m.

 Bonaventure, ranked No. 121, eliminated eighth-seeded Nao Hibino, a Japanese player who won the 2015 Stockton title, 6-7 (3), 6-3, 6-3. 

Bellis and Bonaventure have met once. At age 15 in 2014, Bellis coasted to a 6-2, 6-1 victory in the final of a $25,000 tournament in Florence, S.C.

In the first ATP tournament since the tours shut down in March, wild card Mackenzie McDonald, a 25-year-old product of Piedmont in the Bay Area, topped 24th-seeded Yuichi Sugita of Japan 7-6 (3), 6-3 at Flushing Meadows.

McDonald won his first Challenger title in Fairfield (Calif.) in 2017, advanced to the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2018 and climbed to a career-high No. 57 in April last year. He had hamstring tendon surgery in June 2019 and missed the rest of the year.

McDonald, who will improve at least 14 spots to No. 257, will meet Dominik Koepfer, a 26-year-old German left-hander. Koepfer, ranked No. 92, beat fifth-seeded Juan Ignacio Londero of Argentina 6-4, 7-6 (0).

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

Koepfer defeated McDonald 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 in the quarterfinals of the $108,320 Dallas Challenger in February in their only previous meeting.

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