Friday, November 17, 2017

Bryans eliminated from ATP Finals

   The end of Bryan brothers' Hall of Fame career is approaching.
   It could come next year for the 39-year-old former Stanford stars. But not now with Mike Bryan and Canada's Daniel Nestor tied for the most doubles match victories with 1,056.
   Fifth-seeded Bob and Mike Bryan ended another disappointing season with a 6-4, 6-4 loss to alternates Oliver Marach of Austria and Mate Pavic of Croatia today in the ATP Finals in London. Marach and Pavic replaced Ivan Dodig of Croatia and Marcel Granollers of Spain because of an undisclosed injury.
   The Bryans, who grew up in Camarillo in the Los Angeles area and now live in the tax haven of Florida, finished 1-2 in round-robin play. They have won the title four times, most recently in 2014.
   In Saturday's semifinals, top-seeded Lukasz Kubot of Poland and Marcelo Melo of Brazil will face eighth-seeded Ryan Harrison of Austin, Texas, and Michael Venus of New Zealand, and second-seeded Henri Kontinen of Finland and John Peers of Australia will meet fourth-seeded Jamie Murray of Great Britain and Bruno Soares of Brazil.
   Each semifinal team except Murray and Soares won a Grand Slam title this year. Kontinen and Peers, the defending champions in the ATP Finals, triumphed in the Australian Open. Harrison and Venus took the French Open crown, and Kubot and Melo prevailed at Wimbledon.
   Third-seeded Jean-Julien Rojer of the Netherlands and Horia Tecau of Romania went 0-3 in the ATP Finals. They won the U.S. Open.
   The Bryans, owners of a record 16 Grand Slam men's doubles titles, failed to win one for the third consecutive year. Their number of tour-level titles has declined in each of the last five years from 11 (tying their career high) to 10 to six to three to two. They have 112 overall.
   The Bryans led Stanford to NCAA team championships in both of their years there (1997-98). Bob Bryan won a rare Triple Crown in 1998, also claiming the NCAA singles and doubles titles (with Mike).

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Bryans lose to top seeds in ATP Finals

   Top-seeded Lukasz Kubot of Poland and Marcelo Melo of Brazil beat fifth-seeded Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan 6-4, 6-3 today in a round-robin match at the ATP Finals in London.
   Kubot and the 6-foot-8 (2.03-meter) Melo, this year's Wimbledon champions, improved to 2-0 in the Woodbridge-Woodforde group to clinch a berth in Saturday's semifinals.
   The 39-year-old Bryan twins, four-time champions, fell to 1-1. To advance, the ex-Stanford stars must defeat seventh-seeded Ivan Dodig of Croatia and Marcel Granollers of Spain on Friday, and Kubot and Melo must beat fourth-seeded Jamie Murray of Great Britain and Bruno Soares of Brazil.
   Murray and Soares routed Dodig and Granollers 6-1, 6-1 to improve to 1-1 in the tournament featuring the top eight teams of the year. Dodig and Granollers are 0-2.
   French Open champs Ryan Harrison of Austin, Texas, and Michael Venus of New Zealand lead the Eltingh-Haarhuis group at 2-0. 
   The Bryans won the ATP Finals in 2003 and 2004 in Houston and 2009 and 2014 in London. They have won a record 16 Grand Slam men's doubles titles but none since the 2014 U.S. Open.
   The Bryans grew up in Camarillo in the Los Angeles area and now live in Florida.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Bryans eke out win in ATP Finals opener

   Fifth-seeded Bob and Mike Bryan edged fourth-seeded Jamie Murray of Great Britain and Bruno Soares of Brazil 7-5, 6-7 (3) [10-8] today in a round-robin opener at the ATP Finals in London.
   The 39-year-old Bryan twins, who seek their fifth title in the tournament, saved three set points in the first set. They will play top-seeded Lukasz Kubot of Poland and Marcelo Melo of Brazil on Wednesday.
   Kubot and Melo, this year's Wimbledon champions, beat seventh-seeded Ivan Dodig of Croatia and Marcel Granollers of Spain 7-6 (2), 6-4.
   The Bryans, ex-Stanford stars, won the ATP Finals in 2003 and 2004 in Houston and 2009 and 2014 in London. The owners of a record 16 Grand Slam men's doubles titles, they failed to win one for the third consecutive year in 2017.
    The doubles field in the ATP Finals consists of the top eight teams of the year. Each team plays three round-robin matches, and the top four pairs advance to Saturday's semifinals. 
    The Bryans led Stanford to NCAA team championships in both of their years there (1997-98). Bob Bryan won a rare Triple Crown in 1998, also claiming the NCAA singles and doubles titles (with Mike).

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Stephens falls again, but U.S. ends title drought

CoCo Vandeweghe exhorts the crowd during the
Bank of the West Classic final at Stanford in Aug-
ust. Photo by Mal Taam
   Despite another loss by U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, the United States won its first Fed Cup title in 17 years today.
   With the U.S. and host Belarus tied 2-2 after singles, Shelby Rogers and CoCo Vandeweghe defeated Aryna Sabalenka and Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-3, 7-6 (3) in the deciding match in Minsk.
   It was the Americans' 18th Fed Cup title, more than any other country. Next is the Czech Republic with 10.
   Vandeweghe, who cracked the top 10 in the world for the first time in the year-end rankings at No. 10, gave the United States a 2-1 lead in the two-day competition with a 7-6 (5) 6-1 victory over Sabalenka, ranked No. 78 at 19 years old. Vandeweghe, a two-time runner-up in the Bank of the West Classic final at Stanford (2012 and this year), trailed 1-4 in the tiebreaker.
   Sasnovich, ranked 87th, then edged the 13th-ranked Stephens 4-6, 6-1, 8-6 to set up the deciding doubles match. Stephens, who grew up in Fresno, is 0-6 since defeating countrywoman Madison Keys in September for her first Grand Slam title.
   "I'm just really thrilled for all four players (including Alison Riske, who did not play)," Kathy Rinaldi, who completed her first year as the U.S. Fed Cup captain, told reporters. "CoCo came out and just played unbelievable, Shelby stepped up, and Sloane -- my heart was broken for her, but she battled the whole weekend. She battled all the way to the end. I'm so proud of all four of them."
   Vandeweghe, 25, became the first player to win eight Fed Cup matches in a year since the current format began in 2005 and the first to win the maximum six singles matches since Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic in 2011.
   "It was a lot of work and a lot of dedication to the Fed Cup in each and every round," Vandeweghe said. "I dedicated my time and energy through my season to be able to perform the best I could for Team USA."
   Both teams were missing star players this weekend. For the United States, Serena Williams is on maternity leave, 37-year-old Venus Williams skipped the Fed Cup this year, Keys cited a wrist injury, and doubles specialist Bethanie Mattek-Sands is recovering from knee surgery. Belarus' Victoria Azarenka has child custody issues that also caused her to miss the U.S. Open.

Ex-Stanford star Zhao wins $100K Shenzhen

   One week after Kristie Ahn won the biggest title of her career, her former Stanford teammate Carol Zhao did the same.
   The unseeded Zhao, a 22-year-old Canadian, beat fourth-seeded Fangzhao Liu of China 7-5, 6-2 on an outdoor hard court today for the $100,000 Shenzhen (China) title.
   "It's been a long way here since January and I owe this to a small group of people whose belief in me never wavered even when mine did," Zhao tweeted. "There are still many, many more miles to go but I'm so so grateful for you, and for this."
   Zhao soared from No. 221 in the world to a career-high No. 150 with the title. Her only previous singles crown came in a $25,000 tournament in Nanao, Japan, in early September.
   Zhao, 5-foot-5 (1.65 meters), reached the NCAA singles final as a sophomore in 2015, losing to Jamie Loeb of North Carolina. Zhao turned pro in June 2016 after helping Stanford claim its 18th NCAA women's team title. Florida is next with seven.
   Ahn, a 25-year-old American, won last week's $80,000 RBC Pro Challenger in Tyler, Texas. 

