Saturday, October 31, 2020

Bellis pulls out of Tyler semis; twins reach doubles final

CiCi Bellis' winning streak ended at eight matches. 2018 photo
by Mal Taam
   One week ago, sixth-seeded Marta Kostyuk, 18, of Ukraine retired from the final of the $80,000 Mercer Tennis Classic in Macon, Ga., against wild card CiCi Bellis with leg cramps.
   Today, the unseeded Bellis withdrew from the semifinals of the $80,000 Bellatorum Resources Pro Classic in Tyler, Texas, against the eighth-seeded Kostyuk with a sore arm.
   Bellis, a 21-year-old San Francisco Bay Area product, won two three-set matches on Friday in the rain-delayed hardcourt tournament to give her eight consecutive victories. She underwent three operations on her right wrist and one on her right elbow in 2018-19, sat out for 19 months and returned last November. 
   "Her arm and elbow were pretty sore this morning after the six sets especially in the cold," texted Bellis' father, Gordon. "She didn't want to push it today and then jeopardize (playing in) Charleston (next week)."
   CiCi, who was born in San Francisco and grew up down the peninsula in Atherton, is projected to rise eight spots to No. 133 in Monday's new world rankings. She reached a career-high No. 35 in 2017 and was named the WTA Newcomer of the Year.
   Kostyuk, ranked No. 104, is scheduled to face seventh-seeded Ann Li, a 20-year-old American, for the first time on Sunday not before 10 a.m. PDT. Li, ranked No. 112, topped unseeded Greet Minnen of Belgium 7-5, 7-5.
   Neither finalist has lost a set in the tournament. Kostyuk crushed wild card Fernanda Contreras Gomez of Mexico 6-0, 6-0 in the first round. The title will be the biggest of either finalist's career.
   Alternates Allura and Maribella Zamarripa, 18-year-old identical twins from St. Helena, Calif., in the Napa area, advanced to the doubles final by walkover against unseeded Kostyuk and Clara Tauson, 17, of Denmark.
   The Zamarripas, who ousted top-seeded Caroline Dolehide and Caty McNally of the United States in the quarterfinals, are set to play fourth-seeded Paula Kania-Chodun and Katarzyna Piter of Poland at 8:30 a.m.
   The finals will be streamed live.
   ATP Tour — Second-seeded Max Purcell and Luke Saville of Australia beat fourth-seeded Ben McLachlan (University of California, Berkeley, 2011-14), a New Zealand product who plays for his mother's native Japan, and Franko Skugor of Croatia 4-6, 6-3 [10-5] in the semifinals of the Astana Open in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan.
   McLachlan, 28, won the Cologne title last week with Raven Klaasen, 38, of South Africa in their first tournament together.
   Purcell and Saville, the Australian Open runners-up early this year, will play top-seeded Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen of Belgium in the final.

Friday, October 30, 2020

Kratzer suspended; McDonald falls; Bellis wins twice

Ashley Kratzer, playing in Berkeley, Calif., in 2018, tested
positive for a growth hormone. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Ashley Kratzer, who has excelled in Northern California Challengers, was suspended for four years after failing a drug test in January, the International Tennis Federation announced Thursday.
   Kratzer, the Stockton runner-up to Sofia Kenin in 2017 and a Berkeley semifinalist in 2018, provided a urine sample on Jan. 27 during a $125,000 hardcourt tournament in her hometown of Newport Beach, Calif., and tested positive for a growth hormone.
   The 21-year-old left-hander has immense talent but is highly volatile on the court. After Nicole Gibbs beat Kratzer in the Berkeley semifinals in 2018, the former Stanford star was asked if the upstart needs to work on her attitude the most.
   "Absolutely," Gibbs asserted. "She's one of the most talented players out here. If she can pull it together a little bit more consistently mentally, I think she's going to be a really big threat on tour — top 50 for sure, if not top 20, soon."
   Kratzer began playing pro tournaments at 14, skipping the juniors and then college. She turned pro at 17 in 2016, won the USTA Girls 18 National Championships in San Diego in 2017 and reached a career-high No. 200 in the world in August 2018. 
   Kratzer, who hasn't played since losing in the first round of qualifying in Newport Beach in January, can appeal her suspension to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
   ATP Tour — Third-seeded Adrian Mannarino of France beat Mackenzie McDonald, a 25-year-old product of Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area, 6-1, 6-4 in the quarterfinals of the Astana Open in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan.
   McDonald, who returned in January from hamstring surgery, is projected to rise 18 places to No. 191 on Monday. Only 5-foot-10 (1.78 meters), he reached the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2018 and climbed to a career-high No. 57 in April last year. 
   In the doubles quarterfinals, fourth-seeded Ben McLachlan (University of California, Berkeley, 2011-14), a New Zealand product who plays for his mother's native Japan, and Franko Skugor of Croatia eliminated Sander Arends of the Netherlands and Artem Sitak, a Russia native who plays for New Zealand, 6-3, 7-6 (4). 
   McLachlan, 28, won the Cologne title last week with Raven Klaasen, 38, of South Africa in their first tournament together.
   USTA Pro Circuit — Unseeded CiCi Bellis, a 21-year-old Bay Area product, extended her winning streak to eight matches with two victories in the rain-delayed $80,000 Bellatorum Resources Pro Classic on hardcourts in Tyler, Texas. 
   Bellis defeated qualifier Jamie Loeb of Ossining, N.Y., 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 in the second round and fourth-seeded Aliona Bolsova Zadoinov of Spain 6-0, 2-6, 7-5 in the quarterfinals.
   Loeb, a 25-year-old product of the John McEnroe Tennis Academy in New York, won the 2015 NCAA singles title as a North Carolina sophomore and promptly turned pro. Bolsova Zadoinov reached the fourth round of last year's French Open as a qualifier.
   Bellis is scheduled to face eighth-seeded Marta Kostyuk, 18, of Ukraine on Saturday at 10 a.m. PDT in a rematch of last week's final in the $80,000 Mercer Tennis Classic on hardcourts in Macon, Ga. Bellis prevailed 6-4, 6-7 (4), 0-0, retired (leg cramps).
   In Saturday's second semifinal, seventh-seeded Ann Li, a 20-year-old native of King of Prussia, Pa., will play unseeded Greet Minnen of Belgium. Both semis will be streamed live.
   Clara Tauson, a 17-year-old qualifier from Denmark, ousted top-seeded Shelby Rogers of Charleston, S.C., 7-5, 5-7, 6-3 in 3 hours, 7 minutes in the second round. Tauson, formerly the top-ranked junior in the world, then lost to Li 6-3, 7-5.
   Tauson qualified for the recent French Open and knocked off 21st-seeded Jennifer Brady, a U.S. Open semifinalist, in the first round before losing to American Danielle Collins.
   Rogers, ranked No. 58, stunned Serena Williams in Lexington, Ky., in August and reached her second Grand Slam quarterfinal last month in the U.S. Open.
   In the Tyler doubles quarterfinals, alternates Allura and Maribella Zamarripa, 18-year-old identical twins from St. Helena, Calif., in the Napa area, stunned top-seeded Caroline Dolehide, a 22-year-old native of Hinsdale, Ill., and Caty McNally, an 18-year-old Cincinnati native, 6-4, 4-6 [10-4]. 
   Dolehide and countrywoman Vania King, a former Sacramento Capital in World TeamTennis, reached the doubles semifinals in last year's U.S. Open. McNally and compatriot Coco Gauff, then 15, advanced to the doubles quarterfinals in this year's Australian Open.
   Kateryna Bondarenko, a 34-year-old mother of two from Ukraine, and Olga Govortsova of Belarus routed Kristie Ahn, a 28-year-old Stanford graduate from Englewood Cliffs, N.J., and Naomi Broady of Great Britain 6-1, 6-1 in 59 minutes in a clash of unseeded teams. 

