Sunday, October 24, 2021

Rising star Sinner stops Schwartzman for Antwerp title

Jannik Sinner, shown at Indian Wells this
month, became the youngest player to collect
five tour-level titles since 19-year-old Novak
Djokovic in 2007. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Jannik Sinner looks more and more like a future Grand Slam champion.
   The 20-year-old Italian, seeded first, routed Argentina's Diego Schwartzman, seeded second, 6-2, 6-2 today to win the European Open, an ATP 250 tournament in Antwerp, Belgium.
   Sinner became the youngest player to collect five tour-level titles since 19-year-old Novak Djokovic in 2007. 
   Sinner did not lose a set in the indoor hardcourt tournament, dropping only eight total games in his last two matches. He improved two spots to a career-high No. 11 in the live rankings.
   Schwartzman, only 5-foot-7 (1.70 meters) and 141 pounds (64 kilograms) actually dropped two notches to No. 16.  He eliminated Jenson Brooksby, a 20-year-old qualifier from the Sacramento, Calif., suburb of Carmichael, 6-4, 6-0 in the semifinals. 
   College — No. 1 seed Arthur Fery of Stanford defeated No. 5 seed Yuta Kikuchi of the University of California, Berkeley 7-5, 7-5 in the semifinals of the ITA Northwest Super Regional Championships in Seattle.
   Fery, a sophomore from Great Britain, is scheduled to play No. 2 seed Clement Chidekh of the host University of Washington on Monday.
   Among those advancing to Monday's quarterfinals in the rain-delayed ITA Northwest Regional Championships at Stanford are No. 2 seed Connie Ma, No. 5 seed Alexandra Yepifanova and No. 6 seed Angelica Blake of the Cardinal, No. 3 seed Mariia Kozyreva of Saint Mary's and No. 4 seed Jessica Alsola of Cal. 

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Diminutive Diego dominates Brooksby in Antwerp semis

Five-foot-7 (1.70-meter) Diego Schwartzman, right,
shakes hands after beating 6-foot-5 (1.96-meter)
 Maxime Cressy in the second round at Indian Wells
this month. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Diego Schwartzman turned the tables on Jenson Brooksby today.
   Reeling off the last nine games, the second-seeded Schwartzman defeated Jenson Brooksby, a 20-year-old qualifier from the Sacramento, Calif., suburb of Carmichael, 6-4, 6-0 in the semifinals of the European Open, an ATP 250 indoor hardcourt tournament in Antwerp, Belgium.
   Brooksby had won the last eight games in his 7-5, 6-0 victory over unseeded Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain on Friday.
   Brooksby, who played today with tape on his right (playing) arm and stomach, was trying to beat his third consecutive 2021 Grand Slam quarterfinalist. But the 14th-ranked Schwartzman, lightning fast at 5-foot-7 (1.70 meters) and 141 pounds (64 kilograms), outslugged Brooksby from the baseline, no mean feat.
   Schwartzman, 29, climbed to a career-high No. 8 by reaching the French Open semifinals last October. He has beaten Rafael Nadal on clay, the toughest task in tennis.
   Brooksby, who was ranked No. 307 when he turned pro last December, is projected to rise 11 places to No. 59 on Monday. He will turn 21 the next day. 
   By reaching the semifinals, Brooksby qualified for the Next Gen ATP Finals, featuring the world's top 21-and-under players, Nov. 9-13 in Milan.
   Schwartzman is scheduled to face another 20-year-old, top-seeded Jannik Sinner of Italy, on Sunday at 7:30 a.m. PDT (Tennis Channel). Sinner, ranked No. 13, routed seventh-seeded Lloyd Harris of South Africa 6-2, 6-2.

Friday, October 22, 2021

Brooksby beats another major quarterfinalist in Antwerp

Jenson Brooksby serves during practice
at Indian Wells two weeks ago. Photo
by Paul Bauman
    Jenson Brooksby dismantled his second consecutive 2021 Grand Slam quarterfinalist today to reach the semifinals of the European Open, an ATP 250 tournament in Antwerp, Belgium.
    Not only that, he bageled both of them in the second set.
    The 20-year-old qualifier from the Sacramento, Calif., suburb of Carmichael, beat unseeded Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 7-5, 6-0 on an indoor hardcourt in their first career meeting.
    Brooksby, playing with tape on his right (playing) arm, frustrated the 22-year-old Spaniard, who reached the last eight in the French Open in June and won the Wimbledon boys singles title in 2017, with his consistency and amazing ability to turn defense into offense.
   Brooksby led 5-2 in the first set, lost the next three games and won the last eight. Davidovich Fokina, ranked No. 44, saved four set points in the first set.
   Tennis Channel commentator Tracy Austin, an International Tennis Hall of Famer, said Brooksby's "mental toughness is incredible. On the big points, he digs in and hits closer to the line. It's really quite impressive."
    Brooksby, 6-foot-4 (1.93 meters), has not lost a set in five matches in Antwerp. He demolished Botic Van De Zandschulp, who last month became the third qualifier to reach the U.S. Open quarterfinals, 6-2, 6-0 in the second round.
   Brooksby, who was ranked No. 307 when he turned pro last December, is projected to rise at least 11 places to No. 59. He will try to knock off yet another 2021 major quarterfinalist when he faces second-seeded Diego Schwartzman, who advanced to the last eight at Roland Garros (and semifinals there last fall), for the first time on Saturday not before 8:30 a.m. PDT (Tennis Channel).
   The 5-foot-7 (1.70-meter), 141-pound (64-kilogram) Argentine, ranked No. 14 after climbing to a career-high No. 8 last October, beat qualifier Brandon Nakashima, 20, of San Diego 6-4, 6-2.
   In Saturday's first semifinal, top-seeded Jannik Sinner, also 20, of Italy is set to meet seventh-seeded Lloyd Harris of South Africa at 6 a.m. (Tennis Channel). Harris won one Northern California Challenger and reached the final of another.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Wimbledon boys champ reportedly commits to Stanford

   Wimbledon boys singles champion Samir Banerjee reportedly has verbally committed to Stanford. 
   Banerjee, the third-ranked junior in the world from Basking Ridge, N.J., had planned to attend Columbia in New York. 
   Banerjee defeated Victor Lilov of Raleigh, N.C., 7-5, 6-3 in the Wimbledon final in July. Both players were unseeded.
   Ethan Quinn of Fresno, Calif., has verbally committed to Georgia. He reached the U.S. Open boys doubles semifinals with Nicholas Godsick of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, last month.
   Godsick's parents are Mary Joe Fernandez, a former top-five player in singles and doubles who now works as an ESPN tennis commentator, and Tony Godsick, Roger Federer's agent.
   Signing day is Nov. 10.

Resurgent Simon mauls McDonald in Moscow

Gilles Simon, a former top-10 player, has endured a horrific year.
2016 photo by Paul Bauman
   Gilles Simon finally seems to be regaining his form.
   The 36-year-old Frenchman, a former top-10 player, dismissed Mackenzie McDonald, a 26-year-old San Francisco Bay product, 6-3, 6-2 today in the second round of the VTB Kremlin Cup in Moscow.
   Simon, who has plunged from a career-high No. 6 in 2009 to No. 117, reached his first quarterfinal since Cologne last October.
   Simon came to the Kremlin Cup, an ATP 250 tournament on indoor hardcourts, with four consecutive first-round losses and a 4-21 singles record this year. Simon went 0-11 from April until August.
   WTA Tour — Maria Camila Osorio Serrano, 19, of Colombia defeated Mayar Sherif (Fresno State, 2015-16) of Egypt 6-4, 6-2 to advance to the quarterfinals of the Tenerife (Spain) Ladies Open, a WTA 250 tournament on hardcourts.
    Osorio Serrano, who won her first WTA title in Bogota on clay in April and reached the third round at Wimbledon as a qualifier, ousted Elina Svitolina, seeded first at No. 6 in the world, in the opening round. 
   USTA Pro Circuit — Qualifier Victoria Duval of Bradenton, Fla., beat Katie Volynets, 19, of Walnut Creek in the Bay Area, 7-5, 6-4 to reach the quarterfinals of the $80,000 Mercer Tennis Classic on hardcourts in Macon, Ga.  

