Tuesday, August 31, 2021

McDonald ousts seed for first U.S. Open victory

Mackenzie McDonald returns serve in the
first round of the 2016 U.S. Open. Photo
by Paul Bauman
   Mackenzie McDonald caught David Goffin at a good time to earn his first U.S. Open main-draw victory.
   McDonald, a 26-year-old product of Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area, beat the 27th-seeded Goffin, a 30-year-old Belgian, 6-2, 7-5, 6-3 today in a first-round matchup of undersized players at Flushing Meadows.
   McDonald, 5-foot-10 (1.78 meters) and 160 pounds (73 kilograms), reached the round of 16 in the Australian Open in February and at Wimbledon in 2018 but had been 0-3 in the main draw of the U.S. Open.
   Goffin, 5-foot-11 (1.80 meters) and 154 pounds (70 kilograms), had advanced to the round of 16 in the U.S. Open for four consecutive years. It's the only Grand Slam tournament in which he hasn't reached the quarterfinals.
   Goffin has dropped from a career-high No. 7 in 2017 to No. 30. He played his second tournament since missing two months with a left-ankle injury and fell to 0-5 since mid-May.
   McDonald, ranked No. 61, is scheduled to face his idol, 2014 U.S. Open runner-up Kei Nishikori, for the second time in five weeks on Thursday. Nishikori, who's the same height as McDonald and one pound (.45 of a kilogram) heavier, eliminated Salvatore Caruso of Italy 6-1, 6-1, 5-7, 6-3. 
   McDonald, now based in Orlando, Fla., outlasted Nishikori 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 four weeks ago in Washington, D.C., to reach his first ATP final, in which he lost to rising star Jannik Sinner, then 19, of Italy.
   The winner of the McDonald-Nishikori encounter likely will play top-ranked Novak Djokovic, seeking to become the first man to complete a calendar-year Grand Slam since Rod Laver in 1969, in the third round.
   Djokovic defeated budding star Holger Rune, an 18-year-old qualifier from Denmark, 6-1, 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-1. Rune began cramping in his legs in the third set.
   Another Bay Area native, Sam Querrey, lost to No. 4 seed Alexander Zverev of Germany 6-4, 7-5, 6-2 in a clash of 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) veterans. Zverev clubbed 18 aces and Querrey 17.
   Zverev, who lost to Dominic Thiem in last year's U.S. Open final after leading two sets to none, extended his winning streak to 12 matches. He won the gold medal in men's singles in the Tokyo Olympics, ending Djokovic's bid for a Golden Slam in the semifinals.
   Querrey, a 2017 quarterfinalist at Flushing Meadows, fell to 0-5 since advancing to the second round at Wimbledon. At age 33, he has plummeted from a career-high No. 11 in 2018 to No. 77.
   Jenson Brooksby, a 20-year-old wild card from Carmichael, Calif., in the Sacramento area, topped 72nd-ranked Mikael Ymer of Sweden 7-5, 6-2, 5-7, 6-3. Brooksby, who shocked 2010 Wimbledon runner-up Tomas Berdych in the opening round of the 2019 U.S. Open as an 18-year-old qualifier, led 5-3 in the third set.
   Brooksby is slated to play Southern Californian Taylor Fritz for the first time. Fritz, who won Northern California Challengers in Sacramento and Fairfield in consecutive weeks in 2015 at 17, took out No. 14 seed Alex de Minaur of Australia 7-6 (4), 6-2, 1-6, 6-4. 
   In the first round of women's singles, Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia dominated Katie Volynets, a 19-year-old wild card from Walnut Creek in the Bay Area, 6-3, 6-1. 
   Tomljanovic (pronounced Tom-yon-o-vich), a 28-year-old Croatia native, reached her first Grand Slam quarterfinal at Wimbledon in July and the final of the last (2017) Sacramento Challenger.

Monday, August 30, 2021

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

Sloane Stephens, who grew up in Fresno, Calif., improved to 3-0 this year and 5-2
 overall against Madison Keys. 2018 photo by Mal Taam
   In a rematch of the 2017 U.S. Open final, Sloane Stephens edged close friend and fellow unseeded American Madison Keys 6-3, 1-6, 7-6 (7) today in the first round at Flushing Meadows.
   Stephens, a 28-year-old product of Fresno, Calif., now based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., served for the match at 6-5 in the third set and needed three match points in the tiebreaker to prevail.
   Stephens improved to 3-0 this year and 5-2 overall against Keys, including a 6-3, 6-0 victory in the 2017 U.S. Open for her only Grand Slam title. Stephens also reached the French Open final in 2018.
   Keys fell to 0-4, including a loss in San Jose, since reaching the round of 16 at Wimbledon in July. She won the last Bank of the West Classic at Stanford in 2017.
   Stephens has plunged from a career-high No. 3 in July 2018 to No. 66. Keys, 26, of Orlando, Fla., has tumbled from a career-high No. 7 in 2016 to No. 42.
   Stephens is scheduled to face No. 21 seed Coco Gauff, 17, of Delray Beach, Fla., for the first time on Wednesday. Gauff held off Poland's Magda Linette, a San Jose quarterfinalist four weeks ago, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 after leading 4-0 in the third set.
   Earlier today, Ukraine's Anhelina Kalinina, who won the 2015 Sacramento (Calif.) Challenger, defeated lucky loser Mayar Sherif (Fresno State, 2015-16), an Egyptian making her U.S. Open main-draw debut, 4-6, 6-1, 6-1.
   In the men's draw, No. 3 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, 23, of Greece outlasted 34-year-old Andy Murray, rebounding from two operations on his right hip, 2-6 7-6 (7), 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in 4 hours, 49 minutes. Tsitsipas saved two set points in the second set.
   Tsitsipas has never advanced past the third round of the U.S. Open in three previous appearances. He reached his first major final in the French Open in June, falling to Novak Djokovic after leading two sets to none. 
   Murray won the first of his three Grand Slam singles titles in the 2012 U.S. Open. He earned the first of his 46 tour-level singles crowns in San Jose at 18 in 2006 and repeated the following year.
   No. 15 seed Grigor Dimitrov, a 2019 U.S. Open semifinalist from Bulgaria, eliminated wild card Sam Riffice, a 22-year-old Sacramento native who won the NCAA singles title in May as a Florida junior, 6-1, 7-6 (3), 6-3.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Dangerous dozen: Men, women to watch in U.S. Open

