Saturday, November 28, 2020

NorCal's Altamirano loses in Lima doubles final

Collin Altamirano fell in his first Challenger final in singles
or doubles. 2018 photo by Paul Bauman
   Inigo Cervantes and Oriol Roca Batalla of Spain beat Collin Altamirano of Sacramento, Calif., and Vitaliy Sachko of Ukraine 6-3, 6-4 in a matchup of unseeded teams today in the final of the $52,080 Lima (Peru) Challenger on clay.
   Cervantes, 30, and the 5-foot-8 (1.73-meter), 165-pound (75-kilogram) Roca Batalla, 27, shared $3,100. Altamirano, 24, and Sachko, 23, split $1,800. 
   Sachko also lost in the singles semifinals, 6-2, 6-4 to fellow qualifier Thiago Tirante, a 19-year-old Argentine who won last year's Orange Bowl. 
   Altamirano, who fell in the opening round of singles as a lucky loser, was playing in his first tournament since March and first Challenger final ever in singles or doubles. He has won three Futures doubles titles.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Top doubles seeds lose in Lima Challenger

   Unseeded Inigo Cervantes and Oriol Roca Batalla of Spain ousted top-seeded Gonzalo Escobar of Ecuador and Artem Sitak, a Russia native who plays for New Zealand, 7-6 (7), 7-5 today in the semifinals of the $52,080 Lima (Peru) Challenger on clay.
   Sitak teamed with Chris Guccione of Australia to win the $100,000 Aptos, Calif., Challenger in 2015 and with Divij Sharan of India to reach the Wimbledon quarterfinals in 2018. Sitak climbed to a career-high No. 32 in doubles later in 2018.
   Cervantes and Roca Batalla, only 5-foot-8 (1.73 meters) and 165 pounds (75 kilograms), are scheduled to meet unseeded Collin Altamirano of Sacramento, Calif., and Vitaliy Sachko of Ukraine on Saturday. 
   Altamirano, 24, will appear in his first Challenger final in singles or doubles. He has won three Futures doubles titles.
   Altamirano, playing in his first tournament since March, and Sachko have lost only 11 games in two matches. They received a walkover in the semifinals. 
   Sachko, 23, also remains alive in singles. He is set to face qualifier Thiago Tirante, a 19-year-old Argentine who won last year's Orange Bowl, in a matchup of qualifiers. Altamirano fell in the first round of singles as a lucky loser. 

Thursday, November 26, 2020

NorCal's Altamirano gains first Challenger doubles final

   Collin Altamirano advanced to his first Challenger final in singles or doubles in unexpected fashion today.
   The 24-year-old Sacramento, Calif., resident and Vitaliy Sachko of Ukraine defeated Marcelo Tomas Barrios Vera and Alejandro Tabilo of Chile 6-4, 6-1 in a quarterfinal matchup of unseeded teams in the $52,080 Lima (Peru) Challenger on clay. 
   Altamirano and Sachko then received a walkover from unseeded Daniel Elahi Galan of Colombia and Agustin Velotti of Argentina. 
   Altamirano and Sachko, who surrendered only six games in the first round, are scheduled to play either top-seeded Gonzalo Escobar of Ecuador and Artem Sitak, a 34-year-old Russia native who plays for New Zealand, or unseeded Inigo Cervantes and Oriol Roca Batalla of Spain on Saturday.
   Sitak teamed with Chris Guccione of Australia to win the $100,000 Aptos, Calif., Challenger in 2015 and with Divij Sharan of India to reach the Wimbledon quarterfinals in 2018. Sitak climbed to a career-high No. 32 in doubles later in 2018.
   Altamirano has won three Futures doubles crowns.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

NorCal's Altamirano advances in doubles, avenging loss

   Collin Altamirano gained a measure of revenge today in the $52,080 Lima (Peru) Challenger.
   In the first round of doubles in the clay-court tournament, the 24-year-old Sacramento, Calif., resident and Vitaliy Sachko of Ukraine defeated Jesper De Jong and Jelle Sels of the Netherlands 6-3, 6-3 in a matchup of unseeded teams.
   De Jong, 20, beat lucky loser Altamirano, playing in his first tournament since March, 6-2, 6-4 on Tuesday in the opening round of singles.
   Altamirano and Sachko, the last direct acceptances, are scheduled to play unseeded Marcelo Tomas Barrios Vera and Alejandro Tabilo of Chile on Thursday in the quarterfinals. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

After losing, NorCal's Altamirano has shot at revenge

Collin Altamirano will face Jesper De Jong in doubles after
losing to him in singles. 2018 photo courtesy of Steve Pratt
   The bad news for Collin Altamirano is he lost.
   The good news is he won't have to wait long for a chance at revenge.
   Jesper De Jong, 20, of the Netherlands defeated Altamirano, a 24-year-old lucky loser from Sacramento, Calif., 6-2, 6-4 today in the first round of the $52,080 Lima (Peru) Challenger on clay. 
   Altamirano fell in the final round of qualifying on Sunday but advanced to the main draw when Jaume Munar of Spain withdrew because of a right-foot injury.
   De Jong reached the semifinals of last week's $52,080 Guayaquil (Ecuador) Challenger on clay as a qualifier.
   Altamirano and Vitaliy Sachko of Ukraine are scheduled to play De Jong and compatriot Jelle Sels in the opening round of doubles on Wednesday.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Altamirano lucky loser in Lima; college destinations

Collin Altamirano, shown in 2018, is scheduled to play
Jesper De Jong of the Netherlands in the first round of
the Lima (Peru) Challenger. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Collin Altamirano of Sacramento, Calif., advanced to the main draw in the $52,080 Lima (Peru) Challenger on clay today when Jaume Munar of Spain withdrew because of a right-foot injury.
   The 24-year-old Altamirano, who lost in the final round of qualifying on Sunday, is scheduled to play Jesper De Jong, 20, of the Netherlands on Tuesday in the first round.
   De Jong reached the semifinals of last week's $52,080 Guayaquil (Ecuador) Challenger on clay as a qualifier to jump 44 places in the world rankings to No. 305.
   Altamirano, who until Sunday had not played since March (he received a first-round bye in qualifying), is ranked No. 393. He qualified for the 2018 U.S. Open, losing to Ugo Humbert of France in the opening round.
   Altamirano and De Jong also are set to meet in the opening round of doubles in Lima on Wednesday. Altamirano will team with Vitaliy Sachko of Ukraine, and De Jong will pair with compatriot Jelle Sels. 
   JuniorsVivian Ovrootsky, 16, of San Jose, Calif., swept the girls titles without losing a set in last week's ITF Grade 5 Championships in San Diego.
   The fifth-seeded Ovrootsky, who has verbally committed to enroll at the University of Texas in 2022, beat seventh-seeded Kimmi Hance, a resident of Torrance in the Los Angeles area who recently signed with UCLA, 6-3, 6-2. Ovrootsky lost no more than five games in any of her five singles matches.
   Seeded second in doubles, Ovrootsky and Hance downed third-seeded Leyden Games of Irvine in the L.A. region and Katherine Hui of San Diego 6-4, 6-4 in the final.
   Amber Lee of Orinda in the San Francisco Bay Area signed a National Letter of Intent to attend Arizona State in the fall. Other Northern Californians signing letters or making verbal commitments are:
   —Connie Ma, Dublin, senior, Stanford.
   —Allura Zamarripa, St. Helena, senior, Texas.
   —Maribella Zamarripa, St. Helena, senior, Texas.
   —Makenna Thiel, Piedmont, senior, California.
   —Muskan Mahajan, San Ramon, senior, Boston College.
   —Tomi Main, Seaside, junior, Texas Tech.
   —Madison Weekley, Alamo, junior, Saint Mary's (Calif.).
   —Luke Casper, Santa Cruz, senior, Texas A&M.
   —Hugo Hashimoto, San Jose, senior, Columbia.
   —Karl Lee, Sacramento, senior, UCLA.
   —Luke Neal, Larkspur, senior, Yale.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Medvedev tops Thiem for title; Sherif falls in final