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Brooksby belts Botic to reach Antwerp quarterfinals

Jenson Brooksby smiles at his parents in the stands
after a recent practice in Indian Wells. Photo by
Paul Bauman
   Continuing his stunning rise, Jenson Brooksby demolished a U.S. Open quarterfinalist today.
   The 20-year-old qualifier from the Sacramento, Calif., suburb of Carmichael crushed Botic Van De Zandschulp of the Netherlands 6-2, 6-0 in 63 minutes to reach the quarterfinals of the European Open, an ATP 250 tournament on indoor hardcourts in Antwerp, Belgium.
   Brooksby swatted his usual array of spectacular shots against the 26-year-old Van De Zandschulp, who last month became the third qualifier to advance to the last eight at Flushing Meadows. Early in the match, Brooksby almost went into the stands to retrieve a shot yet won the point. Two games later, he ran down a lunging backhand volley and ripped a sharply angled cross-court passing shot, eliciting applause from Van De Zandschulp.
   Brooksby has lost his serve only once and has not dropped more than four games in a set in his four matches in Antwerp. He has faced only one break point, which he saved today, in his two main-draw matches.
   Ranked No. 307 when he turned pro last December, Brooksby will improve at least seven spots to a career-high No. 63 on Monday.
   Brooksby is set to meet another 2021 Grand Slam quarterfinalist, unseeded Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain, for the first time on Friday.
   The 22-year-old Davidovich Fokina, who reached the last eight in the French Open in June and won the Wimbledon boys singles title in 2017, ousted third-seeded Cristian Garin of Chile 4-6, 6-3, 6-3. 
   In the first round of doubles, Oliver Marach, 41, and Philipp Oswald, 6-foot-7 (2.01 meters), of Austria topped Jonathan Erlich, 44, of Israel and Andre Goransson (University of California, Berkeley, 2014-17) of Sweden 4-6, 6-4 [10-6].
   ATP Tour in Moscow — Yoshihito Nishioka makes Mackenzie McDonald look gigantic.
   The 5-foot-10 (1.78-meter), 160-pound (73-kilogram) McDonald, a San Francisco Bay Area product, beat 5-foot-7 (1.70-meter), 141-pound (64-kilogram) Nishioka, a Japanese left-hander, 6-3, 6-4 in a first-round matchup of 26-year-olds in the VTB Kremlin Cup. 
   Meanwhile, Rohan Bopanna, 41, of India and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi of Pakistan ousted top-seeded Raven Klaasen of South Africa and Ben McLachlan (Cal, 2011-14) of Japan 6-2, 6-4 in the opening round.
   USTA Pro Circuit Katie Volynets, 19, of Walnut Creek in the Bay Area surprised eighth-seeded Rebecca Marino, a former top-40 player from Canada, 6-3, 2-6, 6-2 in the first round of the $80,000 Mercer Tennis Classic on hardcourts in Macon, Ga. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Opelka during Antwerp loss: 'Brooksby best I've played'

Jenson Brooksby, 20, of Carmichael, Calif., in the Sacramento area
 practices during the recent BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   During the second set today, Reilly Opelka declared that ultra-consistent Jenson Brooksby is "the best player I've played in my whole life."
   That's saying something considering Opelka, a 24-year-old American, is 0-1 against Rafael Nadal and 1-4 against reigning U.S. Open champion Daniil Medvedev. Opelka has never faced Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer or Andy Murray.
   Brooksby, a 20-year-old qualifier from Carmichael, Calif., in the Sacramento area, beat the fifth-seeded Opelka, ranked No. 25 in the world and No. 1 in the United States, 6-4, 6-4 in the first round of the European Open, an ATP 250 tournament in Antwerp, Belgium.
   Although the 6-foot-11 (2.11-meter) Opelka pounded 12 aces to the 6-foot-4 (1.93-meter) Brooksby's three on an indoor hardcourt in their first career meeting, Brooksby won 85 percent of the points on his first serve to Opelka's 73 percent and did not face a break point.
   Brooksby, who's projected to rise at least six more spots to a career-high No. 64, recorded his third top-25 win. He beat No. 15 Felix Auger-Aliassime in the third round in Washington, D.C., in August and No. 25 Aslan Karatsev in the third round of the U.S. Open in September. Both Auger-Aliassime and Karatsev reached Grand Slam semifinals this year.
   Brooksby is scheduled to play Botic Van De Zandschulp, a 26-year-old Dutchman ranked No. 62,  for the first time on Wednesday at about 8 a.m. PDT (Tennis Channel) for a quarterfinal berth.
   Van De Zandschulp, who last month became the third qualifier to advance to the U.S. Open quarterfinals, defeated Alexei Popyrin of Australia 6-4, 3-6, 6-0 on Monday.
   Andy Murray, a 34-year-old wild card with a metal hip, saved two match points in a 7-6 (2), 6-7 (7), 7-6 (8) victory over Frances Tiafoe of Boynton Beach, Fla. At 3 hours, 45 minutes, it was the longest best-of-three-set match on the ATP Tour this year.
   Murray won the first of his 46 tour-level singles titles, including three Grand Slams, in San Jose at 18 in 2006 and repeated the following year. Tiafoe won the 2016 Stockton (Calif.) Challenger.
   Next for Murray is No. 2 seed Diego Schwartzman of Argentina. The 5-foot-7 (1.70-meter), 141-pound (64-kilogram) veteran received a first-round bye.
   WTA Tour — Mayar Sherif (Fresno State, 2015-16) of Egypt drubbed wild card Lucrezia Stefanini of Italy 6-2, 6-0 in 74 minutes in the opening round of the Tenerife (Spain) Ladies Open, a WTA 250 tournament on clay. 
   Sherif, ranked No. 64, awaits the winner of the suspended match between top-seeded Elina Svitolina of Ukraine and Maria Camila Osorio Serrano of Colombia. Svitolina leads 7-5.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Brooksby qualifies for Antwerp, draws fifth seed Opelka

   Top-seeded Jenson Brooksby, a 20-year-old rising star from Carmichael, Calif., in the Sacramento area, beat eighth-seeded Norbert Gombos, 31, of Slovakia 6-4, 6-2 today to qualify for the European Open, an ATP 250 tournament in Antwerp, Belgium.
   Brooksby, ranked No. 70 (ninth in the United States), is scheduled to play 6-foot-11 (2.11-meter) Reilly Opelka, ranked No. 25 (first in the U.S.) and seeded fifth, for the first time on Tuesday in the opening round of the indoor hardcourt tournament.
   Both Brooksby and Opelka, 24, reached the round of 16 in the U.S. Open last month.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Ex-NorCal star Norrie, Badosa earn unlikely titles in BNP

 No. 21 seed Cameron Norrie beat No. 29 seed Nikoloz
Basilashvili in three sets to win the BNP Paribas Open
in Indian Wells. 2016 photo by Paul Bauman 
   Even without many of the world's top players in the tournament, few, if any, observers could have foreseen Cameron Norrie and Paula Badosa winning the BNP Paribas Open.
   Both Norrie, a 26-year-old British left-hander, and Badosa, a 23-year-old Spaniard, were seeded No. 21. Neither had won a match in Indian Wells before this year. Badosa, in fact, played in the main draw for the first time.
   But Norrie defeated No. 29 seed Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 today after Badosa edged No. 27 seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus 7-6 (5), 2-6, 7-6 (2) in 3 hours, 4 minutes.
   All except Azarenka, a two-time Grand Slam singles champion, were playing in the biggest match of their lives. Azarenka was bidding to become the first woman to win the tournament three times. 
   Absent from the BNP Paribas Open, normally held in March, were Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem — who had combined to win 14 of the previous 16 titles — the top two-ranked women (Ashleigh Barty and Aryna Sabalenka) and 2018 champion Naomi Osaka.
   Badosa, a quarterfinalist in this year's French Open and Tokyo Olympics, was two points from losing with Azarenka serving at 5-4, 30-0 in the third set. Azarenka then committed four consecutive errors, leveling the set at 5-5. After both players held serve, Badosa bolted to leads of 3-0 and 5-1 in the tiebreaker and held on from there.
   Badosa, a New York native, defeated four top-20 players in a row to reach the final.
   "The first thing that I've learned this week is that nothing is impossible," Badosa, who has spoken openly about experiencing depression. "If you fight, if you work, after all these years, you can achieve anything. ... 
   "I have been through tough moments. I never stopped dreaming. That's what kept me working hard and believing until the last moment."
   Norrie was born in South Africa, grew up in New Zealand, starred at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas, and lives in London. He defeated one top-20 player, No. 15 Diego Schwartzman of Argentina, en route to the title.
   "If you'd have told me I'd have won before the tournament, I wouldn't have believed you, so it's amazing," Norrie, who won back-to-back Northern California Challengers in Tiburon and Stockton in 2017, said in an on-court interview.
  Badosa and Norrie will rise to career highs of No. 11 and No. 16 (No. 1 in Great Britain), respectively, on Monday. They pocketed $1,209,730 each.
   ATP Tour — No. 1 seed Jenson Brooksby, 20, of Carmichael, Calif., in the Sacramento area beat wild card Michael Geerts of Belgium 6-4, 6-2 in the first round of qualifying for the European Open, an ATP 250 tournament in Antwerp, Belgium.
   Brooksby, ranked a career-high No. 70, is scheduled to play Slovakia's Norbert Gombos, ranked No. 115 and seeded No. 8, on Monday for a main-draw berth. Gombos, 31, dispatched Bernabe Zapata Miralles of Spain 6-3, 6-2.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Ex-NorCal star Norrie advances to BNP final; Fritz falls

