Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Volynets, 18, beats ailing Bouchard, qualifies for Macon

Katie Volynets will try to avenge a narrow loss
to Caroline Dolehide in Berkeley, Calif., last
year. 2019 photo by Paul Bauman
   Katie Volynets, 18, of Walnut Creek in the San Francisco Bay Area led 6-4, 3-0 when top-seeded Eugenie Bouchard, formerly ranked No. 5, retired with an abdominal strain today in the final round of qualifying for the $80,000 Mercer Tennis Classic on hardcourts in Macon, Ga.
   Bouchard, the Wimbledon runner-up to Petra Kvitova in 2014, has improved from No. 224 at the end of 2019 to No. 140. The 26-year-old Canadian reached the final on clay in Istanbul last month as a qualifier and the third round of the French Open, losing to eventual champion Iga Swiatek.
   Volynets, ranked No. 325, will play powerful Caroline Dolehide, a 22-year-old American ranked No. 148, for the second time at 7 a.m. PDT. Dolehide edged Volynets 5-7, 6-2, 7-6 (3) in the opening round of last year's $60,000 Berkeley, Calif., Challenger.  
   After the Dolehide-Volynets match, wild card CiCi Bellis, a 21-year-old product of Atherton in the Bay Area, will meet Lara Arruabarrena of Spain for the first time. Both contests will be streamed live.
   Twelfth-seeded Gabriela Talaba, a 25-year-old left-hander from Romania, advanced to the main draw by demolishing seventh-seeded Ankita Raina of India 6-0, 6-0. Talaba, who won last year's $25,000 Redding, Calif., Challenger, has not lost a game in her last three sets.  She is scheduled to face seventh-seeded Greet Minnen of Belgium.
   Also Wednesday, fourth-seeded Kristie Ahn, a 28-year-old Stanford graduate based in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., will play qualifier Tessah Andrianjafitrimo of France for the first time. In Ahn's last two matches, she has lost to Serena Williams in Grand Slam tournaments.
   Andrianjafitrimo, 22, advanced with a 7-5, 6-7 (5) [10-8] victory over third-seeded Clara Tauson, 17, of Denmark. Tauson stunned 21st-seeded Jennifer Brady, a U.S. Open semifinalist last month, to reach the second round of the French Open as a qualifier before losing to eventual quarterfinalist Danielle Collins.

Murray withdraws from Cologne due to pelvic problem

Andy Murray was named the ATP Comeback Player
of the Year in 2019. File photo by Paul Bauman
   Andy Murray withdrew from this week's ATP Tour event in Cologne, Germany, because of a lingering pelvic problem and could miss the rest of the year, Reuters reported Monday.
   The former world No. 1 returned from a second hip surgery in January 2019 and won Antwerp seven months later. It was his 46th singles title and first since 2017, and he was named the ATP Comeback Player of the Year.
   The first two crowns of Murray's career came in the SAP Open in San Jose, Calif., in 2006 at age 18 and in 2007. The tournament folded after the 125th edition in 2013. 
   Murray, 33, had more hip trouble late last year and returned to the circuit after the long COVID-19 pandemic break. He lost in the second round of the U.S. Open, first round of the French Open and opening round last week, also in Cologne.
   The three-time Grand Slam singles champion said he has tendinitis in his left psoas, the muscle connecting the lower back to the top of the leg. He did not say how long he would be out. 
   Ranked No. 1 in 2016, Murray plunged as low as No. 839 in July 2018. He has climbed to No. 116.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Querrey faces discipline after reportedly fleeing Russia

   The Sam Querrey saga suddenly reads like a spy novel.
   The 33-year-old San Francisco native reportedly fled Russia with his wife and 8-month-old son after all three tested positive for the coronavirus.
   The ATP Tour called the incident "a serious breach of protocol," adding that "breaches of protocol can jeopardize an event's ability to operate and have repercussions on the rest of the tour. In accordance with the ATP's Code of Conduct, we are taking this matter extremely seriously, and an investigation is underway."
   Querrey, ranked 49th, was forced to withdraw from this week's St. Petersburg Open after testing positive. He and his family were instructed to quarantine for 14 days at the luxurious St. Petersburg Four Seasons hotel. So far, no problem. 
   But then, according to freelance tennis writer Ben Rothenberg, a Russian health official said a doctor would examine the family and if they showed symptoms, they could be forced to be hospitalized.
   Querrey, who now lives in Las Vegas, said nyet to that and hired a private jet to whisk him and his family to a nearby European country, where they are staying at an AirBNB.
   Rothenberg, who has written for The New York Times, tweeted that Querrey "is still entered in further events in what remains of the 2020 ATP calendar, including the Paris-Bercy Masters, and plans to stay in Europe for that. Entirely likely, though, that he will face some sort of disciplinary action that will take him out of that event (and more?)."
   Querrey, who reached a career-high No. 11 in February 2018, is 0-4 since the professional tours resumed in August after the pandemic halted play for almost five months. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Querrey reportedly tests positive; Giraldo retires at 32

Officially, Sam Querrey withdrew from the St. Petersburg
Open because of "illness." Photo courtesy of mvtpr.com
   An unidentified player, reportedly Sam Querrey, was removed from the St. Petersburg Open draw after testing positive for the coronavirus.
   Although the ATP Tour did not confirm that the 33-year-old San Francisco native was the player in question, he withdrew from the tournament because of "illness," according to the draw.
   The ATP Tour said the player is in isolation and asymptomatic.
   The 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) Querrey, now based in Las Vegas, is 0-4 since the ATP Tour resumed in August following a five-month hiatus caused by the pandemic.
   Giraldo retires — Santiago Giraldo, a thoughtful Colombian who peaked at No. 28 in the world rankings in 2014, announced his retirement from professional tennis last week at 32.
   "I started at 15, and now at almost 33, I've decided to say thank you and put a full stop at the end of this journey," Giraldo, who won two Challenger singles titles in Northern California, said on atptour.com. "I did the best I could, and I gave everything I have.
   "I remember that curious, unique, explorative and rebellious boy who left home at just 12 years of age, carrying only his rackets and his dreams, until he arrived here today. I don't regret anything I did."
   Giraldo, 6-foot-2 (1.88 meters) and only 166 pounds (75 kilograms), played in two ATP Tour singles finals, losing to Tommy Robredo at Vina del Mar, Chile, in 2011, and Kei Nishikori at Barcelona in 2014. Giraldo's biggest wins came against then-No. 8 Andy Murray at Madrid in 2014 and then-No. 10 Marin Cilic at Geneva in 2015. All four tournaments were on clay.
   Giraldo won 10 Challenger singles titles, the last one coming in Fairfield, Calif., in 2016. Before his first-round match in Fairfield, Giraldo placed a tennis ball with a smiley face drawn on it on the chair next to his to remind himself "how lucky I am ... in everything in my life," he said then. Giraldo also hoisted the trophy in Sacramento, Calif., in 2009.
   After taking some time to relax, Giraldo plans to coach and hopes to become Colombia's Davis Cup captain eventually. 