Jackson, Yeah win Fall Sectional singles titles

   Ryder Jackson and Ashley Yeah won the boys and girls 18 titles, respectively, in the NorCal Junior Fall Singles Sectional Championships last weekend at the Broadstone Racquet Club in the Sacramento suburb of Folsom.
   The second-seeded Jackson of Nicasio beat unseeded Aryan Chaudhary of Santa Clara 6-3, 6-4. The top-seeded Yeah of Los Gatos outplayed second-seeded Rachel Eason of Union City 6-4, 6-2.
   Here are the results of other finals in the singles-only Sectionals:
16s
At Broadstone Racquet Club in Folsom
Boys
   Kush Patel (2), Cupertino, def. Sidharth Jangbahadur (1), Palo Alto, 6-2, 6-2.
Girls
   Allura Zamarippa (5), Saint Helena, def. Alexis Johnson (9), Fair Oaks, 6-1, 6-4.
14s
At Fremont Tennis Center
Boys
   Alex Koong (2), Los Altos, def. Lucca Liu (5), Palo Alto, 6-3, 6-4.
Girls
   Tomi Main (1), Seaside, def. Arushi Malik (5), Cupertino, 6-1, 6-1.
12s
At UC Santa Cruz
Boys
   Mitchell Lee (2), Oakland, def. Siddharth Moturi (1), Monterey, 8-6.
Girls
   Natasha Rajaram (2), Cupertino, def. Michela Moore (9), Monte Sereno, 8-2.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Stephens upset; U.S. tied 1-1 in Fed Cup final

   The United States recorded one victory on the opening day of the Fed Cup final.
   But it didn't come from U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens.
   CoCo Vandeweghe, who cracked the top 10 for the first time in the year-end rankings at No. 10, defeated 87th-ranked Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-4, 6-4 in today's first match in Minsk, Belarus.
   But the 13th-ranked Stephens, who grew up in Fresno, lost to 19-year-old Aryna Sabalenka, ranked 78th, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4. Stephens, 24, is 0-5 since beating countrywoman Madison Keys for her first Grand Slam title.
   The best-of-five series will continue on Sunday with the reverse singles matches followed by doubles. The United States has won 17 Fed Cup titles, more than any other team, but none since 2000. The U.S. is playing in its first Fed Cup final since 2010 and Belarus its first ever.
   Vandeweghe, 25, reached her second Bank of the West Classic final at Stanford in August, losing to close friend and countrywoman Madison Keys.
   As always in the Fed Cup and Davis Cup, the series between the United States and Belarus is as noteworthy for who's missing as for who's playing. Absent are Serena Williams (maternity leave), 37-year-old Venus Williams (skipping Fed Cup this year), Keys (wrist) and Bethanie Mattek-Sands (knee surgery) for the United States and Victoria Azarenka (child custody issues) for Belarus.
   Serena Williams, Venus Williams and Azarenka are former world No. 1s in singles with multiple Grand Slam titles. The same goes for Mattek-Sands in doubles.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Sac State's Losbergs sweeps Invitational titles

Sacramento State's Mikus Losbergs, a junior from Latvia, swept the singles
and doubles titles in the Pacific Men's Tennis Invitational. Photo courtesy
of Sacramento State
   Sacramento State's Mikus Losbergs swept the singles and doubles titles in the recent Pacific Men's Tennis Invitational in Stockton.
   Losbergs, seeded second in singles, outlasted sixth-seeded Tadiwa Chinamo of Pacific 2-6, 7-6 (1), 6-4 in the final. In the doubles final, top-seeded Losbergs and Kasparas Zemaitelis defeated Connor Garnett and Kamran Khan 8-3.
   "This tournament was the best tennis I have ever seen Mikus play," Sac State assistant coach Kevin Kurtz said of the junior from Latvia on hornetsports.com. "He's always been a great player, but he was in a zone during the entire tournament. I don't think you could play a better weekend of tennis, and for him to win three matches on the final day was extremely impressive and showed a lot of heart."
   The nine-team field also included Fresno State, Saint Mary's, Cal Poly and UC Davis.
   Sac State ended its fall season in the tournament. The Hornets will open their spring season on Jan. 19 at Saint Mary's. Sac State's home opener is scheduled for Jan. 21 against Cal Poly. All home matches will be played on campus.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Stanford's Geller tops world junior boys rankings

   From the pros to college to the juniors, it was a sensational two days for Stanford.
   On Sunday, ex-Cardinal star Kristie Ahn won the $80,000 Tyler (Texas) Challenger for the biggest title of her career. Also, sophomore Emily Arbuthnott and freshman Michaela Gordon won the women's doubles title in the ITA National Fall Championships in Indian Wells, Calif.
   On Monday, freshman Axel Geller of Argentina rose to No. 1 in the ITF world junior boys rankings. It's uncertain if or when another college player has achieved that distinction.
   Geller reached the Wimbledon and U.S. Open junior finals this year, losing to Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain and Wu Yibing of China, respectively. Geller won the Wimbledon doubles title with Hsu Yu Hsiou of Taiwan.
   Stanford, coached by alumnus and former world top-60 player Paul Goldstein, will open its dual-match season against San Francisco on Jan. 19 at the Taube Family Tennis Stadium.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Ahn nears top 100 after winning $80K Tyler title

Kristie Ahn, left, and Danielle Collins shake hands after Ahn's victory in
the quarterfinals of the $60,000 Sacramento (Calif.) Challenger in July.
Ahn beat Collins again on Sunday to win the $80,000 Tyler (Texas)
Challenger. Photo by Rob Vomund
   After winning the biggest title of her career, Kristie Ahn is close to cracking the top 100 in the world for the first time.
   The former Stanford star, seeded fourth, beat unseeded Danielle Collins 6-4, 6-4 in an all-American matchup on Sunday in the final of the $80,000 RBC Pro Challenger in Tyler, Texas.
   Ahn, only 5-foot-5 (1.65 meters), rose nine places to a career-high No. 106 and took the lead in the Australian Open Wild Card Challenge.
   If Ahn, 25, wins the Challenge, gains direct entry into the Australian Open or qualifies, it will be her second appearance in the main draw of a Grand Slam tournament and first in nine years.
   At 16, the product of Upper Saddle River, N.J., qualified for the 2008 U.S. Open before losing to Dinara Safina 6-3, 6-4. Safina was ranked seventh at the time and climbed to No. 1 the following year.
   Numerous injuries followed, but Ahn helped Stanford win the 2013 NCAA team title and graduated the following year as a four-time All-American.
   Ahn improved to 2-0 against Collins, the NCAA singles champion in 2014 and 2016. Ahn won 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the quarterfinals of the $60,000 Sacramento (Calif.) Challenger in July. 

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Stanford pair win ITA National Fall doubles title

Michaela Gordon eyes a forehand in the singles qualifying event of the
$60,000 FSP Gold River Women's Challenger in the Sacramento area in
July. Photo by Rob Vomund  
   Playing only their second tournament together, Stanford's Emily Arbuthnott and Michaela Gordon won the inaugural ITA National Fall Championships.
   Arbuthnott, a sophomore from England, and Gordon, a freshman from Saratoga in the San Francisco Bay Area, beat Alexa Bortles and Arianne Hartono of Mississippi 6-4, 6-1 today in Indian Wells, Calif. Both teams were unseeded.
   Arbuthnott and Gordon won the first three of their five tournament matches in super tiebreakers. They ousted third-seeded fifth-seeded Rosie Johanson and Meghan Kelley of Virginia in the quarterfinals and third-seeded Kelly Chen and Samantha Harris of Duke in the semifinals.
   Arbuthnott and Gordon ended the fall season with an 8-1 record. They reached the doubles semifinals in the ITA Northwest Regional Championships last month at Stanford.
   Gordon earned her second collegiate title and Arbuthnott, who played No. 1 doubles with then-senior Taylor Davidson last season, her first. Gordon won the singles crown in the Northwest Regionals.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Stanford duo to play for doubles title in Fall Nationals

Michaela Gordon volleys in the singles qualifying event
of the $60,000 FSP Gold River Women's Challenger in
the Sacramento area in July. Photo by Rob Vomund
   After pulling off their second consecutive upset, Stanford's Emily Arbuthnott and Michaela Gordon will play for the doubles title in the ITA National Fall Championships.
   The unseeded pair knocked off third-seeded Kelly Chen and Samantha Harris of Duke 6-1, 7-5 today in Indian Wells, Calif.
   Arbuthnott, a sophomore from England, and Gordon, a freshman from Saratoga in the San Francisco Bay Area, won all three of their previous tournament encounters in match tiebreakers. They surprised fifth-seeded Rosie Johanson and Meghan Kelley of Virginia in the quarterfinals.
   Arbuthnott and Gordon will play Mississippi's Alexa Bortles and Arianne Hartono, who beat Paige Hourigan and Kenya Jones of Georgia Tech 6-2, 7-6 (5) in a matchup of unseeded teams. Bortles is a sophomore from Alpharetta, Ga., and Hartono is a senior from the Netherlands.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Stanford pair reach doubles semis in Fall Nationals