   Daniil Medvedev won the biggest title of his career today, defeating Dominic Thiem 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-4 in the Nitto ATP Finals in London.
   The 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) Medvedev, a 24-year-old Russian, also beat five-time champion Novak Djokovic and second-ranked Rafael Nadal during the week. Medvedev, seeded fourth, became the first player to sweep the top three players in the world rankings in the season finale, according to atptour.com.
   Medvedev, who went 0-3 in his ATP Finals debut last year, also became the fifth consecutive first-time champion in the indoor hardcourt tournament. He followed Stefanos Tsitsipas last year, Alexander Zverev in 2018, Grigor Dimitrov in 2017 and Andy Murray in 2016.
   Medvedev made $1.564 million, and Thiem took home $861,000.
   In the doubles final, fifth-seeded Wesley Koolhof of the Netherlands and Nikola Mektic of Croatia topped seventh-seeded Jurgen Melzer of Austria and Edouard Roger-Vasselin of France 6-2, 3-6 [10-5] for their first title together.
   Koolhof and Mektic, who joined forces at Adelaide in January, split $254,500. They reached the U.S. Open final, losing to Mate Pavic of Croatia and Bruno Soares of Brazil.
   ITF Women's Circuit — Top-seeded Kaia Kanepi of Estonia rolled to a 6-3, 6-2 victory over second-seeded Maiar Sherif Ahmed Abdelaziz (Fresno State, 2015-16) of Egypt to win the $25,000 Open Gran Canaria on clay in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, off the coast of northwestern Africa.
   Since losing in the second round of the French Open, Kanepi has won 15 of 16 matches, all in $25,000 tournaments, with three titles. The 35-year-old veteran has reached the quarterfinals of the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open twice each and been ranked as high as No. 15 in 2012.
   Sherif, 24, lost for the first time in 12 matches. She won a $100,000 clay-court tournament in Charleston, S.C., as a qualifier two weeks ago.
   ATP Challenger Tour — Unseeded Brandon Nakashima, 19, of San Diego beat fourth-seeded Prajnesh Gunneswaran of India 6-3, 6-4 in the $52,080 Orlando (Fla.) Open for his first Challenger title.
   Nakashima, who will soar 37 places to a career-high No. 165 on Monday, saved all eight break points against him and did not lose a set in the hardcourt tournament. He ousted top-seeded Thiago Monteiro in the second round and eighth-seeded Mackenzie McDonald, a San Francisco Bay Area product, in the quarterfinals.
   Gunneswaran, a 31-year-old left-hander, lost a Challenger final for the second consecutive week. He fell to Denis Kudla last Sunday in Cary, N.C.
   Nakashima reached his first Challenger semifinal in Fairfield, Calif., last fall, and Gunneswaran advanced to the semis of the 2017 Tiburon, Calif., Challenger. Both were $100,000 tournaments.
   In the final round of qualifying for the $52,080 Lima Challenger on clay, fifth-seeded Thiago Agustin Tirante, 19, of Argentina beat top-seeded Collin Altamirano, 24, of Sacramento, Calif., 6-4, 6-4. Altamirano, who received a first-round bye, played his first match since March.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Cal coach Ram loses doubles heartbreaker in ATP Finals

   Much like Dominic Thiem earlier in singles, Jurgen Melzer and Edouard Roger-Vasselin staged an amazing comeback in a decisive tiebreaker today to reach the title match in the Nitto ATP Finals.
   The seventh-seeded Melzer and Roger-Vasselin saved a match point in their 6-7 (4), 6-3 [11-9] victory over second-seeded Rajeev Ram, a volunteer assistant coach at the University of California, Berkeley, and Joe Salisbury in the indoor hardcourt tournament in London.
   Ram, 36, of Carmel, Ind., and Salisbury, a 28-year-old London native and resident, led 7-1 in the match tiebreaker before Melzer, a 39-year-old left-hander from Austria, and Roger-Vasselin, a 36-year-old Frenchman, reeled off seven consecutive points. 
   Ram then won both points on his serve to earn a match point at 9-8. After Roger-Vasselin, the son of 1983 French Open singles semifinalist Christophe Roger-Vasselin, missed his first serve, Melzer nailed a forehand volley while falling to the court. 
   Roger-Vasselin held for 10-9 to garner his own match point. On Salisbury's second serve, Melzer ripped a backhand passing shot down the middle to end the thriller.
   In the second set, Roger-Vasselin saved two break points to hold for 4-2 and two more to win the set.
   Melzer and Roger-Vasselin are scheduled to play fifth-seeded Wesley Koolhof of the Netherlands and Nikola Mektic of Croatia on Sunday at 7:30 a.m PST (Tennis Channel). Koolhof and Mektic dispatched fourth-seeded Marcel Granollers of Spain and Horacio Zeballos of Argentina 6-3, 6-4.
   Thiem, seeded third, edged top-ranked Novak Djokovic 7-5, 6-7 (10), 7-6 (5) in 2 hours, 54 minutes to reach the final for the second consecutive year. Thiem, who lost to Stefanos Tsitsipas last year, trailed 0-4 in the third-set tiebreaker.
   Djokovic saved four match points in the second-set tiebreaker and one in the decisive tiebreaker. He entered the match 15-1 in tiebreakers this year.
   In Sunday's final at 10 a.m. (ESPN2), Thiem will face fourth-seeded Daniil Medvedev, who eliminated second-seeded Rafael Nadal 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-3. Nadal, who has never won the ATP Finals, served for the match at 6-3, 5-4. 
   ITF Women's Circuit — Second-seeded Maiar Sherif Ahmed Abdelaziz (Fresno State, 2015-16) of Egypt beat unseeded Jule Niemeier of Germany 7-5, 5-7, 6-1 in 2 hours, 59 minutes to reach the final of the $25,000 Open Gran Canaria on clay in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, off the coast of northwestern Africa. 
   Sherif, who won a $100,000 clay-court tournament in Charleston, S.C., as a qualifier two weeks ago, extended her winning streak to 11 matches. She will face top-seeded Kaia Kanepi of Estonia for the first time. 
   Kanepi, 35, dismissed sixth-seeded Richel Hogenkamp of the Netherlands 6-2, 6-2. Kanepi has reached the quarterfinals of the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open twice each and been ranked as high as No. 15 in 2012. 
   ATP Challenger Tour — Fourth-seeded Prajnesh Gunneswaran of India advanced to his second final in two weeks, beating unseeded Christopher Eubanks of Atlanta 6-4, 7-6 (2) on a hardcourt in the $52,080 Orlando (Fla.) Open.
   Gunneswaran, a 31-year-old left-hander who lost to Denis Kudla last week in Cary, N.C., is set to meet unseeded Brandon Nakashima, 19, of San Diego for the first time on Sunday at 8 a.m. The match will be streamed live.
   Nakashima, who ousted top-seeded Thiago Monteiro of Brazil in the second round, routed unseeded Mitchell Krueger of Dallas 6-1, 6-3 to reach his first Challenger final. 
   Gunneswaran advanced to the semifinals of the 2017 Tiburon, Calif., Challenger, and Nakashima reached his first Challenger semifinal in Fairfield, Calif., last fall. Both were $100,000 tournaments.
   In the doubles final, second-seeded Andrey Golubev and Aleksandr Nedovyesov of Kazakhstan beat unseeded Mitchell Krueger of Dallas and Jackson Withrow of Omaha, Neb., 7-5, 6-4.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Djokovic reaches ATP semis; McDonald falls in Florida

Novak Djokovic, playing at Indian Wells in 2017, avenged a loss to Alexander
Zverev in the title match of the 2018 ATP Finals. Photo by Mal Taam