Monday, October 12, 2020

Nadal, Swiatek head French Open honor roll

   Results of French Open finals (seedings in parentheses):
   Men's singles — Rafael Nadal (2), Spain, def. Novak Djokovic (1), Serbia, 6-0 6-2, 7-5.
   Women's singles — Iga Swiatek, Poland, def. Sofia Kenin (4), United States, 6-4, 6-1.
   Men's doubles — Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies (8), Germany, def. Mate Pavic, Croatia, and Bruno Soares (7), Brazil, 6-3, 7-5.
   Women's doubles — Timea Babos, Hungary, and Kristina Mladenovic (2), France, def. Alexa Guarachi, Chile, and Desirae Krawczyk (14), United States, 6-4, 7-5.
   Boys singles —Dominic Stephan Stricker (7), Switzerland, def. Leandro Riedi (8), Switzerland, 6-2, 6-4.
   Girls singles — Elsa Jacquemot (3), France, def. Alina Charaeva, Russia, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2.
   Boys doubles — Flavio Cobolli, Italy, and Dominic Stephan Stricker (3), def. Bruno Oliveira and Natan Rodrigues (8), Brazil, 6-2, 6-4.
   Girls doubles — Eleonora Alvisi and Lisa Pigato, Italy, def. Maria Bondarenko and Diana Shnaider (5), Russia, 7-6 (3), 6-4. 

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Nadal dominates Djokovic for 13th French Open crown

Rafael Nadal equaled Roger Federer's men's record of 20 Grand Slam singles titles.
2017 photo by Mal Taam
   It was hardly surprising that Rafael Nadal tied Roger Federer's men's record of 20 Grand Slam singles titles today.
   The way he did it was another matter, especially in the first two sets.
   Nadal, ranked second, dismantled Novak Djokovic, ranked first, 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 in 2 hours, 41 minutes to win his fourth consecutive French Open title and mind-boggling13th overall. 
   Djokovic, who ranks third with 17 Grand Slam singles crowns, double-faulted to give Nadal a 6-5 lead in the third set. Nadal then held serve at love, finishing with an ace.
   "In terms of these records, of course I care," Nadal told reporters. "I am a big fan of the history of sport in general. I respect that a lot. For me, it means a lot to share this number with Roger, no? But let's see what's going on when we finish our careers. We keep playing."
Rafael Nadal improved to 100-2 in the French Open. 2017 photo
by Mal Taam
   It was Nadal's most lopsided Grand Slam victory in the storied rivalry, eclipsing his 7-5, 6-4, 6-2 triumph in the semifinals of the 2007 French Open. It was also the biggest rout in a Roland Garros final since Nadal overwhelmed Stan Wawrinka 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 only three years ago.
   Today's outcome, however, was not entirely shocking. Nadal crushed Federer 6-1, 6-3, 6-0 in the 2008 French Open final and blanked Djokovic in the first set for the second straight match on clay. Nadal downed Djokovic 6-0, 4-6, 6-1 in last year's Italian Open final. 
   Nadal became the first player in the Open Era, which began in 1968, to win one of the Grand Slam tournaments four times without losing a set. He also did so at Roland Garros in 2008, 2010 and 2017.
   Djokovic breezed in his first four matches of the tournament before defeating 17th-seeded Pablo Carreno Busta in four sets in a 3-hour, 10-minute quarterfinal and fifth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas in five sets in a 3-hour, 54-minute semifinal. In the latter encounter, Djokovic held a match point serving at 6-3, 6-2, 5-4.
   Djokovic, 33, leads the 34-year-old Nadal 29-27 in the head-to-head series. Nadal, though, improved to 7-1 in the French Open and 3-0 in Roland Garros finals against Djokovic.
   Overall, Nadal is 100-2 in the French Open, falling to Djokovic in the 2015 quarterfinals and Robin Soderling in the fourth round in 2009.
   Nadal salvaged his year with a vintage performance. He lost to Dominic Thiem in the Australian Open quarterfinals, skipped the U.S. Open because of coronavirus concerns and, in his only French Open tuneup tournament, lost to Diego Schwartzman for the first time in 10 meetings in the quarters.
   "I played at an amazing level of tennis, no?" Nadal said of today's final. "For two sets and a half, I played great. I can't say another thing. Is impossible to have this score against him without playing great."
Novak Djokovic fell to 37-2 this year, including his
default from the U.S. Open, and 1-4 in French Open
finals. File photo by Paul Bauman
   Djokovic fell to 37-2 this year, including his default from the U.S. Open, and 1-4 in French Open finals. He committed 52 unforced errors to only 14 for Nadal. Djokovic often resorted to drop shots, to no avail against the fleet Spaniard.
   "I was probably rushing a bit much, trying to play shorter points," lamented Djokovic, who seemed fine physically. "I probably wasn't constructing the points well. That reflected on the result. But that was also caused by him, by his amazing defense. He was getting a lot of balls back."
   Djokovic was bidding to become the first man in the Open Era to win every Grand Slam title at least twice. Federer has won one French Open crown, and Nadal has captured one Australian Open title.
   Federer, 39, missed the U.S. Open and French Open after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee twice this year. He plans to return in 2021.
   Women's doubles final — Second-seeded Timea Babos of Hungary and Kristina Mladenovic of France won the title for the second consecutive year, beating 14th-seeded Alexa Guarachi, a native of Fort Walton Beach, Fla., who plays for Chile, and Desirae Krawczyk, who was born in Palm Desert, Calif., 6-4, 7-5.
   Krawczyk won the doubles title in the 2017 Sacramento (Calif.) Challenger with Giuliana Olmos, who was born in Austria, grew up in Fremont in the San Francisco Bay Area and plays for Mexico. 

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Sensational Swiatek, 19, drubs ailing Kenin to win crown