   Stanford's Michaela Gordon and Emily Arbuthnott lost to unseeded players today in the third round of the ITA National Fall Championships in Indian Wells, Calif.
   However, they reached the doubles semifinals together.
   The 12th-seeded Gordon, a freshman from Saratoga in the San Francisco Bay Area, fell to Bianca Turati of Texas 6-2, 7-6 (7). Arbuthnott, a sophomore from England, succumbed to Marie Leduc of Clemson 6-1, 6-2.
   Unseeded in doubles, Arbuthnott and Gordon edged fifth-seeded Rosie Johanson and Meghan Kelley of Virginia 3-6, 7-6 (5) [10-4].
   Arbuthnott and Gordon, who have won all three of their encounters in match tiebreakers, will play third-seeded Kelly Chen and Samantha Harris of Duke. Chen and Harris beat Elena Christofi and Morgan Coppoc of Georgia 6-4, 7-6 (4).

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Stanford's Arbuthnott upsets seed in Fall Nationals

   Emily Arbuthnott of Stanford ousted sixth-seeded Katarina Jokic of Georgia 6-1, 2-6, 6-1 today in the second round of the ITA National Fall Championships in Indian Wells, Calif.
   Arbuthnott's teammate, 12th-seeded Michaela Gordon, advanced with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Shiori Fukuda of Ohio State.
   Arbuthnott, a sophomore from England, is scheduled to face unseeded Marie Leduc of Clemson for a quarterfinal berth. Leduc surprised 15th-seeded Maya Sherif of Pepperdine, 4-6, 6-1, 6-3. Sherif, a senior, transferred from Fresno State after sophomore season.
   Gordon, a freshman from Saratoga in the San Francisco Bay Area, will meet unseeded Bianca Turati of Texas. Turati knocked off fourth-seeded Ena Shibahara of UCLA 7-6 (4), 6-2. Shibahara tops the preseason national rankings.
   Both the third round and quarterfinals are set for Friday.
   Top-seeded Anna Danilina of Florida and third-seeded Karla Popovic of Cal lost in the first round on Wednesday. Second-seeded Ashley Lahey of Pepperdine remains alive.
   Arbuthnott and Gordon also reached the doubles quarterfinals, beating Gabrielle Andrews and Jada Hart of UCLA 7-5, 4-6 [11-9]. Arbuthnott and Gordon will play fifth-seeded Rose Johanson and Meghan Kelley of Virginia.
   All men with Northern California connections have been eliminated in singles and doubles.
  Victor Pham, a Columbia junior from Saratoga, lost to ninth-seeded Alfredo Perez of Florida 7-6 (3), 6-4. Logan Staggs, a UCLA senior from Tracy, fell to 10th-seeded JJ Wolf of Ohio State 6-3, 6-1.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Gordon, Pham, Hill win ITA Regonal titles

   Three Northern Californians won titles in the recent ITA Regional Championships.
   All three players are from the San Francisco Bay Area, and all triumphed in singles. Michaela Gordon won the Northwest Regional, Victor Pham the Northeast Regional and Sean Hill the Mountain Regional.
   The fourth-seeded Gordon, a Stanford freshman from Saratoga, defeated teammate Emily Arbuthnott, seeded seventh, 7-5, 6-2 on their home courts in Monday's final.
   The top-seeded Pham, a Columbia junior from Saratoga, beat No. 5-8 seed David Volfson of Cornell 6-3, 6-3 at Yale on Monday.
   The unseeded Hill, a BYU sophomore from Berkeley, routed third-seeded Ricky Hernandez-Tong of New Mexico 6-2, 6-1 at BYU on Saturday.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

NorCal connections of players in WTA Finals

Garbine Muguruza reached the semifinals of the Bank of the West Classic
at Stanford in August in her first tournament after winning Wimbledon.
Photo by Mal Taam
   All eight singles players in this week's WTA Finals in Singapore have played in the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford. Here's how they have fared (world rankings and seedings in parentheses):
   Simona Halep (1), Romania -- In her only appearance, lost to Sabine Lisicki of Germany 6-1, 6-2 in first round in 2011.
   Garbine Muguruza (2), Spain -- Reached quarterfinals in 2014 and semifinals this year in her only appearances. Won 2014 doubles title with compatriot Carla Suarez Navarro.
   Karolina Pliskova (3), Czech Republic -- Has made two appearances, losing in second round in 2014 to eventual champion Serena Williams and in 2015 final to Angelique Kerber.
   Elina Svitolina (4), Ukraine -- Reached 2015 semifinals, losing to Kerber, in her only appearance.
   Venus Williams (5), United States -- Has won the singles title twice (2000 and 2002) and reached six other finals in 13 appearances. Made her WTA debut at 14 in 1994 (when the tournament was played indoors in Oakland), losing to Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario in second round. Has played doubles once, winning the 2009 title with Serena Williams.
   Caroline Wozniacki (6), Denmark -- In her only appearance, lost to Vavrara Lepchenko in second round in 2015 after receiving first-round bye.
   Jelena Ostapenko (7), Latvia -- In her only appearance, lost to 17-year-old CiCi Bellis of neighboring Atherton in first round in 2016.
   Caroline Garcia (8), France -- Lost in first round in both appearances (2014 and 2015).

Friday, October 20, 2017

Stephens, Bellis net prestigious awards

   Two of the WTA's six annual awards went to Northern California products today.
   Sloane Stephens, who grew up in Fresno, was named the Comeback Player of the Year. CiCi Bellis, from Atherton in the San Francisco Bay Area, was selected as the Newcomer of the Year.
   Other award winners were Garbine Muguruza (Player of the Year), Martina Hingis and Chan Yung-Jan (Doubles Team of the Year), Jelena Ostapenko (Most Improved Player) and Angelique Kerber (Aces Award for exceptional promotion of women's tennis).
   International journalists voted on the awards.
   Stephens, 24, won her first Grand Slam title in the U.S. Open only nine months after undergoing foot surgery. At No. 83, she was the lowest-ranked player to win the U.S. Open in the Open Era (since 1968), aside from unranked Kim Clijsters in 2009. Stephens is now No. 15.
   In response to a congratulatory tweet from the WTA, Stephens wrote: "Thank you guys! It has been an unforgettable year."     
   Bellis, 18, jumped from No. 90 at the beginning of the year to a career-high No. 35 in August. Now No. 44, she is the youngest woman in the top 50. Bellis defeated four top-20 players during the season: No. 6 Agnieszka Radwanska in Dubai, No. 8 Svetlana Kuznetsova in Toronto, No. 14 Petra Kvitova at Stanford and No. 18 Kiki Bertens in the French Open.
   "I am so honored to be named Newcomer of the Year by the @WTA," Bellis tweeted. "Thanks to everyone that voted for me. Can't wait for next year!"
   Both Stephens and Bellis are now based in Florida.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Federer pal McDonald wins first Challenger title

