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. 

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