Sunday, October 3, 2021

Arconada routs Zacarias for $60K Berkeley crown

Usue Arconada, a 22-year-old American, matched her biggest career title.
Photo by Mal Taam 
   BERKELEY, Calif. — Usue Arconada got her career back on track today with a stellar performance.
   The 22-year-old American routed Marcela Zacarias of Mexico 6-1, 6-3 in matchup of diminutive, unseeded players to win the $60,000 Berkeley Challenger at the venerable Berkeley Tennis Club.
   "It means a lot," said Arconada, who matched her biggest career title. "I've had a tough year. This has been the culmination of all the hard work I've put in."
   Arconada, an Argentina native with a Basque first name (pronounced EW-sway), had tumbled from a career-high No. 130 in February 2020 to No. 238 entering this week. By winning the title, she soared 50 places to No. 188. 
   Arconada, who earned $9,142, showed no ill effects from her 3-hour, 10-minute victory over seventh-seeded Mayo Hibi of Japan on Saturday.
   "I did a really good job recovering yesterday, and I woke up today feeling a little tired but not sore," said Arconada, who's based in Orlando, Fla. "As the day went on, I was feeling a bit better. I didn't have a problem physically." 
Marcela Zacarias, 27, of Mexico played in her biggest career final by far.
Photo by Mal Taam
   The 27-year-old Zacarias (pronounced Za-ca-REE-us) did in the 81-degree (27 Celsius) heat. Her first three matches in the tournament averaged 2:55 in length, and she lost a tough first set against fourth-seeded Kurumi Nara of Japan on Saturday before Nara retired at 0-3 in the second set with a groin injury.
   "(Arconada) was really tough today, and it was not my best day," Zacarias lamented after her biggest career final by far. "She didn't miss, and I missed really easy (shots) on the important points when I was up in the games. I was a little bit low of energy, and it took me a long time to start playing better. (Then) it was too late."
   Zacarias, who climbed to a career-high No. 181 in 2015, jumped 45 spots to No. 261 and collected $4,886 as the runner-up.
   "It was a pretty good week," said Zacarias, who pondered retirement after a discouraging first-round loss in Fort Worth, Texas, last week. "I was not even going to come, so I'm really excited that I came and played my best tennis in a few years." 
Usue Arconada celebrates after winning
championship point today at the Berkeley
Tennis Club. Photo by Paul Bauman
   After Zacarias held serve in the opening game of the final, Arconada reeled off seven consecutive games, overcoming a 0-40 deficit in her first service game.
   Arconada led 4-1 in the second set but double-faulted on break point for 4-3. She broke right back on a deep forehand winner and held serve at 15 for the championship.
   "I thought I did really well today focusing on the little things and taking it a point at a time," Arconada said. "I was real engaged with everything I was doing, and I was trying not to give any free points away."
   Arconada has little time to celebrate and rest. She received a wild card in qualifying for the prestigious BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells and is scheduled to play No. 18 seed Arina Rodionova, an Australian veteran who reached the Berkeley quarterfinals in 2019, on Monday afternoon. 
   Unseeded Sophie Chang, 24, of Havre de Grace, Md., and Angela Kulikov, 23, of Sun Valley in the Los Angeles area won the doubles title in their first tournament together. Combining power (Chang) and athleticism (Kulikov), they defeated No. 4 seeds Liang En Shuo of Chinese Taipei and Lu Jia-Jing of China 6-4, 6-3.
   "I reached out to Sophie on Instagram a few weeks ago," Kulikov, a former USC All-American, said during the awards ceremony. "I said, 'I heard you have a pretty good serve. Wanna carry me in the tournament?' "
   Here are the complete Berkeley singles and doubles draws.

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