Thursday, October 29, 2020

McDonald reaches ATP QF; Ahn ousted in $80K Tyler

Mackenzie McDonald beat former top-20 player Andreas Seppi
3-6, 6-3, 6-3 to reach the quarterfinals of the Astana Open in
Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan. 2017 photo by Paul Bauman
   Unseeded Mackenzie McDonald, a 25-year-old San Francisco Bay Area product, defeated Andreas Seppi, a 36-year-old wild card from Italy, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 today in the second round of the Astana Open in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan.
   McDonald, who was born and raised in Piedmont in the East Bay, reached his first ATP quarterfinal since Acapulco in February 2019. He underwent right hamstring surgery the following June and missed the rest of the season.
   Seppi climbed to career-high No. 18 in 2013 and defeated Roger Federer in the third round of the 2015 Australian Open for his only victory over the Swiss star in 15 matches. 
  McDonald, who reached a career-high No. 57 in April 2019, will jump at least 18 places to No. 191 in Monday's new rankings. Now based at the USTA National Campus near Orlando, Fla., he is set to face third-seeded Adrian Mannarino, a 32-year-old French left-hander, for the first time on Friday. 
   Mannarino, ranked No. 39, routed qualifier Yuichi Sugita of Japan 6-1, 6-1.
   In the other quarterfinal in the top half of the draw, unseeded Mikhail Kukushkin, a 32-year-old Russia native who plays for Kazakhstan, will play Emil Ruusuvuori, a 21-year-old qualifier from Finland.
   Kukushkin, the runner-up to Marcos Baghdatis in the 2014 Aptos (Calif.) Challenger, ousted top-seeded Benoit Paire of France 6-7 (4), 7-6 (2), 6-1. Kukushkin trailed 1-4 in the second set.
   Ruusuvuori outlasted eighth-seeded Jordan Thompson of Australia 6-2, 3-6, 6-4. Thompson reached the semifinals of the 2018 Stockton (Calif.) Challenger.  
   In the first round of Astana doubles, fourth-seeded Ben McLachlan (University of California, Berkeley, 2011-14), a New Zealand product who plays for his mother's native Japan, and Franko Skugor of Croatia edged Matwe Middelkoop of the Netherlands and Hugo Nys of Monaco 7-6 (4), 6-7 (8) [12-10].
   McLachlan, 28, won the Cologne title last week with Raven Klaasen, 38, of South Africa in their first tournament together.
   Top-seeded Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen of Belgium beat McDonald and compatriot Tommy Paul 6-3, 6-4. Paul won the singles title in last year's Tiburon (Calif.) Challenger.
   Erste Bank Open — Jamie Murray, Andy's older brother, and Neal Skupski of Great Britain beat second seeds and defending champions Rajeev Ram, a volunteer assistant coach at Cal from Carmel, Ind., and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain by walkover in the Vienna quarterfinals. 
   Salisbury and Skupski won the Vienna doubles title in 2018. Skupski played World TeamTennis for the California Dream, based in the Sacramento area, in 2015.
   USTA Pro Circuit — Hailey Baptiste, an 18-year-old wild card from Washington, D.C., overpowered fifth-seeded Kristie Ahn, a 28-year-old Stanford graduate from Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 6-2, 6-2 on a cold, windy day in the first round of the $80,000 Bellatorum Resources Pro Classic on hardcourts in Tyler, Texas. 
   Baptiste, bundled up in sweatpants and long-sleeved and short-sleeved shirts, blasted eight aces, including four straight (the last one on her second serve) to hold at love for 5-2 in the first set, and dominated with her powerful forehand.
   Baptiste stunned second-seeded Madison Keys, the U.S. Open runner-up in 2017, in the opening round in Washington, D.C., last year but had been 0-3 since the pro tours resumed from the five-month COVID-19 hiatus in August.
   CiCi Bellis, a 21-year-old Bay Area product, extended her winning streak to six matches with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over sixth-seeded Anna-Lena Friedsam, 26, of Germany in a clash of former top-50 players. Bellis, also now based at the USTA National Campus, won last week's $80,000 Mercer Tennis Classic on hardcourts in Macon, Ga.
   Lucky loser Veronica Cepede Royg of Paraguay beat Katie Volynets, an 18-year-old wild card from Walnut Creek in the Bay Area, 7-6 (6), 6-3.
   Top-seeded Shelby Rogers of Charleston, S.C., dismissed 18-year-old Whitney Osuigwe of Bradenton, Fla., 6-3, 6-3. Rogers, who reached her second Grand Slam quarterfinal last month in the U.S. Open, wrapped herself in a blanket while Osuigwe (pronounced Oh-SIG-way), formerly the top-ranked junior in the world, took a bathroom break between sets. 
   In the first round of doubles, alternates Allura and Maribella Zamarripa, 18-year-old identical twins from St. Helena, Calif., in the Napa area, routed wild cards Fernanda Contreras Gomez of Mexico and Felicity Maltby, a former Texas Tech All-American from Sunnyvale in the Bay Area, 6-2, 6-1.
   The Zamarripas, who are headed to the University of Texas in Austin next year, are scheduled to face top-seeded Caroline Dolehide and Caty McNally of the United States in the quarterfinals.
   Ahn and Naomi Broady, a 6-foot-2 (1.89-meter) Briton with an unorthodox one-handed backhand, defeated alternates Maria Camila Osorio Serrano of Colombia and Renata Zarazua, a 5-foot-3 (1.60-meter) Mexican, by walkover.
   In the recent French Open, Zarazua became the first Mexican woman to reach the second round of singles in a Grand Slam tournament in 20 years.
   ATP Challenger Tour — Marc-Andrea Huesler of Switzerland and Kamil Majchrzak of Poland beat third-seeded Andre Goransson (Cal, 2014-17) of Sweden and Jan Zielinski of Poland by walkover in the semifinals of the €44,820 ($52,759) Hamburg Challenger.
   Goransson won his first ATP title in February in Pune, India, with Christopher Rungkat of Indonesia.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