No. 21 seed Cameron Norrie is scheduled to meet No. 29 seed
Nikoloz Basilashvili in the final of the BNP Paribas Open in
Indian Wells on Sunday. 2016 photo by Paul Bauman
   Cameron Norrie and Taylor Fritz, each of whom won back-to-back Northern California Challengers early in their professional careers, played today in the semifinals of the prestigious BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.
   The 21st-seeded Norrie, a 26-year-old left-hander from Great Britain, dispatched 23rd-seeded Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria 6-2, 6-4. Then 29th-seeded Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia beat the 31st-seeded Fritz, a 23-year-old resident of Rancho Palos Verdes in the Los Angeles area, 7-6 (5), 6-3. Basilashvili saved three set points in the first set and all seven break points he faced, including two in the final game.
   It's the first time all semifinalists in an ATP Masters 1000 tournament, the highest level besides the Grand Slams, have been ranked outside the top 25. Of course, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem — who have combined to win 14 of the last 16 Indian Wells singles titles — did not play.
   Dimitrov, ranked 28th after reaching a career-high No. 3 in 2017, was coming off three-set victories over top-seeded Daniil Medvedev on Wednesday and eighth-seeded Hubert Hurkacz on Thursday. Norrie, meanwhile, breezed past 11th-seeded Diego Schwartzman 6-0, 6-2 in 73 minutes in the quarterfinals on Thursday.
   Norrie — who was born in South Africa, grew up in New Zealand, starred at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas, and lives in London — called the Dimitrov clash "the biggest match of my career, following on from (Thursday), which was the biggest match. There was even more pressure today. I came out and played really physical. Grigor was maybe a little tired from the other matches, but he fought hard and made it physical at the start of the second set, which wasn't easy."
   Norrie won the Tiburon and Stockton Challengers in 2017. Fritz took the Sacramento and Fairfield crowns at 17 in 2015.
   Norrie and Basilashvili, 29, are scheduled to meet Sunday after the 1 p.m. women's final between No. 21 seed Paula Badosa of Spain and No. 27 seed Victoria Azarenka, the 2012 and 2016 champion. Tennis Channel will televise both matches.
   As a qualifier in Rotterdam in March, Norrie routed Basilashvili 6-0, 6-3 on an indoor hardcourt in the first round in their only previous encounter. Azarenka, a 32-year-old mother, and Badosa, a 23-year-old New York native, are set to meet for the first time.    

Friday, October 15, 2021

Fritz saves two match points, upsets Zverev in BNP

Taylor Fritz, shown in his second-round victory
over Brandon Nakashima, reached his first ATP
Masters 1000 semifinal. Photo by Paul Bauman
   No. 31 seed Taylor Fritz, playing in his native Southern California, survived two match points and stunned No. 4 seed Alexander Zverev of Germany 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (3) today in the quarterfinals of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.
   Fritz, who won the Sacramento and Fairfield Challengers in Northern California back-to-back at 17 in 2015, overcame a 2-5 deficit in the third set to reach his first ATP Masters 1000 semifinal. 
   "I was really down and out, but I found a way to put myself into it," Fritz, who was born in Rancho Santa Fe in the San Diego area and lives in Rancho Palos Verdes in the Los Angeles region, said in an on-court interview. "I really wanted to make him have to close me out, and I was able to get back into the match. Normally, you would be so nervous in those situations and in the third-set tiebreak, but I felt so confident being aggressive, going after my game. It feels really great to play well with the pressure on."
   Fritz is scheduled to face No. 29 seed Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia on Saturday after the 1:30 p.m. semifinal between No. 21 seed Cameron Norrie of Great Britain and No. 23 seed Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria (Tennis Channel). Basilashvili surprised No. 2 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 to reach his first Masters 1000 semifinal.
   Norrie won the Tiburon and Stockton Challengers in NorCal back-to-back in 2017.
   In Sunday's women's final, No. 27 seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus is set to meet No. 21 seed Paula Badosa of Spain. 
   Azarenka, who won Indian Wells in 2012 and 2016 and the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford in 2010, outlasted No. 24 seed Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 in a matchup of Grand Slam champions.
   Badosa, a quarterfinalist in this year's French Open and Tokyo Olympics, outclassed No. 12 seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia 6-3, 6-3 to gain the biggest final of her career.
   USTA Pro Circuit — Unseeded Maria Mateas of Chapel Hill, N.C., beat No. 3 seed Katie Volynets, 19, of Walnut Creek in the San Francisco Bay Area 6-2, 6-3 in the quarterfinals of the $25,000 Florence (S.C.) Open on hardcourts. 

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Ex-NorCal star cruises into first Masters 1000 semifinal

Cameron Norrie was 0-2 in the main draw in Indian Wells
before this year. 2016 photo by Paul Bauman
   No. 21 seed Cameron Norrie reached his first ATP Masters 1000 semifinal today, routing No. 11 seed Diego Schwartzman 6-0, 6-2 in 73 minutes in the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif.
   Masters 1000 tournaments are the highest level besides the Grand Slams.
   All three of Norrie's previous matches against Schwartzman had gone the distance, including a first-round victory in last year's U.S. Open.
   Norrie, a 26-year-old left-hander, was born in South Africa, grew up in New Zealand, starred at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas, and represents Great Britain. He improved to 3-1 against the 5-foot-7 (1.70-meter), 141-pound (64-kilogram)  Schwartzman, 29, of Argentina.
   "Everything went my way today," Norrie, who won back-to-back Northern California Challengers in Tiburon and Stockton in 2017, said in an on-court interview. "Right from the beginning, I was timing the ball well. I thought I was in for a long match because the previous times we have played have been so long and so physical, so I was ready for that. I hit a lot of lines in the first set and stayed tough in the second and served well when I needed to. I am so happy to be through; it is such a big win for me."
   Norrie, who was 0-2 in the main draw in Indian Wells before this year, is scheduled to face No. 23 seed Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria on Saturday. Dimitrov, who ousted top-seeded Daniil Medvedev on Wednesday, edged No. 8 seed Hubert Hurkacz of Poland 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (2).
   Norrie is projected to improve at least six notches to a career-high No. 20 on Monday. He will pocket a minimum of $335,000 (plus $8,435 as a first-round loser in doubles).
   On the women's side, No. 12 seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia defeated No. 18 seed Anett Kontaveit of Estonia 7-5, 6-3 to reach her first WTA 1000 semifinal. 
   Jabeur, who will become the first Arab (male or female) to crack the top 10 on Monday, is slated to meet No. 21 seed Paula Badosa of Spain after Friday's 6 p.m. semifinal between No. 24 seed Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia and No. 27 seed and two-time Indian Wells champion Victoria Azarenka (Tennis Channel).
   Badosa, a quarterfinalist in this year's French Open and Tokyo Olympics, eliminated No. 10 seed Angelique Kerber, the 2019 BNP runner-up to Bianca Andreescu, 6-4, 7-5. Badosa beat another Grand Slam champion, No. 3 seed Barbora Krejcikova, in the round of 16.
   In the women's doubles semifinals, No. 2 seeds Hsieh Su-Wei of Chinese Taipei and Elise Mertens of Belgium overwhelmed No. 3 seeds Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara of Japan 6-2, 6-0 in 54 minutes.
   Hsieh won the Indian Wells doubles title in 2014 with Peng Shuai of China and in 2018 with Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic. Mertens took the last (2019) crown with Belarus' Aryna Sabalenka, who missed this year's tournament because of COVID. 
   Hsieh and Mertens are set to meet unseeded Veronika Kudermetova of Russia and Elena Rybakina, a Moscow native who plays for Kazakhstan, on Saturday.
   USTA Pro Circuit — No. 3 seed Katie Volynets, 19, of Walnut Creek, Calif., routed Fernanda Contreras Gomez of Mexico 6-3, 6-0 to reach the quarterfinals of the $25,000 Florence (S.C.) Open on hardcourts.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Dimitrov makes big comeback, shocks Medvedev in BNP