Mackenzie McDonald, right, beat a weary Bradley Klahn
6-4, 6-2 today to win the $100,000 Fairfield (Calif.) Chal-
lenger. Photo by Paul Bauman
   FAIRFIELD, Calif. -- Mackenzie McDonald is too reserved and modest to mention it, but all those training sessions with Roger Federer appear to be paying off.
   McDonald, a 22-year-old product of Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area, defeated former Stanford star Bradley Klahn 6-4, 6-2 today to win the $100,000 Northbay Healthcare Men's Pro Championships at Solano Community College.
   McDonald earned his first Challenger singles title after coming to Fairfield 0-7 in semifinals at the level equivalent to Triple A in baseball.
   "I'm super pumped to compete here in NorCal and win," McDonald, who's now based in Los Angeles, gushed after facing Klahn, a 27-year-old resident of Poway in the San Diego area, for the first time. "I've worked really hard, and I think it's showing."
   The sessions with Federer haven't hurt, either.
   "Mackie has trained with him quite a bit," said McDonald's childhood coach, Rosie Bareis, who rushed back home from Florida this morning to attend the final. "He was in Dubai (where the Swiss star has a home) for a few weeks last December. After Roger was eliminated from the French Open, he called Mackie again and said, 'Hey, come to Zurich and train for a week, and let's get ready for Wimbledon together.' At the U.S. Open, when Mackie was in the qualies, he had a day off. Roger called him up and said, 'Let's hit balls,' and they played a couple of sets."
   Federer and McDonald have more in common than one might suspect. Federer's mother, Lynette, is South African, as is another of McDonald's longtime coaches, Wayne Ferreira, who peaked at No. 6 in the world in singles in 1995 and No. 9 in doubles in 2001. He lived in the Bay Area for many years before moving to South Carolina. McDonald still consults Ferreira, who could not be reached for comment.
   "I remember when Mackie said (to Federer), 'Hey, do you know my other coach, Wayne Ferreira?' " said Bareis, the director of tennis at the Claremont Resort & Spa in Berkeley. "Roger said, 'I ballboyed for that guy (in the Basel Open)!'
   "I think there's a connection (between Federer and McDonald). Roger likes him. He likes a lot of the juniors."
   Ferreira helped McDonald overcome a disheartening loss in the quarterfinals of last week's $100,000 Stockton (Calif.) Challenger. McDonald held two match points in a loss to 19-year-old American Michael Mmoh.
   "Wayne told him, 'How I handled it was, there's always going to be another tournament the following week,' " Bareis said. "Look what happened."
   Bareis returned from a United States Professional Tennis Association meeting in Delray Beach, Fla. She caught a 6 a.m. flight from Orlando, Fla., flew nonstop to San Francisco, landed at 8:50 a.m., freshened up at home in Tracy and continued on to Fairfield.
   "I consider Rosie family," McDonald said. "I'm very happy she was here to see me win my first (Challenger) title."
Bradley Klahn is drenched with water in a fundraising
stunt after the singles final. Mackenzie McDonald
nailed the bucket with a shot from the baseline on
his second try. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Bareis worked with McDonald from age 3 to 10 and co-coached him with Ferreira from 10 to 14. The USTA's Mat Cloer now coaches McDonald.
   "There were a lot of people in Northern California in the beginning who thought everything I was doing was wrong," Bareis said. "We were getting up Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings and hitting balls from 6 to 8 before school. He comes back in the afternoon, goes to the junior clinic, plays in the East Bay Junior League on Friday and plays tournaments on Saturday and Sunday. Burnout, whatever ...
   "I asked the people in NorCal, 'Why don't we have 8-and-under tournaments? Why does SoCal have 8-and-unders?' At that time, it was 10-and-under, no-ad, round robin, here's a participation ribbon, yay. I was like: 'He's 7 years old. He's going to have to wait how long to win his first trophy?'
   "What I feel good about is that Mackie is one of the kids that set an opportunity for the CiCi Bellises and Vivian Ovrootskys. At least we have somebody in NorCal the kids can say, If those guys from Northern California can make it, I can make it."
   Also attending today's final were McDonald's parents (Michael and Vivian) and grandparents on his father's side, and Klahn's brother, sister and girlfriend. 
   Blue skies returned over the weekend after smoke from nearby wildfires hovered over the area. Several players, their host families and co-tournament director Phil Cello evacuated early in the week, and most of Tuesday's matches were postponed until Wednesday because of "very unhealthy" air quality, according to airnow.gov.
   Between the singles and doubles finals, the crowd observed a moment of silence in honor of the 40 people who died in the blazes, which have destroyed about 5,700 homes and businesses and caused an estimated $3 billion in damage. After the singles final, McDonald and Klahn agreed to be drenched with water in a stunt to aid the Wildfire Relief Fund. Officials posted photos on the tournament website with donation information.
   Both players started the match slowly, losing serve in each of the first three games and five of the first seven. The difference was McDonald quickly recovered while Klahn struggled throughout the match.
   McDonald admitted he was nervous early in the match.
   "Yeah, for sure," he said. "I mean, first (Challenger) final. I felt there was a bit on the line for me, but I'm very happy with how I composed myself this week. I fee like that's always a challenge in pro tennis. I feel like I'm getting the hang of how to calm my nerves, just play tennis and focus on the important things."
   Once McDonald settled down, he pounded his serves and groundstrokes, returned well and put away volleys. For someone who's only 5-foot-10 (1.78 meters) and 145 pounds (66 kilograms), he has surprising power. McDonald had four aces and four double faults, and won 26 of 33 points (79 percent) on his first serve.
   "Mackie has always been an all-court player," said Bareis, noting that McDonald swept the NCAA singles and doubles titles as a UCLA junior last year before turning pro. "He knows how to move forward and take time away."
   McDonald tried to stay away from Klahn's punishing forehand, on which he takes a big windup.
   "I wanted to pick on his backhand," said McDonald, who won last year's doubles title in Fairfield with Brian Baker of Nashville, Tenn. "I haven't seen Brad play that much lately, but I know his backhand is a little weaker. I thought he was going to try to get it high to my backhand, which I think he was, but my down-the-line backhand was working well, so I could get out of that position."
   Klahn, the 2010 NCAA singles champion, looked nothing like the player who ousted top-seeded Ernesto Escobedo in a scintillating second-round match. The 6-foot (1.83-meter) Klahn put in only 55 percent of his first serves, had one ace and four double faults, won only 8 of 21 points (38 percent) on his second serve, and committed numerous errors.
   Klahn, who underwent his second operation for a herniated disc in his back in February 2015 and ended a 21-month layoff last November, was playing in his second final in two weeks. He lost to Maximilian Marterer of Germany 7-6 (3), 7-6 (6) in a $100,000 hard-court tournament in Monterrey, Mexico, last Sunday.
   "I think the best way to describe it is 10 matches in two weeks caught up to me," Klahn, who was seeking his sixth Challenger singles title but first since 2014, said of his disappointing performance today. "Mackie did play well, and I know he was confident up here in these conditions. I couldn't quite get my nose in front, and I struggled with my serve. I was kind of fighting an uphill battle today."
   McDonald, who earned $14,400, will jump from No. 218 to a career-high No. 164 in Monday's updated rankings. Klahn, who collected $8,480, will improve from No. 313 to No. 240. He reached a career-high No. 63 in 2014.
   McDonald and Klahn are scheduled to play in next week's $50,000 Las Vegas Tennis Open, so they will go from the site of one recent tragedy to another.
(Left to right) Second-seeded David O'Hare and Luke Bambridge defeated
wild cards Bernardo Oliveira and Akram El Sallaly from the University of
the Pacific in Stockton 6-4, 6-2 for the doubles title. Photo by Paul Bauman
   In the doubles final, second-seeded Luke Bambridge of Great Britain and David O'Hare of Ireland outclassed wild cards Akram El Sallaly of Egypt and Bernardo Oliveira of Brazil 6-4, 6-2, the same score as in the singles final. El Sallaly and Oliveira are teammates at the University of the Pacific in Stockton.
   Bambridge and O'Hare, who split $6,200, almost skipped Fairfield.
   "I was due to fly back home," said O'Hare, 27. "I was trying to stick to four weeks on the road and a couple weeks at home to train. We had good success. We made the final in Columbus (after losing in the quarterfinals in Cary, N.C.) and the semifinals in Tiburon, then lost first round in Stockton.
   "It would have been easy to throw in the towel, but with the (Fairfield) tournament so close (to Stockton), I figured I'd cancel my flight, and come down here and play. You don't want to end on a bad note, and here we are today on Sunday lifting the trophy. Sometimes it works that way, and obviously I'm all too delighted that it has."
   Bambridge, meanwhile, was prepared to play doubles in a $25,000 Futures tournament in Houston this week.
   "When Dave said he was going to stay, I said, 'OK, I'll pull out of the Futures,' " said Bambridge, 22. "We had a really tough first-round (matchup against Klahn and Jackson Withrow of College Station, Texas). Some would say we were extremely unfortunate. Once we came through that, we never looked back.
   "It would have been easy to lose that match and say, Ah, tough draw, but we came through it. From then on, we didn't play our best tennis, but mentally, we were really, really good. We had three match tiebreakers and won them all. We started to jell really well together."
   Here are the complete Fairfield singles and doubles draws.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Bay Area native, ex-Stanford star reach Fairfield final

