Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Bellis beats Mertens in Dubai, will face Muguruza

   Elise Mertens became CiCi Bellis' latest high-profile victim today.
   Bellis, an 18-year-old wild card who was born in San Francisco and raised in nearby Atherton, dispatched Mertens, an Australian Open semifinalist last month, 6-3, 6-3 in the opening round of the Dubai (United Arab Emirates) Duty Free Tennis Championships.
   Mertens, a Belgian ranked 21st, won only 29 percent of the points on her second serve (8 of 28) versus 50 percent (13 of 26) for Bellis, ranked 41st, in their first career meeting.
   Bellis will face Garbine Muguruza, ranked third and seeded second, for the first time in Wednesday's late match at about 9 a.m. PST. Muguruza, who won the French Open in 2016 and Wimbledon last year, received a first-round bye.
   A victory over Muguruza would be the biggest of Bellis' career, topping her win over No. 5 Karolina Pliskova in the third round at Doha last week. It also would be Bellis' fourth triumph over a Grand Slam singles champion after her victories over Jelena Ostapenko (who later won the French Open), Petra Kvitova and Svetlana Kuznetsova.
   ATP World Tour -- In a battle of California natives, 20-year-old Taylor Fritz edged fourth seed and 2016 champion Sam Querrey 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4) in the first round of the Delray Beach (Fla.) Open. 
   The 30-year-old Querrey, originally from San Francisco, played two days after he lost to Kevin Anderson, also in a third-set tiebreaker, in the final of the inaugural New York Open in Uniondale, N.Y.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Staggs, UCLA lose in Men's Team Indoors final

   Top-ranked Wake Forest won its first national championship today, defeating No. 7 UCLA 4-2 in the ITA National Men's Team Indoor Championships in Seattle.
   Skander Mansouri, ranked 22nd, clinched the match for the Demon Deacons (9-0) with a 6-4, 7-6 (7) victory over No. 107 Keegan Smith on Court 3.
   Wake Forest's Bar Botzer, ranked 112th, topped Logan Staggs, a senior from Tracy ranked 58th, 6-4, 6-4 on Court 4.
   The Demon Deacons overcame deficits of 1-0 and 2-1.
   The match between top-ranked Martin Redlicki of UCLA (11-2) and 100th-ranked Borna Gojo on Court 1 was abandoned at one set apiece and 40-40 in the first game of the third set.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Querrey falls in final; Stanford loses heartbreaker

Kevin Anderson of the Sacramento Capitals serves in a
2012 World TeamTennis match in the Sacramento area.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Talk about anticlimactic ...
   Today's final between top-seeded Kevin Anderson and second-seeded Sam Querrey, a 30-year-old San Francisco native, in the inaugural New York Open came down to a tiebreaker.
   But Anderson reeled off the first six points, leading the normally mild-mannered Querrey to slam his racket on the court, and then won 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (1) in Uniondale, N.Y.
   The 6-foot-8 (2.03-meter) Anderson slammed 16 aces in the match, and the 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) Querrey had nine. Each player double-faulted once.
   Anderson won all four of his matches in three sets, three of them in third-set tiebreakers, after receiving a first-round bye. The 31-year-old South African, who lives in Florida with his American wife, won his fourth career title and first since 2015.
   Anderson had been 3-11 in ATP finals, including a loss to Gilles Simon of France in Pune, India, during the first week of this year.
   "I have been runner-up quite a few times in my career," Anderson, a former University of Illinois star (2005-07), lamented to reporters. "One of the big goals I had for this year was to try to be a bit more successful in that final stage. I fell a little short earlier this year in India, and it feels great to come through and get today's win. It gives me a lot of confidence for the year."
   Anderson, the runner-up to Rafael Nadal in the U.S. Open in nearby Flushing Meadows, N.Y., last September, will rise two places to a career-high No. 9 in Monday's rankings. He was ranked 10th for one week in 2015.
   Querrey, who was seeking his 11th ATP title, would have moved up one spot to a career-high No. 11 with a victory.
   Anderson improved to 8-9 against Querrey with four victories in their last five matches. They first met in the first round of the 2007 Sacramento Challenger, with Querrey winning 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.
   Both Querrey and Anderson played part-time for the now-defunct Sacramento Capitals in World TeamTennis in 2012, but not together.
   College men -- In a match that came down to a third-set tiebreaker, top-ranked Wake Forest beat No. 5 Stanford 4-3 in the semifinals of the ITA National Team Indoor Championship in Seattle.
   In the deciding match on Court 1, 100th-ranked Borna Gojo edged No. 33 Tom Fawcett 3-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (5). The Cardinal (8-1) twice fought back to even the dual match.
   Wake Forest (8-0) will play No. 7 UCLA (11-1) for the title on Monday. The Bruins, with senior Logan Staggs of Tracy, defeated No. 6 Texas A&M 4-2. Staggs, ranked 58th, beat Valentin Vacherot, ranked 35th, 7-5, 7-5 on Court 4.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Querrey reaches N.Y. final; Stanford advances