   Here are six men and six women to watch in the U.S. Open, Monday through Sept. 12 in Flushing Meadows, N.Y. (seedings in parentheses). Television coverage begins at 9 a.m. PDT on ESPN.
MEN
Novak Djokovic has plenty of motivation in the
U.S. Open. 2019 photo by Harjanto Sumali
   Novak Djokovic (1), 34, Serbia — Can become first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to achieve calendar-year Grand Slam and can break record of 20 major singles titles he shares with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. ... Hasn't played on tour since losing the bronze-medal match in Tokyo Olympics to Pablo Carreno Busta "Move." ... Northern California connection: None.
   Daniil Medvedev (2), 25, Russia — Runner-up in 2019 U.S. Open and 2021 Australian Open. ... Won Toronto title two weeks ago. ... NorCal connection: Nada.
   Alexander Zverev (3), 24, Germany — Ended Djokovic's bid for Golden Slam in Olympic semifinals en route to gold medal. ... Owns 11-match winning streak after capturing Cincinnati crown. ... Lost to Dominic "Home" Thiem in last year's U.S. Open final after leading two sets to none. ... NorCal connection: Zilch.  
   Stefanos Tsitsipas (4), 23, GreeceFell to Djokovic in French Open final in June after leading two sets to none. ... Has never advanced past third round of U.S. Open in three appearances. ... NorCal connection: Zippo.
   Andrey Rublev (5), 23, Russia — Two-time U.S. Open quarterfinalist. ... Has never reached a Grand Slam semifinal. ... Upset Medvedev in Cincinnati semifinals before losing to Zverev 6-2, 6-3. ... Won gold medal in mixed doubles with Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in Tokyo. ... NorCal connection: None. 
   Matteo Berrettini (6), 25, Italy — Reached first Grand Slam final at Wimbledon in July, losing to Djokovic in four sets. ... Semifinalist in 2019 U.S. Open. ... NorCal connection: Zero.
WOMEN
Ashleigh Barty has had little success at Flushing Meadows —
except in doubles. 2019 photo by Harjanto Sumali
   Ashleigh "Judd" Barty (1), 25, Australia Won second Grand Slam singles crown at Wimbledon in July. ... Suffered inevitable letdown in Olympics, losing to Sara Sorribes "Mel" Tormo of Spain in straight sets in first round, but won Cincinnati without dropping set. ... Has never advanced past U.S. Open round of 16 in five appearances. ... Three-time doubles finalist at Flushing Meadows, winning 2018 title with CoCo Vandeweghe. ... NorCal connection: None.
   Aryna Sabalenka (2), 23, Belarus — Reached first Grand Slam semifinal at Wimbledon in July. ... Advanced to round of 16 in 2018 U.S. Open, her best result in three appearances. ... Won doubles title at Flushing Meadows in 2019 with Elise Mertens. ... NorCal connection: Reached San Jose final last year, losing to Zheng Saisai. Was coached by Dmitry Tursunov, former top-20 player from Moscow who trained in NorCal as junior and professional.
   Naomi Osaka (3), 23, Japan — Seeks fifth Grand Slam singles title and third at Flushing Meadows. ... Withdrew from second-round match at French Open in June, amid controversy after announcing she would skip mandatory post-match news conferences, and skipped Wimbledon for mental-health reasons. ... NorCal connection: Made WTA main-draw debut in 2014 Bank of the West Classic at Stanford at 16, stunning 2011 U.S. Open champion Samantha Stosur in first round.
   Karolina Pliskova (4), 29, Czech RepublicRunner-up at U.S. Open five years ago, Wimbledon in July and Montreal two weeks ago. ... Former world No. 1. ... NorCal connection: Runner-up — surprise! — in 2015 Bank of the West Classic, losing to Angelique Kerber.
   Elina Svitolina (5), 26, Ukraine — Semifinalist in 2019 U.S. Open and bronze medalist in women's singles in Tokyo Olympics. ... Hasn't advanced past round of 16 in major this year. ... Won Chicago title on Saturday. ... NorCal connection: Stanford semifinalist in 2015 and San Jose quarterfinalist in 2019.
   Bianca "Jagger" Andreescu (6), 21, Canada Stunned Serena Williams to win 2019 U.S. Open at 19. Otherwise, has never advanced past second round in major. ... Has gone 2-6 since reaching Strasbourg quarterfinals in late May. ... NorCal connection: Zilch.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Bay Area native wins fifth WTA doubles title of year

   Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara will go into the U.S. Open with confidence.
   The top-seeded pair, from Japan, beat unseeded Sania Mirza of India and Shelby Rogers of Charleston, S.C., 7-5, 6-3 today in the final of the inaugural Tennis in The Land, a WTA 250 tournament in Cleveland.
   The 5-foot-1 (1.54-meter) Aoyama, 33, and the 5-foot-7 (1.70-meter) Shibahara, a 23-year-old native of Mountain View in the San Francisco Bay Area, survived match tiebreakers of 10-8 in the quarterfinals and 10-7 in the semifinals en route to their fifth title of the year. They will remain tied at a career-high No. 9 in the world in doubles.
   The 34-year-old Mirza, formerly ranked No. 1 in doubles, took 2018 and 2019 off to have her first child.
   The first round of singles in the U.S. Open is scheduled for Monday and Tuesday. Doubles matches are set to begin Wednesday.
   Aoyama and Shibahara reached the quarterfinals of the Australian Open in February and the semifinals at Wimbledon in July, but neither has had much success in the U.S. Open. Playing together at Flushing Meadows for the first time last year, they lost in the second round.
   Aoyama has never advanced past the third round of the U.S. Open in nine appearances with nine different partners. Shibahara has never gone past the second round at Flushing Meadows in three appearances with three different teammates.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Ex-Fresno St. star falls in last round of U.S. Open qualies

Emma Raducanu, playing in San Jose, Calif., early this month, beat Mayar Sherif
in the last round of U.S. Open qualifying. 2021 photo by Mal Taam
   No. 31 seed Emma Raducanu, an 18-year-old British sensation, defeated No. 4 seed Mayar "Who Shot The" Sherif (Fresno State, 2015-16) of Egypt 6-1, 6-4 today in the final round of U.S. Open qualifying in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.
   In July, Raducanu became the youngest British woman to reach the round of 16 at Wimbledon in the Open Era, which began in 1968. She lost in the first round of this month's Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose, Calif., as a wild card and reached the final of last week's $125,000 tournament in Chicago.
   Sherif had advanced to the final of her last two tournaments, both on clay. She became the first Egyptian to play in a WTA singles final in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, in early August, losing to No. 2 seed and former world No. 9 Andrea Petkovic of Germany.
   Sherif had never played in the U.S. Open before this week.
   WTA Tour — In a late doubles semifinal in Cleveland, No. 1 seeds Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara of Japan topped No. 4 seeds Bethanie Mattek-Sands of Phoenix and Shelby Rogers of Charleston, S.C., 7-6 (4), 1-6 [10-7].
   Aoyama and Shibahara, a 23-year-old native of Mountain View in the San Francisco Bay Area, are scheduled to play unseeded Christina McHale of Englewood Cliffs, N.J., and Sania Mirza of India on Saturday. 
   The 34-year-old Mirza, formerly ranked No. 1 in doubles, took 2018 and 2019 off to have her first child.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Stephens, Keys to meet in rematch of '17 U.S. Open final

Sloane Stephens, who grew up in Fresno, Calif., is 2-0 against Madison Keys
this year and 4-2 overall in the head-to-head series. 2021 photo by Mal Taam 
   Four years ago, Sloane Stephens routed a nervous Madison Keys 6-3, 6-0 in the U.S. Open for her only Grand Slam title. It was the first major final for both players.
   The Americans are scheduled to meet in the opening round of this year's tournament, which begins Monday in Flushing Meadows, N.Y. Formerly ranked in the top 10, they are unseeded this time.
   The winner will play either No. 21 seed Coco Gauff, 17, of Delray Beach, Fla., or Poland's Magda Linette, a quarterfinalist in this month's Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose, Calif.
   Stephens, a 28-year-old product of Fresno, Calif., now based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., has plunged from a career-high No. 3 in July 2018 to No. 64. Keys, 26, of Orlando, Fla., has tumbled from a career-high No. 7 in 2016 to No. 41. 
   Stephens, who leads the head-to-head series 4-2, will face Keys for the third time this year. Stephens won on clay in the second round in Charleston in April and the first round in Rome in May. 
   Katie Volynets, a 19-year-old wild card from Walnut Creek in the San Francisco Bay Area, drew Ajla Tomljanovic, a Croatia-born Australian who reached her first Grand Slam quarterfinal at Wimbledon in July and the final of the last (2017) Sacramento (Calif.) Challenger
   In the U.S. Open men's draw, San Francisco Bay Area natives Sam Querrey and Mackenzie McDonald and Sacramento native Sam Riffice are slated to face seeds.
   Querrey, a 2017 quarterfinalist at Flushing Meadows, drew No. 4 seed Alexander Zverev of Germany in a matchup of 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) veterans.
   Querrey is 0-4 since advancing to the second round at Wimbledon. He has plummeted from a career-high No. 11 in 2018 to No. 77.
   Zverev reached the final of last year's U.S. Open, losing to Dominic Thiem after leading two sets to none, and won the gold medal in men's singles in the Tokyo Olympics last month, ending Novak Djokovic's bid for a Golden Slam in the semifinals. 
   McDonald is scheduled to take on No. 27 seed David Goffin of Belgium in a clash of undersized players.
   McDonald reached the round of 16 in the Australian Open in February and at Wimbledon in 2018 but is 0-3 in the main draw of the U.S. Open.
   Goffin has advanced to the round of 16 in the U.S. Open for four consecutive years. It's the only Grand Slam tournament in which he hasn't reached the quarterfinals.
   Riffice, who received an automatic wild card after winning the NCAA singles title as a Florida junior in May, is set to play No. 15 seed Grigor Dimitrov, a 2019 U.S. Open semifinalist from Bulgaria.
   Jenson Brooksby, a 20-year-old wild card from Carmichael, Calif., in the Sacramento area, drew Mikael Ymer of Sweden. As an 18-year-old qualifier, Brooksby shocked 2010 Wimbledon runner-up Tomas Berdych in the first round of the 2019 U.S. Open.
   U.S. Open qualifying — No. 4 seed Mayar "Who Shot The" Sherif (Fresno State, 2015-16) of Egypt defeated Yuliya Hatouka of Belarus 6-4, 6-4 in the second round. 
   Sherif, 25, is scheduled to play No. 31 seed Emma Raducanu, 18, of Great Britain on Friday for a main-draw berth.
   Raducanu, who recently became the youngest British woman to reach the round of 16 at Wimbledon in the Open Era (since 1968), beat Mariam Bolkvadze of Georgia 6-3, 7-5. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Serena out of U.S. Open; Cal coach Wright retires

