Monday, May 31, 2021

Osaka withdraws; Andreescu ousted in marathon

Naomi Osaka said she "never wanted to be a distrac-
tion." 2018 photo by Mal Taam
   No. 2 seed Naomi Osaka of Japan withdrew from the French Open today in the wake of her announcement last week that she would skip her mandatory post-match news conferences.
   "I think now the best thing for the tournament, the other players and my well-being is that I withdraw so that everyone can get back to focusing on the tennis going on in Paris," Osaka said on social media. "I never wanted to be a distraction and I accept that my timing was not ideal and message could have been clearer."
   Osaka, who has won four Grand Slam singles titles but never advanced past the third round of the French Open, added that she will "take some time away from the court."
   Meanwhile, Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia outlasted No. 6 seed Bianca Andreescu of Canada, 6-7 (1), 7-6 (2), 9-7 in 3 hours, 20 minutes. Andreescu was two points from victory serving at 5-4 in the third set, 
   Zidansek, 23, recorded her first main-draw victory at Roland Garros and first top-10 win. Andreescu, who missed last year because of a knee injury and the five-month tour shutdown, has not advanced past the second round of a major since winning the 2019 U.S. Open at 19.
   Also falling were former French Open champions Garbine Muguruza, seeded 12th, and Jelena Ostapenko. 
   Eighth-seeded Roger Federer, who will turn 40 on Aug. 8, dismissed Denis Istomin, a 34-year-old qualifier from Uzbekistan, 6-2, 6-4, 6-3. 
   Federer, who underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee twice last year, played in his first Grand Slam tournament since the Australian Open in January 2020 and his second match on clay in two years. Istomin shocked Novak Djokovic in the second round of the 2017 Australian Open. 
   Both Federer and Istomin have played at the SAP Center in San Jose. Federer defeated Jack Sock in a 2018 exhibition, and Istomin lost to Milos Raonic in the final of the 2012 SAP Open.
   Federer is scheduled to meet Marin Cilic, the 2014 U.S. Open champion and a two-time Grand Slam runner-up, on Wednesday. The 32-year-old Croat eliminated wild card Arthur Rinderknech of France 7-6 (6), 6-1. 
   Federer is 9-1 against Cilic. They will meet for the first time since Federer won in five sets in the 2018 Australian Open final for his 20th Grand Slam singles title, a record he shares with Rafael Nadal, and second time on clay. Federer triumphed 6-4, 6-3 in the third round in Monte Carlo 10 years ago.
   In another matchup of players in their 30s, No. 31 seed John Isner, 36, beat Davis Cup teammate Sam Querrey, a 33-year-old San Francisco native, 7-6 (2), 6-3, 6-4.
   The 6-foot-10 (2.08-meter) Isner hammered 22 aces to the 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) Querrey's nine and improved to 4-5 in the head-to-head series.
   Querrey fell to 0-4 since early February. The 2017 Wimbledon semifinalist has won one match in the French Open in the last seven years.
   Isner and Querrey reached their career-high rankings of No. 8 and 11, respectively, in 2018. 

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Qualifier McDonald advances in French Open

Qualifier Mackenzie McDonald, a 26-year-old San Francisco Bay Area product,
beat Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland in four sets in the first round of the French Open.
2016 photo by Paul Bauman
   Mackenzie McDonald reached the second round of the French Open for the second consecutive year today, this time as a qualifier.
   The 26-year-old product of Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area defeated Emil Ruusuvuori, 22, of Finland 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-3 as the year's second Grand Slam tournament began in Paris. 
   Ruusuvuori, ranked No. 75, fell to 0-4 since reaching the fourth round in Miami in late March, shocking seventh-ranked Alexander Zverev in the second round.
   McDonald, only 5-foot-10 (1.78 meters) and 160 pounds (73 kilograms), pounded 10 aces to the 6-foot-2 (1.88-meter) Ruusuvuori's two. McDonald also converted seven of eight break points and saved 17 of 21 against him.
  McDonald climbed to a career-high No. 57 in April 2019, underwent right hamstring surgery that June and missed the rest of the year. He reached the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2018 and the Australian Open in February.
   Now ranked No. 119 and based in Orlando, Fla., McDonald is set to face 22nd-seeded Cristian Garin of Chile for the first time on Tuesday or Wednesday. Garin, 23, beat Juan Ignacio Londero of Argentina 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (6), 6-2.
   Meanwhile, Pablo Andujar scored another big win. The 35-year-old Spaniard, who defeated Roger Federer two weeks ago in the Swiss star's first match since March 11 and third of the year, ousted fourth-seeded Dominic Thiem 4-6, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 in 4 hours, 28 minutes. No Grand Slam champions remain in the bottom half of the draw.
   Thiem reached the French Open final in 2018 and 2019, losing to — who else? — Rafael Nadal.
   On the women's side, qualifier Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine eliminated 26th-seeded Angelique Kerber of Germany 6-2, 6-4. Kerber, a 33-year-old left-hander, has won every Grand Slam tournament except the French Open.
   Both players won singles titles in Northern California in 2015. Kerber claimed the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford on the WTA Tour, and Kalinina captured the $50,000 FSP Gold River Women's Challenger in the Sacramento, Calif., area. 

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Commentary: Toughen up, Naomi, and act professionally

Naomi Osaka said she won't "subject myself to people that doubt me."
2019 photo by Mal Taam
   Three years ago, Serena Williams acted like a prima donna in the turbulent U.S. Open final against 20-year-old Naomi Osaka.
   Now it's Osaka's turn.
   The second-ranked Osaka announced Wednesday that she will not attend her required post-match news conferences during the French Open, which begins Sunday.
   "I've often felt that people have no regard for athletes (sic) mental health and this rings very true whenever I see a press conference or partake in one," Osaka, who made her WTA main-draw debut at 16 at Stanford in 2014, wrote in a statement posted to her social media accounts. "We're often sat there and asked questions that we've been asked multiple times before or asked questions that bring doubt into our minds and I'm just not going to subject myself to people that doubt me. ... "
    Instead, Osaka will pay a fine of up to $20,000 for each absence. Unlike most players, Osaka can easily afford it. The four-time Grand Slam singles champion from Japan reportedly has earned $55.2 million in the last 12 months, a record for a female athlete. An estimated $50 million comes from endorsements.
   The media, of course, are largely responsible for that.
   Let's be honest. "Mental health" is an emotionally charged term designed to elicit a knee-jerk reaction. Depression, anxiety, paranoia and schizophrenia are mental illnesses; doubt is not. 
   Recently retired Nicole Gibbs (Stanford, 2011-13) suffered from depression yet thoughtfully answered reporters' questions win or lose. 
   Like Osaka, Rafael Nadal has doubts. A lot of them. But they fuel him.
   In a "60 Minutes" interview in 2019, Nadal said doubt is "good for me, because then I feel alert. Because tennis is a sport where things can change very quickly. That's the great beauty of our sport."
   Osaka can handle the pressure of facing match points and playing in Grand Slam finals, but post-match news conferences are traumatic? OK, she's shy. So am I, but I've managed to conduct countless interviews during my 42-year journalism career. The ones with losers of a match are the hardest because the players are generally in a bad mood. But it's part of the job.
   What questions are so painful for Osaka? She didn't say. I've attended hundreds of tennis news conferences, and reporters overwhelmingly handle players with kid gloves, especially after losses. They have sympathy, many are hero worshippers, and nobody wants to be berated in public by a testy loser — or winner, for that matter.
   Are there a lot of stupid questions in post-match news conferences? Absolutely. But it's not the media's job to protect players' fragile psyches. If they're depressed or anxious, they should seek treatment, take time off or find a less stressful career.
   Nor did Osaka mention the safeguards built into news conferences:
   —Players do not immediately go from the court to the press room — unless they want to get it over with. There is a cooling-off period, which players, seemingly oblivious to reporters' deadlines, routinely abuse by waiting an hour or more to appear.
   —Players can decline — preferably politely — to answer specific questions. Apparently, though, the questions alone — whatever they are — create doubts in players' minds, according to Osaka. Maybe they need to toughen up.
   —Distraught players can and do walk out of news conferences, and moderators can and do cut off sessions at will. That's not to say either is necessarily appropriate. 
   —Anyone asking inappropriate questions or being abusive can be removed or banned. This is exceedingly rare.
   Osaka goes on to write: "I believe that whole situation is kicking a person while they're down and I don't understand the reasoning behind it."
   Let me help you, Naomi. The winner's perspective is only half the story. News conferences help reporters give fans insight into matches and players, increasing exposure and therefore prize money.
   Everyone has a story to tell. People, not machines, play matches. Few fans, if any, would read stories only about forehands, backhands and service breaks.
   Nothing is classier or more professional than a player like Gibbs who candidly discusses his or her losses as well as victories. 

