Sunday, February 28, 2021

McDonald routs Rodionov for third Challenger title

Mackenzie McDonald has won eight of his last nine matches.
The 25-year-old San Francisco Bay Area product reached the
fourth round of the recent Australian Open. 2016 photo by
Paul Bauman
   It didn't take long for Mackenzie McDonald to defeat Jurij Rodionov for a third Challenger singles title.
   The unseeded McDonald, a 25-year-old product of Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area, routed the sixth-seeded Rodionov of Austria 6-2, 6-1 in 56 minutes today in the $104,160 Forte 100 Challenger in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan.
   McDonald, only 5-foot-10 (1.78 meters) and 160 pounds (73 kilograms), pounded seven aces to none for Rodionov, a 6-foot-3 (1.91-meter) left-hander, on an indoor hardcourt and saved all four break points against him. The players met for the first time. 
   It was the eighth victory in nine matches for McDonald, now based in Orlando, Fla. As the last remaining American man in the recent Australian Open, he lost to eventual champion Daniil Medvedev in straight sets in the fourth round.
   McDonald, who ousted top-seeded Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan in the first round in Nur-Sultan, also lost only three games in the semifinals against fifth-seeded Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland. 
   The champion's closest call in the tournament came in a 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (3) victory over left-hander Frederico Ferreira Silva, also 25 years old and 5-foot-10 (1.78 meters), of Portugal in the quarterfinals.
   McDonald earned $14,400 for winning the Kazakhstan title, a pittance compared to the $248,800 he pocketed at the Australian Open. More importantly, he will rise 21 more places in the world rankings to No. 118 on Monday. Entering the Australian Open, McDonald was ranked No. 192.
   McDonald climbed to a career-high No. 57 in April 2019 but underwent right hamstring surgery the following June and missed seven months. 
   The Kazakhstan crown was McDonald's first since the 2018 Seoul Challenger. His maiden title came in Fairfield, Calif., 40 miles (64.4 kilometers) north of Piedmont, in 2017. 
   Rodionov, a 21-year-old native of Germany, collected $8,480 after falling to 3-1 in Challenger singles finals. He will improve 13 spots to No. 139.
   McDonald is scheduled to play Brayden Schnur of Canada in the first round of next week's $156,240 Forte 125 Challenger in Nur-Sultan. Both players are unseeded. 

Saturday, February 27, 2021

McDonald coasts into final of Kazakhstan Challenger

Mackenzie McDonald seeks his third Challenger singles title
and first since 2018. The Northern California product had ham-
 string surgery in 2019. File photo by Paul Bauman 
   One day after barely surviving in the quarterfinals of the $104,160 Forte 100 Challenger in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, Mackenzie McDonald breezed in the semifinals.
   The unseeded McDonald, who was born and raised in Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area, routed fifth-seeded Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland 6-2, 6-1 Friday night PST on an indoor hardcourt.
   McDonald, now based in Orlando, Fla., edged unseeded Frederico Ferreira Silva of Portugal 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (3) on Thursday in a quarterfinal matchup of 5-foot-10 (1.78-meter) 25-year-olds. 
   McDonald, ranked No. 139, evened his record against Laaksonen, ranked No. 134, at 1-1 (the other match was on clay) and won for the seventh time in his last eight matches. He lost to eventual runner-up Daniil Medvedev in straight sets in the fourth round of the Australian Open.
   Laaksonen, who was born in Finland to a Finnish mother and Swiss father, reached the doubles final in the 2018 Fairfield, Calif., Challenger with Harri Heliovaara of Finland.
   McDonald is set to face sixth-seeded Jurij Rodionov, a 6-foot-3 (1.91-meter) left-hander from Austria, for the first time on Sunday at 5 a.m. Rodionov, a 21-year-old native of Germany, topped fourth-seeded Prajnesh Gunneswaran, a 31-year-old left-hander from India, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.
  Gunneswaran advanced to the Tiburon semifinals in 2017 and Aptos quarterfinals the following year in Northern California Challengers.
   McDonald seeks his third Challenger singles title and first since Seoul in 2018. His maiden crown came in Fairfield, 40 miles (64.4 kilometers) north of Piedmont, in 2017. 
  Shortly after climbing to a career-high No. 57 in 2019, McDonald underwent right hamstring surgery and missed seven months.
  Rodionov, ranked No. 152, is 3-0 in Challenger singles finals.

Friday, February 26, 2021

McDonald ekes out victory in Kazakhstan quarterfinals

Mackenzie McDonald has won six of his last
seven matches. 2018 photo by Paul Bauman
   Mackenzie McDonald remained hot early today, edging Frederico Ferreira Silva of Portugal 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (3) in a quarterfinal matchup of unseeded players in the $104,160 Forte 100 Challenger in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan. 
   McDonald, who was born and raised in Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area, has won six of his last seven matches. The 25-year-old resident of Orlando, Fla., lost to eventual runner-up Daniil Medvedev in straight sets in the fourth round of the Australian Open.
   McDonald, ranked No. 139, is scheduled to meet fifth-seeded Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland tonight at 9 (PST) in the indoor hardcourt tournament. Laaksonen, ranked No. 134, defeated Kacper Zuk of Poland 6-4, 6-3.
   Laaksonen beat McDonald 6-3, 6-4 in the first round of the 2019 U.S. Clay Court Championships in Houston in their only previous meeting.
   McDonald won his first Challenger in Fairfield, Calif., 40 miles (64.4 kilometers) north of Piedmont, in 2017. He climbed to a career-high No. 57 in 2019, shortly before undergoing right hamstring surgery and missing seven months. 
   Laaksonen, who has a Finnish mother and Swiss father, reached the doubles final in Fairfield in 2018 with Harri Heliovaara of Finland. 
   In the other Kazakhstan semifinal, fourth-seeded Prajnesh Gunneswaran, 31, of India, will face sixth-seeded Jurij Rodionov, 21, of Austria in a clash of left-handers. Rodionov won their only previous encounter 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 in the opening round of the 2018 Kaohsiung Challenger in Chinese Taipei. 
   Gunneswaran advanced to the Tiburon semifinals in 2017 and Aptos quarterfinals the following year in Northern California Challengers.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Bay Area's Volynets loses marathon in $25K Boca Raton

Katie Volynets talks with reporter Tony Acosta during the 2018 Stockton (Calif.)
Challenger. In the background is Volynets' father, Andrey. Photo by Paul Bauman
   The first match between Americans Katie Volynets and Usue (pronounced OO-sway) Maitane Arconada was a doozy.
   The third-seeded Arconada, 22, outlasted Volynets, 19, of Walnut Creek in the San Francisco Bay Area 7-5, 6-7 (5), 6-4 in 3 hours, 26 minutes today in the second round of a $25,000 hardcourt tournament in Boca Raton, Fla.
    The match was not the longest of the tournament, however. Top-seeded Olga Govortsova of Belarus edged qualifier Maria Mateas, a 21-year-old American born in Romania,  4-6, 7-6 (8), 7-6 (3) in 4:07, virtually unheard of for a best-of-three-set match, in the first round. 
   Govortsova, a quarterfinalist at Stanford on the WTA Tour in 2007 and 2013, then lost to Tereza Mrdeza of Croatia 1-6, 6-4, 6-4 in a mere 2:31.
   Arconada captured the doubles title in the 2017 Stockton (Calif.) Challenger with Sofia Kenin. Volynets won the singles crown in the USTA 18 National Championships in August 2019 and turned pro that December.
   ITF Men's Tour — Second-seeded Alejandro Gomez of Colombia and Israel Alexander Ore of the United States beat alternates Strong Kirchheimer of Cary, N.C., and Dennis Novikov, 27, of San Jose, Calif., 6-4, 6-4 in the quarterfinals of a $25,000 clay-court tournament in Naples, Fla.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Hewitt headed to Hall with Original 9, Van der Meer