Serena Williams, who will turn 40 next month, hasn't played
on the tour since retiring from her first-round match at Wim-
bledon. 2018 photo by Mal Taam 
   Serena Williams withdrew from the U.S. Open today, citing a torn hamstring.
   Williams, who will turn 40 on Sept. 26, hasn't played on the tour since retiring in the first set of her opening-round match at Wimbledon in late June because of a right hamstring injury.
   Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, reigning champion Dominic Thiem and Venus Williams also have pulled out of the U.S. Open, Monday through Sept. 12, with injuries.
   Williams won the last of her six U.S. Open singles titles and the last of her three Bank of the West Classic singles crowns at Stanford in 2014. She has been stuck on 23 Grand Slam singles titles, one short of Margaret Court's record, since giving birth on Sept. 1, 2017. Williams has reached four major finals since then, two in 2018 and two in 2019, losing in straight sets as the favorite each time. 
   U.S. Open qualifying — In her tournament debut, No. 4 seed Mayar "Who Shot The" Sherif (Fresno State, 2015-16) of Egypt defeated Clervie Ngounoue, a 15-year-old wild card from Washington, D.C., 6-4, 6-3 in the first round.
   WTA Tour — In a late doubles quarterfinal in Cleveland, top-seeded Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara (a San Francisco Bay Area native) of Japan edged Anna Danilina of Kazakhstan and Lidziya Marozava of Belarus 6-2, 3-6 [10-8].
   College — Peter Wright announced his retirement as director of men's tennis at the University of California, Berkeley after 29 years as the head coach.
   Wright, a 57-year-old Berkeley native, amassed a 383-256 record at Cal. He guided the Bears to the NCAA Championships 25 times, including a semifinal berth in 2016, and four appearances in the top 10. 
   Under Wright, 16 Cal players combined to earn 20 ITA All-America selections. Former Bears Ben McLachlan (2011-14), a New Zealand product who represents his mother's native Japan, and Andre Goransson (2014-17) of Sweden are ranked No. 29 and No. 65, respectively, in doubles in the world. 
   Amanda Augustus, now in her 14th season as the Cal women's head coach, will serve as the interim men's coach while the school conducts a national search. 

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Stanford grad Ahn loses in U.S. Open qualifying

Kristie Ahn was born two miles from the site of the
U.S. Open and lives in the New York area. 2019
photo by Paul Bauman
   Yuki Naito, 20, of Japan defeated No. 25 seed Kristie Ahn, a 29-year-old Stanford graduate, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 today in first-round qualifying for the U.S. Open at the USTA Billie Jean King Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.
   Ahn, who reached the round of 16 in the 2019 U.S. Open, had no aces and eight double faults. She fell to 1-4, all in qualifying matches, since advancing to the second round at Wimbledon as a qualifier. 
   Ahn was born at Flushing Hospital Medical Center, two miles from the tournament site, and lives in nearby Englewood Cliffs, N.J. Ranked a career-high No. 87 in 2019, she has tumbled to No. 140.
   Naito, ranked No. 222, triumphed for the first time in seven matches since winning a $25,000 clay-court tournament in Buenos Aires in March.
   No. 4 seed Mayar "Who Shot The" Sherif (Fresno State, 2015-16) of Egypt is set to make her U.S. Open debut on Wednesday against Clervie Ngounoue, a 15-year-old wild card from Washington, D.C.
   Sherif, ranked No. 95, has reached the final of her last two tournaments, both on clay. She lost to No. 2 seed and former world No. 9 Andrea Petkovic of Germany in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, becoming the first Egyptian to play in a WTA singles final, and to No. 1 seed Arantxa "Sanchez-Vicario" Rus of the Netherlands in a $60,000 ITF tournament in Gran Canaria, Spain.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Stanford grad Ahn to play Japan's Naito in Open qualies

Kristie Ahn reached the round of 16 in the 2019 U.S. Open. She was
born two miles from the tournament site. 2019 photo by Paul Bauman
   No. 25 seed Kristie Ahn, a 29-year-old Stanford graduate, is scheduled to play Yuki Naito, 20, of Japan for the first time on Tuesday in first-round qualifying for the U.S. Open at the USTA Billie Jean King Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.
   Ahn was born at Flushing Hospital Medical Center, two miles from the tournament site, and lives in nearby Englewood Cliffs, N.J. She reached the round of 16 in the 2019 U.S. Open to pocket $280,000, almost one-quarter of her career prize money of $1,216,894. 
   Ahn has struggled since then, tumbling from a career-high No. 87 in September 2019 to No. 140. However, she qualified for Wimbledon in June and advanced to the second round to collect $101,745. Naito, ranked No. 222, is 0-6, all on clay, since winning a $25,000 clay-court tournament in Buenos Aires in March.
   Also in first-round qualifying, No. 4 seed Mayar "Who Shot The" Sherif (Fresno State, 2015-16) of Egypt is set to make her U.S. Open debut on Wednesday against Clervie Ngounoue, a 15-year-old wild card from Washington, D.C.
   Sherif, ranked No. 95, has reached the final of her last two tournaments, both on clay. She lost to No. 2 seed and former world No. 9 Andrea Petkovic of Germany in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, becoming the first Egyptian to play in a WTA singles final, and to No. 1 seed Arantxa "Sanchez-Vicario" Rus of the Netherlands in a $60,000 ITF tournament in Gran Canaria, Spain.
   WTA Tour — In the first round of doubles in Cleveland, No. 1 seeds Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara of Japan defeated Anastasia Rodionova, 39, of Australia and Galina Voskoboeva of Kazakhstan 6-4, 6-3.
   Aoyama and Shibahara, a native of Mountain View in the San Francisco Bay Area, advanced to the Wimbledon semifinals last month after winning the Eastbourne title on grass.
   Rodionova and Voskoboeva hail from Russia.
   ATP Tour — In the opening round of doubles in Winston-Salem, N.C., Marcus Daniell of New Zealand and Marcelo Demoliner of Brazil took out No. 3 seeds "Baltimore" Raven Klaasen of South Africa and Ben McLachlan (University of California, Berkeley, 2011-14) of Japan 6-3, 4-6 [10-4].
   Klaasen and McLachlan fell to 0-3 since winning the Washington, D.C., title three weeks ago.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Cal coach Ram, Salisbury lose in Cincy doubles quarters

   Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury's winning streak ended at five matches today.
   Alternates Marcelo Arevalo of El Salvador and Fabio Fognini of Italy surprised No. 4 seeds Ram, a volunteer assistant coach at the University of California, Berkeley from Carmel, Ind., and Salisbury of Great Britain 6-4, 7-6 (5) in the quarterfinals of the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.
   Ram, 37, and Salisbury, 29, claimed their first ATP Masters 1000 title together last week in Toronto. They won last year's Australian Open and reached this year's final, losing to Ivan Dodig of Croatia and Filip Polasek of Slovakia.
   Arevalo won Northern California doubles titles in San Francisco in 2018 with Roberto Maytin of Venezuela and in Aptos in 2019 with Miguel Angel Reyes-Varela of Mexico.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Ram, Salisbury win epic tiebreaker, reach Cincy quarters

Rajeev Ram, above, and Joe Salisbury have won
13 of their last 16 matches. 2016 photo by
Paul Bauman
   No. 4 seeds Rajeev "Los Angeles" Ram, a volunteer assistant coach at the University of California, Berkeley from Carmel, Ind., and Joe Salisbury "Steak" of Great Britain beat unseeded Nick Monroe "Doctrine" of Austin, Texas, and Frances "What Time Do We" Tiafoe of Boynton Beach, Fla., 7-6 (15), 6-2 today to reach the quarterfinals of the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.
   Ram, 37, and Salisbury, 29, won their first ATP Masters 1000 title together last week in Toronto. They have won 13 of their last 16 matches.
   Ram and Salisbury, the Australian Open champions in 2020 and runners-up this year, are set to face alternates Marcelo Arevalo of El Salvador and Fabio Fognini of Italy on Friday.
   WTA Tour — In the Western & Southern doubles quarterfinals, No. 6 seeds Gabriela "The Big" Dabrowski of Canada and Luisa "Gwen" Stefani of Brazil eliminated No. 3 seeds Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara of Japan 6-3, 6-3.
   Dabrowski and Stefani have won 11 of their last 12 matches. The loss came in the San Jose final two weeks ago after Stefani won the bronze medal in women's doubles in the Tokyo Olympics with Laura Pigossi.
   Shibahara, 23, was born in Mountain View in the San Francisco Bay Area and starred at UCLA. She lives in Rancho Palos Verdes in the Los Angeles region.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Medvedev continues mastery of McDonald