McDonald upsets Bublik in Kazakhstan opener

Mackenzie McDonald, a 25-year-old San Francisco
Bay Area product, practices during the 2017 Fairfield
 (Calif.) Challenger. He went on to win the title. Photo
by Paul Bauman
   In a matchup of former Northern California Challenger champions, San Francisco Bay Area product Mackenzie McDonald dismissed sixth-seeded Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan 6-3, 6-2 today in the first round of the Astana Open in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan.
   The 6-foot-5 (1.96-meter) Bublik, who won the 2017 Aptos title at age 20, pounded 11 aces but committed eight double faults in the 72-minute match.
   The 5-foot-10 (1.78 meters) McDonald, who captured his first Challenger title in Fairfield in 2017, had one ace and no double faults.
   McDonald, ranked No. 209, avenged a 2-6, 7-6 (2), 6-4 loss to Bublik, ranked No. 49, in the first round at St. Petersburg two weeks ago.
   McDonald, now 25 and based at the USTA National Campus near Orlando, Fla., reached a career-high No. 57 in April last year but underwent right hamstring surgery in June and missed the rest of the season. He is scheduled to play Andreas Seppi, a 36-year-old wild card from Italy, for the second time on Thursday. McDonald won 6-4, 6-2 in the second round at 's-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands, on grass in 2018.
   Bublik, a 23-year-old free spirit who lists his best quality as "sleeping," suffered a broken ankle in Indian Wells qualifying in 2018.
   In the other half of the draw, three additional players who have won NorCal Challenger titles — fourth-seeded John Millman (2010 Sacramento and 2015 Aptos), seventh-seeded Tommy Paul (2019 Tiburon) and unseeded Frances Tiafoe (2016 Stockton) — advanced to the quarterfinals.
   Tiafoe, 22, ousted second-seeded Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia 7-5, 6-3. Kecmanovic, 21, won his first ATP title last month on clay in Kitzbuhel, Austria.
   ATP Challenger Tour — Third-seeded Andre Goransson (University of California, Berkeley, 2014-17) and Jan Zielinski of Poland reached the semifinals of the €44,820 ($52,759) Hamburg Challenger by walkover against Frenchmen Hugo Gaston and Arthur Rinderknech.
   The 5-foot-8 (1.73-meter) Gaston, 20, reached the fourth round of singles in the recent French Open, stunning 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka in the third round.
   Goransson won his first ATP title in February in Pune, India, with Christopher Rungkat of Indonesia. 
   Both Goransson and Rungkat have won a Challenger doubles title in NorCal, Goransson in Tiburon in 2017 with former Cal teammate Florian Lakat of France and Rungkat in Fairfield in 2018 with Sanchai Ratiwatana of Thailand.
   Goransson and Zielinksi will play either top-seeded Andre Begemann of Germany and David Pel of the Netherlands or unseeded Marc-Andrea Huesler of Switzerland and Kamil Majchrzak of Poland. 
   Begemann and Pel, a 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) left-hander, won the title in last week's Ismaning (Germany) Challenger.
   In singles, the 6-foot-5 (1.96-meter) Huesler, a 24-year-old left-hander, lost to eighth-seeded Oscar Otte of Germany 6-2, 6-3 in the first round after winning two consecutive Challenger titles.
   USTA Pro Circuit — Rain postponed the first round of the main draw in the $80,000 Bellatorum Resources Pro Classic on hardcourts in Tyler, Texas.
   Fifth-seeded Kristie Ahn, a 28-year-old Stanford graduate, is scheduled to meet Hailey Baptiste, an 18-year-old wild card, for the first time on Thursday at a time to be announced. Live streaming will be available.
  Baptiste shocked second-seeded Madison Keys, the U.S. Open runner-up in 2017, in the opening round in Washington, D.C., Baptiste's hometown, last year. Baptiste, however, is 0-3 since the pro tours resumed from the five-month COVID-19 hiatus in August.
   CiCi Bellis, a 21-year-old Bay Area product, will face sixth-seeded Anna-Lena Friedsam of Germany in a clash of former top-50 players. Bellis, also now based at the USTA National Campus, won last week's $80,000 Mercer Tennis Classic on hardcourts in Macon, Ga.
   Friedsam defeated Bellis 1-6, 7-6 (1), 6-3 in the second round of a $125,000 hardcourt tournament in San Antonio in 2016 in their only previous meeting.
   Katie Volynets, an 18-year-old wild card from Walnut Creek in the Bay Area, will play a qualifier to be determined.    