Defending champion Lleyton Hewitt returns serve in the 2013 SAP Open
 in San Jose, Calif. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt, who won two Grand Slam titles in singles and one in doubles, heads the Class of 2020 in the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
   The Australian, who turned 40 today, was elected by media, historians and Hall of Famers. Hewitt, the trailblazing Original 9 of women's professional tennis and tennis teacher Dennis Van der Meer are scheduled to be inducted in the Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I., on July 17. The 2020 ceremony was canceled because of COVID-19, so 2020 inductees Goran Ivanisevic and Conchita Martinez also will be honored.
   Hewitt compensated for his small size (5-foot-10 or 1.78 meters) with bulldog tenacity. He won singles titles in the 2001 U.S. Open and at Wimbledon in 2002 and the doubles crown in the 2000 U.S. Open with 6-foot-5 (1.96-meter) Max Mirnyi of Belarus.
   Hewitt reached two other Grand Slam singles finals, losing to Roger Federer in the 2004 U.S. Open and to Marat Safin in the 2005 Australian Open.
   In November 2001, Hewitt became the youngest man to ascend to No. 1 at 20 years, 8 months old. He collected 30 singles titles during his 18-year career and played on two Davis Cup championship teams.
   Hewitt won the Siebel Open in San Jose, Calif., in 2002, edging Andre Agassi 4-6, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (4), and  reached the final of the 2006 SAP Open in San Jose, falling to Andy Murray.
   The Original 9 signed $1 contracts in 1970 to compete in a new tournament for women. The event's success led to the creation of the Virginia Slims circuit and today's WTA Tour. 
   The Original 9 are the first group to be inducted in the Hall of Fame. The members are Americans Peaches Bartkowicz, Rosie Casals (a San Francisco native), Julie Heldman, Billie Jean King, Kristy Pigeon, Nancy Richey and Valerie Ziegenfuss and Australians Judy Tegart Dalton and Kerry Melville Reid.
   Van der Meer, a U.S. citizen orginally from Namibia, tutored top players and developed a standardized teaching method. He died in 2019.
   ATP Tour — Jonathan Erlich, 43, of Israel and Andrei Vasilevski of Belarus topped Andre Goransson (University of California, Berkeley, 2011-14) of Sweden and David Pel of the Netherlands 6-4, 4-6 [10-7] in a battle of unseeded teams in the quarterfinals of the Open Sud de France in Montpellier.
   Goransson, 26, was playing in only his ninth ATP tournament. He earned the title in Pune, India, early last year with Christopher Rungkat of Indonesia, beating Erlich and Vasilevski.
   Erlich won the Australian Open in 2008 with countryman Andy Ram and the Aptos (Calif.) Challenger in 2013 with Ram and 2017 with Neal Skupski of Great Britain.
   ATP Challenger TourMackenzie McDonald, a product of Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area, dismissed Denis Istomin, a 34-year-old Russia native who plays for Uzbekistan, 6-2, 6-3 to reach the quarterfinals of the $104,160 Forte 100 Challenger in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan.
   Istomin advanced to the final of the 2012 SAP Open, falling to Milos Raonic, climbed to a career-high No. 33 later that year and stunned Novak Djokovic in the second round of the 2017 Australian Open.
   McDonald, who advanced to the fourth-round in the recent Australian Open and upset of top-seeded Mikhail Kukushkin in the first round in Nur-Sultan, is scheduled to play Frederico Ferreira Silva of Portugal for the first time on Friday. Ferreira Silva outlasted Russian qualifier Pavel Kotov 6-1, 3-6, 6-4.
   Both McDonald and Ferreira Silva are 25 years old and 5-foot-10 (1.78 meters). Ferreira Silva, however, is left-handed. 
   ITF Women's TourKatie Volynets, a 19-year-old qualifier from Walnut Creek in the Bay Area, beat U.S. wild card Elizabeth Mandlik, the daughter of Hall of Famer Hana Mandlikova, 6-3, 7-5 in the first round of a $25,000 hardcourt tournament in Boca Raton, Fla. Both players are 19.
   Volynets, ranked No. 323, will try to reach the quarterfinals as a qualifier for the second consecutive week. She is set to face third-seeded Usue (pronounced OO-sway) Maitane Arconada, 22, of the United States for the first time on Thursday. Arconada, ranked No. 156, dominated Mariam Bolkvadze of Georgia 6-1, 6-3. 
   Jovana Jovic (formerly Jaksic), a 27-year-old Serb based in Sacramento, Calif., lost to Robin Montgomery, a 16-year-old left-hander from Washington, D.C., 6-1, 6-1 in 61 minutes.
   Jovic and American Sachia Vickery lost in straight sets in the first round of doubles on Tuesday, as did Allura and Maribella Zamarripa, 18-year-old identical twins from St. Helena in the Napa Valley.
   ITF Men's Tour — Cristian Rodriguez, 30, of Colombia routed Dennis Novikov, a 27-year-old qualifier from San Jose, 6-1, 6-2 in the opening round of a $25,000 clay-court tournament in Naples, Fla. Novikov has plunged from a career-high No. 119 in 2016 to No. 770.
   Cal women — The Bears (6-1), who beat then-No. 3 UCLA on Sunday in Berkeley, rose five spots to No. 12 in today's Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings. The Bruins (5-2) fell to No. 6.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

McDonald ousts top seed in Kazakhstan Challenger

Mackenzie McDonald, coming off a fourth-round appearance
in the Australian Open, knocked off top-seeded Mikhail Ku-
kushkin in Kazakhstan. 2018 photo by Paul Bauman 
   Mackenzie McDonald, a 25-year-old product of Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area, beat top-seeded Mikhail Kukushkin, playing in his home country, 7-5, 7-5 on Monday in the first round of the $104,160 Forte 100 Challenger in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan.
   McDonald, who has fought his way back to No. 139 in the world after undergoing right hamstring surgery in 2019, is coming off a fourth-round appearance in the Australian Open. That equals his furthest run in the Grand Slam tournament.
   Kukushkin, now ranked No. 94, reached the final of the 2014 Aptos (Calif.) Challenger, losing to former top-10 player Marcos Baghdatis
   McDonald, based in Orlando, Fla., is scheduled to play Denis Istomin, a 34-year-old Russia native who plays for Uzbekistan, on Wednesday. Istomin, who stunned Novak Djokovic in the second round of the 2017 Australian Open, defeated wild card Denis Yevseyev of Kazakhstan 6-7 (6), 6-3, 6-3. 
   Istomin advanced to the final of the 2012 SAP Open in San Jose, Calif., falling to Milos Raonic, and climbed to a career-high No. 33 later that year. McDonald was ranked as high as No. 57 before having surgery.
   ATP Tour — Luis David Martinez of Venezuela and David Vega Hernandez of Spain eliminated second-seeded Rohan Bopanna, 40, of India and Ben McLachlan (University of California, Berkeley, 2011-14), a New Zealand native who plays for his mother's native Japan, 6-4, 6-2 in the opening round of the Singapore Tennis Open.
   ITF Women's Tour — No. 13 seed Katie Volynets, a 19-year-old professional from Walnut Creek in the Bay Area, topped No. 8 seed Marcela Zacarias of Mexico 3-6, 7-5 [12-10] in the final round of qualifying for a $25,000 hardcourt tournament in Boca Raton, Fla.
   Volynets is slated to play U.S. wild card Elizabeth Mandlik, the 19-year-old daughter of International Tennis Hall of Famer Hana Mandlikova, on Wednesday.
   ITF Men's Tour — Dennis Novikov, 27, of San Jose edged No. 13 seed Benjamin Dhoe of Belgium 6-2, 2-6 [10-7] to qualify for a $25,000 clay-court tournament in Naples, Fla.
   Novikov is set to meet Cristian Rodriguez, 30, of Colombia on Wednesday. 
   In the first round of doubles, Strong Kirchheimer of the United States and Novikov dominated Sathi Reddy Chirala of India and Ryan Shane of the U.S. 6-3, 6-2. 