Mackenzie McDonald has lost all 11 sets in his five matches against
Daniil Medvedev. 2018 photo by Paul Bauman
   Top seed and 2019 champion Daniil Medvedev of Russia dismissed wild card Mackenzie McDonald, who was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, 6-2, 6-2 today in the second round of the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.
   The 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) Medvedev, who claimed his fourth ATP Masters 1000 title in Toronto last week, won 26 of 27 points on his first serve. He has swept all 11 sets in his five matches against the 5-foot-10 (1.78-meter) McDonald, including a 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 decision in the fourth round of the Australian Open in February.
   The second-ranked Medvedev has won 16 of his last 18 matches, beginning with his first grass-court title in Mallorca in June.
   McDonald, 26, reached his first ATP final two weeks ago in Washington, D.C., losing to Italian sensation Jannik Sinner, who turned 20 on Monday.
   At 18 in 2013 in Cincinnati, McDonald became the first unranked teenager to qualify for an ATP Masters 1000 tournament, the men's highest level besides the Grand Slams.
   U.S. Open Northern California products Jenson Brooksby, 20, Sam Riffice, 22, and Katie Volynets, 19, received wild cards for the Aug. 30-Sept. 12 tournament.
   Brooksby stunned former world No. 4 Tomas Berdych in the first round of the 2019 U.S. Open as a qualifier. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Garcia beats Stephens in first round of W&S Open again

 
Caroline Garcia of France outlasted Sloane Stephens in a rain-delayed match
that ended at 2:10 a.m. Wednesday EDT. 2015 photo by Paul Bauman
   In a battle of former top-five players, Caroline Garcia defeated Sloane Stephens in the first round of the Western & Southern Open for the second consecutive year.
   Garcia, a French qualifier, outlasted Stephens, a wild card who grew up in Fresno, Calif., 7-6 (7), 4-6, 6-4 in Cincinnati in a rain-delayed match that ended at 2:10 a.m. Wednesday EDT.
   Garcia eliminated Stephens 6-3, 7-6 (4) in last year's Western & Southern Open, which was moved to the site of the U.S. Open in New York because of COVID.
   In the first round of doubles today, No. 3 seeds Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara of Japan dispatched Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia and Jil Teichmann of Switzerland 6-3, 6-3.
   Shibahara, 23, was born in Mountain View in the San Francisco Bay Area and starred at UCLA.

Monday, August 16, 2021

McDonald knocks out Nakashima in Cincinnati

Mackenzie McDonald evened his record against fellow California
native Brandon Nakashima at 1-1. 2016 photo by Paul Bauman
   In a first-round matchup of wild cards and California natives, Mackenzie McDonald defeated Brandon Nakashima 7-5, 6-2 today in the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.
   McDonald, only 5-foot-10 (1.78 meters) and 160 pounds (73 kilograms), won 84 percent of the points on his first serve (27 of 32) and saved all six break points against him.
   In the players' only previous meeting, Nakashima won 6-3, 7-6 (8) in the Orlando quarterfinals last November en route to the first of his two Challenger singles titles.
   McDonald, 26, was born in Berkeley, Calif., and grew up in nearby Piedmont. He's now based in Orlando, Fla. Nakashima, who turned 20 on Aug. 3, is a lifelong San Diegan.
   McDonald reached his first ATP final two weeks ago in Washington, D.C., losing to Italian sensation Jannik Sinner, who turned 20 today.
   At 18 in 2013 in Cincinnati, McDonald became the first unranked teenager to qualify for an ATP Masters 1000 tournament, the men's highest level besides the Grand Slams.
   McDonald, ranked No. 63, is scheduled to face top-seeded Daniil Medvedev of Russia on Wednesday. Medvedev, ranked second, won last week's National Bank Open in Toronto.
   Medvedev, 6-foot-6 (1.98 meters), has won all nine sets in his four matches against McDonald. In their last encounter, Medvedev won 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 in the fourth round of the Australian Open in February.
   Earlier today, Ariel Behar of Uruguay and Gonzalo Escobar of Ecuador edged No. 8 seeds "Baltimore" Raven Klaasen of South Africa and Ben "And Jerry's" McLachlan (University of California, Berkeley, 2011-14) 4-6, 6-3 [10-8] of Japan in the opening round.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Cal coach, Salisbury finally beat Croats for Toronto title

Rajeev Ram, above, and Joe Salisbury beat Nikola
Mektic and Mate Pavic for the first time in five
matches this year. 2016 photo by Paul Bauman 
   Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury's first ATP Masters 1000 title together was especially sweet.
   No. 3 seeds Ram, a volunteer assistant coach at the University of California, Berkeley from Carmel, Ind., and Salisbury of Great Britain defeated No. 1 seeds Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic of Croatia 6-3, 4-6 [10-3] today in the National Bank Open in Toronto. 
   Mektic and Pavic had been 17-1 in match tiebreaks this year, their first together, and 4-0 against Ram and Salisbury in 2021. 
   Ram, 37, and Salisbury, 29, won their first title of the year and fourth overall, including the 2020 Australian Open. Ram collected his 21st career doubles crown and Salisbury his sixth.
    Mektic and Pavic were seeking their 10th title of the year. They won Wimbledon and a gold medal in the Tokyo Olympics.
    Top-seeded Daniil Medvedev of Russia claimed the Toronto singles title, 6-4, 6-3 over unseeded Reilly Opelka, a 6-foot-11 (2.11-meter) American.
   WTA Tour — In the doubles final of the National Bank Open in Montreal, No. 5 seeds Gabriela Dabrowski of Canada and Luisa Stefani of Brazil outplayed No. 6 seeds Darija Jurak of Croatia and Andreja Klepac of Slovenia 6-3, 6-4. 
   Dabrowski and Stefani avenged a 6-1, 7-5 loss to Jurak and Klepac in the final of last week's Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose, Calif.
   Stefani won the bronze medal in women's doubles in Tokyo with Laura Pigossi. 
   Also today, unseeded Camila Giorgi of Italy downed No. 4 seed Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic 6-3, 7-5 for the biggest title of her career.
   Pliskova reached the final of the 2015 Bank of the West Classic at Stanford, losing to Angelique Kerber. The tournament moved 20 miles (32.2 kilometers) down the road to San Jose under new sponsorship in 2018.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Fresno's Quinn falls in National boys 18 doubles final

   No. 1 seeds Bruno Kuzuhara of Coconut Creek, Fla., and Ben Shelton of Gainesville, Fla., defeated No. 2 seeds Sebastian Gorzny of Fountain Valley in the Los Angeles area and Ethan "The Mighty" Quinn of Fresno, Calif., 6-4, 6-4 today in the final of the USTA Boys 18 National Championships in Kalamazoo, Mich.
   Quinn won the Orange Bowl boys 16 doubles title with Nicholas Godsick of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, on clay in December.
   Godsick's mother, Mary Joe Fernandez, reached the top five in singles and doubles as a professional. She now works as a tennis commentator on ESPN. Godsick's father, Tony Godsick, is Roger Federer's agent.
   ATP Tour — In the doubles semifinals in Toronto, No. 3 seeds Rajeev "Los Angeles" Ram, a volunteer assistant coach at the University of California, Berkeley from Carmel, Ind., and Joe Salisbury "Steak" of Great Britain beat unseeded Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen of Belgium 6-3, 7-5.
   Ram and Salisbury are scheduled to play No. 1 seeds Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic of Croatia on Sunday. Mektic and Pavic edged No. 4 seeds Kevin Krawietz of Germany and Horia Tecau of Romania 7-6 (3), 7-6 (12), saving four set points in the second set tiebreaker and converting their fourth match point.
   Mektic and Pavic have won nine tour-level titles this year, including Wimbledon and the gold medal in the Tokyo Olympics. They are 4-0 against Ram and Salisbury in 2021.
  Ram and Salisbury, the Australian Open champions in 2020 and runners-up this year, seek their first title of 2021.
   WTA Tour — Kristie Ahn, a 29-year-old Stanford graduate, and Katie Volynets, 19, of Walnut Creek in the San Francisco Bay Area, lost in the first round of qualifying in Cincinnati.