Friday, May 28, 2021

Riffice adds NCAA title; Brooksby qualifies for French

   Sam Riffice was supposed to be worn out physically and mentally after helping Florida win its first NCAA men's team title last week.
   Indeed, he often struggled in this week's singles competition. Riffice survived, though, to become the third Gator to win the men's title and the ninth man in this century to earn both crowns. He received an automatic wild card in the main draw of the U.S. Open, Aug. 30 to Sept. 12 in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.
   The sixth-seeded Riffice, a junior who grew up in Roseville, Calif., in the Sacramento area, topped second-seeded Daniel Rodrigues of South Carolina 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 today in the winner's adopted hometown of Orlando, Fla.
   Riffice lost the opening set for the third time in his six matches. He also was extended to three sets in the semifinals against top-seeded Liam Draxl of Kentucky.
   Riffice, who fell in the second round of doubles, joined Mark Merklein (1994) and Jeff Morrison (1999) as the only Florida men to win the NCAA singles championship.
   The last man to earn the NCAA Triple Crown (team, singles and doubles titles in the same year) was Matias Boeker of Georgia in 2001.
   Rodrigues, a sophomore from Portugal, nearly became the second consecutive Gamecock to capture the NCAA singles title. Paul Jubb of Great Britain claimed the 2019 crown; last year's tournament was canceled because of the pandemic.
   Third-seeded Emma Navarro of Virginia won the women's singles title, outclassing second seed and defending champion Estela Perez-Somaribba of Miami 6-3, 6-1.
   Both doubles finals were decided by two points.
   Third-seeded Adam Walton and Pat Harper of Tennessee edged unseeded Finn Murgett and Tad Maclean of Auburn 7-6 (5), 2-6 [13-11]. Also, fourth-seeded Makenna Jones and Elizabeth Scotty of North Carolina topped unseeded Kylie Collins and Lulu Sun of Texas 7-6 (3), 4-6 [10-8]. 
   Sun, a freshman from Switzerland, won a dramatic three-set singles match last week to give the Longhorns a 4-3 victory over Pepperdine for their first women's team title since 1995.
   French Open — Jenson Brooksby, who has a history of coming back from the brink of defeat, did it again.
   The 20-year-old resident of Carmichael, Calif., in the Sacramento region, saved three match points in a 6-7 (5), 7-6 (2), 6-4 victory over Evan Furness, a 22-year-old French wild card and one of the smallest players in men's professional tennis at 5-foot-7 (1.70 meters) and 145 pounds (66 kilograms), in the final round of qualifying in Paris. The battle lasted 3 hours, 22 minutes.
   Brooksby, who last month became the first man in five years to win back-to-back Challengers on hardcourts and clay, extended his winning streak to 13 matches.
   Brooksby, ranked No. 163 only five months after turning pro, will play in the singles main draw of a Grand Slam tournament for the third time and first outside the United States. He lost to John Millman in the first round of the 2018 U.S. Open after receiving an automatic wild card for winning the USTA Boys 18 National Championships and reached the second round of the 2019 U.S. Open as a qualifier. In the latter tournament, he stunned 2010 Wimbledon runner-up Tomas Berdych in the first round and led by a set and 4-0 in a four-set loss to 17th-seeded Nikoloz Basilashvili. 
   Also today, No. 9 seed Mackenzie McDonald, a 26-year-old product of Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area, defeated Marco Trungelliti of Argentina 6-4, 6-4.
   McDonald did not drop a set in his three qualifying matches. He advanced to the second round of the main draw at Roland Garos last fall as a direct entrant, losing to second seed and eventual champion Rafael Nadal 6-1, 6-0, 6-3, and was the only American man to reach the round of 16 in the Australian Open in February. 
   On the women's side, Lara Arruabarrena of Spain eliminated Carol Zhao (Stanford, 2014-16) of Canada 6-4, 6-2.
   ATP Tour — In the Belgrade (Serbia) doubles final, Jonathan Erlich, 44, of Israel and Andrei Vasilevski of Belarus defeated Andre Goransson (University of California, Berkeley, 2014-17) of Sweden and Rafael Matos of Brazil 6-4, 6-1. Both teams were unseeded.
   Erlich and Vasilevski won all three of their matches before the final in match tiebreakers, including 13-11 in the semifinals. 
   Erlich, who reached a career-high No. 5 in doubles in 2008, won the 2017 Aptos, Calif., Challenger with Neal Skupski of Great Britain. Also in 2017, Goransson claimed the first of his seven ATP Challenger doubles titles in Tiburon, Calif., with former Cal teammate Florian Lakat of France.  

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Riffice beats top seed, advances to NCAA final

   Six days after helping Florida win the NCAA team title, Sam Riffice will play for the singles crown on Friday.
   The sixth-seeded Riffice, a junior who grew up in Roseville, Calif., in the Sacramento area, beat top-seeded Liam Draxl, a Kentucky sophomore from Canada, 7-6 (5), 2-6, 6-1 in Riffice's adopted hometown of Orlando, Fla. 
   Theoretically, Riffice should have tired in the third set. He played for the ninth consecutive day, and the temperature hit 91 degrees (32.8 Celsius). Riffice is accustomed to Florida's heat and humidity, though.
   Riffice is scheduled to face second-seeded Daniel Rodrigues of South Carolina in an all-Southeastern Conference final at 9 a.m. PDT (live stream). Rodrigues, a sophomore from Portugal, eliminated unseeded Adrian Boitan of Baylor 7-6 (1), 3-1, retired. 
   Rodrigues outlasted Riffice 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 in the Gamecock Fall SEC Shootout in Columbia, S.C., last October.
   Riffice, who fell in the second round of doubles, will attempt to join Mark Merklein (1994) and Jeff Morrison (1999) as the only Florida men to win the NCAA singles championship. 
  The last man to earn the NCAA Triple Crown (team, singles and doubles titles in the same year) was Matias Boeker of Georgia in 2001. 
   Rodrigues, who has not dropped a set in his five matches, will try to become the second straight Gamecock to capture the NCAA men's singles title. Paul Jubb claimed the 2019 crown; last year's tournament was canceled because of the pandemic.
   French Open — Sloane Stephens, a 28-year-old Fresno, Calif., product who reached the 2018 final at Roland Garros, drew Carla Suarez Navarro, a 32-year-old Spaniard making her comeback from Hodgkin's lymphoma, in a matchup of former top-10 players.
   Sam Querrey, a 33-year-old San Francisco native, is set to play Davis Cup teammate and occasional doubles partner John Isner, seeded 31st, in the first round. 
   The main draw begins Sunday.
   ATP Tour — In the Belgrade (Serbia) Open doubles semifinals, Andre Goransson (University of California, Berkeley, 2014-17) of Sweden and Rafael Matos of Brazil beat Luke Bambridge and Dominic Inglot of Great Britain 7-6 (3), 1-6 [10-4] in a matchup of unseeded teams. 
   Goransson and Matos are set to meet unseeded Jonathan Erlich, 44, of Israel and Andrei Vasilevski of Belarus on Friday. Erlich and Vasilevski edged wild cards Ivan Sabanov and Matej Sabanov of Croatia 6-3, 3-6 [13-11].

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

NorCal product Riffice routs Vacherot in NCAA quarters

   No. 6 seed Sam Riffice, a Florida junior who grew up in the Sacramento area, overwhelmed No. 4 seed Val Vacherot of Texas A&M 6-3, 6-0 today in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championships in Orlando, Fla.
   Riffice, an Orlando resident, helped the Gators win their first NCAA team title on Saturday. Since badly losing the first set for the second consecutive match in the second round, he has dropped only seven games in six sets.
   Riffice is scheduled to face No. 1 seed Liam Draxl of Kentucky on Thursday. Draxl, a sophomore from Canada, defeated No. 8 seed Gabriel Decamps of host Central Florida 7-6 (6), 6-1.
   French Open — Wild card Carol Zhao (Stanford, 2014-16) of Canada eliminated No. 23 seed Viktoria Kuzmova of Slovakia 7-5, 6-2 in the second round of qualifying in Paris.
   Jaqueline Cristian of Romania topped No. 13 seed Mayar Sherif (Fresno State, 2015-16) of Egypt 7-5, 5-7, 7-6 (1) in 3 hours, 3 minutes. 
   In the men's draw, No. 9 seed Mackenzie McDonald, a 26-year-old product of Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area, beat Renzo Olivo of Argentina 6-3, 6-4.
   McDonald advanced to the second round of the main draw at Roland Garros last fall as a direct entrant, losing to second seed and eventual champion Rafael Nadal 6-1, 6-0, 6-3, and was the only U.S. man to reach the round of 16 in the Australian Open in February.
   Jenson Brooksby, 20, of Carmichael, Calif., in the Sacramento area, outlasted Marc-Andrea Huesler of Switzerland, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-4 in 2:32 for his 12th consecutive victory. 
   Last month, Brooksby became the first man in five years to win back-to-back Challengers on hardcourts and clay. He improved to 25-4 this year after turning pro in December
   Huesler, a 6-foot-5 (1.96-meter) left-hander, reached the semifinals at Kitzbuhel on clay as a qualifier last September.
   Zhao, McDonald and Brooksby are set to play for main-draw berths on Friday. The draw is slated for Thursday at 9 a.m. PDT, and play begins Sunday. 
   ATP Tour — In the doubles quarterfinals of the Belgrade (Serbia) Open, Andre Goransson (University of California, Berkeley, 2014-17) of Sweden and Rafael Matos of Brazil outclassed Americans Austin Krajicek and Tennys Sandgren 6-1, 6-3.
   In the opening round of doubles in the Emilia-Romagna Open in Parma, Italy, Oliver Marach of Austria and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi of Pakistan beat No. 2 seeds Raven Klaasen of South Africa and Ben McLachlan (Cal, 2011-14) of Japan 6-3, 6-4.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