American Sofia Kenin confers with her Russian father and coach, Alex,
during the 2018 Berkeley (Calif.) Challenger. Photo by Paul Bauman 
   Iga Swiatek has a long way to go to match her idol Rafael Nadal's dominance in the French Open.
   That's probably impossible, but she's off to an impressive start.
   Not only did the unseeded Swiatek (pronounced Shvee-ON-tek) win the title at 19, she did so in the most convincing fashion in memory in women's Grand Slams, capping her stunning march with a 6-4, 6-1 victory over ailing Sofia Kenin today in Paris.
   Swiatek did not lose a set in seven matches, surrendering only 28 games (2.0 per set) and never more than five in a set. She dismissed 15th-seeded Marketa Vondrousova, a Czech left-hander who reached last year's final at Roland Garros before undergoing left-wrist surgery, 6-1, 6-2 in 63 minutes in the opening round and thrashed top-seeded Simona Halep, the 2018 champion, by the same score in 68 minutes in the fourth round.  
   Swiatek became the first Polish player, male or female, to capture a major title, the youngest woman to win the French Open since Croatia's Iva Majoli at 19 in 1997 and the first woman to take the crown without losing a set since Justine Henin earned the last of her four Roland Garros titles in 2007.
   Henin twice won the French Open without dropping a set, losing 38 games in 2007 and 39 games in 2006. 
   Nadal, a 12-time French Open champion playing best-of-five-set matches, will try to win the title without losing a set for the fourth time when he faces top-ranked Novak Djokovic, the 2016 champion, on Sunday.
   Nadal has dropped an average of 2.6 games per set, winning two tiebreakers. Twice, he has lost fewer than 2.0 games per set en route to the title, 1.84 games (also never more than four) in 2017 and 1.95 in 2008.
   Both Nadal and Swiatek won their first Roland Garros crown shortly after turning 19, Nadal in his first appearance in 2005 and Swiatek in her second.
   Swiatek had struggled since the pro tours resumed in August after a five-month, pandemic-induced hiatus. In her three tournaments before the French Open, she lost in the first round of the Western & Southern Open on hardcourts in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., to qualifier Christina McHale, the third round of the U.S. Open to eventual runner-up Victoria Azarenka, and the first round of the Italian Open on clay to qualifier Arantxa Rus. 
   In the French Open, though, Swiatek took advantage of the absences of world No. 1 and defending champion Ashleigh Barty (coronavirus concerns) and three-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka (hamstring injury). Also, three-time Roland Garros winner Serena Williams, 39, withdrew before her second-round match because of an Achilles tendon injury suffered in her semifinal loss to Azarenka in the U.S. Open.
   Because of the pandemic, the French Open was postponed from late May and early June, and only 1,000 fans were allowed daily. That's 1,000 more than were admitted each day at the U.S. Open. Spectators bundled up in parkas, and many players wore long sleeves and tights. 
   Swiatek, who will soar 37 places to a career-high No. 17 on Monday, conceded in an NBC interview that winning the French Open "was a surprise. It's really funny because after preseason and during the COVID break, I was playing so well that I thought I may actually win a Grand Slam right now because the top players aren't here and it's a big opportunity for underdogs. But when I started the U.S. swing, I realized that maybe this is not the best way to approach tournaments and my expectations were too high. So right now I just focused on playing tennis, and actually I made it. It's amazing what a proper mindset can do."
   Sports psychologist Daria Abramowicz, who celebrated her birthday today, has helped Swiatek with that. 
   "I always wanted to work with a psychologist because I had this belief that it's like a big part of the game," Swiatek said this week. "But my parents weren't as open to that as I was."
   Swiatek, whose father was an Olympic rower, graduated from high school in the spring and gave herself a "gap year" to play professional tennis. If she didn't succeed, she would go to college. Swiatek will probably stick with tennis for a while. By winning the French Open, she added $1.88 million to her career prize money of $1.1 million. It beats working at McDonald's. 
   Kenin, a 21-year-old American born in Moscow, seemed to lack her trademark competitiveness from the outset of the final, possibly because of a left-thigh problem. She failed to chase a cross-court backhand and weak drop shot early in the match and rarely used her own sensational drop shot. In the second set, Kenin had her left thigh retaped twice.
   The fourth-seeded Kenin, who will rise two spots to equal her career high of No. 4, said Swiatek "obviously played a really good match. She's really hot right now, playing some really great tennis. I'm not going to use this as an excuse, but my leg obviously was not the best. It's obviously disappointing."
   Swiatek's title was no fluke, according to NBC commentators John McEnroe and Mary Carillo.
   "I'll be amazed if she doesn't win a lot more majors," said McEnroe, an International Tennis Hall of Famer who lost the 1984 French Open final to Ivan Lendl after leading two sets to none. "I'd like to see her play on hardcourts and see what adjustments she makes on grass — unfortunately Wimbledon wasn't played this year — but she's got all the goods."
   Added Carillo, who won the French Open mixed doubles title with McEnroe in 1977: "She's going to be hosting trophies for a while now." 
   Swiatek, who also reached the doubles semifinals with Czech-born American Nicole Melichar, became the third surprising women's champion in the last four Grand Slam tournaments. Bianca Andreescu of Canada won last year's U.S. Open at 19, and Kenin captured the Australian Open early this year at 20. But at least they were seeded — Andreescu 15th and Kenin 14th.
   Swiatek's title was reminiscent of unseeded Jelena Ostapenko's in the 2017 French Open two days after the Latvian turned 20. Ostapenko, however, survived five three-set matches, including in the last four rounds.
   Swiatek wore all white during the French Open as if playing at Wimbledon, where she won the girls singles title 2018. Swiatek met Kenin for the first time professionally but defeated her 6-4, 7-5 in the third round of the French Open girls event in 2016. Kenin then won Northern California Challengers in Sacramento that year at 17, Stockton in 2017 and Berkeley in 2018.
   Swiatek reached the final in Lugano, Switzerland, on clay on the WTA Tour and the round of 16 of the French Open last year and the fourth round of the Australian Open this year.
   Kenin, meanwhile, had never advanced to the quarterfinals of a tour-level clay-court tournament before this year's French Open, although she did stun Williams in the third round at Roland Garros last year
   Like Swiatek, Kenin lost her first match in her only French Open tuneup. Kenin, however, fell 6-0, 6-0 to Azarenka in the Italian Open. In a tribute to Kenin's mental toughness, she rebounded in Paris, surviving four three-set matches and eliminating seventh-seeded Petra Kvitova, a two-time Wimbledon champion, 6-4, 7-5 in the semifinals.
   The 5-foot-9 (1.76-meter) Swiatek showed no sign of nerves in her first Grand Slam final, bolting to a 3-0 lead with her powerful, compact groundstrokes. Kenin rallied for 3-3, but Swiatek won nine of the last 11 games. 
   Swiatek had 25 winners and 17 unforced errors overall versus 10 and 23, respectively, for Kenin.
   Nadal would be proud.
   Men's singles final — Nadal will try to tie Roger Federer's men's record of 20 Grand Slam singles titles on Sunday at 6 a.m. PDT (NBC). Djokovic, meanwhile, can pull within one Slam of Nadal. 
   Djokovic, 33, is 29-26 against Nadal, 34, but the Spaniard owns advantages of 17-7 on clay (8-7 in the last 15 encounters), 6-1 in the French Open and 2-0 in Roland Garros finals (both in four sets).
   Nadal is 99-2 (not counting a walkover loss) in the French Open, falling to Djokovic in the 2015 quarterfinals and Robin Soderling in the fourth round in 2009.
   Nadal seeks his fourth consecutive French Open title. Djokovic has won Roland Garros once in four finals, completing a career Grand Slam there in 2016
   Men's doubles final — Eighth-seeded Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies of Germany won their second consecutive French Open title, beating seventh-seeded Mate Pavic of Croatia and Bruno Soares of Brazil 6-3, 7-5. Pavic and Soares won the U.S. Open last month.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Nadal, Djokovic set up showdown for French Open title