   Even the pros forget the score occasionally.
   Second-seeded Sam Querrey, a 30-year-old San Francisco native, didn't realize the match had ended when he beat fourth-seeded Adrian Mannarino of France 6-7 (5), 7-5, 6-3 today in the semifinals of the inaugural New York Open in Uniondale, N.Y.
   Querrey thought he had one more game left after recording his second straight service break.
   "I broke, I kind of gave a fist pump, and I was walking to the bench, then the crowd was a little too loud for just a break of serve," Querrey told reporters. "I looked up and, Oh my gosh, I won."
   Querrey said he couldn't remember losing track of the score before on the ATP World Tour.
   "I think I was just so dialed in because I wanted to beat him so badly because I've never beaten him before," said Querrey, who was 0-3 against the 29-year-old left-hander.
   Querrey, ranked a career-high 12th, will face top-seeded Kevin Anderson, last year's U.S. Open runner-up from South Africa, on Sunday (12:30 p.m. PST on Tennis Channel). Anderson edged fifth-seeded Kei Nishikori, who won the title from 2013 to 2016 when the tournament was played in Memphis, Tenn., 6-1, 3-6, 7-6 (4).
   Nishikori was playing in his first ATP tournament since hurting his right wrist in August.
   Anderson, ranked 11th, is guaranteed to return to the top 10 for the first time since October 2015. With his fourth career title, he would climb to a career-high No. 9. Querrey seeks his 11th crown.
   The 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) Querrey is 9-7 against the 6-foot-8 (2.03-meter) Anderson, but the 31-year-old Anderson has won three of their last four matches. Most recently, Anderson won 7-6 (5), 6-7 (9), 6-3, 7-6 (7) in the U.S. Open quarterfinals last year.
   Querrey and Anderson first met in the 2007 Sacramento Challenger, with Querrey prevailing 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 in the first round.  
   College men -- No. 5 Stanford defeated No. 4 Georgia 4-2 in the quarterfinals of the ITA National Men's Indoor Championship in Seattle.
   Tom Fawcett, ranked 33rd, clinched the victory by beating Wayne Montgomery, ranked 17th, 7-6 (4), 3-6, 6-3 on Court 1.
   Stanford, off to its best start in 18 years at 8-0, will face No. 1 Wake Forest (7-0) on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. The Demon Deacons (7-0) beat No. 8 USC 4-1.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Stanford men reach quarters in National Indoors

   No. 5 seed Stanford defeated No. 12 Baylor 4-2 today in the first round of the ITA National Men's Team Indoor Championship in Seattle.
   Eric Fomba clinched the victory for the Cardinal (7-0) by topping 104th-ranked Will Little 2-6, 6-2, 6-2 on Court 4.
   Stanford's Tom Fawcett, ranked 33rd, routed Bjoern Petersen, ranked 64th, 6-2, 6-1 on Court 1.
   Stanford will face No. 4 Georgia in the quarterfinals on Saturday. The Bulldogs beat No. 13 Columbia 4-1.

