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.


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