Friday, August 13, 2021

Van Loben Sels falls in National 16s singles, doubles

   No. 5 seed Cooper Woestendick of Olathe, Kan., defeated No. 2 seed Emon van Loben Sels of Sacramento, Calif., 6-4, 7-5 today in the quarterfinals of the USTA Boys 16 National Championships in Kalamazoo, Mich.
   Van Loben Sels also lost in the boys 16 doubles semifinals with Dylan Tsoi of El Dorado Hills in the Sacramento area. Seeded No. 4, they fell to No. 1 seeds Lucas Brown of Plano, Texas, and Nicholas Godsick of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, 7-5, 6-2.
   Godsick's mother, Mary Joe Fernandez, reached the top five in singles and doubles as a professional. She now works as a tennis commentator for ESPN. Godsick's father, Tony Godsick, is Roger Federer's agent.
   Meanwhile, No. 2 seeds Sebastian Gorzny of Fountain Valley in the Los Angeles region and Ethan "The Mighty" Quinn of Fresno, Calif., reached the boys 18 doubles final in Kalamazoo. They downed No. 7 seeds Braden Shick of Greensboro, N.C., and Colton Smith of Tenino, Wash., 6-3, 7-6 (3).
   Gorzny and Quinn are set to meet No. 1 seeds Bruno Kuzuhara of Coconut Creek, Fla., and Ben Shelton of Gainesville, Fla., on Saturday. 
   ATP Tour — In the doubles quarterfinals in Toronto, No. 3 seeds Rajeev "Los Angeles" Ram, a volunteer assistant coach at the University of California, Berkeley from Carmel, Ind., and Joe Salisbury "Steak" of Great Britain beat No. 8 seeds Rohan Bopanna, 41, of India, and Ivan "The Terrible" Dodig of Croatia 4-6, 6-3 [10-4].
   Dodig and Marin "County" Cilic won the silver medal in men's doubles in the Tokyo Olympics.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Pegula ends Collins' win streak at 12 matches in thriller

Jessica Pegula needed six match points to subdue
Danielle Collins in the third round in Montreal.
2018 photo by Paul Bauman
   Danielle Collins' winning streak ended at 12 matches in a late-night thriller between two hard-hitting Americans.
   Collins saved five match points before falling 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 to Jessica "Count" Pegula tonight in the third round of the National Bank Open on hardcourts in Montreal. The 2-hour, 28-minute match concluded at 1:32 a.m. EDT.
   Collins, 27, won Palermo on clay three weeks ago and San Jose on hardcourts last week for her first two WTA titles. She had surgery for endometriosis, in which tissue inside the uterus grows outside of it, in early April and returned less than two months later for the French Open. Doctors removed a cyst the size of a tennis ball from her ovary, as well as material from her bowel and bladder.
   Collins and Pegula are ranked 28th and 30th (sixth and seventh in the United States), respectively.
   Pegula, whose parents own the NFL's Buffalo Bills and NHL's Buffalo Sabres, reached a Northern California Challenger final in 2012 at 18 and semifinal in 2018.
   ATP Tour — In the second round of doubles in Toronto, No. 3 seeds Rajeev "Los Angeles" Ram, a volunteer assistant coach at the University of California, Berkeley from Carmel, Ind., and Joe Salisbury "Steak" of Great Britain dismissed Andrey Golubev of Kazakhstan and Andreas Mies of Germany 6-3, 6-2.
   Juniors — No. 7 seed Dali "Lama" Blanch of Deerfield Beach, Fla., outlasted No. 10 seed Aidan "Pass The" Mayo, who grew up in the Sacramento suburb of Roseville, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 in the round of 16 in the USTA Boys 18 National Championships in Kalamazoo, Mich.
   No. 2 doubles seeds Sebastian Gorzny of Fountain Valley in the Los Angeles region and Ethan Quinn of Fresno, Calif., routed No. 16 seeds Brayden Michna of Taylor, Texas, and Nathan Cox of Lake Charles, La., 6-1, 6-2 in the quarterfinals.
   In the boys 16s in Kalamazoo, No. 2 seed Emon van Loben Sels of Sacramento beat unseeded Cayden Wang of Irvine, Calif., 6-4, 6-3 on Wednesday to reach Friday's quarterfinals.
   No. 4 seeds Dylan Tsoi of El Dorado Hills in the Sacramento area and van Loben Sels topped No. 4 seeds Kaylan Bigun and Meecah Bigun of Phoenix 6-4, 2-6 [10-4] today in the doubles quarterfinals.
   Meanwhile, No. 33 seed Valencia Xu of Livingston, N.J., dominated unseeded Gayathri Krishnan of Cupertino in the San Francisco Bay Area 6-2, 6-1 in the round of 16 in the girls 18s in San Diego. 
   In girls 18 doubles, No. 17 seeds Tsehay Driscoll of La Canada Flintridge in the Los Angeles area and Vivian Ovrootsky of San Jose, Calif., beat No. 16 seeds Emma Sun of Newbury Park in the L.A. region and Kathryn Treiber of Hinsdale, Ill., 6-2, 7-6 (5) in the round of 16.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Collins makes it 12 in row with win over returning Halep

Danielle Collins, shown during last week's Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic in
San Jose, Calif., is set to play fellow Floridian Jessica Pegula for a quarterfinal
berth in the National Bank Open in Montreal. Photo by Mal Taam
   Danielle Collins extended her winning streak to 12 matches with a 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 victory over No. 6 seed Simona Halep in 2 hours, 55 minutes tonight in the second round of the National Bank Open on hardcourts in Montreal.
   Collins, 27, of St. Petersburg, Fla., won Palermo on clay three weeks ago and San Jose on hardcourts last week for her first two WTA titles. She had surgery for endometriosis, in which tissue inside the uterus grows outside of it, in early April and returned less than two months later for the French Open. Doctors removed a cyst the size of a tennis ball from her ovary, as well as material from her bowel and bladder.
   Halep, the Montreal champion in 2016 and 2018, returned after missing three months with a calf tear. She dropped to No. 13 in the rankings this week to end her streak of 373 weeks (more than seven years) in the top 10, eighth-best in WTA history. Halep climbed to No. 1 in 2017.
   Collins is scheduled to play Jessica "Count" Pegula of Boca Raton, Fla., on Thursday for a quarterfinal berth after the 4 p.m. PDT match between No. 2 seed Bianca Andreescu of Canada and No. 13 seed Ons "Kareem-Abdul" Jabeur of Tunisia (Tennis Channel). Pegula eliminated No. 10 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the French Open runner-up in June, 1-6, 6-3, 6-2. 
   Collins and Pegula — ranked No. 28 and No. 30, respectively — will meet for the first time since 2016. Pegula has not lost a set in two matches in the head-to-head series.
   Top-seeded Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus outlasted Sloane Stephens, who grew up in Fresno, Calif., 7-6 (4), 4-6, 6-4. Stephens, the 2018 runner-up, led 4-1 in the last set.
   Sabalenka reached the San Jose final in 2019, losing to Zheng Saisai of China, and advanced to her first Grand Slam semifinal last month at Wimbledon.
   In the second round of doubles, Magda Linette of Poland and Bernarda Pera of the United States ousted No. 2 seeds Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara of Japan 6-4, 7-6 (3).
   Aoyama, 33, and Shibahara, a 23-year-old native of Mountain View in the San Francisco Bay Area, reached the Wimbledon semifinals last month.
   No. 4 seeds Alexa Guarachi of Chile and Desirae Krawczyk of the United States beat Canadian wild cards Melodie Collard, 18, and Carol Zhao (Stanford, 2014-16) 6-3, 6-4.
   Guarachi and Krawczyk advanced to the French Open final last October, falling to defending champions Timea Babos of Hungary and Kristina Mladenovic of France.
   ATP Tour — In the first round of doubles in the National Bank Open in Toronto, Wesley Koolhof of the Netherlands and Austin Krajicek of Plano, Texas, defeated "Baltimore" Raven Klaasen of South Africa and Ben McLachlan (University of California, Berkeley, 2011-14) of Japan 6-4, 7-6 (4).
   Klaasen and McLachlan won last week's Citi Open in Washington, D.C.
   Juniors — No. 10 seed Aidan Mayo, who grew up in Roseville, Calif., in the Sacramento area, defeated No. 29 seed Eric Li of Skillman, N.J., 6-1, 6-4 to reach the round of 16 in the USTA Boys 18 National Championships in Kalamazoo, Mich.
   No. 28 seed Colton Smith of Tenino, Wash., beat No. 33 seed Luke Casper of Santa Cruz, Calif., 6-2, 4-6, 6-2. 
   In the boys 16s in Kalamazoo, No. 2 seed Emon van Loben Sels of Sacramento advanced to the round of 16 with a 6-4, 6-2 victory over No. 19 seed Owen Megargee of Washington, D.C.
   No. 3 seed Learner Tien of Irvine, Calif., eliminated No. 24 seed Dylan Tsoi of El Dorado Hills, Calif., in the Sacramento region 6-3, 6-0.
   In the girls 18s in San Diego, No. 4 seed Alexandra Yepifanova, an incoming freshman at Stanford from Lake Worth, Fla., and No. 17 seed Vivian Ovrootsky of San Jose, Calif., lost in the fourth round.
   No. 17 seed Meera Jesudason of Berwyn, Pa., topped Yepifanova 3-6, 7-5, 6-1, and No. 10 seed Sarah Hamner of Boca Raton beat Ovrootsky 6-1, 7-5.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Collins tops Teichmann in Montreal for 11th straight win