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Ex-Cal star Goransson advances in Hamburg doubles

Andre Goransson won his first ATP doubles title in February.
File photo by Paul Bauman
   Third-seeded Andre Goransson (University of California, Berkeley, 2014-17) of Sweden and Jan Zielinski of Poland topped Sadio Doumbia and Fabien Reboul of France 6-7 (3), 7-5 [10-3] in the first round of the €44,820 ($52,759) Hamburg Challenger. 
   Goransson and Zielinski are scheduled to play another French team, Hugo Gaston and Arthur Rinderknech, in the quarterfinals on Thursday. The 5-foot-8 (1.73-meter) Gaston, 20, reached the fourth round of singles in the recent French Open, ousting 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka
   Goransson won his first ATP title in February in Pune, India, with Christopher Rungkat of Indonesia. 
   Both Goransson and Rungkat have won a Challenger doubles title in Northern California, Goransson in Tiburon in 2017 with former Cal teammate Florian Lakat of France and Rungkat in Fairfield in 2018 with Sanchai Ratiwatana of Thailand.
   USTA Pro Circuit — Rain is forecast in Tyler, Texas, on Wednesday, when main-draw singles matches are scheduled to begin in the $80,000 Bellatorum Resources Pro Classic on outdoor hardcourts.
   Fifth-seeded Kristie Ahn, a 28-year-old Stanford graduate, is set to meet Hailey Baptiste, an 18-year-old wild card, for the first time at about noon PDT in an all-American encounter. Live streaming will be available.
   Baptiste, playing in her hometown, stunned second-seeded Madison Keys, the U.S. Open runner-up in 2017, in the first round in Washington, D.C., last year. Baptiste, however, is 0-3 since the pro tours resumed from the five-month COVID-19 hiatus in August.
   CiCi Bellis, a 21-year-old San Francisco native who grew up down the peninsula in Atherton, is scheduled to play sixth-seeded Anna-Lena Friedsam of Germany, at about 4 p.m. in a clash of former top-50 players. Bellis won last week's $80,000 Mercer Tennis Classic on hardcourts in Macon, Ga.
   Friedsam defeated Bellis 1-6, 7-6 (1), 6-3 in the second round of a $125,000 hardcourt tournament in San Antonio in 2016 in their only previous meeting.
   Katie Volynets, an 18-year-old wild card from Walnut Creek in the San Francisco Bay Area, is set to face a qualifier to be determined on Thursday in the opening round. 

Monday, October 26, 2020

2019 champs Ram, Salisbury top singles stars in Vienna

   Doubles specialists Rajeev Ram, a volunteer assistant coach at the University of California, Berkeley, from Carmel, Ind., and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain opened their title defense in Vienna today against two singles stars.
   Ram and Salisbury, the reigning Australian Open champions, edged Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria and Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland 6-4, 3-6 [10-6] in the opening round of the indoor tournament.
   Wawrinka, a three-time Grand Slam singles champion, and Dimitrov, who has advanced to three major semifinals, reached a career-high No. 3 in singles in 2014 and 2017, respectively.
   Ram and Salisbury will play the British team of Jamie Murray, Andy's older brother, and Neal Skupski in the quarterfinals. Murray and Skupski topped Austrian wild cards Dennis Novak and Dominic Thiem, the defending singles champion and reigning U.S. Open winner, 7-5, 6-7 (1) [10-5].
   Salisbury and Skupski won the Vienna doubles title in 2018. Skupski played World TeamTennis for the California Dream, based in the Sacramento area, in 2015. 
   Both Ram and Jamie Murray earned doubles crowns in the SAP Open in San Jose, Calif., Ram with former Stanford All-American Scott Lipsky in 2011 and Murray with American Eric Butorac in 2007. Butorac played for the Sacramento Capitals in WTT in 2008.
   The SAP Open, Dream and Capitals have folded. 
   USTA Pro Circuit — Shelby Rogers, who reached her second Grand Slam quarterfinal last month in the U.S. Open, is seeded first in the $80,000 Bellatorum Resources Pro Classic in Tyler, Texas. 
   The singles main draw, which begins Wednesday, also features 28-year-old Stanford graduate Kristie Ahn, seeded fifth, and San Francisco Bay Area products CiCi Bellis, 21, and Katie Volynets, an 18-year-old wild card.
   Bellis, who climbed to a career-high No. 35 in 2017 before undergoing three operations on her right wrist and one on her right elbow, won last week's $80,000 Mercer Tennis Classic in Macon, Ga. 
   In the first round of Tyler qualifying, 15th-seeded Tessah Andrianjafitrimo of France nipped Allura Zamarripa, an 18-year-old wild card from Saint Helena, Calif., in the Napa area, 3-6, 6-0 [10-5]. 
   Zamarripa and her twin sister, Maribella, have verbally committed to the University of Texas in Austin in 2021. 

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Bellis ends title drought as teen retires with leg cramps