Grigor Dimitrov leaves the court after practicing with Alexander
Zverev last week in Indian Wells, Calif. Photo by Paul Bauman
   No. 23 seed Grigor Dimitrov rallied from a set and two breaks down to stun Daniil Medvedev, seeded first and ranked second, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 today in the fourth round of the BNP Paribas Open.
   Dimitrov, a 30-year-old Bulgarian, overcame a 1-4 deficit in the second set and reached the quarterfinals in Indian Wells for the first time.
   "He is such a tough player and competitor," Dimitrov said in an on-court interview after improving to 2-3 against Medvedev, who won his first Grand Slam title in the U.S. Open last month. "Over the past year, I have played him a few times and haven't been able to find a way. But today, I just felt something at 1-4, and I calmed myself down and started to take better decisions and started to control the pace of the game, which I really believe helped me. In the end, it was just very solid and smart play."
   Dimitrov, ranked No. 28 after climbing as high as No. 3 in 2017, next will face Poland's Hubert Hurkacz, seeded eighth and ranked 12th. Hurkacz, who advanced to his first major semifinal at Wimbledon in July and won his third ATP title of the year in Metz, France, last month, dismissed No. 19 seed Aslan Karatsev of Russia 6-1, 6-3 in 63 minutes.
   Also reaching the quarterfinals were No. 21 seed Cameron Norrie of Great Britain and No. 31 seed Taylor Fritz of Rancho Palos Verdes in the Los Angeles area. Both won back-to-back Northern California Challengers, Norrie in Tiburon and Stockton in 2017 and Fritz in Sacramento and Fairfield at 17 in 2015.
   In the BNP women's quarterfinals, No. 27 seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus defeated No. 19 seed Jessica Pegula of Boca Raton, Fla., 6-4, 6-2.
   Azarenka, a 32-year-old mother and former world No. 1, won Indian Wells in 2012 and 2016 and the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford in 2010. Pegula reached a NorCal Challenger final in 2012 at 18 and semifinal in 2018
   Azarenka is scheduled to meet Latvia's Jelena Ostapenko, the No. 24 seed who eliminated unseeded Shelby Rogers of Charleston, S.C., 6-4, 4-6, 6-3. Rogers played on her 29th birthday.
   Ostapenko ousted No. 2 seed Iga Swiatek of Poland on Tuesday in a matchup of former French Open champions. Rogers reached the round of 16 in the recent U.S. Open, knocking off top-ranked Ashleigh Barty before losing to eventual champion Emma Raducanu.
   The other two women's quarterfinals are set for Thursday.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Three more high women's seeds lose in Indian Wells

No. 24 seed Jelena Ostapenko ousted No. 2 seed Iga
Swiatek 6-4, 6-3 in the round of 16 in Indian Wells.
2016 photo by Paul Bauman
   One day after No. 1 seed Karolina Pliskova lost to lucky loser Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil in the BNP Paribas Open, the second, third and fourth women's seeds also fell in straight sets.
   In a matchup of former French Open champions, No. 24 seed Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia surprised No. 2 seed Iga Swiatek of Poland 6-4, 6-3 today in the round of 16 in Indian Wells.
   No. 21 seed Paula Badosa, a quarterfinalist in this year's French Open and Tokyo Olympics, beat No. 3 seed Barbora Krejcikova, the reigning French Open champion, 6-1, 7-5.
   And No. 19 seed Jessica Pegula of Boca Raton, Fla., routed No. 4 seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine 6-1, 6-1 in 68 minutes. Pegula reached the Sacramento final in 2012 at 18 and Stockton semifinals in 2018 in Northern California Challengers.
   No. 10 Angelique Kerber is the highest remaining women's seed. The three-time Grand Slam singles champion reached the final of the last (2019) BNP Paribas Open, losing to 19-year-old Bianca Andreescu, and won the 2015 Bank of the West Classic at Stanford.
   Pegula is the highest seed left in the bottom half of the women's draw.
   In yet another women's upset, unseeded Shelby Rogers of Charleston, S.C.,  edged No. 23 seed Leylah Fernandez, the U.S. Open runner-up last month, 2-6, 6-1, 7-6 (4).
   No. 18 seed Anett Kontaveit of Estonia dismissed Haddad Maia 6-0, 6-2 in 65 minutes.
   On the men's side, No. 31 seed Taylor Fritz of Rancho Palos Verdes in the Los Angeles area dispatched No. 5 seed Matteo Berrettini, the Wimbledon runner-up in July, 6-4, 6-3. Fritz won the Sacramento and Fairfield (Calif.) Challengers in consecutive weeks at 17 in 2015.
   In the BNP women's doubles quarterfinals, No. 3 seeds Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara of Japan beat unseeded Makoto Ninomiya of Japan and Sabrina Santamaria of Los Angeles 6-1, 7-6 (2).
   Shibahara, 23, was born in Mountain View in the San Francisco Bay Area and starred at UCLA.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Lucky loser stuns top seed Pliskova in BNP

t
Beatriz Haddad Maia, shown in the final round of qualifying last week, reached
the round of 16 in a WTA 1000 tournament for the first time. Photo by Paul Bauman
    Lucky loser Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil shocked Karolina Pliskova, seeded first and ranked third, 6-3, 7-5 in the wind today in the third round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.
   Haddad Maia had lost to Usue Arconada, coming off the title in the $60,000 Berkeley (Calif.) Challenger, in the final round of qualifying. But the 6-foot (1.85-meter) left-hander advanced to the main draw when No. 29 seed Nadia Podoroska of Argentina withdrew because of a thigh injury.
   Haddad Maia, ranked No. 115, reached the round of 16 in a WTA 1000 tournament for the first time and recorded her second win over a top-10 player. She surprised then-No. 4 Sloane Stephens in the second round in Acapulco in 2019 as a qualifier.
   Haddad Maia is scheduled to play No. 18 seed Anett Kontaveit of Estonia on Tuesday. Kontaveit, who won two WTA titles in her previous four tournaments, eliminated No. 16 seed Bianca Andreescu, the BNP and U.S. Open champion in 2019, 7-6 (5), 6-3.
   In the second round of men's doubles, Tim Puetz of Germany and Michael Venus of New Zealand defeated No. 2 seeds and reigning U.S. Open champions Rajeev Ram, a volunteer assistant coach at the University of California, Berkeley from Carmel, Ind., and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain 4-6, 6-4 [10-6]. 
   Ram won the 2017 BNP doubles title with Raven Klaasen of South Africa.
   Also today, No. 5 seeds Kevin Krawietz of Germany and Horia Tecau of Romania beat Los Angeles-area residents Steve Johnson and Sam Querrey, a 34-year-old San Francisco native, 7-6 (7), 7-6 (4). 

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Zverev overpowers Brooksby, 20, in third set in BNP

Alexander Zverev ended today's match with 142- and 143-mph aces,
his fastest ones of the afternoon. 2016 photo by Paul Bauman 
   INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — The longer the match went, the harder Alexander Zverev pummeled his serve and groundstrokes.
   That was bad news for Jenson Brooksby.
   The third-seeded Zverev, a 24-year-old German, overpowered Brooksby, a 20-year-old wild card from Carmichael, Calif., in the Sacramento area, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 today in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open.
   Zverev, 6-foot-6 (1.98 meters), won three of his four service games in the third set at love in 16,100-seat Stadium 1, the second-largest tennis facility in the world behind 23,771-seat Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.
   Ten of Zverev's 12 aces came in the final set, including missiles of 142 mph (229 kph) and 143 mph (230 kph), his two fastest of the afternoon, on the last two points. Overall, he won 73 percent of the points on his first serve (35 of 48) and 58 percent (14 of 24) on his second delivery.
   "I actually thought I didn't serve well today, so I thought, OK, I'll let it all out on the last two serves," Zverev, the singles gold medalist in the Tokyo Olympics last month, said in an on-court interview. "He's a tricky opponent. ... You're going to see a lot more of him in the future."
    Brooksby, who lost to Novak Djokovic in four sets in the round of 16 in the U.S. Open last month, is projected to improve nine more spots to a career-high No. 70. He was No. 307 when he turned pro last December.
   The ATP recently announced that it is investigating Zverev after a former girlfriend accused him of domestic abuse. Zverev has strongly denied the accusations.
   In the first round of men's doubles, top-seeded Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic of Croatia routed Mackenzie McDonald, a product of Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area, and Brandon Nakashima of San Diego 6-2, 6-2 in 37 minutes.
   Marcelo Arevalo of El Salvador and Matwe Middelkoop of the Netherlands edged Raven Klaasen of South Africa and Ben McLachlan (University of California, Berkeley, 2011-14) of Japan 6-2, 0-6 [11-9]. Klaasen won the 2017 title with Rajeev Ram.
   In the second round of women's doubles, Makoto Ninomiya of Japan and Sabrina Santamaria of Los Angeles eliminated eighth-seeded Sharon Fichman of Canada and Giuliana Olmos, an Austria native who grew up in Fremont in the Bay Area and represents Mexico, 6-4, 6-2.
   USTA Pro Circuit — Unseeded Catherine Harrison, a former UCLA All-American from Germantown, Tenn., in the Memphis region, routed No. 6 seed Dalila Jakupovic of Slovenia 6-1, 6-1 to win the $25,000 Team Ascension Women's Pro Open in Redding, Calif.