Monday, February 22, 2021

Top seeds Aoyama, Shibahara fall in Adelaide doubles

   Now Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara are on a losing streak.
   The top seeds, representing Japan, fell to Xu Yifan and Yang Zhaoxuan of China 6-4, 3-6 [10-6] today in the first round of the Adelaide International.
   After starting the year 12-0 with two titles, Aoyama, 33, and Shibahara, a 23-year-old native of Mountain View in the San Francisco Bay Area, have dropped two consecutive matches. They reached the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, losing to eventual champions Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus and Elise Mertens of Belgium.
   Sabalenka, the singles runner-up in San Jose, Calif., in 2019, and Mertens rose to No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in doubles on Monday.
   ATP Tour — Andre Goransson (University of California, Berkeley, 2011-14) of Sweden and David Pel, a 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) left-hander from the Netherlands, edged wild cards David Goffin of Belgium and Lucas Pouille of France 7-6 (6), 3-6 [10-8] in the opening round of the Open Sud de France in Montpellier. 
   Both Goffin, 30, and Pouille, 26, have been ranked in the top 10 in singles.
   Goransson and Pel are set to play Jonathan Erlich, 43, of Israel and Andrei Vasilevski of Belarus on Wednesday in the quarterfinals.
   Erlich won the Australian Open in 2008 with countryman Andy Ram and the Aptos (Calif.) Challenger in 2013 with Ram and 2017 with Neal Skupski of Great Britain.
   ITF Women's Tour — No. 13 seed Katie Volynets, 19, of Walnut Creek in the Bay Area nipped Maria Lourdes Carle of Argentina 4-6, 7-5 [12-10] in the first round of qualifying for a $25,000 hardcourt tournament in Boca Raton, Fla. 
   Volynets, a quarterfinalist as a qualifier in last week's $25,000 tourney in Orlando, Fla., is scheduled to play eighth-seeded Marcela Zacarias of Mexico on Tuesday for a main-draw berth. 
   ITF Men's Tour — Dennis Novikov, 27, of San Jose topped 12th-seeded Jordi Arconada of the United States 4-6, 6-3 [10-4] in the opening round of qualifying for a $25,000 clay-court tournament in Naples, Fla.
   Novikov, who has tumbled from a career-high No. 119 in 2016 to No. 770, is set to meet 13th-seeded Benjamin Dhoe of Belgium on Tuesday for a spot in the main draw.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Djokovic wins 9th AO title; Brooksby breaks through

Novak Djokovic poses with the trophy and Serbian flag after winning
the 2015 BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. Photo by Paul Bauman
   For someone who supposedly tore an abdominal muscle in the third round, Novak Djokovic did pretty well in the Australian Open.
   That's not entirely shocking.
   The top-ranked Djokovic rolled to his third consecutive Australian Open singles title and — brace yourself — ninth overall in the tournament, beating fourth-seeded Daniil Medvedev 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 today in Melbourne. 
   "Definitely, emotionally, the most challenging Grand Slam that I ever had, with everything that was happening — injury, off-court-stuff, quarantines," Djokovic, who improved to 18-0 in Australian Open semifinals and finals, told reporters. "A roller-coaster ride."
   It was the 33-year-old Djokovic's 18th Grand Slam singles crown, two short of the record held by Roger Federer, 39, and Rafael Nadal, 34. The trio have won 15 of the past 16 majors — Dominic Thiem won last year's U.S. Open with Djokovic defaulted and Nadal and Federer absent — and 58 of the last 70.
   Djokovic snapped Medvedev's winning streak at 20 matches and improved to 5-3 against the 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) Russian.
   "He's really good (at) reading an opponent's game, knowing what you will do next, how to beat you," said Medvedev, who had won three of his past four encounters against Djokovic, all in best-of-three-set matches. 
   Medvedev, 25, fell to 0-2 in Grand Slam finals. He lost an epic match to Nadal in the 2019 U.S. Open.  
   Djokovic pocketed $2.13 million for the title, down from $3.12 million last year for pandemic-related reasons. He will remain No. 1 at least through March 8, giving him 311 weeks at the top to break Federer's mark.
   Medvedev, who collected $1.16 million, will rise one notch to a career-high No. 3 on Monday.
Jenson Brooksby poses with his trophy in
South Africa. Photo courtesy of ATP Tour.
   ATP Challenger Tour Jenson Brooksby, 20, of Carmichael, Calif., in the Sacramento area won his first Challenger title today, topping Teymuraz Gabashvili, 35, of Russia 2-6, 6-3, 6-0 in the $52,080 PotchOpen II in Potchefstroom, South Africa. Both players were unseeded.
   "I was pretty nervous at the start," Brooksby, who turned pro in December, admitted on atptour.com. "Teymuraz started out strong and caught me a bit off guard, but I battled past the nerves, thankfully, to get through."
   Brooksby, who earned $7,200, will soar 66 places to a career-high No. 249 on Monday. As an 18-year-old qualifier, he stunned Tomas Berdych, the Wimbledon runner-up in 2010, in the first round of the 2019 U.S. Open.
   Gabashvili, who climbed to a career-high No. 43 in 2016, will improve 32 spots to No. 247. He reached the fourth round of the French Open in 2010 and 2015.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Cal coach Ram, Salisbury fall short in AO title defense

Joe Salisbury, left, and Brydan Klein pose after winning the doubles
title in the 2017 Stockton (Calif.) Challenger. Photo by Paul Bauman
   About 16 hours after winning his second Australian Open mixed doubles title, Rajeev Ram returned to Rod Laver Arena to defend his men's doubles crown.
   This match did not go as well. 
   Returning brilliantly, ninth-seeded Ivan Dodig of Croatia and Filip Polasek of Slovakia beat fifth-seeded Ram, a volunteer assistant coach at the University of California, Berkeley, and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain 6-3, 6-4 in the final in Melbourne.
   Ram, 36, is nicknamed "Rampras" because his serve resembles legend Pete Sampras'. 
   Dodig, 36, won his second Grand Slam men's doubles title, while Polasek, 35, played in his first major final.
   Polasek retired for five years (2013-18) because of back, spine and left-leg injuries. He became the second Slovakian to win a Grand Slam title. Daniela Hantuchova won four major mixed doubles crowns.
   Men's singles final — Top-ranked Novak Djokovic is scheduled to face fourth-seeded Daniil Medvedev of Russia on Sunday at 12:30 a.m. PST on ESPN (replays at 5 a.m. and 8 p.m. on ESPN2 and 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Tennis Channel).
   Djokovic, 33, is 4-3 against the 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) Medvedev, 25. But Medvedev has won three of the past four meetings, all in best-of-three-set matches. In their only previous Grand Slam encounter, Djokovic prevailed 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-3 in the fourth round of the 2019 Australian Open.
   Djokovic seeks his third consecutive Australian Open singles title, ninth overall and 18th in majors, two short of the record held by Roger Federer, 39, and Rafael Nadal, 34. Djokovic is 17-0 in Australian Open semifinals and finals. 
   Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have combined to win 14 of the past 15 majors — Dominic Thiem won last year's U.S. Open with Djokovic defaulted and Nadal and Federer absent — and 57 of the past 69.
   Medvedev has won 20 consecutive matches, including 12 wins against top-10 players (one against Djokovic). In his only other Grand Slam final, he lost an epic match against Nadal in the 2019 U.S. Open.
   Cal women — Freshman Jada Bui lifted the No. 17 Bears (5-1) to a 4-3 victory over No. 3 UCLA (5-2) in Berkeley. Bui, from Canada, defeated Abi Altick 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-3 on Court 4. 

Osaka beats Brady for title; Cal assistant wins mixed

Naomi Osaka, shown in 2014 at age 16, improved to
4-0 in Grand Slam finals. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Third-seeded Naomi Osaka of Japan won her fourth Grand Slam singles title today, dominating 22nd-seeded Jennifer Brady of Boca Raton, Fla., 6-4, 6-3 in the Australian Open in Melbourne.
   From 4-4 in the first set, Osaka won six consecutive games. 
   "She played really well when she had to," Brady, who lost to Osaka 7-6 (1), 3-6, 6-3 in the U.S. Open semifinals last September, told reporters. "She hit good shots when she needed them."
   Osaka, who saved two match points in her fourth-round victory over Garbine Muguruza, improved to 4-0 in Grand Slam finals. 
   Osaka became the first woman to win her first four major finals since Monica Seles 30 years ago. The only other player to accomplish the feat in the Open era, which began in 1968, is Roger Federer.
   "That's very amazing company," Osaka said.
   Among active women, only 39-year-old Serena Williams (23) and 40-year-old Venus Williams (seven) have won more Grand Slam singles titles than the 23-year-old Osaka.
   Osaka pocketed $2.13 million for her second Australian Open singles crown, down from the $3.12 million that Sofia Kenin collected for winning last year's title. Osaka, formerly ranked No. 1, will rise one notch to No. 2 on Monday.
   Brady, 25, settled for $1.16 million in her first Grand Slam final. She is projected to jump 11 places to a career-high No. 13. 
   Osaka made her WTA main-draw debut at 16 at Stanford in 2014. Brady starred in Northern California Challengers, sweeping the singles and doubles titles in Redding ($25,000) in 2014 at age 19 and advancing to the quarterfinals as the top seed in Sacramento ($60,000) in 2017, losing to Sofia Kenin.
   Men's singles final — Top-ranked Novak Djokovic is scheduled to face fourth-seeded Daniil Medvedev of Russia on Sunday at 12:30 a.m. PST on ESPN (replays at 5 a.m. and 8 p.m. on ESPN2).
   Djokovic, 33, is 4-3 against the 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) Medvedev, 25. But Medvedev has won three of the past four meetings, all in best-of-three-set matches. In their only previous Grand Slam encounter, Djokovic prevailed 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-3 in the fourth round of the 2019 Australian Open.
   Djokovic seeks his third consecutive Australian Open singles title, ninth overall and 18th in majors, two short of the record held by Federer, 39, and Rafael Nadal, 34.
   Medvedev will play in his second Grand Slam final. He lost an epic match against Nadal in the 2019 U.S. Open.
   Mixed doubles final — In a late match, sixth-seeded Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic and Rajeev Ram, a volunteer assistant coach at the University of California, Berkeley, defeated Australian wild cards Samantha Stosur and Matthew Ebden 6-1, 6-4. 
   Krejcikova won her third consecutive Australian Open mixed doubles crown after triumphing with Ram in 2019 and Nikola Mektic of Croatia last year. 
   Stosur and Ebden were playing for their second Australian Open mixed doubles titles. Stosur won with countryman Scott Draper in 2005, and Ebden triumphed with Jarmila Gajdosova, a Slovakian-born Australian, in 2013.
   Men's doubles final — Ram, from Carmel, Ind., and Great Britain's Joe Salisbury, the fifth seeds and defending champions, are scheduled to meet ninth-seeded Ivan Dodig of Croatia and Filip Polasek of Slovakia tonight at 8 (PST) on Tennis Channel. 
   Ram, 36, Salisbury, 28, and Dodig, 36, seek their second Grand Slam men's doubles titles. Polasek, 35, will play in his first major final. 