Qualifier Bellis, 18, pushes Halep in Doha loss

   After a slow start, CiCi Bellis gave second-ranked Simona Halep a battle today before losing.
   Halep reeled off the first seven games and held on to defeat Bellis, an 18-year-old qualifier who was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, 6-0, 6-4 in the quarterfinals of the Qatar Total Open in Doha.
   Halep faced no break points in the first set but 10 in the second set, saving eight, in her first match against Bellis.  
   "She's fast," Halep said of the 2017 WTA Newcomer of the Year. "She's hitting the ball fast, and she stays close to the baseline, which makes her game fast, and it's not easy to stay there. You have to be aggressive to make points. In the second set, I couldn't finish the points because she was everywhere, and she has great movement."
   Halep later withdrew from her semifinal against fourth-seeded Garbine Muguruza with a right foot injury suffered during the Australian Open last month. Halep fell to 0-3 in Grand Slam finals with her 7-6 (2), 3-6, 6-4 loss to Caroline Wozniacki in Melbourne.
   Bellis, the youngest player in the top 50 by almost two years, will rise about eight places to No. 40 on Monday. She reached a career-high No. 35 last August.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Qualifier Bellis, 18, stuns Pliskova in Qatar

   CiCi Bellis achieved two more milestones today in her meteoric rise on the WTA tour.
   The 18-year-old qualifier, who was born in San Francisco and raised in nearby Atherton, stunned defending champion Karolina Pliskova, ranked and seeded fifth, 7-6 (4), 6-3 to reach the quarterfinals of the Qatar Total Open in Doha.
   It was Bellis' first victory over a top-five player and former world No. 1.
   "This was huge for me," Bellis, the youngest player in the top 50 by almost two years at No. 48, crowed in her on-court interview. "I think I played a really good match and just tried to track down as many balls as I could. Obviously, I've watched her play for many years, and she's one of my idols, for sure. I'm just really happy I was able to get through it."
   Bellis, the WTA Newcomer of the Year in 2017, recorded her third victory over a top-10 player. She defeated Agnieszka Radwanska and Svetlana Kuznetsova last year when they were ranked No. 6 and No. 8, respectively.
   Add Bellis' win over Petra Kvitova in the Bank of the West Classic quarterfinals at Stanford last August, and she has beaten three former world No. 2s, along with Radwanska and Kuznetsova.
   Also, Bellis has knocked off the last two U.S. Open runners-up in the past two days. Pliskova lost to Angelique Kerber at Flushing Meadows in 2016 in a virtual replay of the 2015 Stanford final. On Wednesday, Bellis ousted 12th-seeded Madison Keys, who fell to Sloane Stephens in last year's U.S. Open after winning the Stanford title earlier in the summer.
   Pliskova missed the Czech Republic's 3-1 victory over Switzerland in Prague in the first round of the Fed Cup last weekend with stomach flu and complained of fatigue against Bellis.
   Bellis avenged a 6-1, 6-1 loss to Pliskova in the second round at Brisbane in the first week of the year.
   "When I played her in Brisbane, she killed me, and I was super nervous before that match," Bellis said of their only previous meeting. "It was the start of the year. It was my second match of the year, and she was playing really well there.
   "I knew I had to be super on top of it from the first point today, and that's what my team and I discussed. From the first point, I had to be 100 percent rather than kind of get into the match and take a few games. So I think that was a big part of it."
   Bellis is scheduled to meet Simona Halep, ranked and seeded second, for the first time on Friday after the 4:30 a.m. (PST) match between fourth-seeded Garbine Muguruza and seventh-seeded Caroline Garcia.
   Halep remains bothered by a sprained ankle suffered during her march to last month's Australian Open final, in which she lost to Caroline Wozniacki 7-6 (2), 3-6, 6-4.