CiCi Bellis, a 21-year-old San Francisco Bay Area product, won her first title
in four years today. She missed 19 months in 2018-19 while undergoing four
operations. 2017 photo by Mal Taam 
   It doesn't get much more ironic than this.
   CiCi Bellis, who sat out for 19 months in 2018-19 while undergoing four operations, won her first title in four years today after her last two opponents broke down physically.
   Sixth-seeded Marta Kostyuk, 18, of Ukraine retired with leg cramps in the opening game of the third set in the final of the $80,000 Mercer Tennis Classic on hardcourts in Macon, Ga.
   Bellis, a 21-year-old wild card who was born in San Francisco and grew up down the peninsula in Atherton, won the first set 6-4, and Kostyuk took the second set 7-6 (4) in the first USTA Pro Circuit tournament after the long COVID-19 break.
   In Saturday's semifinals, Bellis led 6-3, 1-0 when Varvara Lepchenko, a 34-year-old American qualifier from Uzbekistan, quit with an upper leg injury.
   Lepchenko, who reached No. 19 in the world in 2012, was coming off a 3-hour, 15-minute victory over unseeded Sachia (pronounced SAH-shuh) Vickery in the quarterfinals and ousted second-seeded Nina Stojanovic in the first round in 3 hours, 33 minutes. 
   Neither Bellis, now based at the USTA National Campus near Orlando, Fla., nor Kostyuk, who reached the third round of the recent French Open and won a $60,000 hardcourt tournament in Cairo in Feburary, had lost a set entering their first career meeting. Kostyuk, in fact, hadn't dropped more than five games in a match. She routed top-seeded Misaki Doi 6-2, 6-1 in the quarterfinals after Doi had survived a 3-hour, 9-minute battle in the second round. 
   But Bellis and Kostyuk traded laser-like groundstrokes for 2 hours, 23 minutes in cloudy 75-degree (23.9 Celsius) weather and 68 percent humidity.
   After slugging a down-the-line backhand winner for deuce on Bellis' serve in the first game of the third set, Kostyk collapsed with a cramp above her left knee. She was briefly treated on the court by a trainer, and the cramp subsided.
   Kostyuk tried to continue, but on the next point, she sprawled on the court with a cramp in her right leg. Lying on the court and sobbing, Kostyuk retired.
   The right-handed Bellis, who had three operations on her right wrist and one on her right elbow, claimed her first title since a $125,000 tournament in Honolulu in November 2016. Playing strictly at the top level of women's tennis, she reached a career-high No. 35 at age 18 in 2017 and was named the WTA Newcomer of the Year before arm trouble forced her off the tour in March 2018. Bellis finally returned last November and reached the third round of the Australian Open in January.
   Bellis collected $12,192, a paltry amount for her. More importantly, she will jump 31 places to No. 142 in Monday's new rankings. Kostyuk, who earned $6,518, will improve eight spots to No. 105.
   Fans can be forgiven if they confused the finalists. In addition to being young, hard-hitting baseliners, both wore forest-green Nike dresses and white visors. Kostyuk was the one with blonde hair tied in a bun, four earrings in her left ear and black kinesiotape on her right shoulder. 
   The first set featured four consecutive service breaks and seven in the first nine games. Bellis held at 15 for the set when Kostyuk netted a cross-court forehand.
   Kostyuk led 5-2 in the second set, but Bellis reeled off four straight games to serve for the championship. She was two points from the title at 30-30 but slugged a down-the-line backhand wide and was broken on Kostyuk's forehand cross-court winner.
   Bellis led 2-0 in the tiebreaker but then uncharacteristically committed six unforced errors to drop the set. Serving to open the third set, she fought back from 15-20 to deuce, and it appeared the players were headed for another grueling set. Three points later, however, the match abruptly ended.
   ATP Tour — Unseeded Raven Klaasen and Ben McLachlan (University of California, Berkeley, 2011-14), playing in their first tournament together, stunned third-seeded Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies, Germans who have won the last two French Opens, 6-2, 6-4 to win the title in Cologne, Germany.
   Klaasen, a 38-year-old South African, and McLachlan, a 28-year-old New Zealand native who plays for his mother's home country of Japan, did not lose a set in their four matches.
   Klaasen won his 17th ATP doubles title and McLachlan his sixth.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Bellis gains 1st final in 4 years as Lepchenko quits match

CiCi Bellis reached her first final since winning a $125,000 tournament
in Honolulu in November 2016. 2017 photo by Mal Taam
   Varvara Lepchenko figured to have a tough time against CiCi Bellis today.
   As it turned out, Lepchenko couldn't make it through the match.
   Bellis led 6-3, 1-0, 0-40 on Lepchenko's serve in the semifinals of the $80,000 Mercer Tennis Classic on hardcourts in Macon, Ga., when Lepchenko retired with an upper leg injury. No ballkids are being used in the first USTA Pro Circuit tournament after the long COVID-19 break.
   Lepchenko, a 34-year-old American qualifier from Uzbekistan, was coming off a 3-hour, 15-minute victory over American Sachia (pronounced SAH-shuh) Vickery on Friday. Lepchenko, a left-hander who reached a career-high No. 19 in 2012, also needed 3 hours, 33 minutes to oust second-seeded Nina Stojanovic of Serbia in the first round.
   Bellis, a 21-year-old wild card who was born in San Francisco and grew up down the peninsula in Atherton, reached her first final since winning a $125,000 tournament in Honolulu in November 2016.
   After climbing to a career-high No. 35 in 2017 and being named the WTA Newcomer of the Year, Bellis had three surgeries on her right wrist and one on her right elbow in 2018-19 and missed 19 months.
   Lepchenko played in the main draw of 31 consecutive Grand Slam tournaments from 2011 to 2018, reaching the fourth round of the 2012 French Open and 2015 U.S. Open.
  Lepchenko and Bellis combined for three semifinal appearances in the now-defunct Bank of the West Classic at Stanford, a five-minute drive from Bellis' childhood home. Lepchenko advanced to the final four in 2014 and 2015, Bellis in 2017.
   Bellis, who's projected to rise at least 22 places to No. 151 on Monday, is scheduled to face sixth-seeded Marta Kostyuk, 18, of Ukraine for the first time on Sunday at 10 a.m. PDT. The intriguing match will be streamed live.
   Kostyuk, who will improve at least eight spots to No. 105, dispatched Magdalena Frech, a 22-year-old qualifier from Poland, 6-3, 6-2.
    Neither finalist has lost a set in the tournament. Kostyuk hasn't lost more than five games in a match, and Bellis has dropped more than three games only once. Given all she has been through, Bellis could come out nervous.
   Kostyuk won a $60,000 hardcourt tournament in Cairo in February without losing a set and reached the third round of the U.S. Open last month, losing to eventual champion Naomi Osaka in three sets.
   Bellis, now based at the USTA National Campus near Orlando, Fla., used her impeccable groundstrokes to bolt to a 5-1 lead today, holding serve from 0-40 for 3-1 and from 15-40 for 5-1.
   "Look at her," veteran commentator Ken Thomas marveled early in the match. "She's what, 5-6 (1.68 meters) and 125 pounds (56.7 kilograms)? But she gets it done. (She has) perfect technique and timing. If she has a weakness, it's maybe her second serve."  
   Lepchenko saved two set points to hold for 2-5 and broke for 3-5, but Bellis broke back, converting her fifth set point. Lepchenko took a medical timeout after the first set and, hobbling, lost seven of the eight points in the second set.
   In the doubles final, Frech and countrywoman Katarzyna Kawa beat Americans Francesca Di Lorenzo and Jamie Loeb 7-5, 6-1 in a matchup of unseeded teams. Frech and Kawa's compatriot, 19-year-old Iga Swiatek, shockingly won the French Open two weeks ago.
   ATP Tour —Unseeded Raven Klaasen and Ben McLachlan (University of California, Berkeley, 2011-14) will play the two-time reigning French Open champions in Sunday's final in Cologne, Germany.
   Third-seeded Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies of Germany advanced with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over unseeded Marcus Daniell of New Zealand and Philipp Oswald of Austria.
   Klaasen, a 38-year-old South African, and McLachlan, a 28-year-old New Zealand native who plays for his mother's native Japan, beat unseeded Max Purcell and Luke Saville of Australia 7-5, 6-4 in a Friday semifinal. Klaasen seeks his 17th ATP Tour title and McLachlan his sixth.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Bellis linked to Evert in rout of former No. 5 Errani