   Last year's final in the $100,000 Fairfield (Calif.) Challenger, held at Solano Community College for the first time, featured two international players.
   This year's title match in the Northbay Healthcare Men's Pro Championships will have a Northern California flair.
   Mackenzie McDonald, who was born and raised in Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area, will meet Bradley Klahn, a former Stanford star from Poway in the San Diego region, for the first time on Sunday after the noon doubles final at Solano.
   McDonald defeated qualifier Chris O'Connell of Australia 6-4, 7-5 to reach his first Challenger final after seven semifinal losses. Although McDonald is only 5-foot-10 (1.78 meters) and 145 pounds (66 kilograms), he slugged nine aces.
   Klahn dismissed fourth-seeded Maximilian Marterer of Germany 6-1, 6-3 in a matchup of left-handers that lasted only 43 minutes. Marterer, who beat Klahn 7-6 (3), 7-6 (5) last Sunday to win a $100,000 hard-court tournament in Monterrey, Mexico, had no aces and seven double faults.
   Both McDonald, 22, and Klahn, 27, are unseeded.
   McDonald turned pro last year after sweeping the NCAA singles and doubles titles as a UCLA junior. Now based in Los Angeles, he's ranked No. 218.
   Klahn seeks his sixth Challenger singles title but first since 2014. He is fighting his way back up the rankings after undergoing his second operation for a herniated disc in his back in February 2015 and missing 21 months. Ranked a career-high No. 63 in 2104, he is now No. 313.
   In last year's Fairfield final, Colombian veteran Santiago Giraldo defeated France's Quentin Halys, then 19, in three sets. The match was suspended by rain on a Sunday with Halys leading 3-1, ad-out, and completed the next day.
   Neither Giraldo, who climbed to a career-high No. 28 in 2014, nor Halys returned to Fairfield this year.
   Also Sunday, a team with strong NorCal ties will play for the doubles title. Wild cards Akram El Salally and Bernardo Oliveira, teammates at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, will meet second-seeded Luke Bambridge of Great Britain and David O'Hare of Ireland.
   El Salally, a sophomore from Egypt, and Oliveira, a senior from Brazil, edged unseeded Mikelis Libietis of Latvia and McDonald 7-6 (5), 4-6 [10-8].
   McDonald won last year's doubles crown with Brian Baker of Nashville, Tenn., and Libietis captured the 2014 NCAA doubles title with Tennessee teammate Hunter Reese.
   Here are the Fairfield singles and doubles draws and Sunday's schedule. The tournament is being streamed live.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Three seeds fall in 100K Fairfield quarterfinals

   Three seeds lost today in the quarterfinals of the Northbay Healthcare Men's Pro Championships, leaving only one in the $100,000 tourmament at Solano Community College in Fairfield, Calif.
   No. 2 Tennys Sandgren fell to Mackenzie McDonald, who grew up in nearby Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area, 7-6 (3), 6-2.
   McDonald, who won the doubles title last year with compatriot Brian Baker, defeated Sandgren, ranked No. 98, for the first time in six career matches. They met for the fifth time this year.
   McDonald will play qualifier Chris O'Connell of Australia for the first time in Saturday's first semifinal at noon. O'Connell outlasted third-seeded Bjorn Fratangelo of Orlando, Fla., 7-6 (5), 5-7, 6-4.
   In Saturday's second semifinal, fourth-seeded Maximilian Marterer of Germany will face former Stanford star Bradley Klahn of Poway in a matchup of left-handers. It will be a rematch of Sunday's final in a $100,000 hard-court tournament at Monterrey (Mexico), won by Marterer 7-6 (3), 7-5 (3) in his first career meeting with Klahn.  
   Klahn advanced today with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory over eighth-seeded Nikola Milojevic of Serbia 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. Each of Klahn's three victories in the tournament has come in three sets. He knocked off top-seeded Ernesto Escobedo, a resident of West Covina in the Los Angeles region ranked No. 91, on Thursday.
   Marterer defeated qualifier and countryman Sebastian Fanselow 6-4, 7-5.
   The tournament remained at Solano Community College as USTA on-site supervisor Keith Crossland deemed the air quality adequate for play as wildfires continue to blaze in the nearby wine country.
   Crossland will evaluate the air quality again on Saturday at 11 a.m. and decide whether to keep the matches at Solano or move them to the University of California, Davis, a 30-minute drive to the northeast.
   McDonald also reached the doubles semifinals, this time with Mikelis Libietis of Latvia. The unseeded pair surprised top-seeded Neal Skupski of Great Britain and John-Patrick Smith of Australia 7-6 (3), 7-5.
   Both McDonald (UCLA) and Libietis (Tennessee) are former NCAA doubles champions. The 5-foot-10 (1.78-meter) McDonald swept the singles and doubles titles last year as a junior, then turned pro.
   Here are the Fairfield singles and doubles draws and Saturday's schedule. The tournament is being streamed live.