NorCal product Riffice rolls into NCAA quarterfinals

   No. 6 seed Sam Riffice, a Florida junior who grew up in the Sacramento area, routed Siphosothando Montsi of Illinois 6-2, 6-0 today in Orlando, Fla., to reach the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championships for the second time. 
   Riffice, an Orlando resident who helped the Gators win their first NCAA team title on Saturday, is scheduled to play No. 4 seed Val Vacherot of Texas A&M on Wednesday. Vacherot defeated Rinky Hijikata of North Carolina 6-2, 3-6, 6-1.
   Riffice also advanced to the last eight in the NCAAs as a freshman. Last year's tournament was canceled because of the pandemic.
   In the second round of doubles:
   —No. 3 seeds Adam Walton and Pat Harper of Tennessee beat Marcus McDaniel, from Vacaville in Northern California, and Andres Martin of Georgia Tech 7-6 (3), 6-2.
   —Andrea Garcia and Nandini Das of Florida State topped Carolyn Campana, from Hillsborough in the San Francisco Bay Area, and Eliza Omirou of Wake Forest 6-4, 7-6 (2).
   French Open — Northern California natives Mackenzie McDonald and Jenson Brooksby won their first-round qualifying matches in Paris. 
   McDonald, seeded ninth, beat Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia 6-4, 6-4. McDonald advanced to the second round of the main draw at Roland Garros last fall as a direct entrant, losing to second seed and eventual champion Rafael Nadal 6-1, 6-0, 6-3, and was the only U.S. man to reach the round of 16 in the Australian Open in February.
   Brooksby, making his French Open debut at 20, crushed 20th-seeded Cedric-Marcel Stebe of Germany 6-1, 6-0 in 64 minutes for his 11th consecutive victory.
   Brooksby, playing for the first time since winning back-to-back Challenger titles in Orlando on hardcourts and Tallahassee, Fla., on clay last month, improved to 24-4 this year after turning pro in December.
   CoCo Vandeweghe, a former top-15 player rebounding from an ankle injury, outlasted fellow American Kristie Ahn, a 28-year-old Stanford graduate, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. Ahn, who reached the round of 16 in the 2019 U.S. Open, fell to 0-6 since March, 1-8 this year and 2-13 since last August.
   ATP Tour — No. 8 seed Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan edged Sam Querrey, a 33-year-old San Francisco native, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (3) in the first round of the Emilia Romagna Open in Parma, Italy.
   Querrey, who was playing in his first tournament since late March, fell to 0-3 in singles since early February. He also lost in the opening round of doubles with 39-year-old countryman Nicholas Monroe on Sunday.

Monday, May 24, 2021

NorCal product Riffice reaches NCAA round of 16

   No. 6 seed Sam Riffice of Florida overcame another slow start to reach the round of 16 in the NCAA Championships.
   Riffice, a Sacramento-area product who helped the Gators win their first team title on Saturday, defeated Andres Martin of Georgia Tech 2-6, 6-2, 6-0 in the second round at the USTA National Campus in Orlando, Fla. In the first round, Riffice beat Nathan Ponwith of Arizona State 1-6, 7-5, 6-2.
   Riffice, a 6-foot-2 (1.88-meter) junior, will try to reach the NCAA quarterfinals for the second time when he meets Siphosothando Montsi of Illinois on Tuesday. Montsi, a 5-foot-8 (1.73-meter) sophomore from South Africa, downed Finn Reynolds of Mississippi 6-4, 7-6 (4). 
   On the women's side, Bunyawi Thamchaiwat of Oklahoma State eliminated Anna Campana, a Wake Forest sophomore from Hillsborough in the San Francisco Bay Area, 7-5, 6-2.
   In the first round of doubles:
   —Carolyn Campana, Anna's older sister, and Eliza Omirou of Wake Forest defeated Margaryta Bilokin and Meible Chi of Duke 6-1, 1-6 [10-4].
   —Rosie Johanson and Emma Navarro of Virginia edged Haley Giavara and Valentina Ivanov of California 4-6, 7-6 (2) [10-7].
   —Alana Smith and Anna Rogers of North Carolina State eliminated Michaela Gordon and Niluka Madurawe — from Saratoga and Sunnyvale, respectively, in the Bay Area — of Stanford 7-5, 6-1.
   —Marcus McDaniel, from Vacaville in Northern California, and Martin dispatched Daniel Rodrigues and Connor Thomson of South Carolina 6-3, 6-3.
   —Guy Den Ouden and Adrian Oetzbach of Pepperdine beat Riffice and Duarte Vale 6-3, 6-3.
   French Open — No. 13 seed Mayar Sherif (Fresno State, 2015-16) of Egypt and wild card Carol Zhao (Stanford, 2014-16) of Canada survived three-set matches in the first round of qualifying in Paris.
   Sherif outlasted Maja Chwalinska of Poland 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 in 2 hours, 47 minutes. In the Australian Open in February, Sherif became the first woman from her country to win a main-draw match in a Grand Slam tournament.
   Zhao topped Valeria Savinkh of Russia 2-6, 6-2, 6-0 for her first victory in a major.  
   ATP Tour — In the opening round of doubles in the Belgrade (Serbia) Open, Andre Goransson (Cal, 2014-17) of Sweden and Rafael Matos of Brazil beat Divij Sharan of India and John-Patrick Smith of Australia 6-4, 5-7 [10-6].

Sunday, May 23, 2021

NorCal product Riffice rallies to win in NCAA singles

   No. 6 seed Sam Riffice, a Sacramento-area product playing one day after helping Florida win its first NCAA team title, defeated Nathan Ponwith of Arizona State 1-6, 7-5, 6-2 today in the first round of the singles competition at the USTA National Campus in Orlando, Fla. 
   Riffice, an NCAA quarterfinalist as a freshman in 2019 (last year's tournament was canceled because of the pandemic), is scheduled to play Andres Martin of Georgia Tech on Monday. Martin topped Edson Ortiz of Alabama 6-7 (2), 7-6 (6), 6-1. 
   Jacob Wojcik of South Florida eliminated Georgia Tech's Marcus McDaniel, a redshirt freshman from Vacaville in Northern California, 6-3, 6-2.
   In the opening round of women's singles:
   —Wake Forest's Anna Campana, a sophomore from Hillsborough in the San Francisco Bay Area, dominated Taylor Bridges of LSU 6-0, 6-3. Campana is set to meet Bunyawi Thamchaiwat of Oklahoma State on Monday. Thamchaiwat outlasted No. 9-16 seed Viktoriya Kanapatskaya of Syracuse 3-6, 6-3, 7-5.
   —Yulia Starodubsteva of Old Dominion defeated No. 9-16 seed Carolyn Campana, a Wake Forest junior and Anna's sister, 6-0, 4-6, 6-3.
   —No. 3 seed Emma Navarro of Virginia beat Haley Giavara, a sophomore at the University of California, Berkeley, 7-6 (3), 6-2.
   —No. 9-16 seed Katarina Kozarov of Furman routed Stanford's Michaela Gordon, a senior from Saratoga in the Bay Area, 6-0, 6-2.
   The doubles competition — featuring Riffice, McDaniel, Gordon and teammate Niluka Madurawe of Sunnyvale in the Bay Area, Giavara and teammate Valentina Ivanov, and Carolyn Campana — begins Monday.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Ex-Pacific star wins title; Riffice, Florida crowned

   Hunter Reese of Knoxville, Tenn., and Sem Verbeek (University of the Pacific, 2013-16) of the Netherlands defeated Sadio Doumbia and Fabien Reboul of France 4-6, 6-4 [10-7] today to win the €132,280 ($161,069) Oeiras (Portugal) Open. Both teams were unseeded.
   Verbeek, a 6-foot-4 (1.93-meter) left-hander, collected his sixth career Challenger doubles title, second of the year and first with Reese. They split €7,870 ($9,585).
   Verbeek will rise 10 places to a career-high No. 114 in doubles on Monday.   
   NCAA Tournament — The top-seeded Florida men, playing in their first NCAA final, beat second-seeded Baylor 4-1 at the USTA National Campus in Orlando, Fla.
   The Gators' Sam Riffice, a junior who grew up in Roseville, Calif., in the Sacramento area, won at No. 2 doubles and No. 2 singles. 
   In the women's final, Lulu Sun outlasted fellow freshman Taisiya Pachkaleva 6-4, 6-7 (3), 7-5 on Court 3 to give the second-seeded Texas women a 4-3 victory over fifth-seeded Pepperdine. 
   The Longhorns, with five freshmen in the singles lineup, won their third national crown and first since 1995. The Waves, who upset top-seeded North Carolina in the semifinals, were playing in their first NCAA final.