CiCi Bellis, 21, thrashed 33-year-old Sara Errani, formerly ranked
No. 5 in singles and No. 1 in doubles, 6-0, 6-3 today in Macon, Ga.
Bellis won the first nine games. 2018 photo by Mal Taam
   Before multiple surgeries derailed CiCi Bellis' career, her former coach compared her to Jennifer Capriati.
   Veteran commentator Ken Thomas paid Bellis, a 21-year-old San Francisco native who grew up down the peninsula in Atherton, another tremendous compliment today.
   "I see a little Chris Evert in CiCi Bellis — quality groundstrokes," Thomas declared on the live stream of Bellis' 6-0, 6-3 thrashing of Sara Errani, formerly ranked No. 5 in singles and No. 1 in doubles, today in the quarterfinals of the $80,000 Mercer Tennis Classic in Macon, Ga. "For American women's tennis, it's really good to see Bellis playing like this."
   Earlier, sixth-seeded Marta Kostyuk, 18, of Ukraine, routed top-seeded Misaki Doi of Japan 6-2, 6-1 in 1 hour, 23 minutes in a matchup of the only remaining singles seeds.      Bellis, a wild card now based at the USTA National Campus outside of Orlando, Fla., had more firepower than the unseeded Errani, a 33-year-old Italian counterpuncher ranked No. 137, in the 65-minute match.
   Playing almost flawlessly, the petite, 5-foot-7 (1.68-meter) Bellis reeled off the first seven points and the opening nine games in her first meeting with the 5-foot-5 (1.64-meter) Errani, the runner-up to Maria Sharapova in the 2012 French Open. Bellis then lost two consecutive games before breaking serve for 4-2. Both players held serve from there.
   Granted, the Mercer Tennis Classic is a minor-league tournament, but Bellis reached her first semifinal since the 2017 Bank of the West Classic at Stanford, a five-minute drive from her childhood home, on the WTA Tour. She reached a career-high No. 35 two weeks later at 18 and was named the WTA Newcomer of the Year for 2017. 
   But slugging it out against older, bigger players at the top level of women's tennis took a massive toll on Bellis. She underwent three operations on her right wrist and one on her right elbow in 2018-19 and missed 19 months.     
   Errani, meanwhile, had her own troubles. She was suspended for two months in 2017 after failing a drug test, and the suspension was lengthened to 10 months in 2018. Errani claimed that she accidentally consumed her mother's cancer medication in homemade tortellini.
   Bellis, who's projected to rise at least 15 places to No. 158 on Monday, has an excellent chance in Saturday's semifinals against another accomplished veteran, weary qualifier Varvara Lepchenko. The 34-year-old American left-hander from Uzbekistan outlasted Sachia (pronounced SAH-shuh) Vickery, a 25-year-old Miramar, Fla., native, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-4 in 3 hours, 15 minutes.
   That wasn't even Lepchenko's longest match of the tournament. She edged second-seeded Nina Stojanovic of Serbia 6-7 (5), 6-2, 7-6 (6) in 3 hours, 33 minutes in the opening round on Wednesday.
   Bellis is 1-1 against Lepchenko, ranked No. 186 after climbing as high as No. 19 in 2012. Bellis prevailed 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (5) in the second round of her comeback tournament in Houston, a $125,000 event, on hardcourts as a qualifier last November, and Lepchenko coasted 6-3, 6-2 in the Rabat (Morocco) quarterfinals on clay in 2017.
   Both Lepchenko and Vickery have starred in NorCal, albeit at different levels. Lepchenko advanced to two semifinals (2014 and 2015) and one quarterfinal (2013) at Stanford. Vickery reached the singles semifinals and teamed with countrywoman Madison Brengle to win the doubles title in last year's $60,000 Berkeley Challenger. 
   Doi, a 5-foot-3 (1.59-meter) left-hander, was coming off a physically and mentally draining 6-7 (5), 7-6 (3), 6-1 victory over qualifier Veronica Cepede Royg of Paraguay in 3 hours, 9 minutes on Thursday. Cepede Royg served for the match at 6-5 in the second set. 
   Kostyuk, meanwhile, has lost an average of only four games in her three matches this week.
   Both Kostyuk and Doi lost to eventual champion Naomi Osaka in three sets in the recent U.S. Open, Kostyuk in the third round and Doi in the first round.
   Kostyuk, ranked No. 113, will meet Poland's Magdalena Frech, a qualifier ranked No. 165, for the first time on Saturday. Frech, 22, beat unseeded American Francesca Di Lorenzo 7-5, 6-3. 
   Both singles semifinals are scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. PDT with thunderstorms forecast to strike as early as 9 a.m. The doubles final, also featuring Frech, will follow, weather permitting.
   The unseeded team of Frech and compatriot Katarzyna Kawa dispatched top-seeded Caroline Dolehide and Caty McNally of the United States 6-4, 6-3. Frech and Kawa will play the unseeded pair of Di Lorenzo and countrywoman Jamie Loeb, who nipped second-seeded Doi and Stojanovic 1-6, 6-3 [10-8].
   ATP Challenger Tour — Qualifier Mackenzie McDonald, another San Francisco Bay Area product now based at the USTA National Campus, lost to unseeded Martin Klizan, a former top-25 player from Slovakia, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 in the quarterfinals of the $104,160 Istanbul Challenger on hardcourts.
   The diminutive McDonald, who was born and raised in Piedmont, advanced to the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2018 and climbed as high as No. 57 in April last year. However, he tore a right hamstring tendon during a doubles match the following month in the French Open, had surgery in June and sat out for the rest of the season. He is projected to rise 14 places to No. 209 on Monday.
   Klizan won the 2006 French Open boys singles title and reached a career-high No. 24 in 2015 before battling injuries. The 31-year-old left-hander will improve at least 13 spots to No. 155. 
   ATP Tour — Raven Klaasen and Ben McLachlan (University of California, Berkeley, 2011-14), playing in their first tournament together, defeated Max Purcell and Luke Saville 7-5, 6-4 to reach the final in Cologne, Germany.
   Purcell and Saville, the 2011 Wimbledon boys singles champion, reached the Australian Open final early this year, losing to American Rajeev Ram, now a volunteer assistant coach at Cal, and Great Britain's Joe Salisbury
   Saville and Hans Hach Verdugo of Mexico won the 2018 Tiburon (Calif.) Challenger as qualifiers in their first tournament together.  
   Klaasen, 38, of South Africa and Ben McLachlan, a 28-year-old New Zealand native who plays for his mother's native Japan, will play either third seeds and two-time reigning French Open champions Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies of Germany or unseeded Marcus Daniell of New Zealand and Philipp Oswald of Austria on Sunday.
   Daniell and Oswald ousted top-seeded Lukasz Kubot of Poland and Marcelo Melo of Brazil 6-2, 4-6 [10-3].
   Klaasen seeks his 17th ATP doubles title and McLachlan his sixth.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Bay Area products gain quarters, continuing comebacks