   Top-ranked Novak Djokovic beat fifth-seeded Alexander Zverev 6-3, 7-6 (4) today to reach the semifinals of the Nitto ATP Finals in London.
   Djokovic, a five-time champion, avenged a loss to Zverev, a 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) German, in the 2018 final of the indoor hardcourt tournament.
   Djokovic finished 2-1 and Zverev 1-2 in the four-man Group Tokyo 1970. The ATP Finals began 50 years ago in Tokyo.
   Both players have come under fire recently. Djokovic was defaulted from the U.S. Open in September for flicking a ball in anger and accidentally hitting a line judge in the throat. Zverev has denied accusations of domestic abuse by his former girlfriend Olga Sharypova.
   In Saturday's semifinals, Djokovic is scheduled to face third-seeded Dominic Thiem at 6 a.m. PST (Tennis Channel), and second-seeded Rafael Nadal is set to take on fourth-seeded Daniil Medvedev not before noon. 
   In a doubles semifinal, second-seeded Rajeev Ram, a 36-year-old volunteer assistant coach at the University of California, Berkeley from Carmel, Ind., and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain will meet seventh-seeded Jurgen Melzer of Austria and Edouard Roger-Vasselin of France at 10 a.m.
   ATP Challenger Tour — Unseeded Brandon Nakashima, 19, of San Diego eliminated eighth-seeded Mackenzie McDonald, a 25-year-old product of Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area, 6-3, 7-6 (8) on another windy day in the quarterfinals of the $52,080 Orlando (Fla.) Open.
   Nakashima, who ousted top-seeded Thiago Monteiro of Brazil 6-4, 6-3 in the second round, won seven straight games from 1-3 in the opening set of his first career match against McDonald, playing on his adopted home courts at the USTA National Campus. 
   In the second set, Nakashima saved a set point serving at 5-6 with a backhand passing shot down the line and later converted his fourth match point.
   Nakashima is scheduled to meet unseeded Mitchell Krueger of Dallas on Saturday after the 8 a.m. PST semifinal between fourth-seeded Prajnesh Gunneswaran of India and unseeded Christopher Eubanks of Atlanta. Both matches will be streamed live.
   Krueger, 26, defeated qualifier Alexander Ritschard of Switzerland 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-1. Krueger, a quarterfinalist in the $100,000 Tiburon (Calif.) Challenger in 2015 and 2016, topped Nakashima 7-6 (7), 7-5 in the first round of qualifying for the 2018 Indian Wells Challenger in their only previous meeting.
   Gunneswaran, a 31-year-old left-hander who reached last week's final in Cary, N.C., routed sixth-seeded Dmitry Popko, a Russia native who plays for Kazakhstan, 6-0, 6-3. 
   The 6-foot-7 (2.01-meter) Eubanks, 24, subdued second-seeded Denis Kudla, an Arlington, Va., resident who won the Cary title, 5-7, 7-6 (3), 6-3 in 3 hours, 5 minutes.
   Eubanks, who trailed by a service break in the second set, blasted 17 aces, committed 10 double faults and saved 16 of 18 break points against him.
   Gunneswaran and Eubanks will meet for the first time. They reached the semifinals of $100,000 tournaments in Tiburon (2017) and Aptos (2018), respectively, in Northern California. 
   ITF Women's Circuit — Second-seeded Maiar Sherif Ahmed Abdelaziz (Fresno State, 2015-16) of Egypt beat Lara Selden, a 21-year-old qualifier from Belgium, 7-5, 6-3 in the quarterfinals of the $25,000 Open Gran Canaria on clay in Las Palmas de Gran Carania, off the coast of northwestern Africa.
   Sherif, who won a $100,000 clay-court tournament in Charleston, S.C., as a qualifier two weeks ago, extended her winning streak to 10 matches. She will play another 21-year-old, Jule Niemeier of Germany.
   In the other semifinal, top-seeded Kaia Kanepi of Estonia will meet sixth-seeded Richel Hogenkamp of the Netherlands.
   Kanepi, 35, has reached the quarterfinals of the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open twice each and been ranked as high as No. 15 in 2012. Hogenkamp, 28, climbed to a career-high No. 94 in 2017.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Cal coach Ram advances to doubles semis in ATP Finals

   Second-seeded Rajeev Ram, a volunteer assistant coach at the University of California, Berkeley from Carmel, Ind., and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain edged third-seeded Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies of Germany 7-6 (5), 6-7 (4) [10-4] today to reach Saturday's semifinals in the Nitto ATP Finals in London.
   Ram, nicknamed "Rampras" because his serve is similar to Pete Sampras', and Salisbury, playing in his hometown, saved two set points to break for 5-5 in the first set of the indoor hardcourt tournament. On the second set point, Krawietz and Mies failed to put away several overheads.
   Ram and Salisbury won their first Grand Slam men's doubles title, together or separately, in the Australian Open early this year. Krawietz and Mies earned their second consecutive French Open crown last month.
   In a late singles match, second-seeded Rafael Nadal beat sixth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas, the defending champion, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 for a semifinal berth. Nadal, 34, has never won the ATP Finals.
   Nadal, 34, and Roger Federer, 39, each have won a record 20 Grand Slam singles titles. Tsitsipas, 22, has yet to reach a major final.
   The ATP Finals, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary, consists of the top eight singles players and eight best doubles teams of the year.
   ATP Challenger Tour — Eighth-seeded Mackenzie McDonald, a 25-year-old product of Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area, dismissed Elias Ymer of Sweden 6-3, 6-3 to gain the quarterfinals of the $52,080 Orlando (Fla.) Open.
   McDonald is scheduled to play Brandon Nakashima, 19, of San Diego for the first time on Friday after the 7 a.m. PST match between second-seeded Denis Kudla, who won the title in Cary, N.C., last week, and unseeded Christopher Eubanks. The hardcourt tournament is being streamed live.
   Nakashima ousted top-seeded Thiago Monteiro of Brazil 6-4, 6-3.
   McDonald won the first of his two Challenger singles titles in Fairfield, Calif., 38 miles (61.2 kilometers) northeast of Piedmont, in 2017. Nakashima reached his first Challenger semifinal last fall in Fairfield.
   ITF Women's Circuit — Second-seeded Maiar Sherif Ahmed Abdelaziz (Fresno State, 2015-16) of Egypt beat Marta Custic, an 18-year-old wild card from Spain, 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 to reach the quarterfinals of the $25,000 Open Gran Canaria on clay in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, off the coast of northwestern Africa.
   Sherif, who won a $100,000 clay-court tournament in Charleston, S.C., as a qualifier two weeks ago, extended her winning streak to nine matches. She is set to play Lara Salden, a 21-year-old qualifier from Belgium, on Friday.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Medvedev dominates Djokovic in ATP Finals

Novak Djokovic, practicing at Indian Wells last year,
remains in the running for his sixth title in the ATP
Finals. Photo copyright by Harjanto Sumali
   Fourth-seeded Daniil Medvedev beat top-seeded Novak Djokovic 6-3 6-3 today in the round-robin phase of the Nitto ATP Finals in London.
   Medvedev, a 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) Russian, defeated Djokovic, who's still in the running for his sixth title in the ATP Finals, for the third time in their last four matches.
   Medvedev clinched a berth in Saturday's semifinals at 2-0 in the indoor hardcourt tournament. Djokovic will meet Alexander Zverev, both of whom are 1-1, on Friday for the other semifinal spot in the four-man Tokyo 1970 Group. The ATP Finals began 50 years ago in Tokyo.
   The fifth-seeded Zverev, who has denied recent accusations of domestic abuse, eliminated Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.
   In doubles, second-seeded Rajeev Ram, a volunteer assistant coach at the University of California, Berkeley from Carmel, Ind., and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain are scheduled to play third-seeded Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies of Germany on Thursday at 10 a.m. PST (Tennis Channel) for a semifinal berth.
   ATP Challenger Tour — This time, Teymuraz Gabashvili and Dennis Novikov's opponents went on a run to win a match tiebreaker. 
   Playing their fifth consecutive match tiebreaker, Gabashvili of Russia and Novikov, a 27-year-old San Jose, Calif., product, fell to second-seeded Andrey Golubev and Aleksandr Nedovyesov of Kazakhstan 6-7 (4), 6-2 [10-5] in the first round of the $52,080 Orlando (Fla.) Open on a windy day at the USTA National Campus. 
   Gabashvili and Novikov won the doubles title in last week's $52,080 Atlantic Tire Championships in Cary, N.C., prevailing in match tiebreakers in all four of their contests. They reeled off the last nine points against fourth-seeded Golubev and Nedovyesov in the quarterfinals and the last four points against Hunter Reese of Knoxville, Tenn., and Sem Verbeek (University of the Pacific, 2013-16) of the Netherlands in the semifinals.
   Reese and Verbeek also lost today, 6-4, 4-6 [10-7] to Sadio Doumbia and Fabien Reboul of France.
   In singles, eighth-seeded Mackenzie McDonald, a 25-year-old product of Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area, is set to play Elias Ymer of Sweden on Thursday at 7 a.m. for a quarterfinal berth. The match on McDonald's adopted home courts will be streamed live
   ITF Women's Circuit — Second-seeded Maiar Sherif Ahmed Abdelaziz (Fresno State, 2015-16) of Egypt beat wild card Marina Bassols Ribera of Spain 6-2, 7-6 (1) in the opening round of the $25,000 Open Gran Canaria on clay in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, off the coast of northwestern Africa.
   Sherif won a $100,000 clay-court tournament in Charleston, S.C., as a qualifier two weeks ago.
   Kaia Kanepi, 35, of Estonia is seeded first in the Open Gran Canaria. She has reached the quarterfinals of the French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open twice each and been ranked as high as No. 15 in 2012. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Ram, Salisbury lose but stay alive in ATP Finals doubles