Rafael Nadal, practicing at Indian Wells last year, will play for
his 13th French Open crown. Photo copyright by Harjanto Sumali
   Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal struggled to put away gritty opponents today but survived to set up a dream French Open final.
   The top-ranked Djokovic had the tougher battle, subduing fifth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece 6-3, 6-2, 5-7, 4-6, 6-1 in 3 hours, 54 minutes in Paris.
   Djokovic, who held a match point serving at 5-4 in the third set, improved to 37-1 (including his U.S. Open default) this year. He reached the French Open final for the first time since completing a career Grand Slam at Roland Garros in 2016 and the fifth time overall.
   "Novak showed once again what an incredible athlete he is and his ability on the courts," Tsitsipas, 22, said on atptennis.com. "It was difficult, for sure, playing him. He is one of the most difficult opponents I've faced in my entire life. I have huge respect for that. He gave me a really difficult time on the court.
   "Unfortunately, toward to end of the match, an injury that I had during my match in Rome came back. It was difficult to close the match in a fighting way, in a fighting spirit. But I tried my best despite all of this. I'm happy that I came back from two-sets-to-love down and tried to stay in the match as long as possible."
   Nadal, ranked second, eliminated 12th-seeded Diego Schwartzman of Argentina 6-3, 6-3, 7-6 (0) in 3 hours, 9 minutes after leading 3-1 in the third set.
   Schwartzman was coming off a 5-hour, 8-minute victory over third-seeded Dominic Thiem, who won his first Grand Slam title in the U.S. Open last month.
   The 28-year-old Schwartzman, who's listed at 5-foot-7 (1.70 meters) and 141 pounds (64 kilograms), will crack the top 10 for the first time on Monday, rising six places to No. 8.
   Nadal improved to 10-1 against Schwartzman, who shocked the Spanish star 6-2, 7-5 three weeks ago in the Italian Open quarterfinals. 
   Djokovic, 33, and Nadal, 34, will meet for the 56th time on Sunday at 6 a.m. PDT (NBC). Either Nadal will tie 39-year-old Roger Federer's men's record of 20 Grand Slam singles titles, or Djokovic will pull within one of Nadal.
Novak Djokovic, practicing at Indian Wells last year, is one
of two players to beat Rafael Nadal in the French Open.
Photo copyright by Harjanto Sumali
   Djokovic leads the head-to-head series 29-26, but Nadal owns advantages of 17-7 on clay (8-7 in the last 15 encounters), 6-1 in the French Open and 2-0 in Roland Garros finals (both in four sets). Djokovic and Robin Soderling are the only players to beat Nadal in the French Open.
   Most notably, Nadal has won 12 French Open singles titles, including the last three, to Djokovic's one. 
   "To play against Novak, I need to play my best," said Nadal, who has not lost a set in the tournament. "Without playing my best tennis the situation is very difficult. I know this is a court that I have been playing well on for such a long time, so that helps. At the same time, he has an amazing record here, too, being in the final rounds almost every single time. 
   "He is one of the toughest opponents possible. But I am here to keep trying my best. I like to play in this scenario. I know I have to make a step forward. I think I did one today. But for Sunday, it is not enough. I need to make another one. That's what I'm looking for. I am going to work hard to try to make that happen."
   Djokovic acknowledged that Nadal "has lost twice in his entire career on this court. Obviously, the conditions are different than the ones that we are used to playing in May and June. That could be better for me, obviously the ball not bouncing as high over the shoulder as he likes it usually.
   "Regardless of the conditions, he's still there, he's Rafa, he's in the final, and we're playing on clay. Best-of-five playing him in the final at Roland Garros, I know that feeling."
   Women's final — Fourth-seeded Sofia Kenin, 21, of Pembroke Pines, Fla., and unseeded Iga Swiatek, 19, of Poland will meet for the first time as professionals on Saturday at 6 a.m. PDT (NBC).
   Kenin, who won her first Grand Slam title in the Australian Open early this year, and Swiatek, the 2018 Wimbledon girls singles champion, took contrasting routes to the final. 
   Four of Kenin's six matches have gone to three sets. Swiatek, meanwhile, has not lost more than five games in a match, including a 6-1, 6-2 thrashing of top seed and 2018 champion Simona Halep in the fourth round. 
   Swiatek defeated Kenin, who was born in Moscow and moved to the United States as a young child, 6-4, 7-5 in the third round of the French Open girls event in 2016. Kenin proceeded to win Northern California Challengers in Sacramento that year at 17, Stockton in 2017 and Berkeley in 2018.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Swiatek, Kenin to meet in unlikely French Open final

Sofia Kenin, playing in the 2018 Berkeley (Calif.)
Challenger, reached her second Grand Slam final
of the year. She won the Australian Open as the
14th seed. Photo by Paul Bauman
   When the French Open began, there was little reason to think that Iga Swiatek or Sofia Kenin would reach the final.
   The 19-year-old Swiatek was unseeded at No. 54 in the world, and Kenin had never reached the quarterfinals in a clay-court tournament. Both lost their first match in their only tuneup tournament, the Italian Open, Swiatek to qualifier Arantxa Rus and Kenin 6-0, 6-0 to Victoria Azarenka. 
   But Swiatek (pronounced Shvee-ON-tek) and the fourth-seeded Kenin, 21, will meet for the first time as professionals on Saturday at 6 a.m. PDT (NBC). 
   Poland's Swiatek continued to roll through the draw, routing Nadia Podoroska of Argentina 6-2, 6-1 in 70 minutes. Podoroska, 23, was bidding to become the first qualifier to reach a major final.
   "I'm kind of surprised," Swiatek admitted on wtatennis.com. "I never thought before the tournament I would play so well. But I always knew that if I was going to make a final of a Grand Slam, it would be the French Open."
   Swiatek has not lost more than five games in a set in the tournament, surrendering an average of only 3.8 games in her six matches. That includes a 6-1, 6-2 thrashing of top-seeded Simona Halep, the 2018 champion, in the fourth round.
   Kenin, a Moscow-born American, topped seventh-seeded Petra Kvitova, a two-time Wimbledon champion and a French Open semifinalist eight years ago, 6-4, 7-5 to reach her second Grand Slam final of the year.
   Kenin, who won the Australian Open as the 14th seed, narrowly avoided her fifth three-set match of the tournament. She prevailed with her steady groundstrokes, devastating drop shot and mental toughness, converting four of five break points and saving 10 of 12 against her. 
   "I'm just really fierce," Kenin, who had been 0-2 against Kvitova, explained on Tennis Channel. "I'm just fighting for every point. They're not going to give it to me; I really have to go after it and fight for it. I feel like in the past I've always expected them to make a mistake. Now I've got a mindset that I've got to take it, take the chance, take a risk."
   Kvitova, a 30-year-old left-hander, was seeking her second Grand Slam final since suffering career-threatening cuts to her left hand in a December 2016 knife attack at her home in the Czech Republic and sitting out for more than four months. She lost to Naomi Osaka in the 2019 Australian Open title match.
   Swiatek, who will jump to a career high of at least No. 24 after the French Open, hasn't exactly come out of nowhere. After winning the 2018 Wimbledon girls singles title, she reached the fourth round of last year's French Open and this year's Australian Open and the third round of the recent U.S. Open.
   Swiatek defeated Kenin 6-4, 7-5 in the third round of the French Open girls event in 2016. Kenin proceeded to win Northern California Challengers in Sacramento that year at 17, Stockton in 2017 and Berkeley in 2018
   In the men's doubles semifinals, seventh-seeded Mate Pavic of Croatia and Bruno Soares of Brazil beat top-seeded Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah of Colombia 7-6 (4), 7-5.
   Farah won the 2008 NCAA doubles title with USC teammate Kaes Van't Hof and reached the singles final of the 2012 Aptos (Calif.) Challenger, losing to ex-Trojans teammate Steve Johnson.
   Pavic and Soares, seeking their second consecutive Grand Slam title, will meet eighth-seeded Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies of Germany on Saturday. Krawietz and Mies, the defending champions, outplayed ninth-seeded Wesley Koolhof of the Netherlands and Nikola Mektic of Croatia 6-3, 7-5. 
   Pavic and Soares defeated Koolhof and Mektic in the U.S. Open final last month.
   In today's boys doubles quarterfinals, eighth-seeded Bruno Oliveira and Natan Rodrigues of Brazil beat unseeded Arthur Fery, a Stanford freshman, and Felix Gill of Great Britain 6-4, 3-6 [10-3].