Medvedev masters McDonald again in Indian Wells

No. 1 seed Daniil Medvedev, foreground, serves to Mackenzie
McDonald under the lights in 16,100-seat Stadium 1 in Indian
Wells on Saturday night. Photo by Paul Bauman
   INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Daniil Medvedev, seeded first and ranked second, continued his mastery of Mackenzie McDonald on Saturday night with a 6-4, 6-2 victory in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open.
   The 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) Medvedev, who won his first Grand Slam title in the U.S. Open last month, has won all 13 sets in six career matches against the 5-foot-10 (1.78-meter) McDonald, ranked No. 57. They met for the third time this year and the second time in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open.
   McDonald, 26, was born in Berkeley, Calif., grew up in neighboring Piedmont and starred at UCLA, a two-hour drive west of Indian Wells. 
   In the first featured match of the night in 16,100-seat Stadium 1, Medvedev won 82 percent of the points on his first serve (23 of 28) and 74 percent on his second delivery (14 of 19) and did not face a break point.
   Medvedev, 25, has never advanced past the third round of the BNP Paribas Open.
   "I'm actually really pleased, because usually I haven't played well in Indian Wells, and I haven't been playing that well in practices before (the tournament)," Medvedev, who has won 17 of his last 18 matches, said in an on-court interview. "(I'm) really happy with my performance. That's the most important (thing), no matter how I played before the tournament."
   On the women's side, Mayar Sherif (Fresno State, 2015-16) of Egypt made repeated errors in a 6-3, 6-0 loss to lucky loser Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil in the second round.
   Since losing in the first round of the Tokyo Olympics in July, Sherif became the first Egyptian to reach a WTA final (losing to Andrea Petkovic of Germany on clay in Cluj-Napoca, Romania), reached the final of a $60,000 clay-court tournament in Gran Canaria, Spain, qualified for the U.S. Open (falling in the first round to Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine) and won a $115,000 clay-court tourney in Karlsruhe, Germany.
   Also today, No. 3 seeds Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara of Japan reached the doubles quarterfinals with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Americans Asia Muhammad and Jessica Pegula. Shibahara, 23, was born in Mountain View in the San Francisco Bay Area and also starred at UCLA.
   USTA Pro Circuit — Unseeded Catherine Harrison, a former UCLA All-American from Germantown, Tenn., in the Memphis area, outlasted No. 3 seed Katie Swan of Great Britain 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 in the semifinals of the $25,000 Team Ascension Women's Pro Open in Redding, Calif.
   Harrison is set to meet No. 6 seed Dalila Jakupovic of Slovenia on Sunday at 1 p.m. Jakupovic topped No. 4 seed Lu Jia-Jing of China 5-7, 6-4, 6-3.
   In the doubles final, No. 4 seeds Mirjam Bjorklund of Sweden and Swan beat No. 3 seeds Jakupovic and Lu 6-3, 1-6 [10-3]. Lu also lost in the doubles final of last week's $60,000 Berkeley (Calif.) Challenger with Liang En-Shuo of Chinese Taipei.

Friday, October 8, 2021

Brooksby beats qualifier in BNP debut, will face Zverev

Jenson Brooksby, a 20-year-old wild card from Carmichael, Calif., in the Sacramento
area, celebrates his first-round victory in Indian Wells on the giant screen outside
 Stadium 1. Photo by Paul Bauman
   INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Jenson Brooksby often attended the BNP Paribas Open as a young junior. Now he's playing in it.
   Making his BNP debut, the 20-year-old wild card from Carmichael, Calif., in the Sacramento area defeated qualifier Cem Ilkel of Turkey 7-6 (5), 6-4 today in front of a sparse crowd in 16,100-seat Stadium 1, the second-largest tennis facility in the world behind 23,771-seat Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.
   "When he was younger — 10 or 11 — he was over there (on the walkway next to the field) trying to get autographs all the time," Brooksby's father, Glen, said at a tree-shaded picnic table in a small park on the grounds. "It was really cute. He'd be out there with a million other kids trying to get autographs. He'd come back with his big ball and show us who he had.
   "(Ernests) Gulbis was one of his favorite players at that time, and he got a photo with him that he still has, and he got a photo I think with (Vasek) Pospisil. He really was excited about seeing all these top players here and getting autographs. Probably his favorite player all along has been (Rafael) Nadal just because of his energy and never-give-up attitude."
   Yes, Jenson also secured Nadal's autograph and still has the big ball, Glen noted.
   "(Jenson) had goals when he came down to get the top three or four (players) and then maybe get whoever else he could," said Glen, a Sacramento anesthesiologist. "He got Nadal's one year. I think he got (Roger) Federer's. I'm not sure he ever got (Novak) Djokovic's, though."
   Jenson took a set off Djokovic in the fourth round of the U.S. Open last month. Ranked No. 307 when he turned pro in late December, Brooksby has skyrocketed to No. 79.
   Brooksby's serve supposedly is the weakest part of his game, but it didn't seem that way against the 26-year-old Ilkel, ranked No. 179. The 6-foot-4 (1.93-meter) Brooksby won 90 percent of the points on his first serve (36 of 40) and 68 percent on his second delivery (13 of 19). He did not face a break point.
   The tiebreaker was vintage Brooksby. He rallied from 0-3 to 4-4 and won three of the last four points on two passing shots that caught the outside of the sideline sandwiched around a net-cord winner. After Brooksby's set-winning shot, Ilkel put his hands on his hips in disbelief as he watched the replay. 
   Brooksby earned the only service break of the second set with a backhand passing shot down the line to lead 3-2. 
   Now comes the hard part. Brooksby is scheduled to face 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) German Alexander Zverev, ranked fourth and seeded third, for the first time on Sunday. All seeds receive first-round byes.
   Zverev, who's under investigation for domestic abuse, reached the U.S. Open final last year, losing to Dominic Thiem 7-6 in the fifth set after leading two sets to none, and won the singles gold medal in the Tokyo Olympics in August.
   Did Glen Brooksby ever think his only child would play in the BNP Paribas Open one day?
   "It's a good question," he said. "You always hope that your kid succeeds in what they want to do, but you just always feel like there's so much competition. In every age group, he was in the top 10 in the U.S., but we always played him up a lot, so it seemed like he was losing a lot of matches and winning a lot of matches. You always have this sense that maybe someone else is going to beat him out, someone else is better. You feel like the odds are against you. ... We hoped."
   In a late second-round women's match, No. 19 seed Jessica Pegula of Boca Raton, Fla., dispatched Sloane Stephens, a Fresno, Calif., product now based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., 6-2, 6-3.
   Pegula, whose parents own the Buffalo Bills and Sabres, reached a Northern California final at 18 in 2012 and semifinal in 2018. Stephens, the 2017 U.S. Open champion, has plunged from a career-high No. 3 in 2018 to No. 73. 
   In the first round of men's doubles, No. 2 seeds and reigning U.S. Open champions Rajeev Ram, a volunteer assistant coach at the University of California, Berkeley from Carmel, Ind., and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain edged Cameron Norrie of Great Britain and Luke Saville of Great Britain 4-6, 6-3 [10-8]. Ram won the BNP doubles title in 2017 with Raven Klaasen of South Africa.
   Steve Johnson of Redondo Beach, Calif., and Sam Querrey, a San Francisco native now living in Agoura Hills in the Los Angeles region, edged Lloyd Harris and Diego Schwartzman of Argentina 6-3, 6-7 (2) [10-7]. 
   USTA Pro Circuit — No. 6 seed Dalila Jakupovic of Slovenia outclassed No. 2 seed Mirjam Bjorklund of Sweden 6-1, 6-3 in the quarterfinals of the $25,000 Team Ascension Women's Pro Open in Redding, Calif.
   Jakupovic is set to play No. 4 seed Lu Jia-Jing of China on Saturday. Lu reached the doubles final of last week's $60,000 Berkeley (Calif.) Challenger with Liang En-Shuo of Chinese Taipei.
   In the other semifinal, No. 3 seed Katie Swan of Great Britain will meet unseeded Catherine Harrison of Germantown, Tenn. Swan won a $25,000 tournament in Orlando, Fla., in February and qualified for Wimbledon before losing to No. 23 seed Madison Keys in the first round.
   College — Eryn Cayetano of USC bested Carolyn Campana (Hillsborough in the San Francisco Bay Area) of Wake Forest 6-2, 6-4 in the quarterfinals of the ITA Women's All-American Championships in Mt. Pleasant, S.C.