Danielle Collins, shown in last week's Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose,
Calif., is set to face No. 6 seed Simona Halep on Wednesday. Photo by Mal Taam
   American Danielle Collins extended her winning streak to 11 matches with a 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 victory over Jil Teichmann of Switzerland today in the first round of the National Bank Open on hardcourts in Montreal.
   Collins, 27, of St. Petersburg, Fla., won Palermo, Italy, on clay three weeks ago and San Jose, Calif., on hardcourts last week for her first two WTA titles.
   Collins is scheduled to face No. 6 seed Simona Halep, the 2016 and 2018 champion, on Wednesday at 4 p.m. PDT (Tennis Channel). In their only previous meeting, Halep won 6-7 (2), 6-1, 6-2 in the opening round of the 2014 U.S. Open.
   Halep, who received a first-round bye, has been out for three months with a calf tear. She dropped to No. 13 in the rankings this week to end her streak of 373 weeks (more than seven years) in the top 10, eighth-best in WTA history. Halep ascended to No. 1 in 2017.
   Earlier today, wild card Sloane Stephens, a 28-year-old product of Fresno, Calif., outlasted Dayana "Carl" Yastremska of Ukraine 6-4, 1-6, 6-4.
   Stephens, the 2018 runner-up, faced four points to trail 2-5 in the third set. Yasteremska, 21, of Ukraine returned to the tour last month after being cleared of doping and serving a provisional six-month suspension.
   Stephens, who lost to Collins in the second round in San Jose, is set to play 23-year-old Aryna Sabalenka, seeded second and ranked third, on Wednesday after the 8 a.m. PDT match between Paula Badosa of Spain and wild card Rebecca "Dan" Marino of Canada.
   Sabalenka won her only previous match against Stephens, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 on a hardcourt in the 2017 Fed Cup final in Sabalenka's hometown of Minsk, Belarus.
   Sabalenka reached the San Jose final in 2019, losing to Zheng Saisai of China, and advanced to her first Grand Slam semifinal last month at Wimbledon.
   Sara Sorribes "Mel" Tormo of Spain defeated Carol Zhao (Stanford, 2014-16) of Canada 6-2, 6-3. Sorribes Tormo stunned top-ranked Ashleigh Barty in the first round of the Tokyo Olympics before losing to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the third round.
   ATP Tour — No. 2 seed Rafael Nadal withdrew from the National Bank Open in Toronto with a left foot injury. He has won the last two titles and five overall.
   Northern California natives Mackenzie McDonald and Jenson Brooksby — who reached the final and semifinals, respectively, last week in Washington, D.C. — lost in the opening round.
   Benoit Paire of France eliminated McDonald, now based in Orlando, Fla., 6-3, 6-4 in a clash of unseeded players. Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia topped Brooksby, a 20-year-old wild card from the Sacramento area making his ATP Masters 1000 debut, 2-6, 6-0, 6-4. 
   Basilashvili, who has won titles on hardcourts in Doha and clay in Munich this year, improved to 2-0 against Brooksby. Basilashvili triumphed in four sets in the second round of the 2019 U.S. Open after  Brooksby came within a tiebreaker of leading two sets to none. 