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Cal assistant Ram to play for AO men's doubles repeat

   Rajeev Ram, a volunteer assistant coach at the University of California, Berkeley, and Joe Salisbury will play for their second consecutive Australian Open men's doubles title.
   The fifth-seeded Ram, 36, of Carmel, Ind., and Joe Salisbury, 28, of Great Britain beat sixth-seeded Jamie Murray, Andy's older brother from Great Britain, and Bruno Soares of Brazil 6-4, 7-6 (2) tonight in the semifinals. 
   Murray and Soares won the Australian Open and U.S. Open in 2016. 
   Both Ram and Murray captured a doubles title in the now-defunct SAP Open in San Jose, Calif., Ram in 2011 with former Stanford All-American Scott Lipsky and Murray in 2007 with Eric Butorac.
   Ram and Salisbury are scheduled to face ninth-seeded Ivan Dodig, 36, of Croatia and Filip Polasek, 35, of Slovakia on Friday at 8 p.m. PST (Tennis Channel).
   Dodig, who won the 2015 French Open with Marcelo Melo of Brazil, and Polasek, who will play in his first Grand Slam final, topped second-seeded Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic of Croatia 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 on Wednesday.
   Men's singles semifinals — Fourth-seeded Daniil Medvedev of Russia outplayed fifth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece 6-4, 6-2, 7-5 in a late match (replay Friday at 11 a.m. PST on ESPN2).
   Tsitsipas, 22, stunned second-seeded Rafael Nadal, the 2009 champion, on Wednesday after trailing two sets to none. Nadal now is 232-2 after winning the first two sets in Grand Slam matches. Fabio Fognini of Italy accounted for the other victory in the third round of the 2015 U.S. Open.
   Medvedev, the 2019 U.S. Open runner-up to Nadal, is slated to face top-ranked Novak Djokovic on Sunday at 12:30 a.m. on ESPN (replays at 5 a.m. and 8 p.m. on ESPN2).
   Djokovic, 33, is 4-3 against the 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) Medvedev, 25, but Medvedev has won three of the past four meetings (all in best-of-three-set matches). In their only previous Grand Slam encounter, Djokovic prevailed 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-3 in the fourth round of the 2019 Australian Open.
   Djokovic seeks his ninth Australian Open singles title and 18th Grand Slam singles crown, two short of the record held by Roger Federer, 39, and Nadal, 34.
   Women's singles final — Third-seeded Naomi Osaka of Japan is scheduled to play 22nd-seeded Jennifer Brady of Boca Raton, Fla., on Saturday at 12:30 a.m. on ESPN (replay at 5 a.m. on ESPN2).
   Osaka, 23, eyes her fourth Grand Slam singles crown and second in the Australian Open. Brady, 25, will play in her first major final.
   Osaka is 2-0 against Brady at the tour level, including a 7-6 (1), 3-6, 6-3 victory in the U.S. Open semifinals last September en route to the title.
   Osaka made her WTA main-draw debut at 16 at Stanford in 2014. Brady starred in Northern California Challengers, sweeping the singles and doubles titles in Redding ($25,000) in 2014 at age 19 and advancing to the quarterfinals as the top seed in Sacramento ($60,000) in 2017, losing to Sofia Kenin.
   The Australian Open champion will pocket $2.13 million, down from $3.12 million last year. The runner-up will collect $1.16 million.
   Women's doubles final — Second-seeded Elise Mertens of Belgium and Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus beat third-seeded Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic 6-2, 6-3 for their second major title. Mertens, 25, and Sabalenka, 22, also won the 2019 U.S. Open.
   The Australian Open winners split $463,740, and the runners-up shared $262,786.
   In singles in the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose. Sabalenka reached the 2019 final, and Mertens advanced to the semifinals the previous year in the inaugural tournament.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Osaka outslugs Serena to reach Australian Open final

Naomi Osaka, shown at 16 in 2014, improved to 3-1
against Serena Williams. Osaka will meet Jennifer Brady
for the Australian Open title. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Showdown? What showdown?
   In a much-anticipated match, third-seeded Naomi Osaka outslugged 10th-seeded Serena Williams 6-3, 6-4 tonight to reach the Australian Open final in Melbourne.
   Williams, a seven-time Australian Open champion, fell short for the 11th time in her attempt to tie Margaret Court's record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles. 
   Williams, 39, put her hand over her heart as she said goodbye to the crowd, leading to speculation that this was her last Australian Open.
   "If I ever say farewell, I wouldn't tell anyone," Williams — who won the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford in 2011, 2012 and 2014 — said in her post-match news conference before walking off in tears.
   Osaka, 23, of Japan improved to 3-1 against Williams, including a victory in the contentious 2018 U.S. Open final.
  The 2019 Australian Open champion, Osaka is scheduled to meet 22nd-seeded Jennifer Brady of Boca Raton, Fla., on Saturday at 12:30 a.m. PST on ESPN in a rematch of their U.S. Open semifinal last September. Osaka triumphed 7-6 (1), 3-6, 6-3 en route to the title. She is 2-0 against Brady at the tour level.
   Brady, 25, beat 25th-seeded Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 to reach her first Grand Slam final.
   Osaka made her WTA main-draw debut at 16 at Stanford in 2014. Brady starred in Northern California Challengers, sweeping the singles and doubles titles in Redding ($25,000) in 2014 at age 19 and advancing to the quarterfinals as the top seed in Sacramento ($60,000) in 2017, losing to Sofia Kenin
   In the first men's semifinal, top-ranked Novak Djokovic eliminated qualifier Aslan Karatsev of Russia 6-3, 6-4, 6-2. Djokovic, seeking his ninth Australian Open singles title, will play the winner of the Friday, 12:30 a.m. (PST) match between fourth-seeded Daniil Medvedev and fifth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas on ESPN.
   Meanwhile, sixth-seeded Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic and Rajeev Ram, a 36-year-old volunteer assistant coach at the University of California, Berkeley, reached the mixed doubles final with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Australian wild cards Storm Sanders and Marc Polmans.
   Krejcikova and Ram will meet either unseeded Desirae Krawczyk of the United States and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain or Australian wild cards Samantha Stosur and Matthew Ebden.
   Krejcikova eyes her third consecutive Australian Open mixed doubles crown after triumphing with Ram in 2019 and Nikola Mektic of Croatia last year.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Barty blows big lead; Nadal stunned; Gibbs retires at 27