CiCi Bellis routed Romanian qualifier Gabriela Talaba 6-1, 6-3
in Macon, Ga. 2016 photo by Paul Bauman
   Almost 6,000 miles apart, San Francisco Bay Area products CiCi Bellis and Mackenzie McDonald reached the quarterfinals of minor-league hardcourt tournaments as they continued comebacks from surgery.
   Bellis, a 21-year-old wild card who was born in San Francisco and grew up down the peninsula in Atherton, routed qualifier Gabriela Talaba, a 25-year-old Romanian left-hander, 6-1, 6-3 today in the $80,000 Mercer Tennis Classic in Macon, Ga.
   Bellis saved eight of nine break points against her. She double-faulted twice while serving for the match at 5-0 in the second set. Talaba, one of the few women with a one-handed backhand, won last year's $25,000 Redding, Calif., Challenger
   Mackenzie McDonald, who was born and raised in Piedmont, defeated Nino Serdarusic of Croatia 7-6 (9), 6-3 in a matchup of qualifiers in the $104,160 Istanbul Challenger.
   Bellis, a petite 5-foot-7 (1.68 meters), was named the WTA Newcomer of the Year in 2017 after attaining a career-high No. 35 ranking at age 18. Then the nightmare began. She underwent three operations on her right wrist and one on her right elbow in 2018-19 and missed 19 months.
   McDonald, only 5-foot-10 (1.77 meters) and 160 pounds (72 kilograms), advanced to the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2018 and climbed as high as No. 57 in April last year. However, he tore a right hamstring tendon during a doubles match the following month in the French Open, had surgery in June and sat out for the rest of the season. 
   Both Bellis, ranked No. 173, and McDonald, ranked No. 223, are now based at the USTA National Campus near Orlando, Fla., and both face big quarterfinal challenges.
   Bellis will meet unseeded Sara Errani, formerly ranked No. 5 in singles and No. 1 in doubles, for the first time on Friday not before 10:45 a.m PDT. Live streaming is available.
   Errani, a 33-year-old Italian, outplayed fourth-seeded Kristie Ahn, a 28-year-old Stanford graduate from Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 6-3, 6-4. Errani, now ranked No. 137, broke serve in the final game.
Mackenzie McDonald beat Nino Serdarusic of Croatia
7-6 (9), 6-3 in a matchup of qualifiers in Istanbul.
2016 photo by Paul Bauman
   McDonald will play Martin Klizan, the 2006 French Open boys champion who reached No. 24 in 2015 before battling injuries, for the first time. Klizan, a 31-year-old left-hander from Slovakia now ranked No. 168, defeated Roberto Marcora of Italy 7-6 (3), 6-1.
   Another Bay Area product, 18-year-old Katie Volynets, lost to Varvara Lepchenko, a 34-year-old American left-hander from Uzbekistan formerly ranked No. 19, by the deceptive score of 6-0, 6-1 in a clash of qualifiers.
   "This is the best 6-0, 6-1 match I've ever seen," veteran commentator Ken Thomas crowed during the final game of the 1-hour, 20-minute match that featured many long, hard-hitting rallies. 
   Volynets, who was born and still lives in Walnut Creek, fought hard throughout the match and never appeared frustrated.
   "She's not complaining; she's not quitting," Thomas said during the second set. "A lot of big-name players who will go unnamed would quit if they were getting rolled 6-0, 3-0. It's nice to see Katie Volynets dig deep."
   Thomas concluded that Volynets, who won the USTA 18 national championship in August 2019 and turned pro in December, "is the real deal even though she got hammered today."
   Lepchenko has played in the main draw of 44 Grand Slam tournaments, reaching the fourth round of the 2012 French Open and 2015 U.S. Open. She advanced to two semifinals (2014 and 2015) and one quarterfinal (2013) in the now-defunct Bank of the West Classic at Stanford.
   Lepchenko, now ranked No. 186, had no trouble rebounding from her grueling 6-7 (5), 6-2, 7-6 (6) victory over second-seeded Nina Stojanovic, ranked No. 91, on Wednesday in the opening round. 
   Top-seeded Misaki Doi of Japan narrowly avoided an upset, topping qualifier Veronica Cepede Royg of Paraguay 6-7 (5), 7-6 (3), 6-1. Cepede Royg, who lost in the second round of the 2012 Redding Challenger as the second seed, served for the match at 6-5 in the second set against the 5-foot-3 (1.59-meter) left-hander.
   Doi held a match point against left-hander Angelique Kerber in the opening round of the 2016 Australian Open. Kerber survived and went on to win the first of her three Grand Slam singles titles.
   Doi, ranked No. 86, is scheduled to face sixth-seeded Marta Kostyuk, an 18-year-old Ukrainian ranked No. 113, at 9 a.m. in a matchup of the only remaining singles seeds.
   In the Istanbul doubles quarterfinals, Americans Robert Galloway and Nathaniel Lammons downed second-seeded Andre Goransson (University of California, Berkeley, 2014-17) of Sweden and Artem Sitak, a Russia native who plays for New Zealand, 7-5, 7-6 (1). 
   ATP Tour — Unseeded Raven Klaasen, 38, of South Africa and Ben McLachlan (Cal, 2011-14), a 28-year-old New Zealand native who plays for his mother's native Japan, beat fourth-seeded Jurgen Melzer, 39, of Austria and Edouard Roger-Vasselin, 36, of France 7-5, 6-4 to reach the semifinals in Cologne, Germany.
   Klaasen and McLachlan will play unseeded Australians Max Purcell and Luke Saville, who edged second-seeded Oliver Marach of Austria and Mate Pavic of Croatia 2-6, 6-3 [11-9]. 
   Purcell and Saville, the 2011 Wimbledon boys singles champion, reached the Australian Open final early this year, losing to American Rajeev Ram, now a volunteer assistant coach at Cal, and Great Britain's Joe Salisbury
   Saville and Hans Hach Verdugo of Mexico won the 2018 Tiburon (Calif.) Challenger as qualifiers in their first tournament together. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