   Second-seeded Rajeev Ram, a volunteer assistant coach at the University of California, Berkeley, and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain lost to fifth-seeded Wesley Koolhof of the Netherlands and Nikola Mektic of Croatia 7-6 (5), 6-0 today to fall to 1-1 in the Nitto ATP Finals in London.
   Ram, 36, and Salisbury, a 28-year-old London native and resident, won the Australian Open early this year. They will face third-seeded Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies of Germany on Thursday at 10 a.m. PST (Tennis Channel) in the indoor hardcourt tournament. The winner will advance to the semifinals.
   Krawietz and Mies, who won their second consecutive French Open title last month, eliminated eighth-seeded Lukasz Kubot of Poland and Marcelo Melo of Brazil 6-2, 7-6 (5).
   In singles, third-seeded Dominic Thiem topped second-seeded Rafael Nadal 7-6 (7), 7-6 (4), and sixth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas, the defending champion, saved a match point in his 6-1, 4-6, 7-6 (6) victory over seventh-seeded Andrey Rublev.
   Thiem, last year's runner-up, clinched a semifinal berth at 2-0. Nadal and Tsitsipas, both 1-1, will meet on Thursday not before noon for the other semifinal spot in their four-man group. Nadal seeks his first ATP Finals title.
   ATP Challenger Tour — Eighth-seeded Mackenzie McDonald, a 25-year-old product of Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area, routed Teymuraz Gabashvili, a 35-year-old Georgia native who plays for Russia, 6-2, 6-1 in the first round of the Orlando (Fla.) Open at the USTA National Campus.
   Gabashvili, a former top-50 singles player, and Dennis Novikov, a 27-year-old San Jose, Calif., product, won the doubles title in last week's Atlantic Tire Championships in Cary, N.C.
   McDonald, playing on his adopted home courts, is scheduled to face Elias Ymer, a 24-year-old Swede, on Thursday for a quarterfinal berth. In their only previous meeting, McDonald defeated Ymer 6-4, 6-3, 4-6, 6-1 in the first round of the 2018 Australian Open. 
   Wild card Sam Riffice, a University of Florida junior who grew up in the Sacramento suburb of Roseville, withdrew with a "medical" issue.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Kudla conquers Gunneswaran for Cary crown

Denis Kudla, the Tiburon, Calif., runner-up in 2015,
won his seventh Challenger singles title and first
since 2018. File photo by Paul Bauman 
   Second-seeded Denis Kudla of Arlington, Va., beat fourth-seeded Prajnesh Gunneswaran of India 3-6, 6-3, 6-0 today to win the $52,080 Atlantic Tire Championships in Cary, N.C.
   Kudla, 28, pounded six aces, committed no double faults and converted six of 12 break points on a windy day.
   Gunneswaran, a 31-year-old left-hander, had 11 aces and three double faults and capitalized on all three of his break points. He won third-set tiebreakers in the second round and quarterfinals but received a walkover in the semifinals.
   "It's a big deal that we're allowed to play and pursue our dreams, especially during the tough times," Kudla, the runner-up in the 2015 Tiburon, Calif., Challenger, said after playing Gunneswaran for the first time.
   Kudla collected $7,200 for his seventh Challenger singles title and first since 2018. Gunneswaran, a semifinalist in the 2017 Tiburon, Calif., Challenger, earned $4,240.
   Kudla will rise 10 places to No. 114 in Monday's new rankings, increasing his chances of getting straight into the Australian Open in January. Gunneswaran will improve nine spots to No. 137. 
   Dennis Novikov, a 27-year-old San Jose, Calif., product, won the doubles title with Teymuraz Gabashvili of Russia on Saturday.
   Kudla and Gunneswaran have the same seedings in next week's $52,080 Orlando (Fla.) Open. Kudla is scheduled to play lucky loser Kevin King of Atlanta in the first round, and Gunneswaran drew Sam Riffice, a University of Florida junior who grew up in the Sacramento, Calif., suburb of Roseville.
   ITF women — Alycia Parks, a 19-year-old qualifier from Port St. Lucie, Fla., defeated Robin Montgomery, a 16-year-old Washington, D.C., native, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 to win a $25,000 tournament in Orlando. Parks reached the final of last year's $25,000 tourney in Redding, Calif.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

San Jose product Novikov claims Cary crown in doubles

Unseeded Dennis Novikov (above) and Teymuraz Gabash-
vili won all four of their matches in the Cary, N.C., Challen-
ger in match tiebreakers. 2018 photo by Paul Bauman
   Here's a shocker: the doubles title in the Cary, N.C., Challenger was decided by a match tiebreaker.
   Unseeded Teymuraz Gabashvili, a Georgia native who plays for Russia, and Dennis Novikov, a San Jose, Calif., product who was born in Moscow, nipped top-seeded Luke Bambridge of Great Britain and Nathaniel Lammons of Dallas 7-5, 4-6 [10-8] today in the Atlantic Tire Championships.
   All six matches played by the finalists in the $52,800 hardcourt tournament went to match tiebreakers. Bambridge and Lammons won by walkover in the semifinals.
   Gabashvili and Novikov, playing in his first tournament since late February, led 5-2 in the match tiebreaker before Bambridge and Lammons reeled off four consecutive points. Novikov netted two forehands during the run but came up big late.
   With Bambridge serving at 7-7, Novikov ripped a forehand passing shot down the middle and pounded a service winner to earn two championship points. Lammons saved the first one, crushing a backhand winner on Novikov's first serve, but Novikov converted the second one with another forehand passing shot down the middle.
   In Sunday's singles final, second-seeded Denis Kudla, 28, of Arlington, Va., is scheduled to meet fourth-seeded Prajnesh Gunneswaran, a 31-year-old left-hander from India, for the first time at 9 a.m. PST. The match will be streamed live.
   Kudla, the runner-up in the 2015 Tiburon (Calif.) Challenger, outlasted third-seeded Daniel Elahi Galan of Colombia 6-7 (6), 6-1, 6-4. Gunneswaran, a semifinalist in the 2017 Tiburon (Calif.) Challenger, beat unseeded Mikael Torpegaard, a former three-time NCAA runner-up (singles, doubles and team) at Ohio State from Denmark, by walkover.
   Gabashvili, 35, and Novikov, 27, split $3,100 after winning their first title together. Bambridge, 25, and Lammons, 27, shared $1,800.
   Novikov, the Cary singles champion in 2015 and a singles semifinalist in the $100,000 San Francisco Challenger in 2018, won his seventh career Challenger doubles title and second of the COVID-shortened season. Novikov and Goncalo Oliveira, a left-hander from Portugal, took the Dallas crown in early February. 
   Gabashvili, a former top-50 singles player who has reached the fourth round of the French Open twice, claimed his 10th career Challenger doubles title and first of the year.
   Bambridge has won three ATP doubles titles, most recently Auckland in January with former University of California, Berkeley star Ben McLachlan. Bambridge also owns seven Challenger doubles crowns, including Fairfield, Calif., in 2017 with David O'Hare of Ireland.
   Novikov will jump 22 places to No. 156 in doubles in Monday's new world rankings, and Gabashvili will rise six spots to No. 149. Bambridge will remain No. 62, and Lammons will improve four notches to No. 99. All of the finalists have been ranked higher in doubles.
   Novikov played junior hockey for six years and tennis at UCLA for two years, helping the Bruins reach the 2013 NCAA final. Lammons played at Southern Methodist University in Dallas from 2013 to 2016 while earning a degree in mechanical engineering.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Almost 100, famed artist Thiebaud still painting the lines