Ashleigh Barty of Australia fell to 25th-seeded Karolina Muchova of the Czech
Republic in the Australian Open quarterfinals. 2019 photo by Harjanto Sumali
   The home-country drought in the Australian Open will continue for at least another year.
   Top-ranked Ashleigh Barty of Australia blew a big lead today and lost to 25th-seeded Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic 1-6, 6-3, 6-2 in the quarterfinals in Melbourne.
   Barty, the 2019 French Open champion, bolted to a 5-0 advantage in the first set while dropping only six points. She led 2-0 in the second set, and Muchova took a medical timeout after winning the next game. 
   "I was a bit lost on the court, and my head was spinning, so I took a break," the 24-year-old Muchova, who reached her first Grand Slam semifinal, said in a post-match interview. "And it helped me."
  No Aussie man or woman has won the singles title in the Australian Open since Chris O'Neil on the women's side 43 years ago.
   Muchova is scheduled to meet 22nd-seeded Jennifer Brady of Boca Raton, Fla., on Wednesday (PST) after the 7 p.m. semifinal between third-seeded Naomi Osaka and 10th-seeded Serena Williams (ESPN2). 
   Fans will be allowed to return to the tournament Thursday, ending the five-day COVID-19 lockdown in the state of Victoria.
   Brady, 25, eliminated compatriot and close friend Jessica Pegula, who was unseeded, 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 to reach her second Grand Slam semifinal. A first-time major finalist is guaranteed.
   Both Brady, a former UCLA All-American, and Pegula, who skipped college, starred in Northern California Challengers. 
   Pegula, the daughter of Buffalo Bills and Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula, reached the Sacramento final in 2012 at 18 and the Stockton semifinals in 2018.
   Muchova edged Brady 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (2) in the second round on clay at Prague in 2019 in their only previous meeting. 
   Fourth-seeded Daniil Medvedev advanced to the men's semifinals with a 7-5, 6-3, 6-2 victory over fellow Russian Andrey Rublev, seeded seventh. 
   Medvedev, the runner-up to Rafael Nadal in the 2019 U.S. Open, will play seventh-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas, who stunned the second-seeded Nadal 3-6, 2-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4, 7-5 in 4 hours, 5 minutes. 
   Nadal, the 2009 Australian Open champion, had lost only once in a Grand Slam match after winning the first two sets. That occurred in the third round of the 2015 U.S. Open against Fabio Fognini. 
   Nadal and Roger Federer remain tied with a record 20 major singles titles.
   Medvedev is 5-1 against Tsitsipas.
   Rajeev Ram, a volunteer assistant coach at the University of California, Berkeley, advanced to the semifinals in men's doubles and mixed doubles.
   Defending champions Ram and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain beat unseeded Marcus Daniell of New Zealand and Philipp Oswald of Austria 7-6 (6), 6-2. Daniell, 31, announced last month that he will donate 10 percent of his prize money for the rest of his career to charity.
   Ram and Salisbury are set to face sixth-seeded Jamie Murray, Andy's older brother from Great Britain, and Bruno Soares of Brazil. Murray and Soares won the Australian Open and U.S. Open in 2016.
   Both Ram and Murray won a doubles title in the now-defunct SAP Open in San Jose, Calif., Ram in 2011 with former Stanford All-American Scott Lipsky and Murray in 2007 with Eric Butorac.
   In mixed doubles, sixth-seeded Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic and Ram downed third-seeded Gabriela Dabrowski of Canada and Mate Pavic of Croatia 7-6 (3), 6-3.
   Krejcikova seeks her third consecutive Australian Open mixed doubles crown after triumphing with Ram in 2019 and Nikola Mektic of Croatia last year.
   Kenin undergoes appendectomy — Kenin, last year's Australian Open champion, underwent an emergency appendectomy this week in Melbourne. 
   Kenin, who also won NorCal Challengers in 2017 and 2018, lost to Kaia Kanepi of Estonia last week in the second round of the Australian Open. 
   Gibbs retires — Former Stanford star Nicole Gibbs announced her retirement on Monday at 27. 
   Gibbs, a petite 5-foot-6 (1.54 meters), is ranked No. 172 after climbing to a career-high No. 68 in 2016. She reached the third round of the 2014 U.S. Open and 2017 Australian Open and the final of the 2018 Berkeley Challenger, losing to Kenin in the latter match.
   Gibbs went public with her battle against depression in early 2018 and overcame oral cancer in 2019.
   The personification of feistiness, Gibbs once stomped on her racket face during a match because she didn't like the string tension, and she likely had the most menacing stare in pro tennis.
   Win or lose, Gibbs answered reporters' questions thoughtfully. Whether she was asked about her depression or engagement to her now-husband, no subject was off-limits.
   Gibbs won three NCAA titles, two in singles and one in doubles, in her three years at Stanford.
   A strong social critic on Twitter, Gibbs plans to enroll in law school this fall and eventually work in public service.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Bay Area native suffers first doubles loss of year

   The doubles winning streak of Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara ended with a thud tonight.
   Second-seeded Elise Mertens of Belgium and Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus routed seventh-seeded Aoyama and Shibahara of Japan 6-2, 6-0 in 53 minutes in the Australian Open quarterfinals in Melbourne.
   The 5-foot-1 (1.54-meter) Aoyama, 33, and Shibahara, a 22-year-old native of Mountain View in the San Francisco Bay Area, fell to 12-1 this year. They won titles in Abu Dhabi last month and Melbourne two weeks ago
   Aoyama and Shibahara were playing in their second Grand Slam quarterfinal. Aoyama also reached the Wimbledon semifinals in 2013 with Chanelle Scheepers of South Africa.
   Also tonight, third-seeded Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic beat unseeded Sharon Fichman of Canada and Giuliana Olmos, a product of Fremont in the Bay Area who plays for Mexico, 7-5, 5-7, 6-2.
   Fichman, 30, and Olmos, 27, had never advanced past the second round in a major, separately or together, before this year's Australian Open.
   In the women's singles quarterfinals, third-seeded Naomi Osaka dismissed unseeded Hsieh Su-Wei of Chinese Taipei 6-2, 6-2 in 56 minutes.
   Osaka, the 2019 champion, will face 10th seed and seven-time champion Serena Williams, who dominated second-seeded Simona Halep 6-3, 6-3. Osaka is 2-1 against Williams, including a victory in the turbulent 2018 U.S. Open final
   Williams, 39, is making her 11th attempt to tie Margaret Court's record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles. Osaka made her WTA main-draw debut at age 16 at Stanford in 2014, when Williams won the last of her three titles there.
   In the men's singles quarterfinals, qualifier Aslan Karatsev of Russia beat 18th-seeded Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria 2-6, 6-4, 6-1, 6-2. Dimitrov, a three-time Grand Slam semifinalist, began suffering back spasms late in the second set and played half-heartedly the rest of the way.
   Karatsev, 27, became the first man in the Open Era to reach the semifinals in his Grand Slam main-draw debut. At No. 114, he is the lowest-ranked man to reach a major semifinal since Goran Ivanisevic at Wimbledon in 2001.
   Karatsev will face top-ranked Novak Djokovic, who outlasted sixth-seeded Alexander Zverev of Germany 6-7 (6), 6-2, 6-4, 7-6 (6), for the first time.
   Djokovic, seeking his third consecutive Australian Open title and ninth overall, suffered an abdominal muscle injury in his five-set victory over Taylor Fritz in the third round.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Medvedev masters McDonald to reach AO quarterfinals

Mackenzie McDonald had been the only re-
maining U.S. man in the Australian Open.
2018 photo by Paul Bauman
   Fourth-seeded Daniil Medvedev of Russia dispatched Mackenzie McDonald, a 25-year-old product of Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area, 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 in 1 hour, 29 minutes today in the fourth round of the Australian Open in Melbourne.
   Medvedev, the runner-up in the 2019 U.S. Open, advanced to his first Australian Open quarterfinal. He has won all nine sets in his four career matches against McDonald, who had been the only remaining U.S. man in Australian Open singles.
   McDonald, now based in Orlando, Fla., equaled his best result in a Grand Slam tournament. He also advanced to the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2018 before undergoing right hamstring surgery in June 2019 and missing seven months.
   The women's quarterfinals will feature an all-American matchup between 22nd-seeded Jennifer Brady and unseeded Jessica Pegula. 
   Brady, who swept the singles and doubles titles in the 2014 Redding, Calif., Challenger, beat 28th-seeded Donna Vekic of Croatia 6-1, 7-5. Vekic reached the semifinals of the 2019 Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose, Calif.
   Pegula, the 26-year-old daughter of Buffalo Bills and Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula, surprised fifth-seeded Elina Svitolina of Ukraine 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 to reach her first major quarterfinal.
   Advancing to the doubles quarterfinals were fifth seeds and defending champions Rajeev Ram, a volunteer assistant coach at the University of California, Berkeley, and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain as well as unseeded Sharon Fichman and Giuliana Olmos, a product of Fremont in the Bay Area who plays for Mexico. 
   Ram and Salisbury topped 10th-seeded John Peers of Australia and Michael Venus of New Zealand 7-6 (4), 7-6 (4).
   Ram and Salisbury will meet unseeded Marcus Daniell of New Zealand and Philipp Oswald of Austria. Daniell, 31, announced last month that he will donate 10 percent of his prize money for the rest of his career to charity.
   Fichman and Olmos — who had never advanced past the second round in a major, separately or together — dominated unseeded Leylah Fernandez, 18, of Canada and Heather Watson of Great Britain 6-3, 6-2.
   Fichman and Olmos will face third-seeded Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic.
   Krejcikova and Siniakova won the French Open and Wimbledon in 2018. Krejcikova also captured the Australian Open mixed doubles title in 2019 with Ram and last year with Nikola Mektic of Croatia.
   In the second round of mixed doubles, sixth-seeded Krejcikova and Ram are tied with Ena Shibahara and Ben McLachlan (Cal, 2011-14) of Japan 6-4, 3-6. Shibahara and McLachlan, whose mother is Japanese, are natives of the Bay Area and New Zealand, respectively.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Bay Area native reaches doubles quarters, stays perfect