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Kenin, Tsitsipas avenge losses to reach semis in Paris

Sofia Kenin, playing in the 2018 Berkeley (Calif.) Challenger, beat
fellow American Danielle Collins 6-4, 4-6, 6-0 today in the French
Open. Kenin had been 0-3 against Collins. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Sofia Kenin and Stefanos Tsitsipas gained revenge today to reach the French Open semifinals.
   The fourth-seeded Kenin beat unseeded Danielle Collins 6-4, 4-6, 6-0 in an all-American matchup in Paris. Collins, an Australian Open semifinalist last year, suffered from an apparent stomach ailment in the third set.
   Kenin, who won her first Grand Slam title in this year's Australian Open, had never won a set against Collins in three career meetings. 
   The fifth-seeded Tsitsipas, from Greece, outclassed 13th-seeded Andrey Rublev of Russia 7-5, 6-2, 6-3 in a clash of 22-year-old rising stars. Rublev defeated Tsitsipas 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 10 days ago in the Hamburg final.
   Both Kenin, 21, and Collins, 26, have excelled in Northern California. Kenin won Challengers in Sacramento in 2016 at 17, Stockton in 2017 and Berkeley in 2018. Collins reached the final of the inaugural (2018) Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose, Calif., on the WTA Tour.
   Rublev also is no stranger to NorCal. He lost to former world No. 2 Tommy Haas in the first round of the 2015 Aptos (Calif.) Challenger at 17.
   Kenin will face seventh-seeded Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic on Thursday after the 6 a.m. (PDT) semifinal between unseeded Iga Swiatek, 19, of Poland and qualifier Nadia Podoroska of Argentina (Tennis Channel).
   Kvitova, a two-time Wimbledon champion and a French Open semifinalist in 2012, dismissed unseeded Laura Siegemund, who won the U.S. Open doubles crown with Vera Zvonareva last month, 6-3, 6-3. 
   Kvitova, a 30-year-old left-hander, is 2-0 (1-0 on clay) against Kenin. Kvitova suffered career-threatening cuts to her left hand in a December 2016 attack at her home in the Czech Republic and missed more than four months.
   Tsitsipas, a semifinalist in last year's Australian Open, will take on top-ranked Novak Djokovic, who won the 2016 French Open to complete a career Grand Slam, on Friday. 
   Djokovic defeated 17th-seeded Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 in a rematch of their infamous fourth-round encounter in the U.S. Open last month. Djokovic was defaulted after losing his serve to trail 5-6 in the first set and accidentally hitting a line judge in the throat with a ball in anger. It's the 33-year-old Serb's only loss in 37 matches this year.
   Djokovic, who's right-handed with a two-handed backhand, played today with tape on his neck to address a nagging problem and took a medical timeout for a left-arm issue after losing the first set.
   "I definitely didn't feel great coming onto the court today," Djokovic said on atptour.com. "I don't want to take away anything from his good performance. Especially for a set and a half, he was the better player, dictating play. I was very neutral.
   "I didn't have much energy really ... in my legs or movement or game itself. It took me about a set and a half to really get comfortable and start really playing the way I should."
   Countered Carreno Busta: "Every time the (match) gets complicated, he asks for medical assistance. He has been doing this for a long time. I knew what would happen at the U.S. Open, what would happen here and what will continue to happen."
   Djokovic is 3-2 (1-0 on clay) against Tsitsipas with straight-set victories in their last two meetings, both on hardcourts.
   In the women's doubles quarterfinals, 14th-seeded Alexa Guarachi of Chile and Desirae Krawczyk of the United States eliminated seventh-seeded Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara of Japan 6-0, 6-4.
   Each player except Aoyama was born in the U.S. and played in her first Grand Slam quarterfinal. Shibahara, 22, was born in Mountain View in the San Francisco Bay Area and starred at UCLA. 
   Guarachi and Krawczyk — former standouts at Alabama and Arizona State, respectively — were coming off a straight-set victory over top-seeded Hsieh Su-Wei of Chinese Taipei and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic.
   Krawczyk won the doubles title in the 2017 Sacramento (Calif.) Challenger with Giuliana Olmos, a product of Fremont in the Bay Area who plays for Mexico.
   In the third round of boys singles, seventh-seeded Dominic Stephan Stricker of Switzerland beat ninth-seeded Arthur Fery, a Stanford freshman from Great Britain, 6-4, 6-3.
   Fery and compatriot Felix Gill outplayed Dev Javia of India and Li Hanwen of China 7-5, 6-2 in the second round of doubles.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Qualifier makes history; Diego downs Domi in marathon

Elina Svitolina, playing in the 2015 Bank of the West Classic at Stanford,
lost to qualifier Nadia Podoroska 6-2, 6-4 in the French Open quarterfinals.
Photo by Mal Taam 
   Both No. 3 seeds lost to Argentines today in the French Open, but one of the results was much more surprising.
   Nadia Podoroska shocked Elina Svitolina of Ukraine 6-2, 6-4 in Paris to become the first female qualifier ever to reach the semifinals at Roland Garros and the first to do so in any Grand Slam tournament since Alexandra Stevenson at Wimbledon in 1999.
   Entering the fortnight, Podoroska, 23, was 0-1 in the main draw of majors, having qualified for the 2016 U.S. Open. A right wrist injury sidelined her for eight months beginning in July 2017. 
  "I worked a lot with my coach during the quarantine to improve in various aspects of the game, and I understand that thanks to all that work, I was able to get here," Podoroska, who has won 13 consecutive matches and 18 of her last 19 (including two minor-league tournaments), said in an on-court interview. "I trained a lot in my shots — my forehand, backhand, the serve. But what I improve most, I think it was my mentality."   
   In the next match on Court Philippe Chatrier, 12th-seeded Diego Schwartzman topped Dominic Thiem, the runner-up to Rafael Nadal in the last two French Opens, 7-6 (1), 5-7, 6-7 (6), 7-6 (5), 6-2 in 5 hours, 8 minutes to reach his first Grand Slam semifinal.
   Schwartzman, only 5-foot-7 (1.70 meters) and 141 pounds (64 kilograms), twice was two points from losing in the fourth set. He will debut in the top 10 after the French Open, rising from No. 14 to at least No. 8.
   Thiem, 27, battled physical and mental fatigue after outlasting French wild card Hugo Gaston in five sets in the previous round and winning his first Grand Slam title in the recent U.S. Open.
   Schwartzman, 28, will take on the second-seeded Nadal, pursuing his fourth consecutive French Open title and 13th overall, on Friday.
   Nadal, 34, beat unseeded Jannik Sinner, a 19-year-old Italian, 7-6 (4), 6-4, 6-1 in a match that ended Wednesday at 1:25 a.m. Paris time. Sinner, who advanced to the second round of last year's Aptos (Calif.) Challenger one week after winning the Lexington (Ky.) Challenger, served for the first set at 6-5.
   Nadal, who has not lost a set at Roland Garros this year, fell to Schwartzman for the first time in 10 career meetings two weeks ago in the Italian Open.
   Podoroska, who will soar from No. 131 to a career high of at least No. 48, will face unseeded Iga Swiatek, 19, of Poland for the first time on Thursday. 
   Swiatek, coming off a 6-1, 6-2 thrashing of top seed and 2018 champion Simona Halep, outclassed qualifier Martina Trevisan, a 5-foot-3 (1.60-meter) left-hander from Italy, 6-3, 6-1 in 78 minutes. 
   Swiatek, the 2018 Wimbledon girls singles champion, has not lost more than four games in a set or more than five games in a match in the tournament. She joined Jadwiga Jedrzejowska in 1939 as the only Polish women to reach the French Open semifinals and will jump from No. 54 to a career high of at least No. 33.
   In a fourth-round match postponed one day by rain, unseeded Danielle Collins of St. Petersburg, Fla., outlasted 30th-seeded Ons Jabeur, the 2011 French Open girls singles champion, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4. 
   Collins, a semifinalist in the 2019 Australian Open and inaugural (2018) Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose, Calif., will play fourth-seeded Sofia Kenin, the reigning Australian Open champion from Pembroke Pines, Fla. 
   Collins has never dropped a set in three career matches against Kenin, who won Northern California Challengers in 2016 at 17, 2017 and 2018.
   Neither defending champion Ashleigh Barty (coronavirus concerns) nor U.S. Open winner Naomi Osaka (hamstring injury) entered the French Open. Serena Williams, a three-time champion at Roland Garros, withdrew before her second-round match with an Achilles tendon problem.
   In the first round of boys doubles, unseeded Arthur Fery, a Stanford freshman, and Felix Gill of Great Britain beat top-seeded Arthur Cazaux and Harold Mayot of France by walkover.