Friday, May 21, 2021

Wang continues mastery of Stephens with Parma win

   Sloane Stephens continues to struggle against Qiang Wang.
   The sixth-seeded Wang, from China, improved to 3-0 against the unseeded Stephens, who grew up in Fresno, Calif., with a 6-2, 7-6 (3) victory today in the semifinals of the Emilia-Romagna Open, a WTA 250 tournament on red clay in Parma, Italy.
   The second set was the first time Wang has lost more than three games in a set against Stephens, the runner-up to Simona Halep in the 2018 French Open. Both previous matches were on hardcourts.
   Halep withdrew from Roland Garros, which begins May 30, after retiring from her second-round match against Angelique Kerber in last week's Italian Open with a tear in her left calf.
   ATP Tour — In the doubles semifinals of the Geneva Open on red clay, unseeded Simone Bolelli of Italy and Maximo Gonzalez of Argentina defeated No. 3 seeds Raven Klaasen of South Africa and Ben McLachlan (University of California, Berkeley, 2011-14) of Japan 3-6, 6-3 [10-4].
   ATP Challenger Tour — In the doubles semis of the Oeiras (Portugal) Open on red clay, unseeded Hunter Reese of Knoxville, Tenn., and Sem Verbeek (University of the Pacific, 2013-16) of the Netherlands beat wild cards Nuno Borges and Francisco Cabral of Portugal 6-4, 6-4.
   Reese and Verbeek, a 6-foot-4 (1.93-meter) left-hander, are scheduled to play unseeded Sadio Doumbia and Fabien Reboul of France on Saturday. Doumbia and Reboul eliminated unseeded Americans Steve Johnson and Max Schnur 7-6 (2), 6-3.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Stephens ends semifinal drought; BNP set for October

Sloane Stephens routed Sara Errani in a matchup of former French Open
runners-up. 2018 photo by Mal Taam
   Sloane Stephens reached her first semifinal in two years today in a matchup of former French Open runners-up.
   The 28-year-old product of Fresno, Calif., routed Sara Errani, a 34-year-old wild card from Italy, 6-3, 6-0 in the Emilia-Romagna Open, a WTA 250 tournament on red clay in Parma, Italy.
   Stephens, who advanced to her first semifinal since Madrid on red clay in May 2019, is scheduled to meet No. 6 seed Qiang Wang of China on Friday. Wang, 29, outlasted No. 2 seed Petra Martic of Croatia 7-6 (4), 3-6, 7-5 in 3 hours.
   Wang has never lost more than three games in a set in two matches against Stephens, both on hardcourts. They will meet for the first time since September 2017.
   Indian Wells — The BNP Paribas Open is scheduled for October, tournament director Tommy Haas announced today. The dates for the combined ATP Masters 1000 and WTA 1000 tournament, traditionally held in March, will be announced after the confirmation of the fall calendar by both tours. 
   Ticket, suite and hotel packages are expected to go on sale starting June 21. Last year's tournament was canceled because of the pandemic.
   Indian Wells also will host the World TeamTennis season, usually held in July, Nov. 13-28. Only five teams will participate: the defending champion New York Empire, Springfield (Mo.) Lasers, Orange County Breakers, San Diego Aviators and Chicago Smash. Rosters include former world No. 1 Kim Clijsters (New York), Stephens (Chicago) and Taylor Fritz (San Diego).
   Teams normally play in their cities, but last year's season was held in White Sulphur Springs, W.V., because of the pandemic.
   ATP Tour — In the doubles quarterfinals of the Geneva Open on red clay, No. 3 seeds Raven Klaasen of South Africa and Ben McLachlan (University of California, Berkeley, 2011-14) defeated Marin Cilic of Croatia and Andrey Golubev of Kazakhstan 6-3, 7-6 (4). 
   ATP Challenger Tour — In the doubles quarterfinals of the Oeiras (Portugal) Open on red clay, Hunter Reese of Knoxville, Tenn., and Sem Verbeek (University of the Pacific, 2013-16) of the Netherlands beat Goncalo Oliveira of Portugal and Yasutaka Uchiyama of Japan 2-6, 7-5 [10-3] in a clash of unseeded teams.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Volynets retires from Pelham opener with leg injury

Katie Volynets talks with reporter Tony Acosta during the 2018 Stockton, Calif.,
Challenger. In the background is Volynets' father, Andrey. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Katie Volynets has played a lot of tennis on clay in the last three weeks.
   It caught up to her today in the $25,000 Legacy Pro Classic in Pelham, Ala.
   The 11th-seeded Volynets, 19, of Walnut Creek in the San Francisco Bay Area retired because of a leg injury with Marie Lourdes Carle of Argentina leading 0-6, 6-4, 4-2 in the first round. Carle, 21, won the last four games of the 2-hour, 13-minute match.
   In last week's $100,000 tournament in Bonita Springs, Fla., Volynets came from behind to win in 2:46 in the semifinals and 3:14 in the final for her first professional title. The previous week, she reached the quarterfinals of a $100,000 tourney in Charleston, S.C.
   Volynets also withdrew from Thursday's doubles quarterfinal with Sofia Sewing of Miami.
   ATP Tour — In the opening round of doubles on red clay in Lyon, France, Lorenzo Musetti, 19, of Italy and Tommy Paul of Delray Beach, Fla., beat Andre Goransson (University of California, Berkeley, 2014-17) of Sweden and Andrei Vasilevski of Belarus 7-5, 6-1. Paul won the singles title in the 2019 Tiburon, Calif., Challenger
   ATP Challenger Tour — In the first round of doubles in the €132,280 ($161,069) Oeiras (Portugal) Open on red clay, Hunter Reese of Knoxville, Tenn., and Sem Verbeek (University of the Pacific, 2013-16) of the Netherlands ousted No. 2 seeds Luis David Martinez of Venezuela and David Vega Hernandez of Spain 6-1, 7-5.
   Goransson and Verbeek reached the final in Heilbronn, Germany last week, losing to Americans Nathaniel Lammons and Jackson Withrow 10-8 in a match tiebreaker.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Stephens stops Kasatkina to reach Parma quarterfinals

   Sloane "Ranger" Stephens survived a matchup of former top-10 players today to reach her second quarterfinal of the year.
   The 28-year-old product of Fresno, Calif., outlasted No. 4 seed Daria "Mary" Kasatkina of Russia 1-6, 6-4, 7-5 in 2 hours, 5 minutes in the Emilia-Romagna Open, a WTA 250 tournament on red clay in Parma, Italy.
   Stephens, who routed Kasatkina in the quarterfinals of the 2018 French Open en route to the final, and Kasatkina traded five consecutive service breaks to knot the third set 4-4. Both players held serve in the next three games, giving Stephens a 6-5 lead.
   Stephens had three match points with Kasatkina serving at 5-6, 0-40, but Kasatkina laced three consecutive passing shots for deuce. Stephens then slugged an inside-out forehand winner to earn her fourth match point, which she converted with a forehand cross-court winner.
   Stephens, now based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is scheduled to play either seventh-seeded Sara Sorribes "Mel" Tormo of Spain or Sara "No Runs, No Hits, No" Errani, a 34-year-old Italian wild card, on Thursday. 
   Stephens is 2-0 against Sorribes Tormo, 24, and 1-1 against Errani. Both matches against Sorribes Tormo were on clay in 2019. Both contests against Errani were on hardcourts, the last coming in 2012, the year Errani reached the French Open final. 
   Sorribes Tormo won her first WTA singles title in March on hardcourts in Guadalajara. Errani advanced to the third round of the Australian Open as a qualifier in February, demolishing 40-year-old Venus Williams 6-1, 6-0 in the second round.
   WTA Tour in Belgrade, Serbia — In the first round of doubles in the Serbia Ladies Open on red clay, Greet Minnen and Alison Van Uytvanck of Belgium ousted top-seeded Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara of Japan 6-3, 1-6 [10-5].
   Aoyama, 33, and Shibahara, a 23-year-old native of Mountain View in the San Francisco Bay Area, reached the semifinals of last week's Italian Open.
   ATP Tour — In the opening round of doubles in the Geneva Open on red clay, No. 3 seeds "Baltimore" Raven Klaasen of South Africa and Ben "And Jerry's" McLachlan of Japan beat Luke "Golden Gate" Bambridge and Dominic "London" Inglot of Great Britain 6-3, 7-6 (4).
   ITF Women's Tour — In the first round of doubles in the $25,000 Legacy Pro Classic on green clay in Pelham, Ala., wild cards Sofia "Patrick" Sewing of Miami and Katie "Serve And" Volynets, 19, of Walnut Creek in the Bay Area dismissed alternates Shiho "Ohtani" Akita and Nagi Hanatani of Japan 6-1, 6-2 in 63 minutes.
   Volynets won her first professional singles title Sunday in a $100,000 tournament on green clay in Bonita Springs, Fla.
   Sophie "P.F." Chang of the United States and Sofia Shapatava of Georgia defeated American wild cards Reese "Witherspoon" Brantmeier and Alexandra Yepifanova, a Stanford signee, 6-3, 6-4.
   Shapatava also beat Yepifanova in singles on Monday, 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 in the opening round. Yepifanova received a wild card.
   Allura and Maribella Zamarripa, 18-year-old identical twins from St. Helena in the Napa Valley, withdrew from the doubles draw.