     Seventh-seeded Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara of Japan outclassed 12th-seeded Hayley Carter, a native of Chattanooga, Tenn., and Luisa Stefani of Brazil 6-2, 6-4 today to reach the quarterfinals of the Australian Open in Melbourne.
   The 5-foot-1 (1.54-meter) Aoyama, 33, Shibahara, a 22-year-old native of Mountain View in the San Francisco Bay Area, improved to 12-0 this year and advanced to their second Grand Slam quarterfinal. Aoyama also reached the Wimbledon semifinals in 2013 with Chanelle Scheepers of South Africa.
   Aoyama and Shibahara will face either second-seeded Elise Mertens of Belgium and Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus or 16th-seeded Laura Siegemund of Germany and Vera Zvonareva of Russia.
   In the first round of mixed doubles, sixth-seeded Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic and Rajeev Ram, a volunteer assistant coach at the University of California, Berkeley, beat Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan and Henri Kontinen of Finland 7-6 (6), 7-5.
   Krejcikova and Ram will meet Shibahara and Ben McLachlan (Cal, 2011-14), a New Zealand native who plays for his mother's native Japan. 
   Top-ranked Novak Djokovic, playing with an injured abdominal muscle, beat 14th-seeded Milos Raonic 7-6 (4), 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 to improve to 12-0 against the hard-serving Canadian. Djokovic seeks his third consecutive Australian Open singles title and ninth overall.

Friday, February 12, 2021

McDonald advances to round of 16 in Australian Open

Mackenzie McDonald equaled his best result in a Grand Slam
tournament. File photo by Paul Bauman
   Mackenzie McDonald, a 25-year-old product of Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area, defeated Lloyd Harris of South Africa 7-6 (7), 6-1, 6-4 today to reach the round of 16 in the Australian Open in Melbourne.
   The 5-foot-10 (1.78-meter) McDonald out-aced the 6-foot-4 (1.93-meter) Harris, who won the 2018 Stockton, Calif., Challenger, 12 to nine.
   McDonald, now based in Orlando, Fla., equaled his best result in a Grand Slam tournament. He also advanced to the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2018 before undergoing right hamstring surgery in June 2019 and missing seven months.
   McDonald, the only remaining American man in singles, is set to face fourth-seeded Daniil Medvedev of Russia on Sunday (PST). Medvedev, the runner-up in the 2019 U.S. Open, topped 28th-seeded Filip Krajinovic of Serbia 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 3-6, 6-0.
   Medvedev, 6-foot-6 (1.98 meters), has not lost a set in three career matches against McDonald.
   Top-ranked Novak Djokovic said he tore a muscle in his side early in the third set of his five-set victory over 27th-seeded Taylor Fritz of Rancho Palos Verdes in the Los Angeles area early today.
   Djokovic, seeking his ninth Australian Open singles title, is scheduled to play 14th-seeded Milos Raonic on Saturday.
   In the second round of men's doubles, fifth seeds and defending champions Rajeev Ram, a volunteer assistant coach at the University of California, Berkeley, and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain beat Tomislav Brkic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and 40-year-old Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi of Pakistan 6-3, 4-6, 6-2.
   In the third round of women's singles, 25th-seeded Karolina Muchova ousted sixth-seeded Karolina Pliskova 7-5, 7-5 in an all-Czech encounter. Pliskova advanced to the final of the 2015 Bank of the West Classic at Stanford and climbed to No. 1 in 2017.
   Four U.S. women have reached the round of 16 in singles: No. 10 seed Serena Williams, No. 22 Jennifer Brady and unseeded Shelby Rogers and Jessica Pegula.
   ATP Challenger Tour — Unseeded Lukas Klein and Alex Molcan of the Slovak Republic eliminated top-seeded Andre Goransson (Cal, 2011-14) of Sweden and David Pel of the Netherlands 7-6 (5), 7-6 (1) in the semifinals of the €88,520 ($107,357) Cherbourg, France, Challenger.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Bay Area native survives scare to stay perfect in doubles

   Seventh-seeded Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara of Japan beat Australian wild cards Lizette Cabrera and Maddison Inglis 5-7, 7-6 (5), 6-0 today in the second round of the Australian Open in Melbourne. 
   The 5-foot-1 (1.54-meter) Aoyama, 33, and Shibahara, a 22-year-old native of Mountain View in the San Francisco Bay Area, improved to 11-0 this year. They won titles in Abu Dhabi last month and Melbourne last week.
   Aoyama and Shibahara are scheduled to meet 12th-seeded Hayley Carter, a native of Chattanooga, Tenn., and Luisa Stefani of Brazil on Saturday (PST) in a rematch of the Abu Dhabi final. Aoyama and Shibahara won that encounter 7-6 (5), 6-4. 
   Last year, Carter and Stefani defeated Aoyama and Shibahara 6-4, 0-6, 6-4 in the second round of the U.S. Open, and the Japanese pair gained revenge, 6-4, 7-5, in the third round of the French Open.
   Fans will be barred from the Australian Open for the next five days because of a COVID-19 outbreak in the Melbourne suburbs.
   Also today, Sharon Fichman of Canada and Giuliana Olmos, a native of Fremont in the Bay Area who plays for Mexico, beat Lucie Hradecka and Kristyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic 7-5, 6-3 to reach the third round of doubles, together or separately, in a Grand Slam tournament for the first time.
   Pliskova's twin sister, Karolina Pliskova, is ranked sixth in singles after ascending to No. 1 in 2017.
   Fichman and Olmos will meet Leylah Fernandez, an 18-year-old left-hander from Canada, and Heather Watson of Great Britain. Fernandez and Watson defeated Australian wild cards Olivia Gadecki and Belinda Woolcock 7-5, 6-2.
   In the second round of men's doubles, second-seeded Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic of Croatia dispatched Mackenzie McDonald, a 25-year-old native of Piedmont in the Bay Area, and Tommy Paul of Boca Raton, Fla., 6-1, 6-4.
   Shibahara also advanced in mixed doubles, teaming with Ben McLachlan (University of California, Berkeley, 2011-14), a New Zealand native who plays for his mother's native Japan, in a 7-6 (3), 6-4 victory over Germany's Laura Siegemund and Kevin Krawietz in the opening round.
   ATP Challenger Tour — Top-seeded Andre Goransson (Cal, 2011-14) of Sweden and David Pel of the Netherlands edged Sander Arends of the Netherlands and Lukas Rosol of the Czech Republic to reach the semifinals of the €88,520 ($107,357) Cherbourg (France) Challenger. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Defending champ Kenin exits; McDonald upsets Coric