Sacramento's Wayne Thiebaud, shown last month,
plans to play tennis on his 100th birthday Sunday.
Photo by Colleen Casey  
   Wayne Thiebaud plans to celebrate his 100th birthday on Sunday doing what he loves most.
   Painting and playing tennis.
   Not only does the renowned Sacramento, Calif., artist still work seven days a week, he plays tennis two or three times a week at the venerable Sutter Lawn Tennis Club, which is even older than he is — by one year.
   Thiebaud (pronounced TEE-bo) doesn't just go out and slap a few balls around, either. He plays up to two sets of doubles.
   "I try to keep exercising and play with some pretty old guys," the humble, self-deprecating Thiebaud said. "We all go out and sort of insult each other but have a good time trying to hit the ball still."
   Thiebaud plays with two young bucks in their 80s and a whippersnapper in his 70s.
   "He does very well," said Larry Crabbe, the kid of the group at 74. "He's not fanatically competitive out there. He mainly really, really, really enjoys being outside in the sun and loves the exercise. 
   "He's still pretty tough. For 100 years old, he's not a pushover. He makes you work. I have played sincerely against Wayne (in doubles) and lost — in recent times."
   Larry O'Connor, another member of the foursome, added that he's "amazed (Thiebaud) can move as well as he does. I'm 85, and he almost moves better than I do."
   Thiebaud's attitude on the court is no less impressive.
   "He's a gentleman," observed O'Connor, who worked in the family mechanical and electrical contracting business. "He never gets upset, never gets mad."
   In honor of Thiebaud's 100th birthday, the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento had scheduled an exhibition, "Wayne Thiebaud 100: Paintings, Prints and Drawings," from Oct. 16, 2020, through Jan. 3, 2021. However, the museum closed today until further notice because of a local surge in COVID-19 cases. 
   Thiebaud, who worked his way through high school at restaurants in Long Beach, Calif., is best known for his colorful paintings of desserts (not deserts). A vintage Thiebaud recently sold at auction for — brace yourself — $19 million.
   Thiebaud was inducted into the California Hall of Fame in 2010 with Barbra Streisand, Serena Williams and 11 others. He received the National Medal of Arts from President Clinton in 2014.
Wayne Thiebaud plays at the Sutter Lawn Tennis Club in Sacramento
in the 1990s. Photo courtesy of Colleen Casey
   Any discussion of Thiebaud and tennis inevitably returns to art.
   His game?
   "He's also artistic on the court," said Crabbe, a retired school district administrator who has played in Thiebaud's foursome for 15 years. "He was all about finesse. The balls very seldom came at you on a straight line. They either arced or (went) up or down or left or right, or were sliced and fell just over the net. His lobs would go way up, and you'd wait for them to bounce, and if you did, you'd better be way back because they'd go way, way up, typically out of reach.
   "He was a very scientific player and was into physics and geometry. He knew how to make that ball work for him."
   International Tennis Hall of Famer Bill Tilden's 1925 book, "Match Play and the Spin of the Ball," strongly influenced Thiebaud.
  "I was really interested in that idea of the spin, so I think I made some pretty interesting spin shots," he said. "I had a decent forehand and backhand. I was not very good at rushing the net and volleying."
   Tennis' appeal? 
   "Well, a great number of things, but I suppose the way the game was designed so that primarily you can never lose until the last point, unlike so many sports," Thiebaud mused. "You can be down all the way and still manage to come back by that curious and interesting scoring method. I like that a lot.
   "Plus, I like the beauty of the court because it's somewhat like a Mondrian painting."
   His favorite player?
   "The Swiss guy," Thiebaud exclaimed in reference, of course, to Roger Federer. "My background is also partially Swiss. He's probably the most beautiful player who ever played the game."
A reproduction of Wayne Thiebaud's painting of the outside
courts at Wimbledon hangs on a wall at Sutter Lawn.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   In some ways, tennis is similar to painting. Players execute their strokes with rackets instead of brushes and express themselves on courts instead of canvas. Yet tennis is everything painting isn't: physical, outdoors and social.
   And yes, Thiebaud sometimes combines his passions. Sports Illustrated commissioned him to paint at Wimbledon in 1968, the first year in which prize money was offered and professionals were allowed to compete. Thiebaud painted a ball lying on a line on the grass, the outside courts before the day's matches have begun, a female player toweling off during a changeover and the trophy on top of the British flag. Reproductions of the ball and courts hang on the walls in the upstairs lounge at Sutter Lawn.
   Thiebaud said he has "made a few drawings and paintings of tennis" since then. Through his late son Paul, an art dealer, Wayne became a friend of John McEnroe, an art collector who owned a gallery in New York. McEnroe bought a painting of a slot machine by Thiebaud for $5 million four or five years ago, the artist said.
   Thiebaud has not specifically painted McEnroe but has depicted a left-handed server like him.
   "That's really sort of an homage to him," Thiebaud said. "I liked the way he played, his serve-and-volleying technique."
   Thiebaud got a late, comical start in tennis. After serving in the Army and working as a commercial artist, he attended San Jose State College (now San Jose State University) in 1949-50. Shortly before turning 30, Thiebaud transferred to Sacramento State College (now California State University, Sacramento).
   "I decided I'd try to take tennis classes, but they didn't have any," Thiebaud said of the 3-year-old school.
   Sac State, however, did have a tennis team, and Thiebaud recalled a conversation he had with coach Jack Jossi, who died in 2007.
    Jossi: "Do you play tennis?"
   Thiebaud: "No, I'm trying to learn how to play."
   Jossi: "Well, I have only five guys for a tennis team, and I need another one."
   Thiebaud: "I'm not good enough to play tennis with a team."
   Jossi: "Let me see how you hit the ball."
   Jossi (after hitting a few balls with Thiebaud): "No, you don't know how to play. But I've got to get another person, so you're going to be the sixth man on the tennis team."
   A quarter of a century later, Thiebaud began competing in USTA age-group tournaments. His late wife Betty Jean was a nationally ranked player.
   Thiebaud initially said his highest ranking in Northern California was No. 8 in the 70s before correcting himself.
   "I was about 4 in the 90s because there weren't many of us," Thiebaud said with a chuckle.
   Thiebaud has no plans to stop playing.
   "If he were to spend his last day on a court, I think that's exactly what he would want," Crabbe said.

NorCal product reaches doubles final in Cary Challenger

Dennis Novikov (above), who grew up in San Jose,
Calif., and Teymuraz Gabashvili have won all three
of their matches in Cary, N.C., in match tiebreakers.
2018 photo by Paul Bauman
   Dennis Novikov apparently likes playing in Cary, N.C.
   The 27-year-old San Jose, Calif., product, who won the Cary singles title in 2015, reached Saturday's doubles final in the Atlantic Tire Championships.
   Novikov, who was born in Moscow, and Teymuraz Gabashvili, a 35-year-old Georgia native who plays for Russia, edged Hunter Reese of Knoxville, Tenn., and Sem Verbeek (University of the Pacific, 2013-16) of the Netherlands 7-5, 6-7 (6) [10-8] today in a battle of unseeded teams. 
   Not only have all three of Novikov and Gabashvili's victories in the $52,080 hardcourt tournament come in match tiebreakers, they have finished with a bang in their last two matches. They won the last four points today after reeling off the last nine in the quarterfinals.
   Reese, who won the 2018 Cary doubles title with countryman Evan King, and Verbeek, a 27-year-old left-hander, saved a match point with Reese serving at 5-6, 40-40 in the second set. 
   Gabashvili, a former top-50 player in singles, and Novikov, playing in his first tournament since late February, are scheduled to face top-seeded Luke Bambridge of Great Britain and Nathaniel Lammons of Dallas on Saturday at 9 a.m. PST. The final will be streamed live.
   Bambridge — who has won three doubles titles on the ATP Tour, the major leagues of men's tennis — and Lammons beat unseeded Americans Nathan Pasha and Martin Redlicki by walkover. Bambridge and Lammons' two other victories came in match tiebreakers.
   Novikov seeks his seventh Challenger doubles title overall and second of the abbreviated season. He and Goncalo Oliveira, a left-hander from Portugal, won the Dallas crown in early February.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Novikov, Verbeek to meet in Cary doubles semifinals