After two losses to Serena, Ahn advances in Macon

Fourth-seeded Kristie Ahn will face former
world No. 5 Sara Errani. 2018 photo by
Paul Bauman
   Kristie Ahn didn't have to play Serena Williams for a change.
   After losing to the American icon in straight sets twice in a row in Grand Slam tournaments, the fourth-seeded Ahn dispatched qualifier Tessah Andrianjafitrimo of France 6-3, 6-3 today in the first round of the $80,000 Mercer Tennis Classic on hardcourts in Macon, Ga.
   Joining Ahn, a 28-year-old Stanford graduate based in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., in the second round were CiCi Bellis, a 21-year-old wild card who was born in San Francisco and grew up in nearby Atherton, and Katie Volynets, an 18-year-old qualifier from Walnut Creek in the San Francisco Bay Area.
   Bellis, continuing her comeback from three operations on her right wrist and one on her right elbow, defeated Lara Arruabarrena of Spain 6-3, 7-5.
   Volynets, who turned pro in December, eliminated Caroline Dolehide 7-6 (3), 6-3 after losing to the American 5-7, 6-2, 7-6 (3) in the opening round of last year's $60,000 Berkeley, Calif., Challenger.  
   Ahn is scheduled to face former world No. 5 Sara Errani, a 33-year-old Italian who dominated Katarzyna Kawa of Poland 6-3, 6-0, in a matchup of 5-foot-5 (1.64-meter) players on Thursday not before 9:30 a.m. PDT. Live streaming is available. 
   Errani, the 2012 French Open runner-up to Maria Sharapova, beat Ahn 6-4, 6-0 in the second round of the $125,000 Indian Wells (Calif.) Challenger in 2018 in their only previous meeting.
   Bellis, who climbed as high as No. 35 at age 18 in 2017, is set to play qualifier Gabriela Talaba, a 25-year-old left-hander from Romania with a one-handed backhand, for the first time at 7 a.m.
   Talaba, who won last year's $25,000 Redding, Calif., Challenger, ousted seventh-seeded Greet Minnen of Belgium 1-6, 6-3, 6-1 after winning three consecutive sets 6-0 in qualifying. 
   After the Bellis-Talaba match, Volynets will take on qualifier Varvara Lepchenko, a 34-year-old U.S. left-hander from Uzbekistan, for the first time. 
   Lepchenko, who has tumbled from a career-high No. 19 in 2012 to No. 186, edged second-seeded Nina Stojanovic of Serbia 6-7 (5), 6-2, 7-6 (6). Stojanovic, ranked No. 98, has lost in the first round of her last four tournaments, including two Grand Slams.
   Lepchenko reached two semifinals (2014 and 2015) and one quarterfinal (2013) in the now-defunct Bank of the West Classic at Stanford. 

Singles, doubles standout Goerges retires at 31

Julia Goerges reached the Wimbledon semifinals in 2018.
File photo by Paul Bauman
   Julia Goerges, who reached career highs of No. 9 in singles and No. 12 in doubles, announced her retirement today. 
   The 31-year-old German ended her career with a second-round loss to compatriot Laura Siegemund in the French Open three weeks ago and with a ranking of No. 45. 
   In a letter addressed "Dear Tennis," Goerges, the women's doubles runner-up in the 2013 Bank of the West Classic at Stanford with Darija Jurak of Croatia, wrote on Instagram: "When I started playing tennis at the age of five, I would never have thought that we would go such a long way together.
   "You have given me so many different types of emotions throughout our journey and I am very thankful for everything you have shown and taught me. I learnt how to deal with the toughest losses but also enjoy the most amazing wins of my career, to fight back many times when I was struggling with you and through it all we never lost sight of our dreams."
   Goerges won seven singles and five doubles titles on the WTA Tour and amassed $9.9 million in career earnings. By reaching the Wimbledon semifinals in 2018, she advanced at least to the round of 16 in all four majors in singles. Goerges also advanced to the mixed doubles final in the 2014 French Open with Nenad Zimonjic of Serbia.
   Goerges was one of eight German women to crack top 10 in singles — with Sylvia Hanika, Bettina Bunge, Claudia Kohde-Kilsch, Stefanie Graf, Anke Huber, Andrea Petkovic and Angelique Kerber — and one of three to reach the top 15 in singles and doubles with Graf and Kohde-Kilsch. 
   "Julia's powerful playing style, exemplary sportsmanship and thoughtful nature made her a fantastic ambassador for women's tennis and a fan favorite around the world," WTA chairman and CEO Steve Simon said in a statement. "On behalf of the WTA family, I congratulate her on her wonderful career and the contributions she will leave with our sport and wish her every success and happiness for the future. She will certainly be missed."

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.
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