Defending champion Sofia Kenin lost to Kaia Kanepi 6-3, 6-2 in the
second round of the Australian Open. 2018 photo by Paul Bauman
   Sofia Kenin not only lost today in the Australian Open, the defending champion went down meekly.
   Kaia Kanepi of Estonia dismissed the fourth-seeded Kenin, from Pembroke Pines, Fla., 6-3, 6-2 in 64 minutes in the second round in Melbourne.
   The 5-foot-11 (1.80-meter) Kanepi, 35, clubbed 10 aces, committed only two double faults and won 80 percent of the points on her first serve (28 of 35). The 5-foot-7 (1.70-meter) Kenin, 22, had 10 winners and 22 unforced errors.
   Kanepi has reached the quarterfinals of the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open twice each but has never advanced past the third round of the Australian Open. Kenin won Northern California Challengers in 2016 at age 17, 2017 and 2018.
   Mackenzie McDonald, a 25-year-old product of Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area, surprised 22nd-seeded Borna Coric of Croatia 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4. Coric, 24, reached his first Grand Slam quarterfinal in the U.S. Open last September.
   McDonald, now based in Orlando, Fla., is scheduled to play Lloyd Harris, 23, of South Africa on Friday (PST). Harris, who won the 2018 Stockton, Calif., Challenger, topped wild card Alexei Popyrin, a 21-year-old Australian, 6-2, 1-6, 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-3.
   McDonald defeated Harris 6-7 (4), 7-6 (8), 6-3 in the quarterfinals of the 2018 Seoul Challenger en route to the title in their only previous meeting.
   On the women's side, Kaja Juvan, a 20-year-old Slovenian, defeated fellow qualifier Mayar Sherif (Fresno State, 2015-16) of Egypt 3-6, 7-6 (2), 6-3. Sherif became the first woman from her country to win a main-draw match in a Grand Slam tournament when she beat qualifier Chloe Paquet of France 7-5, 7-5 in the opening round.
   In the first round of men's doubles, fifth seeds and defending champions Rajeev Ram, a volunteer assistant coach at the University of California, Berkeley, and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain beat Jonny O'Mara of Great Britain and Artem Sitak, a Russia native who plays for New Zealand, 6-4, 6-4.
   In a women's doubles opener, Sharon Fichman of Canada and Giuliana Olmos, a product of Fremont in the Bay Area who plays for Mexico, ousted fifth-seeded Hao-Ching Chan and Latisha Chan of Chinese Taipei 1-6, 7-6 (1), 6-2.
   ATP Challenger Tour — Top-seeded Andre Goransson (Cal, 2011-14) of Sweden and David Pel of the Netherlands eliminated Sadio Doumbia and Hugo Gaston of France 6-3, 7-6 (4) in the first round of the €88,520 ($107,357) Cherbourg, France, Challenger.
   ITF Women's Circuit — Zoe Kruger of South Africa outlasted Carol Zhao (Stanford, 2014-16) of Canada 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 on Tuesday in the opening round of the $25,000 Ilana Kloss International in Potchefstroom, South Africa.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Bay Area native improves to 10-0 in doubles this year

   Seventh-seeded Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara of Japan topped Asia Muhammad of Las Vegas and Jessica Pegula of Boca Raton, Fla., 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 today in the first round of the Australian Open in Melbourne.
   The 5-foot-1 (1.55-meter) Aoyama, 33, and Shibahara, a 22-year-old native of Mountain View in the San Francisco Bay Area, improved to 10-0 this year. They won titles in Abu Dhabi last month and Melbourne last week
   In the opening round of men's doubles, wild cards Ji Sung Nam and Min-Kyu Song of South Korea defeated Ben McLachlan, a New Zealand native who plays for his mother's native Japan, and 40-year-old Rohan Bopanna of India 6-4, 7-6 (0). 
   Second-seeded Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic of Croatia beat Yen-Hsun Lu of Chinese Taipei and Sam Querrey, a 33-year-old San Francisco native, 7-6 (4), 6-3.
   Mackenzie McDonald, a 25-year-old product of Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area, and Tommy Paul of Boca Raton, Fla., outlasted wild cards Petros Tsitsipas and Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece 6-4, 3-6, 6-4. Paul won the singles title in the 2019 Tiburon, Calif., Challenger.
   Meanwhile, three Grand Slam champions lost in singles.
   Hsieh Su-Wei, ranked No. 1 in doubles, of Chinese Taipei dismissed eighth-seeded Bianca Andreescu of Canada 6-3, 6-2. Andreescu, the 2019 U.S. Open champion, had not played in a tournament since the fall of 2019 after suffering a knee injury.
   Sorana Cirstea of Romania eliminated ninth-seeded Petra Kvitova, a two-time Wimbledon champion and the Australian Open runner-up in 2019, 6-4, 1-6, 6-1.
   Sara Errani, a 33-year-old qualifier from Italy, routed 40-year-old Venus Williams 6-1, 6-0. Williams, a seven-time major singles champion and two-time Australian Open runner-up, hurt her right ankle and left knee late in the first set.
   Marton Fucsovics of Hungary saved three match points in his 7-5, 6-1, 4-6, 2-6, 7-6 (9) victory over Stan Wawrinka in 3 hours, 59 minutes. Wawrinka won the first of his three Grand Slam singles crowns in the 2014 Australian Open

Monday, February 8, 2021

McDonald tops Italian, Querrey falls in Australian Open

Mackenzie McDonald practices his serve during the
2017 Fairfield, Calif., Challenger. The product of nearby
Piedmont won the title. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Mackenzie McDonald, a 25-year-old product of Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area, defeated Italian Marco Cecchinato, a semifinalist in the 2018 French Open, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 today in the first round of the Australian Open in Melbourne.
   McDonald, only 5-foot-10 (1.78 meters) and 160 pounds (73 kilograms), pounded 14 aces and committed just three double faults. Cecchinato, who stunned Novak Djokovic to reach the semis at Roland Garros in 2018, had three aces and eight double faults.
   McDonald, now based in Orlando, Fla., has tumbled from a career-high No. 57 in 2019, shortly before undergoing right hamstring surgery, to No. 192. He is scheduled to face Croatia's Borna Coric, seeded 22nd and ranked 25th, for the first time on Wednesday (PST). 
   Coric, who reached his first Grand Slam quarterfinal in the U.S. Open last September, eliminated Guido Pella of Argentina 6-3, 7-6 (5), 7-5. 
   Italy's Lorenzo Sonego, seeded 31st, beat Sam Querrey, a 33-year-old San Francisco native, 7-5, 6-4, 6-4. Querrey has never advanced past the third round of the Australian Open in 15 appearances. 
   Last fall, Sonego reached the fourth round of the French Open and, as a qualifier, routed Djokovic 6-2, 6-1 en route to the Vienna final, which he lost to Andrey Rublev of Russia.
   On the women's side, Jessica Pegula of Boca Raton, Fla., ousted 12th-seeded Victoria Azarenka, a two-time Australian Open champion (2012 and 2013) and the U.S. Open runner-up last fall, 7-5, 6-4. 
   Pegula, the 26-year-old daughter of Buffalo Bills and Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula, reached the final of the 2012 Sacramento, Calif., Challenger at 18, the semifinals of the 2018 Stockton, Calif., Challenger and the third round of last year's U.S. Open.
   Mayar Sherif (Fresno State, 2015-16) became the first Egyptian woman to win a main-draw match in a Grand Slam tournament, defeating fellow qualifier Chloe Paquet of France 7-5, 7-5.
   Sherif is slated to play another qualifier, Kaja Juvan of Slovenia, on Wednesday. Juvan beat 13th-seeded Johanna Konta, a Briton who won the Stanford title in 2016, 4-6, 2-0, retired (pulled abdominal muscle). 
   Sherif also qualified for the French Open last fall in her tournament debut and extended second-seeded Karolina Pliskova, the runner-up at Stanford in 2015, to 6-4 in the third set in the opening round.
   Struggling Sloane Stephens, a 27-year-old Fresno, Calif., product, lost to 26th-seeded Yulia Putintseva, a 26-year-old Moscow native who plays for Kazakhstan, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3. There were seven deuces in the last game of the first set.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Pera ousts 2016 champion Kerber in Australian Open

Angelique Kerber, shown at Stanford in 2015 en route to the title, lost
to Bernarda Pera 6-0, 6-4 today in the first round of the Australian
Open. Photo by Mal Taam 
   Bernarda Pera of the United States dismissed No. 23 seed and 2016 champion Angelique Kerber of Germany 6-0, 6-4 in a first-round matchup of left-handers today in the first round of the Australian Open in Melbourne.
   Kerber, who won the 2015 Bank of the West Classic at Stanford, had no aces, committed seven double faults and won only 25 percent of the points on her second serve (six of 24).
   Third seed and 2019 champion Naomi Osaka, 10th seed and seven-time champion Serena Williams and two-time finalist Venus Williams, unseeded at 40, won in straight sets. 
   Osaka, who has won three Grand Slam singles titles, made her WTA main-draw debut at Stanford in 2014. As a 16-year-old qualifier, she saved a match point and ousted 2011 U.S. Open champion Samantha Stosur in the first round before losing to eighth-seeded Andrea Petkovic.
   Serena Williams is making her 11th attempt to tie Margaret Court's record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles. Williams won the Bank of the West Classic in 2011, 2012 and 2014, defeating Kerber in the latter final.
   Venus Williams made her professional debut indoors in Oakland at 14 years old in 1994. She reached the Stanford final eight times, winning in 2000 and 2002, before the tournament moved down the road to San Jose, Calif., in 2018.
   Third-seeded Dominic Thiem, who won his first major title in the U.S. Open last September and reached last year's Australian Open final, beat Mikhail Kukushkin, a Russia native who plays for Kazakhstan, 7-6 (2), 6-2, 6-3. 
   Kukushkin advanced to the final of the 2014 Aptos, Calif., Challenger, losing to 2006 Australian Open runner-up Marcos Baghdatis. 