Monday, May 17, 2021

Stephens subdues qualifier McNally, 19, in Parma

   Sloane "Ranger" Stephens, who grew up in Fresno, Calif., defeated compatriot Caty McNally, a 19-year-old qualifier, 7-6 (4), 6-4 today in the first round of the Emilia-Romagna Open, a WTA 250 tournament on red clay in Parma, Italy.
   McNally had no aces and 10 double faults. Stephens finished with one and none, respectively.
   Stephens, the 2018 French Open runner-up now based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is scheduled to play fourth-seeded Daria Kasatkina of Russia on Tuesday in a matchup of former top-10 players. Kasatkina beat Hsieh Su-Wei of Chinese Taipei 6-4, 6-3 on Sunday.
   Stephens is 2-1 against Kasatkina (2-0 on clay, including a 6-3, 6-1 drubbing in the quarterfinals of the 2018 French Open in their last meeting).
   ATP Tour — Top-seeded Ilya Ivashka of Belarus outplayed fifth-seeded Mackenzie McDonald, a 26-year-old product of Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area, 6-4, 6-3 in the second (final) round of qualifying for the Geneva Open on red clay.
   Ivashka reached the Munich semifinals as a qualifier three weeks ago, eliminating McDonald in three sets in the second round of the main draw in their only other meeting.
   ITF Women's Tour Allura and Maribella Zamarripa, 18-year-old identical twins from St. Helena in the Napa Valley, each lost in the second (final) round of qualifying for the $25,000 Legacy Pro Classic on green clay in Pelham, Ala.
   Jantje Tilbuerger of Germany crushed Maribella Zamarripa 6-0, 6-0 in 61 minutes. Top-seeded Tori Kinard, a 33-year-old American, beat Allura Zamarripa 7-6 (5), 7-6 (5).
   The Zamarripas are entered in doubles together.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Volynets, 19, pulls off big comeback for first pro title

Katie Volynets, a 19-year-old wild card from Walnut Creek in the San Francisco
Bay Area, outlasted fifth-seeded Irina Maria Baria of Romania in 3 hours, 14 min-
utes. 2019 photo courtesy of JFS Communications
   Displaying her indomitable will, Katie Volynets wore down Irina Maria Bara physically and mentally for her first professional title.
   Volynets, a 19-year-old wild card from Walnut Creek in the San Francisco Bay Area, outlasted the fifth-seeded Bara, a 26-year-old Romanian, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (2), 6-1 in 3 hours, 14 minutes today in the $100,000 Finemark Women's Pro Tennis Championship on green clay in Bonita Springs, Fla.
   Bara, who reached the third round of the French Open as a qualifier last October, led by two service breaks at 4-1 in the second set and was two points from the title while serving at 6-5, 30-30. But she committed two backhand errors to force a tiebreaker, and Volynets dominated the rest of the match. An incredibly hard worker, she never seemed to tire in the heat and humidity.
   Volynets pulled off a similar comeback in her 5-7, 6-4, 7-5 semifinal victory over Hanna Chang in 2 hours, 46 minutes. Chang had three break points to lead by two service breaks at 4-1 in the second set, but Volynets held. Volynets trailed 0-2 in the third set but reeled off the next four games.
   Volynets, who routed No. 6 seed Renata Zarazua in the second round and No. 1 seed Madison Brengle in the quarterfinals, skyrocketed 99 places to a career-high No. 200. Bara improved 12 spots to No. 121, six off her career high.
   It's no stretch to project the petite Volynets as a top-100 or even top-50 player. Top 10? Let's just say 5-foot-7 (1.70-meter) Sofia Kenin — who won Northern California Challengers as a teenager in 2016, 2017 and 2018 — has shown how far impeccable groundstrokes and fierce determination can take you. No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, No. 3 Simona Halep, No. 7 Bianca Andreescu and No. 9 Iga Swiatek are no giants, either. All have won at least one Grand Slam singles title, as has No. 5 Kenin.
  Volynets is following in the footsteps of CiCi Bellis, another undersized Bay Area product who skipped college. Hopefully, Volynets will avoid the injuries that have derailed the 22-year-old Bellis' promising career.
   Volynets pocketed $15,200 for the Bonita Springs title, and Bara earned $8,107.
   In the first round of qualifying for the $25,000 Legacy Pro Classic on green clay in Pelham, Ala., 18-year-old identical twins Allura and Maribella Zamarripa of St. Helena in the Napa Valley each advanced in straight sets.
   WTA Tour — Alternates Sharon Fichman of Canada and Giuliana Olmos — who was born in Austria, grew up in Fremont in the Bay Area and plays for Mexico — won twice to claim their first WTA 1000 title.
    In the Italian Open final on red clay in Rome, Fichman and Olmos saved two championship points in a 4-6, 7-5 [10-5] victory over Kristina Mladenovic of France and Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic. Mladenovic won the 2015 title with Timea Babos of Hungary.
   Earlier, Fichman and Olmos dispatched fourth-seeded Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara of Japan 6-3, 6-2 in a rain-delayed semifinal. Shibahara was born in Mountain View in the Bay Area and starred at UCLA.
   Four of Fichman and Olmos' five matches in the tournament went to match tiebreakers, including in the second round against Elise Mertens and Hsieh Su-Wei, ranked Nos. 1 and 2, respectively.
   ATP Tour — Second-seeded Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic of Croatia beat fifth-seeded Rajeev Ram, a volunteer assistant coach at the University of California, Berkeley from Carmel, Ind., and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain 6-4, 7-6 (4) to win the Italian Open. 
   Mektic and Pavic collected their sixth doubles title of the year. Ram and Salisbury fell to 0-2 in 2021 finals, including the Australian Open as the defending champions.
   In the first round of singles qualifying for the Geneva Open on red clay, fifth-seeded Mackenzie McDonald, a 26-year-old product of Piedmont in the Bay Area, beat Prajnesh Gunneswaran of India 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.
   NCAA Tournament — The top-seeded North Carolina women (29-0) blanked 16th-seeded California (19-7) 4-0 in the round of 16 in Orlando, Fla. On Court 1, second-ranked Sara Daavettila defeated No. 31 Haley Giavara 6-4, 6-3.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Volynets, 19, rallies to reach first Challenger final