Sunday, August 8, 2021

After unexpected drama, Collins wins second title in row

Fiery Danielle Collins exults after winning a point during her three-set victory
over Daria Kasatkina today in San Jose, Calif. Photo by Mal Taam
Daria Kasatkina gathers her thoughts during today's final. Photo by Mal Taam
   SAN JOSE, Calif. — It easily could have been over in 75 minutes.
   Instead, today's final in the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic went to three sets that included a nerve-wracking tiebreaker, which was practically a match in itself.
   In the end, No. 7 seed Danielle Collins of St. Petersburg, Fla., defeated No. 4 seed Daria Kasatkina of Russia 6-3, 6-7 (10), 6-1 in 2 hours, 18 minutes for her second consecutive title. 
   Collins had two championship points with Kasatkina serving at 3-5 in the second set, three in the tiebreaker and two in the final game, finally capitalizing when Kasatkina netted a runaround forehand.
   Kasatkina led 4-0 in the tiebreaker and converted her third set point when Collins netted a forehand.
   "Toward the end of the second set, I became a little bit too much of my own critic," Collins told reporters. "I was being really hard on myself. I had to have a reality check after losing that tiebreak and just say, Let's keep the positive energy going here. Let's not let this get me down.
   "I was actually in a similar situation a couple years ago. I played here against Maria Sakkari. I was up a set and by a lot in the second set, and I ended up losing that match in three sets. It was a heartbreaker because I was in control the whole way through. I feel like that experience gave me so much confidence today. Losing the tiebreak wasn't going to define me as a player. I just had to come back and be stronger."
   Collins did, jumping to a 2-0 lead in the third set. After Kasatkina broke for 1-2, Collins reeled off the last four games.
   "She started 2-0 up and 3-1 (in the third set), and it would be different story if it were 2-all or something," said the 24-year-old Kasatkina, who ousted top-seeded Elise Mertens in the semifinals. "But when the opponent is winning game by game in the third set and you're already pretty tired, it's like the life is leaving your body."
   The 27-year-old Collins, meanwhile, prides herself on her fitness. She extended her winning streak to 10 matches, including her first career title two weeks ago on clay in Palermo.
   Collins will rise eight notches to No. 28 in the world, five spots off her career high in January 2019.
   The first American to reach the Mubadala final in the three editions of the tournament, Collins ultimately overpowered Kasatkina with her serve, return of serve and groundstrokes. The aggressive, fiery Collins pounded 12 aces to Kasatkina's two and won 61.5 percent of the points on her second serve (32 of 52) to Kasatkina's 37.8 percent (17 of 45).
   Both finalists carried scars onto the court at San Jose State University as the tournament marked the record 50th anniversary of women's tour tennis in the San Francisco Bay Area. Collins' are literal, while Kasatkina's are figurative.
   Collins had surgery for endometriosis, a painful disorder in which tissue inside the uterus grows outside of it, in early April and returned less than two months later for the French Open. Doctors removed a cyst the size of a tennis ball from her ovary, as well as material from her bowel and bladder.
   "Before having the surgery, I was just not able to perform consistently tournament after tournament after tournament and have the stamina because I was constantly dealing with many, many issues in that area," Collins, an Australian Open semifinalist in 2019 and French Open quarterfinalist last October, said Saturday. "Now, it's giving me so much confidence knowing that my body is going to be able to show up consistently and I'm not going to be in physical agony or having to pull out of matches because of that issue."
   Collins has gone 14-2 since Wimbledon, reaching (in order) a quarterfinal and a semifinal before her  two titles.
   "It's been so rewarding to feel healthy," she said. "This is the best I've felt in a long, long time. For so many years, I got used to dealing with that. It got slowly and progressively worse, and I thought, Oh, this is a normal thing to be dealing with, and it really wasn't. The surgery has helped me so much. You couldn't pay me millions of dollars to go back to what I was dealing with. 
   "I know that things can change very quickly, so I'm trying to ride out this great period of good health. I'm very fortunate." 
   Collins now can focus on her matches instead of her body.
   "One of the biggest challenges for me in my career was the physical, and it became mental as well because it was like, I just can't do this," said Collins, who won two NCAA singles titles at the University of Virginia. "It's physically impossible. I have to pull out of the match today because I'm throwing up and I have flu-like symptoms and I have a fever and I have fallen over and I can't feel anything in my foot because of sciatic nerve pain."
   Kasatkina reached the quarterfinals of the French Open and Wimbledon in 2018, soaring to No. 10 in the world at age 21. One year later, she had plunged to No. 69. 
   "Mostly, it was a mental thing," Kasatkina candidly said Saturday. "I put too much pressure on myself after the success from the 2018 season. I was expecting too much from myself, and that was obviously too much to handle.
   "I had a mental breakdown for a few months. Then it's always difficult to come back because you're competing on the highest level. Just to come back, I needed twice more effort, and that was tough. Actually, the pandemic helped me a little bit because there (were) no tournaments, and I had time to work on it."
    Ranked No. 71 at the end of last year, Kasatkina will improve four places to No. 27. 
    "I've been working a lot, not just a lot but in the right way," she said. "Last year, when the pandemic starts, I spend a lot of time on the court and in the gym. Also, I was doing a lot of work with my mental coach.
   "Hard work pays off, and I was just waiting for the moment when the puzzle (will) be completed. Now I'm happy (with) the way I'm doing, and I will just keep going this way."   
   Kasatkina added that she's trying to focus more on herself.
   "Before, I was studying the matches of my opponents and trying to play more from the opponent," she said, "but now I'm trying to go more from myself, to be dependent on my game, not on the game of the other girl." 
   In today's doubles final, second-seeded Darija Jurak of Croatia and Andreja Klepac of Slovenia beat top-seeded Gabriela Dabrowski of Canada and Luisa Stefani of Brazil 6-1, 7-5.
   Jurak, 37, won her eighth WTA doubles title and first with Klepac, 35, who has nine WTA doubles crowns overall.
   Stefani, a former Pepperdine All-American, won the bronze medal in women's doubles with Laura Pigossi in the Tokyo Olympics last week.
   Dabrowski reached the women's doubles final at Wimbledon in 2019 with Xu Yifan of China and won the mixed doubles title in the 2017 French Open with Rohan Bopanna of India and in the 2018 Australian Open with Mate Pavic of Croatia.
   Here are the complete singles and doubles draws.
   WTA Tour in Cluj-Napoca, Romania — No. 2 seed Andrea Petkovic of Germany won her first singles title in over six years, routing unseeded Mayar Sherif (Fresno State, 2015-16) of Egypt 6-1, 6-1 in 61 minutes on clay. Sherif, who ousted top-seeded Alize Cornet of France in the first round, became the first Egyptian to reach a WTA singles final.
   ATP Tour — No. 5 seed Jannik Sinner, 19, of Italy outlasted unseeded Mackenzie McDonald, a 26-year-old product of Piedmont in the Bay Area, 7-5, 4-6, 7-5 in Washington, D.C., to become the youngest ATP 500 champion since the category was created in 2009.
   McDonald, who eliminated reigning champion Nick Kyrgios in the opening round, saved 10 set points in the first set and 16 break points in the match.
   McDonald, now based in Orlando, Fla., will soar 43 notches to No. 64 after his first ATP final. He climbed to a career-high No. 57 in April 2019 but had right hamstring surgery the following June and missed seven months.
   In the doubles final, No. 4 seeds Raven Klaasen of South Africa and Ben McLachlan (University of California, Berkeley, 2011-14) of Japan beat No. 2 seeds Neal Skupski of Great Britain and Michael Venus of New Zealand 7-6 (4), 6-4.
   McLachlan, a New Zealand product who represents his mother's native country, won his seventh ATP doubles title overall and second with Klaasen.
   Venus won the bronze medal in men's doubles in Tokyo with Marcus Daniell. Skupski played for the California Dream of World TeamTennis in 2015, the squad's only year of existence.

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Top seed falls in San Jose; McDonald in first ATP final

No. 4 seed Daria Kasatkina ousted No. 1 seed Elise Mertens 6-3, 6-2 today
in the semifinals in San Jose, Calif. Photo by Mal Taam
No. 7 seed Danielle Collins routed qualifier Ana Konjuh 6-0, 6-2 in 52 minutes
for her ninth consecutive victory. Photo by Mal Taam
   SAN JOSE, Calif. — Second-seeded Elena Rybakina exited the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic on Friday night, followed by top-seeded Elise Mertens this afternoon.
   Not coincidentally, both played in the Tokyo Olympics last week.
   The 16-hour time change and short turnaround proved to be too much for Belgium's Mertens, who lost in the first round of Olympic singles and doubles, and Kazakhstan's Rybakina, who fell in the bronze-medal match.
   "It was definitely a tough schedule, but to skip the Olympics, that would be a bit tough," Mertens, ranked No. 17 in singles and No. 1 in doubles, told the media with a chuckle after falling to resurgent Daria Kasatkina 6-3, 6-2 on a hot, hazy day as smoke from Northern California wildfires drifts to the San Francisco Bay Area. "It was my first time, and it was a nice experience. But yeah, in 17 days, I think I was in the U.K., Belgium, Tokyo and then here."
   Meanwhile, the fourth-seeded Kasatkina and the other Mubadala finalist, seventh-seeded Danielle Collins, were off last week. Kasatkina, in fact, is playing in her first tournament since narrowly losing in the second round at Wimbledon five weeks ago.
   Kasatkina, a 24-year-old Russian, scored the only break of the first set today on a backhand error by Mertens to lead 5-3 and reeled off the last five games of the match.
   Mertens committed seven double faults in the match, put in only 52.8 percent of her first serves (38 of 72) and faced 14 break points to Kasatkina's one.
   "My energy was a little bit lower," Mertens conceded. "I had a tough one yesterday [6-3, 7-6 (8) over eighth-seeded Yulia Putintseva]. My legs were a little bit heavier."
   Kasatkina, a former top-10 player, has jumped 40 places to No. 31 this year. She said the heat didn't bother her.
   "I spent here already 10 days, and I got used to the heat," said Kasatkina, who was coming off two three-set matches. "At the beginning, it was really tough, but also with the years playing in the U.S., Asia and Australia, where it's super hot, you are getting used to it. It has become easier and easier to play in the heat." 
   Collins, 27, of St. Petersburg, Fla., crushed qualifier Ana Konjuh of Croatia 6-0, 6-2 in 52 minutes to improve to 13-2 since Wimbledon with a nine-match winning streak. She won her first WTA title two weeks ago on clay in Palermo and became the first American to reach the Mubadala final in the three editions of the tournament. 
  Collins put in 70 percent of her first serves (28 of 40) today and won 16 of 17 points on Konjuh's second serve.
   "I don't want to take a lot of credit for the match because my opponent didn't have her best day, so in some ways I feel a little lucky," said Collins, who won the first nine games. "But I made some improvements along the way in this tournament. Today was probably the highest first-serve percentage that I've had, so I'm proud of that. 
    "Part of the reason I was hitting my shots so well today is all the tough opponents I've had to play over the last couple days (Sloane Stephens and Rybakina) and how hard I've had to work for every point. I've played so many hard-hitting opponents who run down ball after ball, so I came out really feeling like I was hitting the ball clean and just played with a lot of confidence the entire way through."  
   Ironically, Konjuh surrendered only two games in the last two sets of her quarterfinal victory over Zhang Shuai. 
   "Overall, (Collins) was too aggressive for me today," said Konjuh, a former top-20 player who has had four right elbow operations. 
   Kasatkina seeks her fifth WTA singles title and third this year in Sunday's 4 p.m. final (Tennis Channel). She is 2-0 against Collins. In their only hardcourt encounter, Kasatkina prevailed 6-2, 6-7 (6), 6-1 in the semifinals of the Phillip Island Trophy in Melbourne in February en route to the title. 
   In doubles, 46-year-old Kveta Peschke's reign in the tournament ended in the semifinals. Top-seeded Gabriela Dabrowski of Canada and Luisa Stefani, a former Pepperdine All-American from Brazil, edged Ellen Perez of Australia and Peschke, a Czech who won the first two Mubadala doubles crowns with other partners, 6-3, 4-6 [10-8].
   Dabrowski and Stefani, the bronze medalist in women's doubles in Tokyo, won the last five points. They are set to play second-seeded Darija Jurak of Croatia and Andreja Klepac of Slovenia on Sunday at 2 p.m.
   Here are the updated Mubadala singles and doubles draws.
   WTA Tour in Cluj-Napoca, Romania — Mayar Sherif (Fresno State, 2015-16) became the first Egyptian to reach a WTA final, defeating Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania 7-6 (1), 6-4 on clay in a clash of unseeded players. Buzarnescu won the inaugural (2018) Silicon Valley Classic.
   Sherif, 25, saved a set point in the first set and led 4-0 in the second set. She is slated to play second-seeded Andrea Petkovic of Germany on Sunday. Petkovic eliminated qualifier Aleksandra Krunic of Serbia 6-4, 6-2.
   In the doubles final, Natela Dzalamidze of Russia and Kaja Juvan of Slovenia beat Katarzyna Piter of Poland and Sherif 6-3, 6-4 on Sunday at 2 p.m. Both teams were unseeded.
   ATP Tour — Bay Area product Mackenzie McDonald reached his first ATP final, topping his idol, Kei Nishikori of Japan, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 in a battle of 5-foot-10 (1.78-meter) unseeded players in the Citi Open in Washington, D.C.
   Nishikori advanced to the final of the 2014 U.S. Open and won the Washington title in 2015.
   The 26-year-old McDonald, now based in Orlando, Fla., is scheduled to face rising star Jannik Sinner, a 19-year-old Italian, for the first time on Sunday at 2 p.m. PDT (Tennis Channel).
   Sinner, seeded fifth and ranked 24th, defeated Jenson Brooksby, a 20-year-old wild card from Carmichael, Calif., in the Sacramento area, 7-6 (2), 6-1. The turning point came with Sinner serving at 5-6 in the first set and facing three set points at 0-40. He won the next five points to force a tiebreaker and dominated from there with his powerful serve and groundstrokes.
   Still, Brooksby will crack the top 100 for the first time at No. 99 just over seven months after turning pro
   Future Hall of Famer Andy Murray tweeted Friday: "Jenson Brooksby is the sort of player I love to watch...lots of variety..high tennis IQ....great in defence..(fire emoji)"
   No. 4 doubles seeds Raven Klaasen of South Africa and Ben McLachlan (University of California, Berkeley, 2011-14) of Japan advanced to the final with a 6-4, 7-5 victory over unseeded Marcus Daniell of New Zealand and Marcelo Melo of Brazil. 
   Klaasen and McLachlan, a New Zealand product who represents his mother's native country, are set to play No. 2 seeds Neal Skupski of Great Britain and Michael Venus of New Zealand. Skupski played for the Sacramento-based California Dream of World TeamTennis in 2015, the squad's only year of existence.
   Daniell and Venus won the bronze medal in men's doubles in Tokyo.

