Monday, June 28, 2021

Stephens, Tiafoe stage big upsets as Wimbledon begins

Sloane Stephens, a Fresno, Calif., product, ousted two-time Wimbledon champion
Petra Kvitova today. 2018 photo by Mal Taam
   Two players with Northern California ties, one woman and one man, scored major upsets on the first day of Wimbledon.
   In a matchup of Grand Slam singles champions, Fresno, Calif., product Sloane Stephens ousted No. 10 seed Petra Kvitova 6-3, 6-4 today. Also, Frances Tiafoe, who won the 2016 Stockton, Calif., Challenger at 18, dispatched No. 3 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, the French Open runner-up two weeks ago, 6-4, 6-4, 6-3.
   Stephens, the 2017 U.S. Open champion now based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., had not played on grass in two years. She withdrew from Bad Homburg, Germany, last week because of a foot injury.
   Since Kvitova won her second Wimbledon title in 2014, the Czech has not advanced past the fourth round at the All England Club in five attempts.
   Stephens, a Wimbledon quarterfinalist in 2013, has tumbled from a career-high No. 3 in 2018 to No. 73. She is set to play lucky loser Kristie Ahn, a 29-year-old Stanford graduate from Englewood Cliffs, N.J., on Wednesday.
   Ahn, who has dropped from a career-high No. 87 in 2019 to No. 117, rallied from a break down twice in the third set and saved a match point in a 2-6, 7-6 (3), 8-6 victory over Heather Watson of Great Britain.
   Ahn, who advanced to the fourth round of the 2019 U.S. Open, prevailed in 3 hours, 3 minutes for her first Wimbledon main-draw victory. She and Stephens will meet for the first time at the tour level and the first time overall since 2009. Ahn has not lost a set in two minor-league matches against Stephens.
   Watson won the Wimbledon mixed doubles title in 2016 with Henri Kontinen of Finland and the doubles crown of the 2012 Bank of the West Classic at Stanford with Marina Erakovic of New Zealand.
   Tiafoe, ranked No. 57, earned his first victory over a top-five player in 12 attempts. Tsitsipas had not played on grass since losing to Thomas Fabbiano of Italy in the first round at Wimbledon two years ago.
   Two qualifiers who grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area fell in the opening round.
   Mackenzie McDonald, who reached the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2018, lost to No. 25 seed Karen Khachanov of Russia 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (3). 
   Katie Volynets, making her Wimbledon main-draw at 19, bowed out against Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania 6-4, 7-5.

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