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.

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