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Bay Area native wins Melbourne doubles, moves to 9-0

   Third-seeded Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara of Japan dismissed unseeded Anna Kalinskaya of Russia  and Viktoria Kuzmova of the Slovak Republic 6-3, 6-4 in 65 minutes today to win the Yarra River Classic in Melbourne.
   The 5-foot-1 Aoyama, 33, and Shibahara, a 22-year-old native of Mountain View in the San Francisco Bay Area, improved to 9-0 this year. They won the Abu Dhabi title last month.
   Top-seeded Ashleigh Barty of Australia beat sixth-seeded Garbine Muguruza of Spain 7-6 (3), 6-4 for the singles title.
   Muguruza has won two Grand Slam singles titles and Barty one. Neither has won the Australian Open; noth lost to Sofia Kenin in last year's tournament, Barty in the semifinals and Muguruza in the final. 
   The Australian Open, the year's first major tournament, is scheduled to begin Sunday at 4 p.m. (ESPN in the United States). 
   Aoyama and Shibahara lost to American teenagers Coco Gauff and Caty McNally in the third round of last year's Australian Open. It was Aoyama's eighth appearance in the tournament and Shibahara's first.
   ATP Tour — Maximo Gonzalez and Horacio Zeballos of Argentina dominated 42-year-old Toshihide Matsui and Ben McLachlan (University of California, Berkeley, 2011-14) of Japan 6-2, 6-2 in the ATP Cup in Melbourne. Argentina blanked Japan 3-0 in the Group D match.
   McLachlan, a New Zealand native with a Japanese mother, and Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany reached the doubles semifinals in the 2018 Australian Open in McLachlan's tournament debut. A doubles specialist, McLachlan is 0-2 in the Australian Open since then.

Friday, February 5, 2021

Aoyama, Shibahara stay unbeaten, reach doubles final

   Third-seeded Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara of Japan edged second-seeded Nicole Melichar of the United States and Demi Schuurs of the Netherlands 6-7 (5), 7-5 [13-11] today in the semifinals of the Yarra Valley Classic in Melbourne.
   The 5-foot-1 (1.54-meter) Aoyama, 33, and Shibahara, a 22-year-old native of Mountain View in the San Francisco Bay Area, improved to 8-0 this year. They won the Abu Dhabi title last month.
   Aoyama and Shibahara will meet unseeded Anna Kalinskaya of Russia and Viktoria Kuzmova of the Slovak Republic. Kalinskaya and Kuzmova, both 22, surprised Duan Yingying and Zheng Saisai of China 0-6, 6-2 [10-5].
   In the 2019 Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose, Calif., Zheng won the singles title, and Melichar claimed the doubles crown with and Kveta Peschke of the Czech Republic. Peschke was 44 at the time.
   ATP Tour — Ben McLachlan (University of California, Berkeley, 2011-14) and Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan are scheduled to play Maximo Gonzalez and Horacio Zeballos of Argentina early Saturday (PST) in Group D in the ATP Cup in Melbourne.
   McLachlan, a New Zealand native with a Japanese mother, and Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany reached the doubles semifinals in the 2018 Australian Open.
   ATP Challenger Tour — Fourth-seeded Robert Galloway of Greenville, S.C., and Alex Lawson of Tempe, Ariz., topped Treat Huey, a Washington, D.C., native who plays for the Philippines, and Sem Verbeek, a former University of the Pacific standout from the Netherlands, 6-2, 6-7 (14) [10-5] in the semifinals of the €44,820 ($53,820) MTA Open in Antalya, Turkey.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Querrey, McDonald draw tough Italians in Aussie Open

Sam Querrey has never advanced past the third round
of the Australian Open in 14 appearances. Photo cour-
tesy of mvtpr.com
   San Francisco Bay Area natives Sam Querrey and Mackenzie McDonald are scheduled to play tough Italians in the first round of the Australian Open, which begins Sunday (PST) in Melbourne.
   Querrey, who has never advanced past the third round of the Australian Open in 14 appearances, will meet Lorenzo Sonego, seeded 31st, for the first time.
   Last fall, Sonego reached the fourth round of the French Open and, as a qualifier, routed top-ranked Novak Djokovic 6-2, 6-1 en route to the Vienna final. 
   McDonald will face Marco Cecchinato, who stunned Djokovic to reach the French Open semifinals in 2018, for the initial time.
   McDonald has reached the second round of the Australian Open twice in three appearances. As a qualifier in 2018, he extended third-ranked Grigor Dimitrov to 8-6 in the fifth set in the second round.
   On the women's side, Sloane Stephens, a 27-year-old Fresno, Calif., product, will take on 26th-seeded Yulia Putintseva, a Moscow native who plays for Kazakhstan. They have split four career matches, none in a Grand Slam tournament.
   Stephens reached the Australian Open semifinals in 2013 at age 19, won the 2017 U.S. Open and advanced to the 2018 French Open final. Since 2018, however, she has slumped from a career-high No. 3 to No. 40.
   Mayar Sherif (Fresno State, 2015-16) of Egypt is set to play fellow qualifier Chloe Paquet of France for the first time. 
   In her French Open debut last fall, Sherif survived qualifying and extended second-seeded Karolina Pliskova, the runner-up at Stanford in 2015, to 6-4 in the third set in the opening round.
   ATP Tour — Cameron Norrie and Jonny O'Mara of Great Britain surprised third-seeded Rajeev Ram, a volunteer assistant coach at the University of California, Berkeley, and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain 4-6, 6-3 [10-7] in the second round of the Murray River Open.
   Norrie captured back-to-back Challenger singles titles in Tiburon, across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, and Stockton in 2017. Ram and Salisbury won last year's Australian Open.
   In a second-round doubles match in the Great Ocean Road Open, sixth-seeded Marcelo Arevalo of El Salvador and Matwe Middelkoop of the Netherlands eliminated 33-year-old wild cards Querrey and Robin Haase, a Dutchman, 6-4, 6-4.
   Arevalo won the doubles title in the 2019 Aptos, Calif., Challenger with Miguel Angel Reyes-Varela of Mexico.
   In the ATP Cup, Ben McLachlan (Cal, 2011-14) and Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan edged Evgeny Donskoy and Aslan Karatsev of Russia 4-6, 6-3 [12-10] in Group D. Russia beat Japan 2-1.
   McLachlan, a New Zealand native, and Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany reached the doubles semifinals in the 2018 Australian Open.
   WTA Tour — Third-seeded Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara of Japan held off Coco Gauff, 16, and Caty McNally, 19, of the United States 6-3, 3-6 [10-7] in the quarterfinals of the Yarra River Classic.
   The 5-foot-1 (1.54-meter) Aoyama, 33, and Shibahara, a 22-year-old native of Mountain View in the San Francisco Bay Area, improved to 7-0 this year. They won the Abu Dhabi title last month.
   Gauff and McNally defeated Aoyama and Shibahara in three sets in the third round of last year's Australian Open.
   ATP Challenger Tour — Treat Huey, a Washington, D.C., native who plays for the Philippines, and Sem Verbeek, a former University of the Pacific star from the Netherlands, topped second-seeded Harri Heliovaara of Finland and Zdenek Kolar of the Czech Republic 7-6 (3), 4-6 [10-7] in the quarterfinals of the €44,820 ($53,820) MTA Open in Antalya, Turkey.
   Heliovaara and Verbeek, playing separately, reached the doubles final in the 2018 and 2019 Fairfield, Calif., Challenger, respectively.
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