Dennis Novikov, a 27-year-old San Jose, Calif.,
product, will face Sem Verbeek, a former Univ-
ersity of the Pacific star from the Netherlands,
in the doubles semifinals in Cary, N.C. 2018
photo by Paul Bauman
   Two players with Northern California ties are set to meet in the doubles semifinals in the Atlantic Tire Championships in Cary, N.C.
   Teymuraz Gabashvili of Russia and Dennis Novikov, a 27-year-old San Jose product, beat fourth-seeded Andrey Golubev and Aleksandr Nedovyesov of Kazakhstan 4-6, 6-4 [10-3] today in the $52,080 hardcourt tournament. Gabashvili, 35, and Novikov, the Cary singles champion in 2015, won the last nine points in the match tiebreaker.
   Earlier today, Hunter Reese of Knoxville, Tenn., and Sem Verbeek (University of the Pacific, 2013-16) of the Netherlands eliminated Peter Polansky of Canada and Dmitry Popko of Kazakhstan 7-6 (6), 7-5. Reese and Verbeek, a 26-year-old left-hander, saved a set point at 5-6 in the tiebreaker.  
   The winners are scheduled to meet on Friday at about noon PST in the hardcourt tournament. Live streaming will be available. Today's matches were moved indoors because of rain.
   In the other doubles semifinal, top-seeded Luke Bambridge of Great Britain and Nathaniel Lammons of Dallas will play the unseeded American team of Nathan Pasha and Martin Redlicki.
   Golubev and Popko were born in Russia, and Nedovyesov hails from Ukraine. Kazakhstan, backed by billionaire Bulat Utemuratov, has become a tennis paradise offering extensive financial support, world-class facilities and top fitness trainers.
   Reese, a 27-year-old former Tennessee All-American, recently reached back-to-back Challenger doubles finals on clay, winning with Jan Zielinski of Poland in Sibiu, Romania, and losing with Andre Goransson (University of California, Berkeley, 2011-14) of Sweden in Split, Croatia.
   Reese and Polansky, 32, have won one Cary doubles title apiece. Reese triumphed in 2018 with countryman Evan King, and Polansky prevailed in 2016 with since-retired Philip Bester of Canada.
   Polansky was severely injured in a three-story fall from his hotel room in Mexico in 2007. He needed 550 stitches in his legs and back after having a night terror and trying to escape through the window.
   Doctors initially suggested amputating one of Polansky's legs. Four months later, he reached the boys singles final in the U.S. Open.
   ITF women — In a clash of Californians, Hanna Chang defeated Katie Volynets 0-6, 6-4, 6-4 in the first round of a $25,000 hardcourt tournament in Orlando, Fla.
   Chang, 22, of Fontana in the Los Angeles area evened her record against Volynets, 18, of Walnut Creek in the San Francisco Bay Area at 1-1. In their first meeting, Volynets led 4-6, 7-5, 3-1 in the final round of qualifying for the 2018 Stockton (Calif.) Challenger when Chang retired after suffering a head injury in a nasty fall during the second set. They fought for 2 hours, 37 minutes as the temperature rose to 80 degrees (26.7 Celsius).

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Ex-Pacific star advances in Cary Challenger doubles

   Two 26-year-old Europeans who starred at Northern California universities met today in the first round of doubles in the Atlantic Tire Championships in Cary, N.C.
   Sem Verbeek (Pacific, 2013-16) of the Netherlands teamed with Hunter Reese of Knoxville, Tenn., to beat second-seeded Andre Goransson (California, 2014-17) of Sweden and Ramkumar Ramanathan of India 6-1, 6-4 in the $52,080 hardcourt tournament.
   Today's matches were moved indoors because of rain. 
   Verbeek, a left-hander, won two Challenger doubles titles with Goransson last year. They also lost to Darian King of Barbados and Peter Polansky of Canada 6-4, 3-6 [12-10] in the final of the Fairfield, Calif., Challenger last fall.
   Reese, a 27-year-old former Tennessee All-American, recently reached back-to-back Challenger doubles finals on clay, winning with Jan Zielinski of Poland in Sibiu, Romania, and losing with Goransson in Split, Croatia.
   Reese and Verbeek are scheduled to play Polansky and Dmitry Popko of Kazakhstan on Thursday not before 11 a.m. PST in the quarterfinals (live stream). Rain is forecast again.
   Reese and Polanski won Cary doubles titles with other partners. Reese triumphed in 2018 with American Evan King, and Polansky prevailed in 2016 with since-retired Philip Bester of Canada.
   Also Thursday, Teymuraz Gabashvili of Russia and Dennis Novikov, a 27-year-old product of San Jose, Calif., are set to face fourth-seeded Andrey Golubev and Aleksandr Nedovyesov of Kazakhstan at about 1:30 p.m. 
   ITF womenKatie Volynets, 18, of Walnut Creek in the San Francisco Bay Area, leads Hanna Chang of Fontana, Calif., in the Los Angeles area in a suspended match in a $25,000 hardcourt tournament in Orlando, Fla.
   Volynets, who won the USTA girls 18 national title in August 2019 and turned pro in December, won the first set 6-0. Chang was serving for the second set at 5-4, deuce when play was halted.
   Volynets and Chang, 22, are meeting for the second time. Volynets led 4-6, 7-5, 3-1 in the final round of qualifying for the 2018 Stockton, Calif., Challenger when Chang retired after suffering a head injury in a nasty fall during the second set. They battled for 2 hours, 37 minutes as the temperature rose to 80 degrees (26.7 Celsius).

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

N.C. State star ousts McDonald in Cary Challenger

No. 8 seed Mackenzie McDonald, a San Francisco Bay Area
product, lost to Canadian wild card Alexis Galarneau, a fifth-
year senior at North Carolina State, 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 today in the
opening round of the $52,080 Atlantic Tire Championships
in Cary, N.C. 2018 photo by Paul Bauman 
   These college kids can play.
   One day after Garrett Johns stunned former Wimbledon junior champion Noah Rubin, Alexis Galarneau shocked eighth-seeded Mackenzie McDonald, a 25-year-old product of Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area, 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 today in the first round of the $52,080 Atlantic Tire Championships in Cary, N.C.
   Both Johns, a Duke sophomore from Atlanta, and Galarneau, a fifth-year senior at North Carolina State from Canada, are wild cards.
   Galarneau, ranked No. 573, played his first match in a professional tournament since February. The Wolfpack All-American had been 0-2 this year on the pro tour.
   McDonald, ranked No. 193, was coming off quarterfinals appearances in the $104,160 Istanbul Challenger as a qualifier and the Astana Open in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, on the elite ATP Tour.
   McDonald turned pro after winning the NCAA singles and doubles titles as a UCLA junior in 2016. He reached a career-high No. 57 in April 2019 but underwent right hamstring surgery the following June and missed the rest of the season.
   Like McDonald, Dennis Novikov grew up in the Bay Area and starred at UCLA. In the first round of doubles, the 27-year-old San Jose product teamed with Teymuraz Gabashvili of Russia to defeat wild cards Tadas Babelis and Robin Catry, teammates at North Carolina State, 6-2, 3-6 [10-6].
   Novikov, who lost in the first round of singles qualifying, is playing in his first tournament since February. He won the Cary singles crown in 2015.
   Gabashvili and Novikov, a Moscow native, will face fourth-seeded Andrey Golubev and Aleksandr Nedovyesov of Kazakhstan in the quarterfinals.  

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Ex-Fresno State star coasts to $100K Charleston title

   Grunting loudly while ripping groundstrokes, qualifier Maiar Sherif Ahmed Abdelaziz rolled to by far the biggest title of her budding career today.
   The former Fresno State All-American dominated unseeded Katarzyna Kawa 6-2, 6-3 on clay in the $100,000 LTP Tennis in Charleston, S.C. Sherif, a 24-year-old Egyptian, won the last four games of each set against the 27-year-old Pole.
   Sherif avenged a loss to Kawa in Saturday's doubles final to win her ninth ITF (minor-league) singles title but first above the $25,000 level. She will jump 32 places to a career-high No. 132 on Monday. 
   Sherif reached the NCAA doubles quarterfinals in 2016 as a Fresno State sophomore with her sister Rana before transferring to Pepperdine and advancing to the NCAA singles semifinals in 2018 as a senior.
   In 2019, Sherif captured six singles titles, including four in a row en route to 26 consecutive victories. She recently became the first Egyptian woman to play in the main draw of a Grand Slam tournament, qualifying for the French Open. Facing former world No. 1 Karolina Pliskova in the first round of the main draw at Roland Garros, Sherif saved eight set points to win the opening set before falling 6-4 in the third set. Pliskova played with a left-thigh injury.
   Kawa will rise 18 spots to a career-high No. 112. She reached the final of a clay-court tournament in Jurmala, Latvia, on the elite WTA Tour in July last year as a qualifier and made her Grand Slam debut in this year's U.S. Open, losing to 27th-seeded Ons Jabeur 6-2, 7-6 (6) in the opening round.
   Sherif, 5-foot-11 (1.80 meters), has an impressive all-around game featuring a punishing forehand, strong two-handed backhand, consistent serve, deft drop shot, willingness to come to the net and tenacity. 
   "Sherif is very impressive in terms of her intensity from the first ball, even from the warmup," tournament director Patrick Hieber said during the live-stream broadcast of the final. "Some people might say it's a little too much, but she is who she is, and she is really maximizing her game right now. She plays every point like a match point, and that's a great skill to have as an athlete."
   The final began with five service breaks on a windy day. Sherif then found her rhythm, holding her serve the rest of the match.
   The 5-foot-9 (1.75-meter) Kawa, however, lost her serve all four times in the first set and six of nine times overall. She committed five double faults, including two in a game twice and two on break points. 
   Sherif jumped all over Kawa's creampuff second serve, winning 82 percent of those points.
   Kawa didn't fare much better during rallies, although there were some long exchanges. She screamed in frustration after committing unforced errors, slapped her head after a miscue late in the match and sprawled on the court to retrieve a drop shot.  
   Sherif broke serve at love in the final game. On her first championship point, she ran around Kawa's second serve and slugged a forehand passing shot. 
   Sherif collected $15,239 for winning the title, and Kawa pocketed $8,147 as the runner-up.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Ex-Fresno State star reaches first $100K final