Thursday, October 7, 2021

McDonald dismisses Duckworth, braces for Medvedev

Mackenzie McDonald, a San Francisco Bay Area product,
 hugs his father, Michael, after his first-round victory today
in Indian Wells. Photo by Paul Bauman
   INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — After an impressive victory today, Mackenzie McDonald faces a huge challenge.
   The 26-year-old San Francisco Bay Area product is scheduled to meet reigning U.S. Open champion Daniil Medvedev, seeded first and ranked second, on Saturday in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open.
   The 5-foot-10 (1.78-meter) McDonald, who was born in Berkeley and grew up in neighboring Piedmont, has lost all 11 sets in five career matches against the 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) Medvedev. They will meet for the third time this year and second time in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open.
   "It's going to take something special," McDonald, now based in Orlando, Fla., said in an on-court interview after dispatching James Duckworth of Australia 6-3, 6-3 in 75 minutes today. "This guy has really owned me. I have to start with winning one set.
   "This guy is a hell of a player. I've been watching him for a while. He's kicked my ass plenty of times, so hopefully I can take it to him next time."
   McDonald will have plenty of fan support, not only as an American but as a former NCAA singles and doubles champion at UCLA, a two-hour drive west of Indian Wells.
   McDonald and Duckworth are ranked a career-high No. 57 and No. 55, respectively.
   McDonald, who reached his first ATP final in August in Washington, D.C., played for the first time since straining a foot in his five-set loss to his idol, Kei Nishikori, in the second round of the U.S. Open last month.
   Duckworth had played in three tournaments since the U.S. Open, winning the $52,080 Istanbul Challenger and reaching the final in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, and the quarterfinals in Sofia, Bulgaria, on the ATP Tour.
   "I thought I played really well today," McDonald said. "I'm happy to put on a good performance here in California."
   Another Bay Area native, Sam Querrey, lost handily on his 34th birthday. Querrey, who was born in San Francisco and now lives in Agoura Hills in the Los Angeles area, fell to Daniel Altmaier of Germany 6-2, 6-4 in 62 minutes in 16,100-seat Stadium 1, the second-largest tennis facility in the world behind 23,771-seat Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.
   The 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) Querrey, a BNP quarterfinalist in 2018, is winless in six tournaments since losing in the second round at Wimbledon in early July. Ranked a career-high No. 11 in 2018, he has plunged to No 89. Altmaier, 23, reached the round of 16 in last year's French Open as a qualifier.
   In the first round of women's doubles, No. 3 seeds Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara of Japan edged Sania Mirza of India and Zhang Shuai of China 4-6, 6-3 [15-13].
   The 33-year-old Aoyama, who's only 5-foot-1 (1.54 meters) and uses two hands on both sides, and Shibahara, a 23-year-old native of Mountain View in the Bay Area and former UCLA star, saved three match points.
   Mirza, a former world No. 1 and two-time BNP champion in doubles, and Zhang, who won her second Grand Slam doubles title (both with Samantha Stosur of Australia) last month in the U.S. Open, survived two match points.
   During the night session, U.S. qualifier Usue Arconada's winning streak ended with a thud at seven matches, 6-0, 6-2 against hard-hitting Ajla Tomljanovic, a Croatia-born Australian. Tomljanovic (pronounced Tom-yon-o-vich), 5-foot-11 (1.80 meters), improved to 1-1 against Arconada, 5-foot-4 (1.63 meters). 
   Mayar Sherif (Fresno State, 2015-16), a 25-year-old Egyptian making her BNP debut, dominated Danka Kovinic of Montenegro 6-1, 6-3. 
   USTA Pro Circuit — No. 2 seed Mirjam Bjorklund of Sweden, No. 3 Katie Swan of Great Britain, No. 4 Lu Jia-Jing of China and No. 6 Dalila Jakupovic of Slovenia reached the quarterfinals of the $25,000 Team Ascension Women's Pro Open in Redding, Calif.
   Pranjala Yadlapalli routed qualifier Maria Kozyreva, a Russian fifth-year student at Saint Mary's College in the Bay Area, 6-1, 6-3. Kozyreva stunned No. 1 seed Zheng Saisai, ranked No. 75, in the opening round in Berkeley.
   Catherine Harrison, a former UCLA star from Germantown, Tenn., eliminated Connie Ma, an 18-year-old wild card from Dublin in the Bay Area, 6-3, 2-6, 6-2. 
   College — Carolyn Campana (Hillsborough in the Bay Area) of Wake Forest outclassed Rebeka Mertena of Tennessee 6-3, 6-1 to reach the quarterfinals of the ITA Women's All-American Championships in Mt. Pleasant, S.C.
    In the second round of the ITA Men's All-American Championships in Tulsa, Okla., No. 9-16 seed Ronnie Hohmann of LSU beat Arthur Fery of Stanford 6-3, 7-6 (5).
   Qualifiers Fery and Alexandre Rotsaert lost in the second round of doubles, as did Andres Martin and Marcus McDaniel (Vacaville, Calif.) of Georgia Tech.

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Stephens advances in BNP, but Volynets, 19, loses

Sloane Stephens defeated Heather Watson today in 16,100-seat Stadium 1
in the first round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. Photo by Paul Bauman
   INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Two struggling players with Northern California roots played back-to-back in 16,100-seat Stadium 1 today in the first round of the BNP Paribas Open.
   One of them advanced.
   Sloane Stephens, a Fresno, Calif., product who won the 2017 U.S. Open, defeated Heather Watson of Great Britain 6-7 (5), 7-5, 6-1 in 2 hours, 51 minutes in front of a sparse crowd. 
   Katie Volynets, a 19-year-old wild card from Walnut Creek in the San Francisco Bay Area making her BNP debut, lost to Croatia's Petra Martic, ranked No. 45 after climbing to a career-high No. 14 in January last year, 6-4, 6-4 in an almost-empty stadium.
   Both Stephens and Martic, past quarterfinalists in the BNP Paribas Open, saved three break points in the final game.
   Stephens, now based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., has plunged from a career-high No. 3 in 2018 to No. 73. She improved to 3-5 against Watson, who won the 2016 Wimbledon mixed doubles title with Henri Kontinen of Finland and the 2012 Stanford doubles crown with since-retired Marina Erakovic of New Zealand, in their first meeting in five years.
   "Playing Heather is always a tough match," Stephens said in an on-court interview. "We grew up playing juniors together, and we're really good friends. Literally before the tournament we were talking for an hour about everything and how we've been friends for so long and how we're able to separate the match and still be friends."
   Stephens is scheduled to face Jessica Pegula, ranked No. 24 and seeded No. 19, of Boca Raton, Fla., for the first time on Friday. All seeds receive first-round byes.
   Pegula, whose parents own the Buffalo Bills and Sabres, reached the final of the 2012 Sacramento Challenger at 18 and the semifinals of the 2018 Stockton Challenger in NorCal. 
   Volynets, the USTA Girls 18 national champion in 2019, has lost nine of her last 10 matches. However, all but one have come in Grand Slam or WTA tournaments. Ranked a career-high No. 182, she qualified for Wimbledon in June before losing in the first round.
   Volynets held her own on the baseline against Martic, a French Open quarterfinalist in 2019, but could not match the 5-foot-11 (1.81-meter) Martic's punishing serve. Martic pounded six aces, won 79 percent of the points on her first serve (27 of 34) and saved five of six break points against her.
   Martic also kept Volynets off-balance with deft drop shots, a tactic Volynets did not try.
   "She doesn't miss many balls," Martic said in an on-court interview, so I had to work hard out there."
   In the first round of women's doubles, No. 8 seeds Sharon Fichman of Canada and Giuliana Olmos, an Austria native who grew up in Fremont in the Bay Area and represents Mexico, beat Daria Kasatkina of Russia and Anett Kontaveit of Estonia 6-3, 6-4. 
   Kasatkina reached the singles final in San Jose, Calif., in August, losing to Danielle Collins of St. Petersburg, Fla.
   USTA Pro Circuit — Victoria Duval of Bradenton, Fla., routed No. 1 seed Gabriela Lee of Romania 6-2, 6-0 in the first round of the $25,000 Team Ascension Women's Pro Open in Redding, Calif.
    Maria Kozyreva, a Russian fifth-year student at Saint Mary's College in the Bay Area, ousted No. 8 seed Katherine Sebov of Canada 7-6 (3), 6-4 one week after stunning No. 1 seed Zheng Saisai, ranked No. 75, in the opening round of the $60,000 Berkeley (Calif.) Challenger.
   Also, Connie Ma, an 18-year-old wild card from Dublin in the Bay Area, overwhelmed Haruka Kaji, 27, of Japan 6-1, 6-1. No. 3 seed Katie Swan of Great Britain dominated qualifier Hind Abdelouahid, an ex-Saint Mary's standout from Manteca, Calif., 6-1, 6-1. 
   College — Carolyn Campana (Hillsborough, Calif., in the Bay Area) of Wake Forest ousted No. 5 seed Bunyawi Thamchaiwat of San Diego State 6-4, 6-1 in the first round of the ITA Women's All-American Championships in Mt. Pleasant, S.C. 
   In the opening round of the ITA Men's All-American Championships in Tulsa, Okla., Arthur Fery of Stanford outclassed lucky loser Justin Barki of Princeton 6-2, 6-1.
   Falling were Marcus McDaniel (Vacaville, Calif.) of Georgia Tech and qualifiers Tristan Boyer of Stanford and Eric Hadigian (Sacramento, Calif.) of Pepperdine.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Arconada extends streak to reach BNP main draw