Ex-Stanford star ousts top seed in 100K Fairfield

Bradley Klahn lines up a backhand during his three-set
victory over top-seeded Ernesto Escobedo on Thursday.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   FAIRFIELD, Calif. -- Bradley Klahn wondered if his career was over at age 24.
   "It certainly crossed my mind from time to time," the former Stanford star, who underwent his second operation for a herniated disc in his back in February 2015, admitted Thursday. "But I've been healthy for well over a year now and started training last July. My body feels good, and that's behind me now. I'm just focusing on continuing to take advantage of his second opportunity I have to play tennis."
   Now 27, the 6-foot (1.83-meter) left-hander from Poway in the San Diego area took another step in his comeback by ousting top-seeded Ernesto Escobedo of West Covina in the Los Angeles region 6-4, 6-7 (7), 6-3 to reach the quarterfinals of the $100,000 Northbay Healthcare Men's Pro Championships.
   About 15 minutes before the scheduled 10 a.m. match, USTA on-site supervisor Keith Crossland decided to keep Thursday's matches at Solano Community College rather than move them to the University of California, Davis, a 30-minute drive away, or another site.
   Wednesday afternoon's scheduled matches were wiped out because smoke from wildfires in the nearby wine country of Northern California reduced the air quality to very unhealthy. But it improved to unhealthy on Thursday, blue sky returned, and Klahn said he had no breathing problems during the match.
   Because the wildfires -- which have killed 31 people, scorched 191,000 acres and destroyed thousands of buildings -- continue to rage, Crossland will face the same issue this morning of where to play.
   Some players staying with host families have evacuated, but those staying at a hotel, such as Klahn, have not.
   "I'm trying to monitor (the situation) a little bit but not get too consumed by it," Klahn said. "I know from experience with the fires down in San Diego it's easy to get sucked in and watch the news 24/7, but I'm certainly thinking about all the families that have been displaced or had their homes burned down. It's a real tragedy."
   Through it all, Klahn has maintained his focus.
   "For the most part, I think I've done a pretty good job of staying relaxed throughout the delays wondering if we're going to play, if we're not going to play," he said. "I just put it behind me when I step out on the court knowing I have a job to do."
   Thursday's match, the first between Klahn and Escobedo, was an intense, hard-hitting affair. The 6-foot-1 Escobedo, 21, crushed his first serve and hammered groundstrokes into the corners. But Klahn often managed to keep the ball in play, inducing errors from Escobedo, and laced some some spectacular running cross-court passing shots. Klahn's lefty serve also was effective, including on his third match point, when he swung his first delivery out wide in the ad court for a winner.
   Klahn broke serve in the opening game of the second set, but Escobedo broke back for 3-3 on a double fault. Escobedo saved five break points in the next game to hold serve, survived a match point serving at 5-6 in the tiebreaker and converted his fourth set point.
   Klahn recorded the only break of the third set to lead 4-2. From deuce in that game, Escobedo ripped an inside-out forehand that smacked the tape and fell back, then sailed a backhand down the line long. He missed his first serve on both points.
   "The key," said Klahn, who finished with 10 aces and nine double faults, "was staying positive and upbeat about my chances even though I let the second set slip away a little bit. I hung in there and competed really well. That was the biggest thing."
   So did Escobedo. Even when he lost his serve in the third set, he escaped three break points before succumbing.
   "He played well; I played well," Escobedo, had 11 aces and five double faults, said of the match. "I was lucky to get back in the second set. I was down a break. I'm happy that I fought hard. The third set just didn't go my way. I just felt like I played a loose game and that's what cost me."
Ernesto Escobedo, ranked No. 91, laments that
he is the only Mexican-American in the top 100.
Photo by Paul Bauman 
   Escobedo reached the second round of the Australian Open as a qualifier in January and advanced to his first ATP semifinal in Houston on clay in April, upsetting second-seeded John Isner in the quarters. But Escobedo has won only two matches in his last five tournaments.
   "It's a process on tour," Escobedo reasoned. "I haven't won that many matches, unfortunately, but it is what it is. I just have to keep on working hard. There's no secrets behind it."
   Escobedo, a Los Angeles native ranked No. 91, is the only Mexican-American in the top 100. Mexico, where his grandfather taught his father to play, has no one in the top 600 in singles (Santiago Gonzalez leads the way in doubles at No. 33).
   "It's unfortunate because I believe there's a lot of talent in Mexico," said Escobedo, who was featured in the May 1 issue of Sports Illustrated after his Houston breakthrough. "It's unfortunate it's just me. Hopefully, I can inspire more kids to play tennis throughout my career."
   None of the top seeds during the three-week Challenger swing through Northern California reached the quarterfinals. Ruben Bemelmans, a 29-year-old left-hander from Belgium, lost in the first round in Tiburon and Stockton as the No. 1 seed.
   Escobedo became the third top-100 player Klahn has beaten since the latter ended a 21-month layoff last November. He topped No. 92 Renzo Olivo of Argentina 4-6, 7-5, 4-0, retired in the first round of qualifying in Houston and No. 81 Victor Estrella Burgos of the Dominican Republic 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 in the quarterfinals of a $100,000 Challenger on hard courts in Monterrey Mexico, last week en route to a runner-up finish.
   "I'm starting to string together a few more wins," Klahn said. "I'm gaining confidence each week. I lost a couple of tough matches in previous weeks but was just knocking on the door. Now it's just time to continue building and developing my game."
   Klahn won the 2010 NCAA singles title as a sophomore, underwent his first back operation the following year and graduated in economics in 2012. He reached the second round of the U.S. Open in 2012 and 2013, won the Aptos (Calif.) Challenger in 2013, and climbed as high as No. 63 in 2014.
   Klahn's latest layoff changed his perspective.
   "I appreciate being on the road a little bit more," said Klahn, who dropped out of the rankings in February 2016 but has fought back to No. 313. "I always enjoyed travel, but I've tried to get out of my comfort zone and go to a few different places, enjoy the cities I'm in and just soak it all in.
   "You never know how long it's going to last. When I step out on court, there's always going to be nerves. You still want to win regardless of whether it's before the injury or after the injury, but defintely off the court and in practices, I'm trying to enjoy the whole process a little more."
   Klahn is scheduled to play eighth-seeded Nikola Milojevic of Serbia for the first time today in the late afternoon. Milojevic, 22, defeated 19-year-old phenom Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada 6-2, 6-4 on Tuesday.
   Mackenzie McDonald, a 22-year-old product of Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area, beat Darian King of Barbados for the second time in three weeks, 6-3, 6-1. McDonald, only 5-foot-10 (1.78 meters) and 145 pounds (66 kilograms), will take on second-seeded Tennys Sandgren of Gallatin, Tenn., in the Nashville area.
   McDonald, who won last year's doubles title with Brian Baker of Nashville, is 0-5 against Sandgren. This will be their fifth meeting of the year and second in three weeks. Sandgren prevailed 7-6 (4), 7-6 (3) in the Tiburon semifinals and complained of fatigue after losing to Cameron Norrie 6-2, 6-3 in the final.
   Two qualifiers, Chris O'Connell of Australia and Sebastian Fanselow of Germany, also reached the Northbay Healthcare quarterfinals. O'Connell will face third-seeded Bjorn Fratangelo of Orlando, Fla., and Fanselow will meet fourth seed and countryman Maximilian Marterer, a quarterfinalist for the second straight year.
   And yes, Fratangelo is named after Bjorn Borg.
   Here are the Fairfield singles and doubles draws and today's schedule. The tournament is being streamed live.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Smoke suspends play in 100K Fairfield Challenger

Smoke from a nearby wildfire shrouds the hills as players leave Solano Com-
munity College after play was canceled for the day. Photo by Paul Bauman
   FAIRFIELD, Calif. -- For the first time in his 28-year career, USTA on-site supervisor Keith Crossland suspended play because of poor air quality.
   Three matches, one in singles and two in doubles, were completed this morning in the $100,000 Northbay Healthcare Men's Pro Championships before smoke from a nearby wildfire shrouded Solano Community College, the tournament site.
   No. 8 seed Nikola Milojevic, 22, of Serbia beat 19-year-old Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada 6-2, 6-4 to reach the quarterfinals.
   By noon, the air quality dropped from "moderate" to "unhealthy" on airnow.gov, the website used by Crossland, and stayed there all afternoon. Crossland finally canceled play for the day at 3:30 p.m.
   By then, the wildfire had approached within two miles of Solano Community College and was headed that way, co-tournament director Phil Cello said, as high winds returned to Northern California.
James Harden lookalike Evan King celebrates
during a pickup basketball game with other
tennis players in the Solano Community
College gym while tournament play was
suspended because of poor air quality.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   "The forecast is for more north wind peaking at 6 p.m.," Cello said. "That's the big variable. If the wind isn't as bad, they probably can stop it, and everybody's happy. If not, it could come through here."
   Cello and his wife evacuated from neighboring Green Valley early Tuesday morning and were still awaiting word about their house.
   Officials said 22 wildfires across California have claimed 21 lives, scorched 170,000 acres and destroyed up to 3,500 homes and businesses, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
   Tournament play is scheduled to resume on Thursday at 10 a.m. (top seed Ernesto Escobedo vs. former Stanford star Bradley Klahn) at Solano but could move to the Marya Welch Tennis Center at the University of California, Davis, the Eve Zimmerman Tennis Center at the University of the Pacific in Stockton or the Taube Tennis Center at Stanford University for one or more days, Crossland said.
   "All indications are UC Davis can make room for us," Crossland said. "That would be the most ideal spot. It's the closest (33 miles or 53 kilometers away). Players don't have to change their housing. We can pretty much commute back and forth."
   Crossland said he will check the air quality at Solano on Thursday morning and decide between 9:30 and 10 a.m. whether the matches will stay there or move.
   Crossland has dealt with fires before.
   "There was a tournament in Calabasas (in the Los Angeles area) three or four years ago," he recalled. "It was pretty smoky (because of wildfires), and there were big globs of ash around, but we continued to play. ...
   "I remember one situation in Waco (Texas) in the old days, the Satellite Tour days, where a house literally across the street from the courts burned. I think they stopped for a while because there were fire trucks around."
   Here are the Fairfield singles and doubles draws and Thursday's schedule. The tournament is being streamed live.