   Qualifier Maiar Sherif Ahmed Abdelaziz, a former Fresno State All-American, reached her first final in a $100,000 tournament today when fourth-seeded Misaki Doi retired in the third set in Charleston, S.C.
   Abdelaziz, a 24-year-old Egyptian, had just broken serve on three consecutive unforced errors by Doi to lead 3-6, 6-3, 4-3 in the clay-court LTP Tennis when the 29-year-old Japanese left-hander quit with a left-calf injury suffered in the quarterfinals.
   Doi, only 5-foot-3 (1.59 meters), lost the last three games of the 2-hour, 30-minute battle on a windy day. 
   Abdelaziz recently became the first Egyptian woman to play in the main draw of a Grand Slam tournament, qualifying for the French Open and extending second-seeded Karolina Pliskova to 6-4 in the third set in the first round.
   Abdelaziz won six ITF (minor-league) singles titles last year — four in $15,000 tournaments and two at the $25,000 level. She reached the NCAA doubles quarterfinals in 2016 as a Fresno State sophomore with her sister Rana before transferring to Pepperdine and advancing to the NCAA singles semifinals in 2018 as a senior.
   Doi's best year came in 2016 as she reached the fourth round at Wimbledon, advanced to the quarterfinals of the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford and climbed to No. 30.
   Abdelaziz, who's projected to rise at least 19 places to a career-high No. 145 on Monday, is scheduled to face unseeded Katarzyna Kawa of Poland for the first time on Sunday at 9 a.m. PST. The match will be streamed live.
   Kawa, the runner-up on clay in Jurmala, Latvia, on the elite WTA Tour in July last year as a qualifier, beat 5-foot-3 (1.60-meter) Renata Zarazua, a 23-year-old Mexican, 6-4, 6-3 in a matchup of unseeded players. 
   In the French Open, Zarazua became the first Mexican woman in 20 years to win a main-draw match in a Grand Slam tournament.
   Kawa, who's projected to improve at least 18 spots to a career-high No. 112, has had an eventful tournament. She lost her first set in the tournament 0-6 to U.S. wild card Kennedy Shaffer, ranked No. 674; topped wild card CiCi Bellis, who had won nine of her last 10 matches; and dismissed second-seeded Lauren Davis, formerly ranked 26th, 6-3, 6-3 in a quarterfinal matchup of 27-year-olds.
   Abdelaziz and Kawa also faced each other in today's doubles final. Kawa and countrywoman Magdalena Frech defeated Abdelaziz and Astra Sharma of Australia 4-6, 6-4 [10-2] in a clash of unseeded teams. 
   Frech, 22, and Kawa ousted top-seeded Coco Gauff and Caty McNally in the first round and captured the doubles title in the $80,000 Mercer Tennis Classic on hardcourts in Macon, Ga., two weeks ago.
   Unseeded Iga Swiatek, 19, of Poland won the French Open without losing more than four games in a set.

Friday, November 6, 2020

Ex-Fresno St. star reaches singles semis, doubles final

   Maiar Sherif Ahmed Abdelaziz, a former Fresno State star, continued to march through the singles and doubles draws today in the $100,000 LTP Tennis in Charleston, S.C.
   So did Katarzyna Kawa.
   Abdelaziz, a 24-year-old Egyptian, eliminated fellow qualifier Gabriela Talaba of Romania 3-6, 6-3, 6-1 in the quarterfinals of the clay-court tournament. Talaba, a 25-year-old left-hander with a one-handed backhand, won the $25,000 Redding (Calif.) Challenger last fall.
   Also, unseeded Abdelaziz and Astra Sharma of Australia topped wild cards Allura and Maribella Zamarripa, 18-year-old identical twins from St. Helena in the Napa Valley, 7-6 (2), 7-5 to reach Saturday's doubles final.
   The Zamarripas won the title in last week's $80,000 hardcourt tournament in Tyler, Texas, as alternates, saving two championship points. 
   Poland's Kawa, undoubtedly inspired by 19-year-old countrywoman Iga Swiatek's shocking victory in the recent French Open, ousted second-seeded Lauren Davis, a 5-foot-2 (1.57-meter) American formerly ranked 26th, 6-3, 6-3 in a matchup of 27-year-olds. 
   Kawa then paired with compatriot Magdalena Frech to beat Americans Ingrid Neel and Caitlin Whoriskey 7-6 (5), 6-2 in a clash of unseeded teams. Frech and Kawa took the crown in an $80,000 hardcourt tourney in Macon, Ga., two weeks ago.
   Saturday's singles semifinals are scheduled to begin at 7 a.m. PST. The 164th-ranked Abdelaziz will face Japan's Misaki Doi, seeded fourth at No. 85, on Center Court, and the 130th-ranked Kawa will play 5-foot-3 (1.60-meter) Mexican Renata Zarazua, unseeded at No. 150, on Court 9. Both are first-time meetings.
   The doubles final will follow on Center Court after suitable rest. The Center Court matches will be streamed live.
   Doi, a 5-foot-3 (1.59-meter) left-hander who climbed as high as 30th in 2016, took out eighth-seeded Ann Li, a 20-year-old American coming off the Tyler title, 6-3, 7-6 (6).
   Both Abdelaziz and Zarazua, 23, qualified for the French Open. Zarazua became the first Mexican woman in 20 years to win a main-draw match in a Grand Slam tournament, then lost to third-seeded Elina Svitolina in three sets in the second round. Abdelaziz fell in the opening round of the main draw, extending second-seeded Karolina Pliskova to 6-4 in the third set.
   Abdelaziz reached the NCAA doubles quarterfinals in 2016 as a Fresno State sophomore with her sister Rana before transferring to Pepperdine and advancing to the NCAA singles semifinals in 2018 as a senior.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Former Fresno St. star advances in singles, doubles