Monday, October 5, 2020

French Open quarterfinals to feature rematches

Novak Djokovic, practicing at Indian Wells last year, will play
Pablo Carreno Busta in a rematch of their infamous U.S. Open
encounter last month. Photo by Harjanto Sumali
   Rematches will be the theme of Wednesday's quarterfinals in the French Open.
   Most notably, top-ranked Novak Djokovic will face 17th-seeded Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain. Djokovic was defaulted from the U.S. Open last month for accidentally hitting a line judge in the throat with a ball after Carreno Busta had broken serve to lead 6-5 in the fourth round. Djokovic has won their three other meetings, including two on clay.
   Djokovic, who won the 2016 French Open to complete a career Grand Slam, dispatched 15th-seeded Karen Khachanov of Russia 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 today in Paris to improve to 35-1 this year. Carreno Busta outclassed qualifier Daniel Altmaier of Germany 6-2, 7-5, 6-2 to reach the French Open quarterfinals for the second time.
   Also Wednesday, fifth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece will take on 13th-seeded Andrey Rublev of Russia in a matchup of 22-year-old rising stars. Rublev topped Tsitsipas 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 eight days ago to win the Hamburg title on clay and improve to 3-1 in the head-to-head series.
   Tsitsipas beat 18th-seeded Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria 6-3, 7-6 (9), 6-2 today to become the first Greek man to reach the French Open quarterfinals.
   Rublev, who had never won a match at Roland Garros before this year, outdueled Marton Fucsovics of Hungary 6-7 (4), 7-5, 6-4, 7-6 (3) in 3 hours, 54 minutes for his ninth consecutive victory. 
   On the women's side, fourth-seeded Sofia Kenin will play either 30th-seeded Ons Jabeur of Tunisia or unseeded Danielle Collins of St. Petersburg, Fla. That match was postponed by rain. 
   Kenin is 2-0 against Jabeur and 0-1 against Collins this year. Kenin — who won Northern California Challengers in 2016 at 17, 2017 and 2018 — defeated Jabeur 6-4, 6-4 in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open en route to her first Grand Slam title and 7-6 (4), 6-3 in the third round of the U.S. Open. Collins clobbered Kenin 6-3, 6-1 in the second round in Adelaide on a hardcourt.
   Kenin advanced today by frustrating France's Fiona Ferro, the Palermo champion in the first tournament after the WTA Tour resumed in early August, 2-6, 6-2, 6-1 to reach her first quarterfinal on clay. 
   Kenin cried after the match in front of a sparse crowd. Only 1,000 spectators are allowed each day at Roland Garros because of a surge in coronavirus cases in France.
   "I was just super proud of myself," Kenin, whose only tune-up match for the French Open was a 6-0, 6-0 loss to Victoria Azarenka in the Italian Open, said on wtatennis.com. "Yes, there (were) a lot of emotions. I was just super happy that I won. The crowd wasn't the best, which is understandable, but still I wish it (had) been a little bit different. 
   "I'm super happy that I'm in the quarters. I usually don't play (well) on clay. In the juniors, I hated the clay. Last year, I started to like it for the first time."
   Seventh-seeded Petra Kvitova, a two-time Wimbledon champion and a French Open semifinalist in 2012, and unseeded Laura Siegemund, the reigning U.S. Open doubles champion with Vera Zvonareva, will meet after winning in straight sets. Kvitova trounced Siegemund 6-1, 6-1 in the first round of the 2015 U.S. Open in their only previous encounter.
   In a showdown between this year's Grand Slam doubles champions, seventh-seeded Mate Pavic of Croatia and Bruno Soares of Brazil outlasted third-seeded Rajeev Ram of Carmel, Ind., and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain 4-6, 6-4, 7-5. 
   Ram, who was named a volunteer assistant coach at the University of California, Berkeley in June, and Salisbury won the Australian Open, and Pavic and Soares claimed the U.S. Open
   In the second round of boys singles, ninth-seeded Arthur Fery, a Stanford freshman from Great Britain, crushed Mario Mansilla Diez of Spain 6-1, 6-0 in 47 minutes.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Teen Swiatek swamps Halep to head upset parade

Top-seeded Simona Halep lost to Iga Swiatek, 19, of Poland
6-1, 6-2 in 68 minutes today in the fourth round of the French
Open. File photo by Paul Bauman
    Befitting an unusual tournament, two 19-year-olds and two qualifiers reached the French Open women's or men's quarterfinals today.
   Iga Swiatek, 19, of Poland produced the most shocking upset, dismissing top-seeded Simona Halep 6-1, 6-2 in 68 minutes in Paris. The tournament was postponed from May 24-June 7 because of the coronavirus pandemic, and only 1,000 spectators are allowed per day.
   Swiatek, who ended Halep's winning streak at 17 matches, lost to the 2018 champion 6-1, 6-0 in 45 minutes at the same stage of last year's French Open.
   "I wasn't experienced at all last year," Swiatek, the 2018 Wimbledon girls singles champion, told reporters. "It was my first match in a big stadium. Since then, I've played some big matches. Right now, I feel like I can handle the pressure.
   "I remembered that last year she beat me but lost against (17-year-old) Amanda Anisimova in the next round. I thought we could do the same thing this year but just change the names around."
   Swiatek, ranked No. 54, is scheduled to play Martina Trevisan, an Italian qualifier ranked No. 159, on Tuesday. Trevisan, a 5-foot-3 (1.60-meter) left-hander, stunned fifth-seeded Kiki Bertens, a French Open semifinalist four years ago, 6-4, 6-4. 
   Swiatek and Trevisan, 26, have split two career matches. Swiatek won in straight sets on grass in Birmingham, England, last year, and Trevisan triumphed in three sets on clay in a minor-league tournament in Swiatek's hometown of Warsaw in 2017.
   In the other women's quarterfinal in the top half of the draw, third-seeded Elina Svitolina of Ukraine is set to meet qualifier Nadia Podoroska, the top-ranked Argentine at No. 131, for the first time.
   Svitolina, a two-time French Open quarterfinalist seeking her first Grand Slam final, dispatched France's Caroline Garcia, who has plunged from a career-high No. 4 in 2018 to No. 45, 6-1, 6-3 in 63 minutes. Podoroska, 23, topped unseeded Barbora Krejcikova, a Czech formerly ranked No. 1 in doubles, 2-6, 6-2, 6-3.
   Swiatek and Podoroska became the 10th and 11th female qualifiers to reach the quarterfinals at Roland Garros and the first since Yaroslava Shvedova in 2012.
   On the men's side, 19-year-old Jannik Sinner of Italy eliminated sixth-seeded Alexander Zverev, the runner-up to Dominic Thiem in the U.S. Open last month, 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3. Zverev said afterward that he had a fever and difficulty breathing and "shouldn't have played."
   Sinner, who advanced to the second round of last year's Aptos (Calif.) Challenger one week after winning the Lexington (Ky.) Challenger, is set to face second-seeded Rafael Nadal for the first time.
   Nadal, pursuing his fourth consecutive French Open title and 13th overall, overwhelmed Sebastian Korda, a 20-year-old qualifier from Bradenton, Fla., 6-1, 6-1, 6-2 in 1 hour, 55 minutes.   
   The third-seeded Thiem outlasted 20-year-old wild card Hugo Gaston, a 5-foot-8 (1.73-meter) left-hander from France, 6-4, 6-4, 5-7, 3-6, 6-3 in 3 hours, 32 minutes on Court Philippe Chatrier.
   "I think it was an amazing match by both of us," Thiem, seeking his third consecutive French Open final, said in an on-court interview. "I haven't seen for a very long time a player with such a big touch in his hands. His drop shots are just from another planet; I was sprinting like 400 times to the net. All the credit to him. If he continues like this, he's going to be a huge, huge player and make a lot of joy in this stadium in the future."
   Thiem is set to play 12th-seeded Diego Schwartzman, a 5-foot-7 (1.70-meter), 141-pound (64-kilogram) Argentine who outclassed Lorenzo Sonego of Italy 6-1, 6-3, 6-4.
   Thiem is 6-2 against Schwartzman, who beat Nadal for the first time in 10 meetings in the Italian Open quarterfinals two weeks ago. 
   In women's doubles, seventh-seeded Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara of Japan topped 10th-seeded Hayley Carter of Hilton Head Island, S.C., and Luisa Stefani of Brazil 6-4, 7-5 to reach their first Grand Slam quarterfinal together.
   The 5-foot-1 (1.54-meter) Aoyama, a semifinalist in women's doubles with Chanelle Scheepers of South Africa at Wimbledon in 2013, and Shibahara, a 22-year-old native of Mountain View in the San Francisco Bay Area, are scheduled to play 14th-seeded Alexa Guarachi, a U.S. native who plays for Chile, and Desirae Krawczyk, a native of Palm Desert, Calif. 
   Guarachi and Krawczyk — who starred at Alabama and Arizona State, respectively — ousted top-seeded Hsieh Su-Wei of Chinese Taipei and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic, 6-4, 7-5.  
   In the first round of boys singles, ninth-seeded Arthur Fery, a Stanford freshman from Great Britain, beat French wild card Mehdi Sadaoui 6-4, 6-3.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Qualifier Altmaier ousts No. 7 seed to reach last 16

