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.

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