   Maiar Sherif Ahmed Abdelaziz, a former Fresno State All-American, today advanced to the singles quarterfinals and doubles semifinals in the $100,000 LTP Tennis on clay in Charleston, S.C.
   The 24-year-old qualifier from Egypt defeated Caroline Dolehide, a 22-year-old native of Hinsdale, Ill., 7-5, 7-6 (6) in singles. Dolehide crushed sixth-seeded Kristie Ahn, a 28-year-old Stanford graduate, 6-1, 6-0 in 47 minutes in the first round on Wednesday.
   Abdelaziz also paired with Astra Sharma of Australia to edge Kateryna Bondarenko, a 34-year-old mother of two from Ukraine, and Olga Govortsova of Belarus 6-1, 3-6 [10-6] in a matchup of unseeded teams.
   Abdelaziz made her Grand Slam main-draw debut in September, qualifying for the French Open in September and extending second-seeded Karolina Pliskova to 6-4 in the third set in the opening round of singles. 
   Abdelaziz reached the NCAA doubles quarterfinals in 2016 as a Fresno State sophomore with her sister Rana before transferring to Pepperdine and advancing to the NCAA singles semifinals in 2018 as a senior.
   Ranked No. 164 in singles, Abdelaziz is scheduled to meet Romanian qualifier Gabriela Talaba, ranked No. 217, for the first time on Friday.
   Talaba, a 25-year-old left-hander who won the $25,000 Redding (Calif.) Challenger last fall, beat top-seeded Shelby Rogers of Charleston by walkover. The reason for Rogers' withdrawal was not available.
   Rogers, 28, nipped qualifier Kyoka Okamura of Japan 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (5) in the opening round after serving for the match twice in the third set and trailing 2-5 in the tiebreaker. 
   Rogers stunned Serena Williams in the quarterfinals at Lexington, Ky., in August and reached her second Grand Slam quarterfinal in September in the U.S. Open.
   Meanwhile, two former top-35 players lost today.
   Renata Zarazua, a 5-foot-3 (1.60-meter) Mexican who advanced to the second round of the French Open as a qualifier, dismissed third-seeded Madison Brengle, 30, of Bradenton, Fla., 6-2, 6-1. Brengle won Northern California Challengers in 2018 and 2019.
   Katarzyna Kawa, 27, of Poland eliminated CiCi Bellis, a 21-year-old wild card who was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, 7-6 (4), 6-4.
   Both Brengle and Bellis have been slowed by injuries since achieving career highs of No. 35. They climbed that high at age 25 in 2015 and 18 in 2017, respectively.
   Second-seeded Lauren Davis, ranked No. 73, dominated Hailey Baptiste, a 19-year-old qualifier, 6-2, 6-1 in an all-American encounter. 
   The 5-foot-2 (1.57-meter) Davis reached a career-high No. 26 in 2017. Baptiste shocked second-seeded Madison Keys, the U.S. Open runner-up in 2017, in the opening round in Baptiste's native Washington, D.C., last year. 
   Fourth-seeded Misaki Doi, a 5-foot-3 (1.59-meter) left-hander from Japan, advanced by walkover against Sara Errani, a 34-year-old Italian formerly ranked No. 5.
   On Center Court on Friday, Davis is scheduled to face Kawa at 7 a.m. PST, followed by Doi against eighth-seeded Ann Li, a 20-year-old American who won an $80,000 hardcourt tournament in Tyler, Texas, last week. Both matches will be streamed live.
   Abdelaziz and Sharma, a 25-year-old former Vanderbilt All-American, are set to play wild cards Allura and Maribella Zamarripa, 18-year-old identical twins from St. Helena in the Napa Valley. 
   The Zamarripas, who saved two championship points and won the Tyler title last week as alternates, beat Dolehide and Rogers by walkover.  

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Top seed Rogers averts early upset; Bellis stays hot

   Top-seeded Shelby Rogers came within two points of losing early today to a qualifier for the second consecutive week, this time in her hometown.
   Rogers, 28, edged Kyoka Okamura, 25, of Japan 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (5) in the first round of the $100,000 LTP Tennis on clay in Charleston, S.C.
   Rogers, who fell to 17-year-old phenom Clara Tauson of Denmark in the second round of an $80,000 hardcourt tournament in Tyler, Texas, last week, served for the match against Okamura at 5-4 and 6-5 in the third set and trailed 2-5 in the tiebreaker.
   Rogers stunned Serena Williams in the quarterfinals at Lexington, Ky., in August and reached her second Grand Slam quarterfinal in September in the U.S. Open. Ranked 58th in the world and 10th in the United States, she is scheduled to meet another qualifier, Gabriela Talaba of Romania, on Thursday.
   Talaba, a 25-year-old left-hander with a one-handed backhand, won the $25,000 Redding (Calif.) Challenger last fall. 
   CiCi Bellis, a 21-year-old wild card who was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, beat fifth-seeded Aliona Bolsova Zadoinov, a 22-year-old Spanish citizen from Moldova, for the second time in two weeks, 7-6 (0), 6-0. 
   Bellis has won nine of her last 10 matches, including the title on hardcourts in Macon, Ga., two weeks ago. She withdrew from the Tyler semifinals after playing six sets the previous day in the rain-delayed tournament.
   Bellis is set to play Katarzyna Kawa, a 27-year-old Pole, for the first time. Kawa reached the Tyler quarterfinals and teamed with compatriot Magdalena Frech to win the Macon doubles title and oust top-seeded Coco Gauff and Caty McNally of the United States 7-5 3-6 [10-3] in the first round in Charleston. 
   Caroline Dolehide, a 22-year-old native of Hinsdale, Ill., overwhelmed sixth-seeded Kristie Ahn, a 28-year-old Stanford graduate from Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 6-1, 6-0 in 47 minutes.
   Ahn, who advanced to the round of 16 in last year's U.S. Open, has won only five games in her last two matches.
   Dolehide, who won a $60,000 clay-court tournament in Charleston last October, will meet qualifier Maiar Sherif Ahmed Abdelaziz of Egypt. Abdelaziz, a 24-year-old former Fresno State All-American who transferred to Pepperdine, routed Kristina Kucova, 30, of Slovakia 6-2, 6-1. Kucova, 5-foot-4 (1.63 meters), won a $125,000 clay-court tournament in Prague in early September.
   In the first round of Charleston doubles, wild cards Allura and Maribella Zamarripa, 18-year-old identical twins from St. Helena in the Napa Valley, dispatched Naomi Broady, a 6-foot-2 (1.89-meter) Briton, and New Zealand's Erin Routliffe, a former two-time NCAA doubles champion from the University of Alabama, 6-4, 6-3.
   The Zamarripas won the Tyler crown as alternates, saving two championship points. They are scheduled to meet third-seeded Dolehide and Rogers at about 11 a.m. PST in the Charleston quarterfinals. Live streaming will be available.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Ex-Fresno St. star gains main draw, earns doubles upset

   Maiar Sherif Ahmed Abdelaziz didn't have a bad day.
   The 24-year-old Egyptian and former Fresno State All-American advanced to the singles main draw in the $100,000 LTP Tennis on clay in Charleston, S.C., and teamed with Astra Sharma of Australia to knock off the No. 2 seeds in the first round of doubles.
   Sherif Ahmed Abdelaziz, seeded third in singles qualifying, beat 15th-seeded Harmony Tan of France 6-2, 1-6 [10-2] today to earn a matchup against Kristina Kucova, 30, of Slovakia on Wednesday. Kucova won a $125,000 clay-court tournament in Prague in early September.
   Sherif Ahmed Abdelaziz and Sharma, a 25-year-old former Vanderbilt All-American, ousted second-seeded Anna-Lena Friedsam of Germany and Georgina Garcia-Perez of Spain 6-4, 6-4. 
   Sherif Ahmed Abdelaziz reached the NCAA doubles quarterfinals in 2016 as a Fresno State sophomore with her sister, Rana, before transferring to Pepperdine and advancing to the NCAA singles semifinals in 2018 as a senior.
   In another first-round singles match on Wednesday, CiCi Bellis, a 21-year-old wild card who was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, is scheduled to face fifth-seeded Aliona Bolsova Zadoinov, a 22-year-old Spanish citizen from Moldova, for the second consecutive week at 7 a.m. PST. 
   Bellis topped Bolsova Zadoinov 6-0, 2-6, 7-5 on Friday in the quarterfinals of the $80,000 Bellatorum Resources Pro Classic on hardcourts in Tyler, Texas.
   Sixth-seeded Kristie Ahn, a 28-year-old Stanford graduate, is scheduled to meet fellow American Caroline Dolehide at about 11 a.m.
   LTP matches will be streamed live
   ATP TourTaylor Fritz of Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., in the Los Angeles area and Casper Ruud of Norway defeated Raven Klaasen of South Africa and Ben McLachlan (University of California, Berkeley, 2011-14) of Japan 6-7 (5), 6-1 [10-5] in the first round of the Rolex Paris Masters.
   The Paris Masters is one of nine ATP 1000 tournaments, the highest level besides the Grand Slams.
   Third-seeded Rajeev Ram, a volunteer assistant coach at Cal from Carmel, Ind., and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain withdrew because of Salisbury's undisclosed injury or illness.
   Klaasen, 38, and McLachlan, a 28-year-old New Zealand product who plays for his mother's native country, won the Cologne title two weeks ago in their only other tournament together.
   Fritz, 23, captured his first two professional singles titles back-to-back in Northern California Challengers in Sacramento and Fairfield at 17 in 2015.
   Ruud, the 21-year-old son of former top-40 player Christian Ruud, reached the singles semifinals of the 2018 Fairfield Challenger at 19.
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