Aussie O'Connell overcomes harrowing evacuation

Australian qualifier Chris O'Connell and his coach, David Moore, headed
straight into a wildfire near Sonoma in Northern California before quickly
turning around. They were shaken but unharmed. Photo by Chris O'Connell
   FAIRFIELD, Calif. -- Chris O'Connell called it the "scariest moment of my life."
   The 23-year-old Australian, who was trying to qualify for the $100,000 Northbay Healthcare Men's Pro Championships, had been evacuated with his coach and their host family on Sunday night as wildfires raged in nearby Napa.
   But as O'Connell and coach David Moore of Australia headed to Greenbrae in the San Francisco Bay Area, they encountered a wall of flames 200 yards ahead.
   "We were going down a highway through a valley with bushland on either side, and we weren't sure if we were heading straight into another fire, and we literally were," O'Connell exclaimed on Tuesday. "There was another fire near Sonoma, so we quickly turned around and went a different route to Greenbrae, but it was really scary. It was the scariest moment of my life. I got to sleep about 3 a.m. and was playing the next morning at 10, so it was a crazy 24 hours. I'm all settled now."
  Seventeen blazes in Northern California's wine country have killed least 15 people and destroyed about 1,500 buildings, including including two wineries and hundreds of homes, NPR reported.
   The fires, spread by dry conditions and high winds, have burned about 115,000 acres, authorities said. The cause has not been determined. 
   O'Connell and Moore stayed one night with the host family of fellow Aussies Matthew Barton and Greg Jones in Greenbrae, 16 miles (25.7 kilometers) north of San Francisco, before going back to the family that housed them in Tiburon two weeks ago. Tiburon is 48 miles (77.2 kilometers) southwest of Solano Community College, the site of this week's tournament.
   Moore said his and O'Connell's host family in Napa, Marty and Dave Thomas "heard third-hand that their house is OK, but they can't get in the area."   
   Other players, as well as ballkids and co-tournament director Phil Cello, also were evacuated. Some ballkids have canceled, said co-tournament director Raf Rovira.
   Cello lives in Green Valley, over the hill from Solano Community College, and is staying at a son-in-law's house in nearby Vacaville.
   "We loaded up our four dogs and two cats and all our stuff and headed out," Cello said. "We left at 4 a.m. by the time we got packed up."
   Cello said he hopes his house is OK and doesn't know when he can return, then added: "It's fine. It's precautionary. The fire is in Napa on the other side of the hill. The danger is if it comes over the top. My home is near the base of the hill. The danger is that the wind is supposed to pick up again tonight. The fire in Napa has zero percent containment. We just have to hope the wind doesn't pick up so much that it lifts the fire over the hill and into the homes below."
Chris O'Connell, left, shown with his coach and fellow Australian, David
Moore, is scheduled to play former top-70 player Tobias Kamke of Germany
today in the second round of the $100,000 Fairfield Challenger. Photo by
Paul Bauman  
   Smoke enveloped Fairfield in the morning, and USTA on-site supervisor Keith Crossland came close to postponing play. He consulted ATP senior supervisors and medical staff by telephone and e-mail and a website that listed the air quality as moderate.
   "It was certainly smoky, but the website was the thing that pushed me over to go ahead and play," Crossland said. "There is no ATP rule saying there's air quality 'X' above which you don't play and below which you can play. It's ultimately the (on-site) supervisor's decision."
   Crossland also noted: "The ATP plays events in some cities that have reputations for pretty bad air quality like Beijing, Shanghai and Mexico City. I've never been there, so I couldn't say this is worse than that, but my feeling is this is not as bad as that."
   Players seemed unaffected by the smoke on Tuesday morning, and the air was much clearer in the afternoon.
   O'Connell, who had ousted top qualifying seed Liam Broady of Great Britain in the second round, battled fatigue and the smoke in the last round on Monday morning but beat No. 5 seed Jay Clarke of Great Britain 6-3, 7-5 in straight sets.
   "Obviously, I felt pretty drained walking on the court," said O'Connell, who had slept 3 1/2 hours. "My eyes were watering, really hurting, and my throat was sore just from breathing in all the smoke. Once I got into the match, all that kind of disappeared because I'm a competitive guy. I just wanted to compete."
   O'Connell also upset American Denis Kudla, a former top-70 player, 7-5, 6-3 on Tuesday morning. The victory was especially gratifying because O'Connell missed most of the summer with pneumonia. 
   "I've really only come good in the past month and a half," said O'Connell, who has plunged from a career-high No. 219 in February to No. 375. "It's really good to start getting a couple wins and feeling good on the court."
   O'Connell was worried about the smoke before facing Kudla, unnecessarily as it turned out.
   "Surprisingly, I felt good warming up and playing the match, maybe because I was winning," he said.
   O'Connell will meet another former top-70 player, 31-year-old German Tobias Kamke, today in the second round.
Liam Broady of Great Britain wears one of
the respiratory masks handed out in the
pkayers' lounge. Photo by Paul Bauman
   One seed lost on Tuesday, and three others survived scares.
   No. 6 Stefan Kozlov, 19, fell to Mackenzie McDonald, a 22-year-old product of Piedmont in the Bay Area, 6-4, 5-7, 6-1 in a matchup of U.S. prospects.
   No. 2 Tennys Sandgren in the Nashville area edged fellow American Mitchell Krueger 6-2, 6-7 (2), 7-6 (5) in a battle that ended in near-darkness at 6:43 p.m. Krueger had the match on his racket when he led 5-4 in the tiebreaker with two points on his serve coming.
   No. 3 Bjorn Fratangelo of Orlando, Fla., trailed by a set and a service break before rallying to beat lucky loser Alexander Ward of Great Britain 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4 in two hours, 28 minutes.
   Also, No. 9 Michael Mmoh, 19, nipped wild card Evan King, a 25-year-old left-hander, 6-1, 4-6, 7-6 (5) in another all-American affair.
   Top seed Ernesto Escobedo of West Covina in the Los Angeles area and Sandgren, from Gallatin, Tenn., in the Nashville area, are the only two top-100 players in the tournament at No. 91 and No. 98, respectively.
   Mmoh received the ninth seed after No. 5 Cameron Norrie of Great Britain withdrew because of a left shoulder strain. Norrie defeated Mmoh in the semifinals of last week's $100,000 Stockton Challenger en route to his second title in two weeks. The 22-year-old left-hander also won Tiburon.
   Fourth-seeded Maximilian Marterer of Germany downed Brydan Klein of Great Britain 6-4, 7-6 (2). Marterer reached last year's Fairfield quarterfinals and won last week's $100,000 Monterey (Mexico) Challenger. Klein advanced to the Fairfield semifinals in 2016 and won the Stockton doubles title with countryman Joe Salisbury last week.
   Here are the Fairfield singles and doubles draws and Wednesday's schedule. The tournament is being streamed live.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Two Fairfield players evacuated because of wildfires

   Two players in the $100,000 Fairfield Challenger and their host families were evacuated in the middle of the night today because of wildfires in the nearby wine country of Northern California, according to USTA on-site supervisor Keith Crossland.
   Crossland did not know which two players were evacuated but thought one was Australian qualifier Christopher O'Connell.
   The wildfires, which have killed at least 10 people and destroyed 1,500 homes, did not affect the tournament schedule.
   Tobias Kamke, a 31-year-old German, ousted seventh-seeded Ramkumar Ramanathan of India 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 in the opening round at Solano Community College, which is being used as an evacuation center.
   Kamke, who reached a career-high No. 64 in 2011, rebounded from an awful performance in his 6-2, 6-1 loss to third-seeded Michael Mmoh of Bradenton, Fla., in the first round of last week's $100,000 Stockton Challenger. Kamke was so distraught by his repeated errors that at one point he stomped on his racket and demolished the frame.
   Also today in Fairfield, top-seeded Ernesto Escobedo, 21, beat Alexander Sarkissian, a 27-year-old wild card, 5-7, 6-0, 6-2 in a matchup of Los Angeles-area residents.
   Escobedo, ranked No. 91, is one of two top-100 players in the tournament. Second-seeded Tennys Sandgren of Gallatin, Tenn., in the Nashville area is No. 98.
   In last year's final, Santiago Giraldo of Colombia defeated Quentin Halys of France. Neither returned this year.
   Here are the Fairfield singles qualifying draw, singles and doubles main draws and Tuesday's schedule. The tournament is being streamed live.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Norrie overcomes wind, King for second straight title