Usue Arconada won 12 of the last 13 games against Beatriz Haddad Maia
of Brazil today in Indian Wells. Photo by Paul Bauman
   INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Nobody is saying that Usue Arconada is going to win a Grand Slam tournament anytime soon, if ever.
   But Arconada is reminiscent of Sofia Kenin, the 2020 Australian Open champion now ranked No. 8.
   Both are 22-year-old Americans born 17 days apart (Arconada is older) in other countries (Arconada in Argentina, Kenin in Russia).
   Both have tremendous groundstrokes and fighting spirit.
   And both won the $60,000 Berkeley (Calif.) Challenger, Kenin three years ago and Arconada last week.
   Kenin, however, is three inches (7.6 centimeters) taller at 5-foot-7 (1.70 meters) in an era of power.
   Arconada, a qualifying wild card playing in the BNP Paribas Open for the first time, surprised ninth-seeded Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil 4-6, 6-4, 6-0 today in 91-degree (33 Celsius) heat to reach the main draw of the tournament, considered the "fifth Grand Slam.'
   "It means a lot," Arconada, ranked No. 182, said in an on-court interview after her seventh consecutive victory. "I had a quick turnaround from my last tournament. I just left it out there every match and did everything I could. I told myself, no matter what, you've got to keep fighting."
   It didn't hurt that the first serve of Haddad Maia, a 6-foot (1.85-meter) left-hander, dropped from over 120 mph (193 kph) in the first set to under 100 mph (161 kph).
   Arconada, who has a Basque first name (pronounced EW-sway) because her father's side of the family is from Spain, double-faulted to trail 1-2 in the second set after "Game, Haddad Maia" was erroneously announced following Arconada's first serve. Haddad Maia, ranked No. 115 after reaching a career-high No. 58 in 2017, won one game the rest of the match. 
   "I was just kind of looking at my brother (Jordi, a former Texas A&M player), and he was giving me a lot of confidence and cheering me on," Arconada said. "It helped me be strong, and I was able to turn it up."
   Arconada is scheduled to play Ajla Tomljanovic, a 28-year-old Australia citizen from Croatia, on Thursday in the first round. The 5-foot-11 (1.80-meter) Tomljanovic (pronounced Tom-yon-o-vich), ranked No. 47, reached her first Grand Slam quarterfinal at Wimbledon in July and the final of the 2017 (last) Sacramento (Calif.) Challenger.
   Arconada defeated Tomljanovic 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 in the first round of a $100,000 hardcourt tournament in Tampico, Mexico in 2017 in their only previous meeting.
   The winner will face fifth-seeded Garbine Muguruza, a two-time Grand Slam singles champion and two-time BNP quarterfinalist. All 32 seeds in each the women's and men's draws receive first-round byes.
   Liang En-Shuo, 21, of Chinese Taipei also advanced to the main draw in her first BNP Paribas Open. Liang, who lost to Arconada in the Berkeley quarterfinals and reached the doubles final with Lu Jia-Jing of China, beat American Caroline Dolehide, a two-time Grand Slam doubles semifinalist, 6-4, 6-7 (2), 6-3.
   Liang is set to play Alison Riske of Nashville, Tenn., on Thursday, with the survivor taking on 16th-seeded Bianca Andreescu, the 2019 BNP and U.S. Open champion
   ITF Pro Circuit — No. 10 seed Maria Kozyreva of Russia and Saint Mary's College in the San Francisco Bay Area edged No. 7 seed Vivian Wolff, a former UCLA star from Germany, 3-6, 6-4 [11-9] in the second (final) round of qualifying for the $25,000 Pro Women's Open in Redding, Calif.
   No. 13 seed Hind Abdelouahid, an ex-Saint Mary's standout from Manteca, Calif., advanced with a 6-1, 6-7 (2) [10-2] victory over No. 5 seed Bianca Jolie Fernandez of Canada.
   College — Tristan Boyer of Stanford and Eric Hadigian (Sacramento) of Pepperdine each won two qualifying matches to reach the main draw of the ITA Men's All-American Championship in Tulsa, Okla.
   Falling were Yuta Kikuchi of the University of California, Berkeley and Max Basing of Stanford in the third (final) round of qualifying and No. 17-32 seed Alexandre Rotsaert of Stanford and Carl Emil Overbeck of Cal in the second round.

Berkeley champion breezes in BNP qualifying

Usue Arconada, shown Sunday in the final of the $60,000 Berkeley (Calif.) Chal-
lenger, lost only three games in her BNP Paribas Open debut. Photo by Mal Taam
   A short turnaround didn't hurt Usue Arconada. 
   One day after winning the $60,000 Berkeley (Calif.) Challenger, the 22-year-old American romped in her BNP Paribas Open debut.
   Arconada, a wild card ranked No. 188, whipped Australia's Arina Rodionova, seeded 18th and ranked No. 154, 6-3, 6-0 in 66 minutes on Monday in the first round of qualifying in Indian Wells.
   The 5-foot-4 (1.63-meter) Arconada, who has lost a total of only seven games in her last two matches, is scheduled to play ninth-seeded Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil on Tuesday for a main-draw berth in the tournament, considered the "fifth Grand Slam." Haddad Maia, a 6-foot (1.85-meter) left-hander, outclassed Lucrezia Stefanini of Italy 6-4, 6-1.
   Meanwhile, Berkeley semifinalists Kurumi Nara and Mayo Hibi of Japan lost to seeds. Sixth-seeded Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan beat Nara 6-4, 6-3, and 13th-seeded Olga Govortsova of Belarus beat Hibi, a longtime Southern California resident, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1.
   Chinese Taipei's Liang En-Shuo, the doubles runner-up in Berkeley with Lu Jia-Jing of China, advanced with a 7-6 (4), 3-6, 6-4 victory over 10th-seeded Wang Xinyu, who lost in the first round of singles in Berkeley as the second seed. 
   College — Stanford's Alexandre Rotsaert, Tristan Boyer and Max Basing won their first-round qualifying matches in the ITA Men's All-American Championship in Tulsa, Okla.
   Also advancing were Yuta Kikuchi of the University of California, Berkeley and Eric Hadigian (Sacramento, Calif.) of Pepperdine. Falling were Timothy Sah of Stanford and Luke Casper (Santa Cruz, Calif.) of Texas A&M.
    Meanwhile, Cal's Jessica Alsola (Fresno, Calif.), Valentina Ivanov and Hannah Viller Moeller lost in the second round of qualifying for the ITA Women's All-American Championship in Mt. Pleasant, S.C.
   Main-draw play in both tournaments is set to begin Wednesday.