   Daniel Altmaier had never played in a Grand Slam tournament before the French Open, and he wasn't sure he was going to enter qualifying at Roland Garros.
   That was six victories ago. The 22-year-old German shocked Italy's Matteo Berrettini, the seventh seed and a U.S. Open semifinalist last year, 6-2, 7-6 (5), 6-4 today on Court Philippe Chatrier to reach the fourth round in Paris.
   Altmaier, ranked No. 186, became just the fifth qualifier since 2000 to reach the last 16 in a major. Four accomplished the feat in the French Open: David Goffin of Belgium in 2012, Juan Ignacio Londero of Argentina in 2019 and Sebastian Korda and Altmaier this year. The exception is Hyung-Taik Lee of South Korea in the 2000 U.S. Open.
   It's the first time since 1998 that two male qualifiers reached the fourth round of the French Open. Russia's Marat Safin, who was inducted in the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2016, and Germany's Jens Knippschild previously achieved that distinction.
   "It's my first time on this court and playing in Paris," Altmaier said in an on-court interview. "I'm delighted to be in the fourth round. My coach (Francisco Yunis) and I have been working so hard to be here, and while I've struggled with a few injuries, I am super-pleased (to break through) at Roland Garros.
   "Before qualifying, I was struggling with an injury, so I wasn't sure I was going to play. I hope the crowd and the TV audience enjoyed watching, as I want to entertain."
   Altmaier will face 17th-seeded Pablo Carreno Busta, who reached his second U.S. Open semifinal last month, on Monday for a quarterfinal berth. Carreno Busta eliminated fellow Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut, seeded 10th, 6-4, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4.
   Later on Court Philippe Chatrier, top-ranked Novak Djokovic dominated lucky loser Daniel Elahi Galan of Colombia 6-0, 6-3, 6-2 to improve to 34-1 this year.
   Djokovic, who was defaulted in his fourth-round match against Carreno Busta in the U.S. Open, has lost only five games in each of his three matches at Roland Garros this year. He will play 15th-seeded Karen Khachanov of Russia in the fourth round.
   Fifth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece led 6-1, 6-2, 3-1 when Aljaz Bedene of Slovenia retired with a foot injury.
   On the women's side, 30th-seeded Ons Jabeur of Tunisia topped eighth-seeded Aryna Sabalenka, the San Jose (Calif.) runner-up last year, 7-6 (7), 2-6, 6-3 to become the first Arab woman to reach the fourth round of a Grand Slam tournament. 
   Jabeur, the 2011 French Open girls champion, reached her first career Grand Slam quarterfinal in this year's Australian Open. She will meet unseeded American Danielle Collins, who ousted 11th seeded Garbine Muguruza, the 2016 French Open champion, 7-5, 2-6, 6-4.
   Collins, a semifinalist in the 2019 Australian Open and inaugural (2018) San Jose tournament, overcame a double-break deficit in the third set against Muguruza, a semifinalist in the last Bank of the West Classic at Stanford in 2017.
   Another American, fourth-seeded Sofia Kenin, dismissed qualifier Irina Bara of Romania 6-2, 6-0 in 72 minutes. Kenin — the reigning Australian Open champion who won Northern California Challengers in 2016 at age 17, 2017 and 2018 — will meet unseeded Fiona Ferro of France.
   Seventh-seeded Petra Kvitova, a two-time Wimbledon champion and a French Open semifinalist in 2012, beat 18-year-old Canadian left-hander Leylah Fernandez, last year's girls champion at Roland Garros, 7-5, 6-3. Kvitova trailed 1-5 and saved two set points in the first set.
   Germany's Laura Siegemund, who won the U.S. Open doubles title with Russia's Vera Zvonareva last month, surprised 13th-seeded Petra Martic, a Croat who advanced to the quarterfinals at Roland Garros last year, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-0.
   In doubles:
   —Third-seeded Rajeev Ram, a volunteer assistant coach at the University of California, Berkeley, and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain advanced to the quarterfinals with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over 14th-seeded Jeremy Chardy and Fabrice Martin of France. 
   Ram, 36, and Salisbury, 28, won their first major men's doubles title in this year's Australian Open.
   —Second seeds and defending champions Timea Babos of Hungary and Kristina Mladenovic of France beat former USC teammates Kaitlyn Christian from Orange, Calif., and Giuliana Olmos, a product of Fremont in the San Francisco Bay Area who plays for Mexico, 2-6, 6-4, 6-2.