Katie Volynets of Walnut Creek in the San Fran-
cisco Bay Area showed her mental toughness
today in a three-set victory over Hanna Chang.
2019 photo by Paul Bauman
   Petite Katie Volynets will never overpower anyone. The 19-year-old resident of Walnut Creek in the San Francisco Bay Area relies on quickness, consistency and mental toughness.
   Volynets, a wild card, needed all of those assets today to reach her first Challenger final. She outlasted Hanna Chang, a 23-year-old qualifier from Fontana in the Los Angeles region, 5-7, 6-4, 7-5 in a 2-hour, 46-minute seesaw battle of wills in the $100,000 Finemark Women's Pro Tennis Championship on green clay in Bonita Springs, Fla.
   In the first Challenger semifinal for both players, whenever one of them seemed in command, the other took control. Volynets broke serve nine times and Chang eight.
   Chang had three break points to lead by two service breaks at 4-1 in the second set, but Volynets held. Volynets also trailed 0-2 in the third set but reeled off the next four games.
   Chang broke back for 3-4, then both players held serve until the final game. From 15-15, Chang made three consecutive errors.
   Volynets, who routed No. 1 seed Madison Brengle in the quarterfinals, is scheduled to meet No. 5 seed Irina Maria Bara, a 26-year-old Romanian, for the first time on Sunday not before 9:30 a.m. PDT. The match will be streamed live. Bara beat compatriot Irina Fetecau, a qualifier, 6-4, 6-1 in 1 hour, 38 minutes. 
   Volynets, who was ranked No. 316 two weeks ago, will skyrocket at least 67 more places to a career-high No. 232 on Monday. Bara will improve a minimum of 12 spots to No. 121, and Chang will jump 43 notches to a career-high No. 268.
   WTA Tour — In a rain-delayed doubles quarterfinal in the Italian Open, alternates Sharon Fichman of Canada and Giuliana Olmos, a product of Fremont in the Bay Area who plays for Mexico, beat unseeded Coco Gauff, 17, of Delray Beach, Fla., and Veronika Kudermetova of Russia 1-6, 7-6 (6) [10-6] on red clay in Rome.
   Fichman and Olmos are scheduled to face No. 4 seeds Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara of Japan on Sunday. The winning team then will play unseeded Kristina Mladenovic of France and Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic for the title. Mladenovic won the 2015 title with Timea Babos of Hungary.
   Shibahara was born in Mountain View in the Bay Area and starred at UCLA.
   ATP Tour — No. 5 doubles seeds Rajeev Ram, a volunteer assistant coach at the University of California, Berkeley from Carmel, Ind., and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain won twice to reach the Italian Open final. 
   Ram and Salisbury defeated No. 4 seeds Marcel Granollers of Spain and Horacio Zeballos of Argentina, who won the Madrid title last week, 7-6 (3), 3-6 [10-2] in a rain-delayed match and outplayed alternates Marcelo Arevalo of El Salvador and Matwe Middelkoop of the Netherlands 6-4, 6-4.
   Ram and Salisbury are set to face No. 2 seeds Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic of Croatia on Sunday. Mektic and Pavic beat unseeded John Peers of Australia and Michael Venus of New Zealand 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4).
   Mektic and Pavic seek their sixth title of the year and Ram and Salisbury their first.
   ATP Challenger Tour — In the doubles final of a €88,520 ($107,527) Challenger on red clay in Heilbronn, Germany, No. 3 seeds Nathaniel Lammons of Dallas and Jackson Withrow of Omaha, Neb., edged unseeded Andre Goransson (Cal, 2014-17) of Sweden and Sem Verbeek (University of the Pacific, 2013-16) of the Netherlands 6-7 (4), 6-4 [10-8].
   Goransson and Lammons won last week's €44,820 ($54,189) Challenger in Biella, Italy, on red clay.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Volynets routs top seed to reach first Challenger semi

Katie Volynets, a 19-year-old Northern Californian, has
not lost more than three games in a set in her three
matches this week. 2019 photo by Paul Bauman
   Katie Volynets reached her first Challenger semifinal today, emphatically avenging last week's loss to Madison Brengle and recording her second victory over a top-100 player.
   Volynets, a 19-year-old wild card from Walnut Creek in the San Francisco Bay Area, brushed aside the top-seeded Brengle of Dover, Del., 6-1, 6-2 in the $100,000 Finemark Women's Pro Tennis Championship on green clay in Bonita Springs, Fla.
   After Brengle held serve in the opening game, Volynets reeled off seven consecutive games, including the last three of the first set at love (two service breaks).
   Volynets has not lost more than three games in a set in her three matches this week. She also ousted sixth-seeded Renata Zarazua, who last year became the first Mexican woman in 20 years to win a main-draw singles match in a Grand Slam tournament, in the second round.
   Brengle, who won Northern California Challengers in 2018 and 2019 and reached the final of another in 2013, defeated Volynets 7-5, 7-6 (3) in the quarterfinals of last week's $100,000 tournament in Charleston, S.C., on green clay in their first career meeting.
   At No. 81, Brengle is the highest-ranked player Volynets has beaten. She also stunned No. 91 Monica Puig, the reigning Olympic champion in women's singles, in the first round of qualifying for the Western & Southern Open in New York last August at the top level of women's tennis besides the Grand Slams.
   Volynets, who was ranked No. 316 two weeks ago, will soar at least 36 more places to a career-high No. 263 on Monday. She is scheduled to play qualifier Hanna Chang of Fontana in the Los Angeles region on Saturday at about noon PDT. All tournament matches are being streamed live.  
   Chang, who also will play in her maiden Challenger semifinal, dispatched unseeded Francesca Di Lorenzo, an American left-hander, 6-3, 6-3. Earlier today, Di Lorenzo, playing her second consecutive marathon, outlasted third-seeded Maiar Sherif Ahmed Abdelaziz (Fresno State, 2015-16) of Egypt 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 in 3 hours, 5 minutes in a match postponed one day by inclement weather.
   Volynets is 1-1 against the 23-year-old Chang, including a victory by retirement in the final round of qualifying for a $60,000 Challenger in Stockton, Calif., in 2018.
   ATP Challenger Tour —No. 4 seed Daniel Elahi Galan, a Colombian playing his third straight long match, topped No. 8 seed Mackenzie McDonald, who grew up in Piedmont in the Bay Area, 6-4, 6-7 (4), 7-5 in 2 hours, 23 minutes in the semifinals of a €88,520 ($107,527) Challenger on red clay in Heilbronn, Germany.
   Galan, 24, won in three hours in the second round and 2:23 in the quarterfinals. Both matches went to third-set tiebreakers.
   Meanwhile, Andre Goransson (University of California, Berkeley, 2014-17) will seek his second Challenger doubles title in two weeks. The 27-year-old Swede and Sem Verbeek (University of the Pacific, 2013-16) of the Netherlands eliminated No. 1 seeds Aisam Ul-Haq Qureshi of Pakistan and Andrei Vasilevski of Belarus 6-4, 6-4. 
   Goransson and Verbeek are set to play No. 3 seeds Nathaniel Lammons of Dallas and Jackson Withrow of Omaha, Neb., on Saturday. Goransson and Lammons won last week's €44,820 ($54,189) Challenger on red clay in Biella, Italy.
   WTA Tour — In the doubles quarterfinals of the Italian Open on red clay in Rome, No. 4 seeds Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara of Japan topped No. 6 seeds Hao-Ching Chan and Latisha Chan of Chinese Taipei 4-6, 7-5 [10-6].
   Aoyama and Shibahara, a 23-year-old native of Mountain View in the Bay Area, will meet either Sharon Fichman of Canada and Giuliana Olmos, a product of Fremont in the Bay Area who plays for Mexico, or 17-year-old sensation Coco Gauff of Delray Beach, Fla., and Veronika Kudermetova of Russia. The matchup of unseeded teams was postponed by rain.
   ATP Tour — In the doubles quarterfinals in Rome, No. 5 seeds Rajeev Ram, a volunteer assistant coach at Cal from Carmel, Ind., and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain led No. 4 seeds Marcel Granollers of Spain and Horacio Zeballos of Argentina 4-3 when the match was suspended because of rain. It's scheduled to resume on Saturday at 2 a.m.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Volynets, Olmos score big wins; McDonald gains semis