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Arconada routs Zacarias for $60K Berkeley crown

Usue Arconada, a 22-year-old American, matched her biggest career title.
Photo by Mal Taam 
   BERKELEY, Calif. — Usue Arconada got her career back on track today with a stellar performance.
   The 22-year-old American routed Marcela Zacarias of Mexico 6-1, 6-3 in matchup of diminutive, unseeded players to win the $60,000 Berkeley Challenger at the venerable Berkeley Tennis Club.
   "It means a lot," said Arconada, who matched her biggest career title. "I've had a tough year. This has been the culmination of all the hard work I've put in."
   Arconada, an Argentina native with a Basque first name (pronounced EW-sway), had tumbled from a career-high No. 130 in February 2020 to No. 238 entering this week. By winning the title, she soared 50 places to No. 188. 
   Arconada, who earned $9,142, showed no ill effects from her 3-hour, 10-minute victory over seventh-seeded Mayo Hibi of Japan on Saturday.
   "I did a really good job recovering yesterday, and I woke up today feeling a little tired but not sore," said Arconada, who's based in Orlando, Fla. "As the day went on, I was feeling a bit better. I didn't have a problem physically." 
Marcela Zacarias, 27, of Mexico played in her biggest career final by far.
Photo by Mal Taam
   The 27-year-old Zacarias (pronounced Za-ca-REE-us) did in the 81-degree (27 Celsius) heat. Her first three matches in the tournament averaged 2:55 in length, and she lost a tough first set against fourth-seeded Kurumi Nara of Japan on Saturday before Nara retired at 0-3 in the second set with a groin injury.
   "(Arconada) was really tough today, and it was not my best day," Zacarias lamented after her biggest career final by far. "She didn't miss, and I missed really easy (shots) on the important points when I was up in the games. I was a little bit low of energy, and it took me a long time to start playing better. (Then) it was too late."
   Zacarias, who climbed to a career-high No. 181 in 2015, jumped 45 spots to No. 261 and collected $4,886 as the runner-up.
   "It was a pretty good week," said Zacarias, who pondered retirement after a discouraging first-round loss in Fort Worth, Texas, last week. "I was not even going to come, so I'm really excited that I came and played my best tennis in a few years." 
Usue Arconada celebrates after winning
championship point today at the Berkeley
Tennis Club. Photo by Paul Bauman
   After Zacarias held serve in the opening game of the final, Arconada reeled off seven consecutive games, overcoming a 0-40 deficit in her first service game.
   Arconada led 4-1 in the second set but double-faulted on break point for 4-3. She broke right back on a deep forehand winner and held serve at 15 for the championship.
   "I thought I did really well today focusing on the little things and taking it a point at a time," Arconada said. "I was real engaged with everything I was doing, and I was trying not to give any free points away."
   Arconada has little time to celebrate and rest. She received a wild card in qualifying for the prestigious BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells and is scheduled to play No. 18 seed Arina Rodionova, an Australian veteran who reached the Berkeley quarterfinals in 2019, on Monday afternoon. 
   Unseeded Sophie Chang, 24, of Havre de Grace, Md., and Angela Kulikov, 23, of Sun Valley in the Los Angeles area won the doubles title in their first tournament together. Combining power (Chang) and athleticism (Kulikov), they defeated No. 4 seeds Liang En Shuo of Chinese Taipei and Lu Jia-Jing of China 6-4, 6-3.
   "I reached out to Sophie on Instagram a few weeks ago," Kulikov, a former USC All-American, said during the awards ceremony. "I said, 'I heard you have a pretty good serve. Wanna carry me in the tournament?' "
   Here are the complete Berkeley singles and doubles draws.

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Clones Arconada, Zacarias to meet in Berkeley final

Unseeded Usue Arconada topped seventh-seeded
 Mayo Hibi in 3 hours, 10 minutes. Photo by
Paul Bauman
   BERKELEY, Calif. — Fans at the Berkeley Tennis Club on Sunday might have trouble telling the singles finalists apart.
   Usue Arconada and Marcela Zacarias look and play alike. Both are small, aggressive yet steady baseliners with Hispanic backgrounds. Both are unseeded. Both even wear shorts rather than skirts. 
   "Yes, I think we are (similar players)," Zacarias allowed with a laugh. "Totally."
   The biggest difference between Arconada and Zacarias (pronounced Za-ca-REE-us) is age. Zacarias is five years older at 27.
   Arconada — a 5-foot-4 (1.63-meter), 125-pound (57-kilogram) Argentina native who represents the United States — and Zacarias — a 5-foot-3 (1.59-meter), 110-pound (50-kilogram) Mexican — advanced in contrasting fashion today.
   Arconada, who's based in Orlando, Fla., outdueled seventh-seeded Mayo Hibi, a longtime Southern California resident who plays for her native Japan, 6-3, 6-7 (3), 6-4 in a grueling baseline battle that lasted 3 hours, 10 minutes.
   Zacarias trailed fourth-seeded Kurumi Nara of Japan 5-7, 3-0 when the 29-year-old Nara, ranked No. 178 after reaching a career-high No. 32 in 2014, retired with a right groin injury after 1:24. Nara's first-round and quarterfinal victories each spanned more than three hours.
   Arconada reached her first final since losing to then-No. 84 Anna Blinkova of Russia in the $162,480 Oracle Challenger in New Haven, Conn., in September 2019. Two months earlier, Arconada won the $60,000 Honolulu Challenger for the biggest title of her career.
 
Unseeded Marcela Zacarias serves during her victory over fourth-seeded
Kurumi Nara, who retired while leading 7-5, 0-3. Photo by Paul Bauman
  Arconada's first name (pronounced EW-sway) is Basque because her father's side of the family is from Spain. She lived in Argentina for seven or eight years before moving to Puerto Rico for two years and then to Florida to train for tennis.
   Zacarias advanced to her first final since winning a $15,000 hardcourt tournament in Cancun in December 2019. Earlier that year, she won four consecutive $15,000 hardcourt tourneys in Mexico. Zacarias has never played in the final of a tourney above $25,000. 
   Arconada, ranked No. 238, and Zacarias, ranked No. 306, are scheduled to meet for the first time, although they have practiced with each other frequently, on Sunday after the 11 a.m. doubles final. Both matches will be broadcast on RadioTennis.com.  
   The Arconada-Hibi match was filled with deuces, service breaks and clutch shots in 81-degree (27 Celsius) heat. It was exhausting just to watch.
Mayo Hibi prepares to hit her trademark backhand
slice. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Hibi, the runner-up in the last (2019) Berkeley Challenger, has an old-school game that her father, Soichi, taught her. She relies on consistency and finesse in an era of power, has a one-handed backhand that she usually slices, isn't afraid to come to the net and shows no emotion on the court. 
   Arconada, meanwhile, is exceptionally fast and shows her frustration under duress. She flung her racket after blowing a high volley on break point for 0-2 in the second set and hit a ball against the back fence after getting broken while serving for the match at 6-5 in the set. 
   Arconada basically willed herself to victory. After dropping the second-set tiebreaker, she trailed 1-3 in the third set but reeled off the next four games to serve for the match again. Arconada was called for a foot fault on her first serve at 15-40, was broken two points later and broke back at 15 for the match.
   "It was definitely tough after being up 6-5 in the second (set) and not being able to close it out," Arconada said. "She played a good tiebreaker, and I was kind of rushing my game a little bit. 
   "I started the (third) set a little slowly with my physicality, but I tried to push myself. I told myself I can stay out there all day, as long as I need to, to bring it, and I'm not leaving without a fight. That really helped me and pumped me up. I started taking it point by point and not concentrating so much on the end goal, just competing."
Kurumi Nara has reached the third round of the U.S. Open twice and
of the Australian Open once. Photo by Paul Bauman 
   Nara's retirement was welcome for Zacarias, whose three previous matches this week, all three-setters, averaged 2:55 in length. 
   "I'm really sorry for her," Zacarias lamented. "She was in pain; she couldn't run. But yes, it's nice to finish earlier. I was not going to go until I won, so that would have been three hours," she quipped.
   Nara, who reached the third round of the U.S. Open in 2013 and 2017 and of the Australian Open in 2014, bolted to a 4-1 lead with one service break. After Zacarias won the next two games, Nara took a medical timeout to have her upper right thigh taped. Zacarias saved a set point while serving at 4-5, but Nara eventually broke for the set.
   Zacarias changed her racket and strategy after the first set and was a new player.
   "I thought my (strings were) loose," she said. "I started the second set more confident, and I had to come in (to the net). I was really far behind (the court) and waiting for her to come in. I need to change something, (so I said) I'm going to be aggressive. That's what I did, and it worked." 
   Zacarias rolled her right ankle at 5-5 in the first set but quickly recovered. 
   "It was painful but all good," she said.
   Here are the updated Berkeley singles and doubles draws and Sunday's schedule.
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