Friday, October 2, 2020

Qualifier Korda, 20, sets up purr-fect match vs. Nadal

Former world No. 2 Petr Korda, left, the father of Sebastian Korda, chats with
Russian Dmitry Tursunov, a former top-20 player who trained in Northern Cali-
fornia as a junior and professional, during the 2018 Stockton (Calif.) Challenger.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Sebastian Korda idolizes Rafael Nadal so much that the 20-year-old American named his cat after the Spanish star.
   The players will meet for the first time Sunday in the fourth round of the French Open in Paris.
   "I'm praying that (Rafa) wins," Korda said today in a Tennis Channel interview before Nadal's 6-1, 6-4, 6-0 victory over Italy's Stefano Travaglia. "He's my biggest idol. He's one of the reasons I play tennis. Just watching him play, (he is an) unbelievable competitor. Just from him, I have the never-give-up mentality.
   "Whenever I'm on court, I try to be like him. Growing up, I named my cat Rafa after him. That says a lot about how much I love the guy."
   The 6-foot-5 (1.96-meter) Korda, who was 0-3 at the tour level entering the French Open, dominated fellow qualifier Pedro Martinez of Spain 6-4, 6-3, 6-1. Korda became the first qualifier to reach the round of 16 at Roland Garros since Alejandro Falla of Chile in 2011.
   In addition, Korda, ranked No. 213, and 20-year-old Frenchman Hugo Gaston, a wild card ranked No. 239, became the first players ranked outside the top 200 to gain the fourth round of the French Open since No. 283 Arnaud Di Pasquale of France in 2002.
   Gaston — a 5-foot-8 (1.73-meter), 149-pound (68-kilogram) left-hander — eliminated 16th-seeded Stan Wawrinka, the 2015 champion, 2-6, 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-0. Wawrinka, 35, underwent two operations on his left knee in 2017.
   Korda, who ousted No. 1 American John Isner in the second round, is the only U.S. man left in singles following 27th-seeded Taylor Fritz's 7-6 (5), 6-3, 7-6 (17) loss to Italian drop-shot artist Lorenzo Sonego. The 30-minute, third-set tiebreaker, which ended on Sonego's seventh match point, was the second-longest in Grand Slam history.
   Fritz won consecutive Northern California Challengers in Sacramento and Fairfield at 17 in 2015.
   Korda has played in four NorCal Challengers, reaching the third round of qualifying in Stockton at 17 in 2017, losing in the first round of qualifying in Tiburon and Stockton in 2018, and advancing to the second round of the main draw in Fairfield last October.
   A native and resident of Bradenton, Fla., Korda is part of a family of professional athletes. His father, Petr Korda from the Czech Republic, reached the final of the 1992 French Open and climbed to a career-high No. 2 after winning the 1998 Australian Open. 
   Rail thin, Petr Korda tested positive for doping later in 1998 and was suspended for 12 months. He retired at age 30 shortly before the ban took effect.
   Sebastian's Czech mother, Regina Rajchrtova, peaked at No. 26 on the women's tour in 1991, and his sisters — Jessica, 27, and Nelly, 22 — play on the LPGA Tour.
   "(My dad is) incredibly supportive," said Sebastian, who will soar 82 places to a career-high of at least No. 131 after the French Open. "My goal in life is to win two Grand Slams so I have one more than he has. That's what I'm going for.
   "Both my parents are incredible. With the way that everything is going right now, they're super proud. I can't be more grateful for them."
   U.S. Open champion Dominic Thiem, seeded third, and runner-up Alexander Zverev, seeded sixth, advanced in straight sets. Thiem has reached the last two French Open finals, losing to Nadal each time.
   Meanwhile, two qualifiers reached the fourth round of women's singles. 
   Martina Trevisan, a 5-foot-3 (1.60-meter) Italian left-hander ranked No. 159, saved two match points in a 1-6, 7-6 (6), 6-3 win over 20th-seeded Maria Sakkari of Greece. Sakkari advanced to the final of the inaugural Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose, Calif., in 2018.
   Nadia Podoroska, the top-ranked Argentine at No. 131, outclassed Anna Karolina Schmiedlova of Slovakia 6-3, 6-2. Schmiedlova was coming off a 6-2, 6-2 victory over 10th-seeded Victoria Azarenka, the U.S. Open runner-up three weeks ago.
   Top-seeded Simona Halep demolished 25th-seeded Amanda Anisimova 6-0, 6-1 in 54 minutes to avenge a loss to the U.S. teenager in last year's quarterfinals. Anisimova, whose father died in August 2019, won her first professional title at 15 in the 2017 Sacramento Challenger.
   Third-seeded Elina Svitolina, a French Open quarterfinalist in 2015 and 2017, and fifth-seeded Kiki Bertens, a semifinalist at Roland Garros in 2016, won in straight sets.
   France's Caroline Garcia, who has tumbled from a career-high No. 4 in 2018 to No. 45, topped 16th-seeded Elise Mertens of Belgium 1-6, 6-4, 7-5.
   In the second round of doubles:
   —Third-seeded Rajeev Ram, a volunteer assistant coach at the University of California, Berkeley, and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain routed Alex de Minaur and Matt Reid of Australia 6-3, 6-1 in 51 minutes. 
   Ram, 36, and Salisbury, 28, won their first Grand Slam men's doubles title, together or separately, in this year's Australian Open.
   —Seventh-seeded Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara of Japan edged Cornelia Lister of Sweden and Shelby Rogers of Charleston, S.C., 6-7 (7), 6-2, 7-6 (4).
   Shibahara, 22, was born in Mountain View in the San Francisco Bay Area and starred at UCLA.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Stephens, second-seeded Pliskova exit early in Paris

Jelena Ostapenko, who won the 2017 French Open at 20,
beat second-seeded Karolina Pliskova 6-4, 6-2 today in the
second round at Roland Garros. 2016 photo by Paul Bauman
   Sloane Stephens' tailspin continued today with her earliest loss in the French Open since 2011.
   Stephens, the 29th seed and 2018 runner-up, fell to 87th-ranked Paula Badosa of Spain 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 in the second round in Paris. 
   Stephens, a 27-year-old Fresno, Calif., product now based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., made her earliest exit from Roland Garros since losing in the first round in her tournament debut and fell to 4-11 this year. The 2017 U.S. Open champion has not reached a quarterfinal since last year's French Open in June.
   Ranked a career-high No. 3 in 2018, Stephens is projected to drop four spots to No. 38 after Roland Garros.
   Badosa, who won the 2015 French Open girls singles title, reached the third round of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time. The 22-year-old New York native is scheduled to play unseeded Jelena Ostapenko, the women's singles champion at Roland Garros in 2017 at 20, on Saturday. 
   Ostapenko, a 23-year-old Latvian, ousted second-seeded Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic 6-4, 6-2 in 69 minutes. 
   Pliskova, formerly ranked No. 1, also lost in the second round of the U.S. Open last month. The runner-up in the 2015 Bank of the West Classic at Stanford, she retired from the Italian Open final two weeks ago with a left thigh injury.
   After two rounds of the French Open, only three U.S. women — fourth-seeded Sofia Kenin, 25th-seeded Amanda Anisimova and unseeded Danielle Collins — remain in singles.
   In the men's draw, top-ranked Novak Djokovic routed Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 in 1 hour, 23 minutes to improve to 33-1 in 2020. Djokovic was defaulted from the U.S. Open for accidentally hitting a line judge in the throat with a ball. 
   Djokovic, who won the 2016 French Open to complete a career Grand Slam, has lost only 10 games in two matches in this year's tournament. 
   Roberto Carballes Baena of Spain topped ninth-seeded Denis Shapovalov, a 21-year-old Canadian, 7-5, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 3-6, 8-6 in 5 hours. Shapovalov, who reached his first Grand Slam quarterfinal in the U.S. Open, served for today's match at 5-4 and 6-5 in the fifth set.
   The 27-year-old Carballes Baena, ranked No. 101, beat a top-10 player, advanced to the third round of a major and won a five-set match for the first time.
   The only American men left in singles are 27th-seeded Taylor Fritz and 20-year-old qualifier Sebastian Korda, the son of 1998 Australian Open champion Petr Korda of the Czech Republic.
   In the first round of women's doubles, seventh-seeded Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara of Japan crushed Bernarda Pera, a Croatia-born American, and Renata Voracova of the Czech Republic 6-0, 6-1 in 43 minutes. Shibahara, 22, was born in Mountain View in the San Francisco Bay Area and starred at UCLA.
  Former USC teammates Kaitlin Christian, from Orange, Calif., and Giuliana Olmos, a Bay Area product who plays for Mexico, defeated Anna Karolina Schmiedlova of Slovakia and Katarina Zavatska of Ukraine 6-3, 6-2.
   Top-seeded Hsieh Su-Wei of Chinese Taipei and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic eliminated Maria Sanchez, a 30-year-old Modesto, Calif., product now based in Los Angeles, and Astra Sharma of Australia 6-1, 6-4.
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