Friday, August 6, 2021

Collins ousts No. 2 seed in San Jose; Brooksby in top 100

No. 7 seed Danielle Collins extended her winning streak to eight matches,
including her first career WTA title. Photo by Mal Taam
No. 2 seed Elena Rybakina said the 16-hour time change from Tokyo to San Jose,
Calif., was the biggest of her career. Photo by Mal Taam
   SAN JOSE, Calif. — Facing Elena Rybakina's booming serve, Danielle Collins needed all the help she could get.
   The fiery Collins lifted her arms, exhorting the home crowd, twice in the second set of her 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4) victory over second-seeded Elena Rybakina tonight in the quarterfinals of the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic at San Jose State University.
   Rybakina, a 22-year-old Moscow native who represents Kazakhstan, led 5-3 in the first set and held two set points against Collins, 27, of St. Petersburg, Fla. Both players finished with five aces, with the 6-foot (1.84-meter) Rybakina serving at up to 119 mph (191.5 kph).
   "I just kept telling myself to do the best that I can," Collins, who won her first career WTA title two weeks ago on clay in Palermo, said after her eighth consecutive victory. "It's easy to get frustrated, but you have to remind yourself, OK, I'm playing one of the best players in the world and certainly one of the best servers in the world. If she's going to hit 119-mph serves, I kind of just have to roll with the punches a little bit and do everything I can to ride it out, and hopefully I'll get a couple free points here and there.
   "So, yeah, mentally (I was) just being persistent and just trying to stay positive and not get too down when she would ace me." 
   The 20th-ranked Rybakina, meanwhile, couldn't match Collins' intensity.
   "I think I was tired, not even like physically," said Rybakina, who lost to Elina Svitolina of Ukraine in the bronze-medal match of the Tokyo Olympics last week. "It's like reaction, focus because I had (a) tough trip to come here. I think that's why I couldn't focus better in the tiebreaks."
   Rybakina, who reached her first Grand Slam quarterfinal in the French Open in June, added that the 16-hour time change was the biggest of her career.
   The 36th-ranked Collins, a semifinalist in the 2019 Australian Open and quarterfinalist in last year's French Open, is scheduled to play qualifier Ana Konjuh, a former top-20 player from Croatia, for the first time on Saturday not before 6 p.m. PDT (Tennis Channel).
   Konjuh, who has had four operations on her right elbow, beat unseeded Zhang Shuai of China 3-6, 6-2, 6-0. 
   In the other semifinal, top-seeded Elise Mertens is set to play fourth-seeded Daria Kasatkina of Russia not before 3 p.m. (Tennis Channel). Kasatkina leads the head-to-head series 2-1.
   Collins and Mertens also reached the semifinals of the inaugural (2018) Silicon Valley Classic but did not play each other.
   Here are the 2021 singles and doubles draws and Saturday's schedule.
   WTA Tour in Cluj-Napoca, Romania — Unseeded Mayar Sherif (Fresno State, 2015-16) of Egypt routed No. 8 seed Kristina Kucova of Slovakia 6-3, 6-1 in the quarterfinals on clay.
   Sherif, 25, is slated to face unseeded Romanian Mihaela Buzarnescu, who won the inaugural (2018) Silicon Valley Classic, on Saturday. Buzarnescu, a 33-year-old left-hander, beat Czech Kristyna Pliskova, the twin sister of seventh-ranked Karolina Pliskova, 7-5, 6-3.
   Sherif also advanced to the doubles final with Katarzyna Piter of Poland. They will meet Natela Dzaladmidze of Russia and Kaja Juvan of Slovenia. Both teams are unseeded.
   ATP Tour — Just over seven months after turning proJenson Brooksby will crack the top 100 in the world.
   The 20-year-old wild card from Carmichael, Calif., in the Sacramento area will jump at least 31 places to No. 99 after dismissing No. 11 seed John Millman of Australia 6-1, 6-2 in 67 minutes in the quarterfinals of the Citi Open in Washington, D.C.
   Millman stunned Roger Federer to reach the quarterfinals of the 2018 U.S. Open and won Northern California Challengers in 2010 and 2015.
   Brooksby is scheduled to meet No. 5 seed Jannik Sinner, 19, of Italy for the first time on Saturday not before 1 p.m. (Tennis Channel). Neither player has lost a set this week.
   Sinner, ranked No. 24, beat unseeded Steve Johnson of Redondo Beach, Calif., in the Los Angeles region 6-4, 6-2. Johnson won the Aptos (Calif.) Challenger in 2012 and 2019.
   In the other semifinal not before 4 p.m. (Tennis Channel), 2015 champion Kei Nishikori is set to play Mackenzie McDonald, a 26-year-old San Francisco Bay Area product, in a matchup of undersized, unseeded players. McDonald, now based in Orlando, Fla., dispatched Denis Kudla of Arlington, Va., 6-3, 6-2 to reach his second tour-level semifinal. Kudla advanced to the final of the 2015 Tiburon (Calif.) Challenger.
   Nishikori beat No. 14 seed Lloyd Harris of South Africa 6-3, 7-5. Harris, who won the 2018 Stockton (Calif.) Challenger, stunned top-seeded Rafael Nadal on Thursday. 
   In the doubles quarterfinals, No. 4 seeds Raven Klaasen of South Africa and Ben McLachlan (University of California, Berkeley, 2011-14) of Japan beat Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria and Tommy Paul of Miami by walkover. Paul won the singles title in the 2019 Tiburon Challenger.
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