Katie Volynets, a 19-year-old wild card from the San Francisco Bay Area,
has reached her first two Challenger quarterfinals in the past two weeks.
2019 photo courtesy of JFS Communications
   For the second consecutive week, Katie "Serve And" Volynets will face No. 1 seed Madison "Avenue" Brengle in a Challenger quarterfinal.
   Meanwhile, "Rudy" Giuliana Olmos and Sharon "Stone" Fichman beat the top two doubles players in the world, Mackenzie "Ronald" McDonald reached a Challenger singles semifinal, and Rajeev "Los Angeles" Ram advanced to a Masters 1000 doubles quarterfinal.
   Volynets, a 19-year-old wild card from Walnut Creek in the San Francisco Bay Area, dominated No. 6 seed Renata Zarazua of Mexico 6-1, 6-3 today in the second round of a $100,000 Challenger on green clay in Bonita Springs, Fla.
   In the French Open last fall, Zarazua became the first Mexican woman in 20 years to win a main-draw match in a Grand Slam tournament.
   Volynets, who surrendered only five games in the first round, will seek her first Challenger semifinal when she faces Brengle, 31, of Dover, Del., on Friday at about 3 p.m. PDT. All tournament matches are being streamed live.
   Brengle, who won Northern California Challengers in 2018 and 2019 and reached the final of another in 2013, dispatched qualifier Mirjam Bjorklund of Sweden 6-3, 6-1 after also dropping only four games in the opening round.
   Brengle defeated Volynets, playing in her maiden Challenger quarterfinal, 7-5, 7-6 (3) in last week's $100,000 Challenger in Charleston, S.C., on green clay in their first career meeting.
   The second-round match between No. 3 seed Maiar "Who Shot The" Sherif Ahmed Abdelaziz (Fresno State, 2015-16) of Egypt and Francesca Di Lorenzo, an American left-hander, was moved to Friday at 8 a.m. because of a storm.
   In the Australian Open in February, Sherif became the first Egyptian woman to win a main-draw match in a Grand Slam tournament.
   In today's doubles quarterfinals, unseeded Emina Bektas of the United States and Tara Moore of Great Britain saved four match points in their 6-4, 6-7 (5) [11-9] victory over wild cards Elizabeth Mandlik, the 19-year-old daughter of International Tennis Hall of Famer Hana Mandlikova, and Volynets. Mandlik and Volynets led 7-1 and 9-5 in the match tiebreaker.
   WTA Tour — In the second round of doubles in the Italian Open on red clay in Rome, Fichman of Canada and Olmos — who was born in Austria, grew up in Fremont in the Bay Area and plays for Mexico — ousted No. 1 seeds Hsieh Su-Wei of Chinese Taipei and Elise "Ethyl" Mertens of Belgium 1-6, 6-4 [10-4].
   Mertens and Hsieh are ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively. Hsieh won last year's title with Barbora Strycova, who announced her retirement last week.
   Fichman and Olmos are slated to play 17-year-old sensation Coco Gauff of Delray Beach, Fla., and Veronika Kudermetova of Russia on Friday. Both teams are unseeded.   
   ATP Challenger Tour — The eighth-seeded McDonald, a 26-year-old product of Piedmont in the Bay Area, cruised past lucky loser Joao Menezes of Brazil 6-3, 6-3 in the quarterfinals of a €88,520 ($107,527) Challenger on red clay in Heilbronn, Germany. 
   McDonald, now based in Orlando, Fla., is scheduled to take on fourth-seeded Daniel Elahi Galan of Colombia for the first time on Friday at about 3:30 a.m. The match will be streamed live.
   Galan, 24, subdued seventh-seeded Philipp Kohlschreiber, a 37-year-old German and former top-20 player, 2-6, 6-2, 7-6 (4) in 2 hours, 23 minutes after needing 3 hours to top alternate Alessandro Gianessi of Italy on Wednesday in the second round.
   In the doubles quarterfinals, unseeded Andre Goransson (University of California, Berkeley, 2014-17) of Sweden and "Yosemite" Sem Verbeek (University of the Pacific, 2013-16) of the Netherlands beat fourth-seeded Rafael Matos and Felipe Meligeni Rodriques Alves of Brazil 6-4, 7-6 (5).
   Third-seeded Nathaniel Lammons of Dallas and Jackson Withrow of Omaha, Neb., eliminated Denis Kudla of Arlington, Va., and McDonald 7-6 (4), 6-2.
   ATP Tour — In the second round of doubles in the Italian Open, Ram, a volunteer assistant coach at Cal, and Joe Salisbury "Steak" of Great Britain outclassed "Baltimore" Raven Klaasen of South Africa and Ben "And Jerry's" McLachlan (Cal, 2011-14) of Japan 6-3, 6-2.
   Ram and Salisbury are set to take on No. 4 seeds Marcel Granollers of Spain and Horacio Zeballos of Argentina in Friday's quarterfinals. 

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

McDonald reaches quarterfinals in Germany Challenger

No. 8 seed Mackenzie McDonald, a San Francisco Bay Area product, topped
alternate Kimmer Coppejans of Belgium in three sets today in the second
round of the Heilbronn Challenger. 2016 photo by Paul Bauman 
   No. 8 seed Mackenzie McDonald, a 26-year-old product of Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area, defeated alternate Kimmer Coppejans of Belgium 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 today in the second round of the €88,520 ($107,527) Challenger in Heilbronn, Germany, on red clay.
   McDonald, now based in Orlando, Fla., saved all three break points against him and broke Coppejans, the 2012 French Open boys singles champion, five of 10 times. 
   McDonald, ranked No. 120, is scheduled to play lucky loser Joao Menezes of Brazil for the first time in Thursday's quarterfinals. Menezes, ranked No. 196, ousted No. 2 seed Yannick Hanfmann of Germany 6-4, 6-3.
   In the first round of doubles, Andre Goransson (University of California, Berkeley, 2014-17) and Sem Verbeek (University of the Pacific, 2013-16), topped Daniel Masur of Germany and Denys Molchanov of Ukraine 7-6 (2), 7-6 (3). Goransson won last week's €44,820 ($54,189) Challenger in Biella, Italy, with Nathaniel Lammons of Dallas.
   McDonald and Denis Kudla of Arlington, Va., eliminated wild cards Tuna Altuna and Altug Celikbilek of Turkey 6-4, 6-4.
   ITF Women's TourKatie Volynets, a 19-year-old wild card from Walnut Creek in the Bay Area, dispatched lucky loser Catherine Harrison, a former UCLA All-American from Germantown, Tenn., 6-3, 6-2 in the opening round of the $100,000 Challenger in Bonita Springs, Fla., on green clay. 
   No. 3 seed Maiar Sherif Ahmed Abdelaziz (Fresno State, 2015-16) of Egypt outlasted qualifier Victoria Duval of Bradenton, Fla., 6-4, 1-6, 6-3. 
   No. 4 seed Kristie Ahn, a 28-year-old Stanford graduate from Englewood Cliffs, N.J., suffered her fifth consecutive first-round loss, falling to qualifier Irina Fetecau of Romania 6-3, 7-5.
   Ahn has won only two matches in her last 11 tournaments, dating to the U.S. Open last September. The first two losses in the skid came against Serena Williams.
   ATP Tour — In the first round of doubles in the Italian Open in Rome, No. 5 seeds Rajeev Ram, a volunteer assistant coach at Cal from Carmel, Ind., and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain edged Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen of Belgium 6-3, 2-6 [12-10] on red clay. Gille and Vliegen reached the final in Munich two weeks ago and the semifinals in Madrid last week. 
   Ram and Salisbury are set to meet Raven Klaasen of South Africa and Ben McLachlan (Cal, 2011-14) of Japan on Thursday. Klaasen and McLachlan topped Maximo Gonzalez of Argentina and Fabrice Martin of France 6-7 (7), 6-4 [10-6].
   WTA Tour — In the opening round of doubles in the Italian Open, No. 4 seeds Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara of Japan demolished wide cards Giulia Gatto-Monticone and Bianca Turati of Italy 6-1, 6-0 in 50 minutes. Shibahara was born in Mountain View in the Bay Area and starred at UCLA. 

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Keys stops Stephens in rematch of 2017 U.S. Open final

Madison Keys outlasted her close friend Sloane
Stephens in the first round of the Italian Open.
2017 photo by Mal Taam
   In a rematch of the 2017 U.S. Open final, Madison "Where The Hell Are My" Keys of Orlando, Fla,  outlasted lucky loser Sloane "Ranger" Stephens, a Fresno, Calif., product now based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 today in the first round of the Italian Open on red clay in Rome. 
   Keys improved to 2-4 against her close friend. One month after winning the last Bank of the West Classic at Stanford in 2017, a nervous Keys lost to Stephens 6-3, 6-0 in 61 minutes at Flushing Meadows. 
   In the opening round of doubles today, Sharon "Stone" Fichman of Canada and "Rudy" Giuliana Olmos — who was born in Austria, grew up in Fremont in the San Francisco Bay Area and plays for Mexico — beat Bethanie "Welcome" Mattek-Sands of Phoenix and Jessica "Count" Pegula of Boca Raton, Fla., 3-6, 6-2 [10-3].
   Fichman and Olmos are slated to face top-seeded Hsieh Su-Wei of Chinese Taipei and Elise "Ethyl" Mertens of Belgium on Thursday.
   In men's singles, top-ranked Novak "No" Djokovic beat Taylor "On The" Fritz, the top American man at No. 31 in the world, 6-3, 7-6 (5) in a match interrupted by rain.
   Fritz won back-to-back Northern California Challengers in Sacramento and Fairfield six years ago at 17.
   ATP Challenger Tour — No. 8 seed Mackenzie "Ronald" McDonald, a 26-year-old product of Piedmont in the Bay Area now based in Orlando, defeated qualifier Aleksandar Vukic of Australia 6-3, 4-3, retired in the first round of the €88,520 ($107,527) Heilbronn (Germany) Challenger on red clay. 
   ITF Women's Tour — In the opening round of doubles in the $100,000 Finemark Women's Pro Tennis Championship on green clay in Bonita Springs, Fla., 19-year-old wild cards Elizabeth Mandlik, the American daughter of International Tennis Hall of Famer Hana Mandlikova, and Katie "Serve And" Volynets, from Walnut Creek in the Bay Area, edged No. 4 seeds Beatrice Gumulya and Jessy Rompies of Indonesia 4-6, 6-4 [13-11].
   No. 3 seeds Eri Hozumi and Miyu Kato of Japan crushed Americans Kristie "Game" Ahn, a 28-year-old Stanford graduate, and Quinn "Jackie" Gleason 6-1, 6-0 in 57 minutes.

