Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Stephens advances in BNP, but Volynets, 19, loses

Sloane Stephens defeated Heather Watson today in 16,100-seat Stadium 1
in the first round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. Photo by Paul Bauman
   INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Two struggling players with Northern California roots played back-to-back in 16,100-seat Stadium 1 today in the first round of the BNP Paribas Open.
   One of them advanced.
   Sloane Stephens, a Fresno, Calif., product who won the 2017 U.S. Open, defeated Heather Watson of Great Britain 6-7 (5), 7-5, 6-1 in 2 hours, 51 minutes in front of a sparse crowd. 
   Katie Volynets, a 19-year-old wild card from Walnut Creek in the San Francisco Bay Area making her BNP debut, lost to Croatia's Petra Martic, ranked No. 45 after climbing to a career-high No. 14 in January last year, 6-4, 6-4 in an almost-empty stadium.
   Both Stephens and Martic, past quarterfinalists in the BNP Paribas Open, saved three break points in the final game.
   Stephens, now based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., has plunged from a career-high No. 3 in 2018 to No. 73. She improved to 3-5 against Watson, who won the 2016 Wimbledon mixed doubles title with Henri Kontinen of Finland and the 2012 Stanford doubles crown with since-retired Marina Erakovic of New Zealand, in their first meeting in five years.
   "Playing Heather is always a tough match," Stephens said in an on-court interview. "We grew up playing juniors together, and we're really good friends. Literally before the tournament we were talking for an hour about everything and how we've been friends for so long and how we're able to separate the match and still be friends."
   Stephens is scheduled to face Jessica Pegula, ranked No. 24 and seeded No. 19, of Boca Raton, Fla., for the first time on Friday. All seeds receive first-round byes.
   Pegula, whose parents own the Buffalo Bills and Sabres, reached the final of the 2012 Sacramento Challenger at 18 and the semifinals of the 2018 Stockton Challenger in NorCal. 
   Volynets, the USTA Girls 18 national champion in 2019, has lost nine of her last 10 matches. However, all but one have come in Grand Slam or WTA tournaments. Ranked a career-high No. 182, she qualified for Wimbledon in June before losing in the first round.
   Volynets held her own on the baseline against Martic, a French Open quarterfinalist in 2019, but could not match the 5-foot-11 (1.81-meter) Martic's punishing serve. Martic pounded six aces, won 79 percent of the points on her first serve (27 of 34) and saved five of six break points against her.
   Martic also kept Volynets off-balance with deft drop shots, a tactic Volynets did not try.
   "She doesn't miss many balls," Martic said in an on-court interview, so I had to work hard out there."
   In the first round of women's doubles, No. 8 seeds Sharon Fichman of Canada and Giuliana Olmos, an Austria native who grew up in Fremont in the Bay Area and represents Mexico, beat Daria Kasatkina of Russia and Anett Kontaveit of Estonia 6-3, 6-4. 
   Kasatkina reached the singles final in San Jose, Calif., in August, losing to Danielle Collins of St. Petersburg, Fla.
   USTA Pro Circuit — Victoria Duval of Bradenton, Fla., routed No. 1 seed Gabriela Lee of Romania 6-2, 6-0 in the first round of the $25,000 Team Ascension Women's Pro Open in Redding, Calif.
    Maria Kozyreva, a Russian fifth-year student at Saint Mary's College in the Bay Area, ousted No. 8 seed Katherine Sebov of Canada 7-6 (3), 6-4 one week after stunning No. 1 seed Zheng Saisai, ranked No. 75, in the opening round of the $60,000 Berkeley (Calif.) Challenger.
   Also, Connie Ma, an 18-year-old wild card from Dublin in the Bay Area, overwhelmed Haruka Kaji, 27, of Japan 6-1, 6-1. No. 3 seed Katie Swan of Great Britain dominated qualifier Hind Abdelouahid, an ex-Saint Mary's standout from Manteca, Calif., 6-1, 6-1. 
   College — Carolyn Campana (Hillsborough, Calif., in the Bay Area) of Wake Forest ousted No. 5 seed Bunyawi Thamchaiwat of San Diego State 6-4, 6-1 in the first round of the ITA Women's All-American Championships in Mt. Pleasant, S.C. 
   In the opening round of the ITA Men's All-American Championships in Tulsa, Okla., Arthur Fery of Stanford outclassed lucky loser Justin Barki of Princeton 6-2, 6-1.
   Falling were Marcus McDaniel (Vacaville, Calif.) of Georgia Tech and qualifiers Tristan Boyer of Stanford and Eric Hadigian (Sacramento, Calif.) of Pepperdine.

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