Monday, May 10, 2021

U.S. men hit new low in world rankings

Taylor Fritz, who won back-to-back Northern California Challengers six years ago
at 17, leads all U.S. men at No. 31 in the world. 2018 photo by Mal Taam 
   For the first time in the history of the computerized rankings, no American men are in the top 30.
   The top U.S. man, Taylor Fritz, slipped one notch to No. 31 today after losing in the first round in Madrid last week.
   Fritz, who won back-to-back Northern California Challengers in Sacramento and Fairfield six years ago at 17, is scheduled to play top-ranked Novak Djokovic in the second round of the Italian Open on Tuesday. Djokovic won his fifth Italian Open title last year.
   The computerized rankings began almost 50 years ago, in 1973.
   The good news for the United States is that it has 10 men in the top 100, tied for second with Italy behind Spain and France with 11 each. Sam Querrey, a 33-year-old San Francisco native, is ranked No. 66.
   Five of the top-100 Americans are 23 or younger and therefore likely headed higher. The youngest, 6-foot-5 (1.96-meter) Sebastian Korda, is No. 67.
Sebastian Korda, right, and his father, former world No. 2
Petr, chat at the 2017 Stockton (Calif.) Challenger. Andy
Roddick calls Sebastian the United States' "best prospect
in a long, long time." Photo by Paul Bauman
   "I'll say it in no uncertain terms," Andy Roddick, the last U.S. man to win a Grand Slam singles title (2003 U.S. Open), proclaimed recently in Inside Tennis. "(Korda) is our best prospect in a long, long time. I'm very bullish on Seb Korda." 
   Korda's father, Czech-born Petr, won the 1998 Australian Open to climb to a career-high No. 2. Petr Korda tested positive for doping later that year and was suspended for 12 months. He retired at age 30 shortly before the ban took effect.
   In doubles, only one American man is ranked in the top 30: Rajeev Ram, a 37-year-old volunteer assistant coach at the University of California, Berkeley, at No. 12.
   Three U.S. women are ranked in the top 20 in singles: No. 5 Sofia Kenin, No. 8 Serena Williams and No. 13 Jennifer Brady.
   The United States leads all nations with a whopping 17 women in the top 100. Next are the Czech Republic (10) and Russia (nine).
   The youngest Americans in the top 100 are No. 35 Coco Gauff (17), No. 39 Amanda Anisimova (19) and No. 76 Ann Li (20). 
   Four American women are ranked in the top 30 in doubles: No. 10 Nicole Melichar (who was born in the Czech Republic), No. 16 Bethanie Mattek-Sands, No. 19 Desirae Krawczyk and No. 27 Hayley Carter.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Stanford men lose to No. 5 Virginia in NCAAs

   The host Virginia men, ranked No. 5, defeated No. 21 Stanford 4-2 today in Charlottesville, Va., in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
   The Cardinal (11-6) earned the doubles point, but the Cavaliers (23-2) won on Court 5, 4 and 6 to lead 3-1. No. 78 Arthur Fery "Cross The Mersey," a Stanford freshman from Great Britain, triumphed on Court 2 to make it 3-2, but Virginia's Chris Rodesch clinched the victory with a 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (5) decision over freshman Tristan Boyer on Court 3.
   WTA Tour — No. 16 seed "See Ya" Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia beat No. 1 seed Sloane "Ranger" Stephens, who grew up in Fresno, Calif., 6-4, 7-5 in the final round of qualifying for the Italian Open in Rome. 
   Stephens, the 2018 French Open runner-up, has not advanced past the round of 16 in the Italian Open in eight appearances.

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Former Cal star captures Challenger doubles crown

Andre Goransson claimed his seventh career Challenger
doubles title. 2015 photo by Paul Bauman
   No. 1 seeds Andre Goransson (University of California, Berkeley, 2014-17) of Sweden and Nathaniel Lammons of Dallas defeated No. 2 seeds Rafael Matos and Felipe Meligeni Rodrigues Alves of Brazil 7-6 (3), 6-3 today to win the €44,820 ($54,189) Biella (Italy) Challenger on red clay.
   Goransson earned his second Challenger doubles title of the year, seventh of his career and first with Lammons. They eked out a 6-4, 3-6 [10-8] victory over N.Sriram Balaji and Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan of India in the quarterfinals and ended the 10-match winning streak of No. 4 seeds Sadio Doumbia and Fabien Reboul of France in the semifinals. 
   Goransson will rise two notches to No. 84 in the world in doubles, four off his career high, on Monday. He and Lammons split €2,670 ($3,248). 
   NCAA Tournament — The host Pepperdine women, ranked fifth, beat No. 27 Stanford, which has won the last two NCAA titles and three of the last four, 4-2 in the second round in Malibu, Calif.
   With the score tied 2-2, No. 111 Angelica Blake and No. 34 Michaela Gordon, a senior from Saratoga, Calif., in the San Francisco Bay Area, lost three-setters. Gordon fell to Ashley Lahey, the NCAA singles runner-up in 2018, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4.
   The Cardinal ended the season at 15-5. The NCAA singles and doubles championships begin May 23 in Orlando, Fla. Gordon and California's Haley Giavara earned berths in singles and doubles. Gordon will team with junior Niluka Madurawe of Sunnyvale in the Bay Area, and Giavara will pair with Valentina Ivanov.
   The No. 13 Cal women eliminated No. 26 Kentucky 4-2 in Berkeley, Calif., in the second round. Jada Bui clinched the victory with a 2-6, 6-1, 7-5 victory over Elizabeth Stevens on Court 4.
   The Bears (19-6) will face No. 1 North Carolina (28-0) on May 16 in the round of 16 in Orlando, Fla. 
   The No. 21 Stanford men blanked No. 40 LSU 4-0 in the first round in Charlottesville, Va. The Cardinal (11-5) will meet host Virginia (22-2), ranked fifth, in Charlottesville on Sunday at 9 a.m.

Friday, May 7, 2021

Top seed vanquishes Volynets, 19, in $100K Charleston

Madison Brengle has reached three singles finals in Northern 
California, winning two. 2019 photo by Paul Bauman
   No. 1 seed Madison "Avenue" Brengle of Dover, Del., defeated Katie "Serve And" Volynets, a 19-year-old wild card from Walnut Creek in the San Francisco Bay Area, 7-5, 7-6 (3) today in the quarterfinals of the $100,000 LTP 100 on green clay in Charleston, S.C.
   Volynets, who played in her first Challenger quarterfinal, will rise 17 places in the world rankings on Monday to crack the top 300 for the first time at No. 299.
   The 31-year-old Brengle, who won Northern California Challengers in 2018 and 2019 and reached the final of another in 2013, will improve at least four spots to No. 82. 
   ATP Challenger Tour — In the doubles semifinals of the €44,820 ($54,189) Biella (Italy) Challenger on red clay, top-seeded Andre Goransson (University of California, Berkeley, 2014-17) of Sweden and Nathaniel Lammons of Dallas beat fourth-seeded Sadio Doumbia and Fabien Reboul of France 7-6 (8), 6-3.
   Doumbia and Reboul had won 10 consecutive matches, including Rome Challenger titles in the last two weeks.
   Goransson and Lammons are scheduled to play second-seeded Rafael Matos and Felipe Meligeni Rodrigues Alves of Brazil on Saturday. Goransson seeks his second Challenger doubles title of the year and seventh of his career.
   NCAA Tournament — The No. 27 Stanford women, who have won the last two NCAA titles and three of the last four, blanked No. 48 UC Santa Barbara 4-0 in Malibu, Calif., in the first round.
   The Cardinal (15-4) will face host Pepperdine (21-3), ranked No. 5, on Saturday at 1 p.m. PDT for the right to advance to the round of 16 at the USTA National Campus in Orlando, Fla.
   The No. 13 California women whipped San Jose State 4-0 at the Hellman Tennis Complex in Berkeley in the opening round. The Bears (18-6) will host No. 26 Kentucky (16-8) on Saturday at 1 p.m. 
   The No. 21 Stanford men (10-5) open against No. 40 LSU (12-12) on Saturday at 7 a.m. in Charlottesville, Va. The Cal men, who played only three matches in the spring season, did not qualify for the NCAA Tournament.
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