Cameron Norrie, left, defeated Darian King 6-1, 6-3 today to win
the $100,000 Stockton Challenger. Photo by Paul Bauman
   STOCKTON, Calif. -- When Cameron Norrie was asked Friday what his greatest strength is, he mentioned his two-handed backhand and mental toughness.
   The latter was critical today as the wind, which plagued the $100,000 Stockton Challenger early in the week, returned with a vengeance.
   Making the best of the situation, the eighth-seeded Norrie routed sixth-seeded Darian King 6-1, 6-3 in 68 minutes at the University of the Pacific's Eve Zimmerman Tennis Center for his second title in two weeks.
   "I feel like I'm a rock mentally," trumpeted Norrie, a 22-year-old left-hander from Great Britain. "I knew it would be tough in the wind, and I don't want to complain about it, so I think I used it to my advantage. It definitely does favor the person that's mentally tougher."
   Norrie, who pocketed $14,400, won his third Challenger singles title since turning pro in May after his junior year at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. He has played in three consecutive finals, winning 14 of 15 matches, since losing to eventual semifinalist Pablo Carreno Busta in the second round of the U.S. Open as a qualifier.
   But Norrie, the champion in last week's $100,000 Tiburon Challenger, will not try to match Sam Querrey's 2014 feat of sweeping the three-week Northern California swing. Norrie withdrew from next week's $100,000 Fairfield Challenger at Solano Community College with a left shoulder strain.       Today, Norrie won the first five games and the last four.
   "I think I played very smart at the start," said Norrie, who improved to 2-0 against King. "I played pretty safe, and I was winning a lot of the longer rallies. I used my drop shot pretty well today into the wind. He was standing pretty far back, so it was pretty effective for me. I'm playing great tennis."
   Norrie showed no signs of frustration during the match. King, in contrast, at various times muttered to himself, shook his head, put his hands on his hips, threw up his arms, almost slammed his racket on the court and, on a changeover, struck his racket bag with his racket. Of course, it's a lot easier to stay composed when you're winning.
   "It was my first time playing a left-hander the whole week," moianed the 25-year-old King of Barbados, a small Caribbean island nation with a population of only 292,000. "Obviously, he handled (the wind) much better. Obviously, it's tough playing a left-hander in these conditions.
   "I had better chances in the second set. He was coming to the net and made some great passing shots at the right time, and I messed up a volley or two because of the conditions. That's how tennis goes. It's mental, and you have to try to adapt to all the circumstances."
Joe Salisbury, left, and Brydan Klein won the Stockton
doubles title. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Norrie, who was born in South Africa and grew up in New Zealand, will jump 25 more places to No. 111 in Monday's updated rankings. But he's not concerned about cracking the top 100 for the first time and gaining direct entry into the Australian Open in January.
   "No, not at all," he said. "I'm just trying to get better every day. I don't really have any ranking goals. Me and my coach, Facu (Facundo Lugones), are just going to keep working every day. If I get top 100, if I get top 60, it doesn't really make a difference as long as I'm getting better."
   King, who collected $8,480, will improve from No. 207 to No. 181. He reached a career-high No. 106 last year in May and later won Tiburon.
   Norrie completed a British sweep of the Stockton titles. In the doubles final, fourth-seeded Brydan Klein and Joe Salisbury beat qualifiers Denis Kudla of Arlington, Va., and Tampa, Fla., and Mikelis Libietis of Latvia 6-2, 6-4. Klein, a 27-year-old Australia native who plays for Great Britain, and Salisbury, 25, split $6,200.
   Here are the completed Stockton singles and doubles draws.
   Here are the Fairfield singles qualifying draw, singles and doubles main draws and Monday's schedule.

With incredible turnaround, Norrie reaches final

   STOCKTON, Calif. -- It was the biggest turnaround since Donald Trump succeeded Barack Obama.
   Cameron Norrie was two points from getting bageled in the first set of his semifinal against Michael Mmoh on Saturday in the $100,000 Stockton Challenger.
   From there, Norrie won 11 consecutive games in a 7-5, 6-2 victory at the University of the Pacific's Eve Zimmerman Tennis Center.
   As if that's not amazing enough, Norrie defeated Mmoh by the same score in the quarterfinals of last week's $100,000 Tiburon (Calif.) Challenger en route to the title.
   In an effort to change that outcome, the third-seeded Mmoh was determined to play more aggressively this time. He did just that initially, throwing the eight-seeded Norrie off his game and bolting to a 5-0 lead.
   But Mmoh, for all his firepower at a chiseled 6-foot-1 (1.85 meters) and 187 pounds (85 kilograms), likes to use his tremendous athleticism to play defense. He lapsed back into that mode, which proved fatal against Norrie and his precise groundstrokes.
   It didn't help that Mmoh double-faulted on the first of his three set points at 5-3 in the first set, on break point at 5-5 in that set and on break point at 2-4 in the second set.
   "He actually played really well to start off with, hitting the ball everywhere, and I was a little off," said Norrie, a 22-year-old left-hander from Great Britain. "My racket was strung dead, but I'm not making any excuses. He was playing great tennis. I just tried to take it one point at a time, and he stopped being as aggressive. That allowed me to play my game and dictate play a little more."
   Mmoh, 19, of Bradenton, Fla., agreed with Norrie's assessment.
   "I thought I was playing pretty solid and that was part of the reason I was up 5-0," said Mmoh, the son of former journeyman pro Tony Mmoh from Nigeria. "Then everything clicked (for Norrie), and I slowed down a little bit. He found his rhythm and built off that. He played really well the rest of the match after 5-0."
   Norrie, ranked No. 136, will face sixth-seeded Darian King of Barbados today after the 11 a.m. doubles final. King, ranked No. 207, defeated Tim Smyczek of Tampa, Fla., 6-1, 6-4.
   "I was expecting a long match, but I got a couple of errors from Tim to get an early break, and I guess I rode that wave," said King, 25. "Also in the second set, he got some early breaks, and I was getting a little tight trying to win the match. I was playing someone for the first time and trying to get into my first final in a long time."
   Norrie has played King once, winning 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 in the final round of qualifying for the $100,000 Dallas Challenger in February 2015. Norrie also practiced with King in Barbados while visiting a friend there the week before Tiburon last month.                    
   Norrie seeks his third Challenger title since turning pro in May after his junior year at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth.
   Since reaching the second round of the U.S. Open as a qualifier, Norrie has played in three consecutive Challenger finals. In the first one, he lost to unheralded American Kevin King in a $50,000 Challenger in Cary, N.C.
   "I've still got a lot of things to work on," said Norrie, who reached No. 1 nationally at TCU. "It's exciting that I'm winning and not playing my best tennis."
   King will play in his first final since beating Mmoh in last year's Tiburon Challenger.
   Here are the Stockton singles and doubles draws and today's schedule. The tournament is being streamed live.
   Also, here are the singles qualifying draw, singles main draw and today's schedule for the $100,000 Northbay Healthcare Men's Pro Championships at Solano Community College in Fairfield, Calif.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

'Lefty Andy Murray' advances to Stockton semis

   STOCKTON, Calif. -- If Michael Mmoh is right, Cameron Norrie has a very bright future.
   When it was suggested to Mmoh that the left-hander's game resembles his British countryman Andy Murray's, Mmoh replied: "Lefty Andy Murray is a pretty good comparison. He has a really good backhand and a pretty good forehand. He's very talented at moving you around the court and really dictating that baseline, so he'll just push you from corner to corner. He can do that all day. He has very good precision."
   That doesn't necessarily mean Norrie, who will face Mmoh today in the semifinals of the $100,000 Stockton Challenger, will ascend to No. 1 and win three Grand Slam singles titles like Murray.
   Norrie, 22, is far behind Murray at the same age. Murray won the first of his 45 ATP titles, 14th in the Open era (since 1968) and fourth among active players, in the now-defunct SAP Open in San Jose at 18 years old in 2006 and repeated in 2007. Norrie is ranked No. 136 and could crack the top 100 by the end of the year. That would be an impressive feat, considering he turned pro only four months ago after his junior year at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth.
   Norrie, seeded eighth, beat Tennys Sandgren, seeded second, 6-3, 7-6 (5) on Friday at the University of the Pacific's Eve Zimmerman Tennis Center.
   The third-seeded Mmoh, 19, of Bradenton, Fla., led 34-year-old Russian qualifier Dmitry Tursunov, a former top-20 player who has been plagued by injuries, 6-3 when Tursunov retired with a hamstring injury.
   It's the third consecutive tournament in which Tursunov, who trained in Northern California from age 12 into his 30s, has retired and the second straight because of a hamstring problem.
   In the other semifinal, sixth-seeded Darian King of Barbados will meet unseeded veteran Tim Smyczek of Tampa, Fla., for the first time.
   King, 25, defeated fourth-seeded Stefan Kozlov, 19, of Pembroke Pines, Fla., 6-4, 6-4. Smyczek, 29, eliminated Elias Ymer, a 21-year-old Swede, by the same score.
   Both King and Smyczek qualified for the U.S. Open in August and lost in the first round.   
   Sandgren, 26, of Gallatin, Tenn., in the Nashville area was the only top-100 player in the Stockton Challenger at No. 97. Top-seeded Ruben Bemelmans, a Belgian who lost to Ymer in the first round, dropped from No. 92 when the draw came out last Saturday to No. 101 in the latest rankings on Monday.
   Norrie's victory wasn't really an upset. He improved to 3-0 against Sandgren, including a 6-2, 6-3 victory in the final of the $100,000 Tiburon (Calif.) Challenger on Sunday.
   "I think I've had a little bit of luck (against Sandgren)," the 6-foot-2 (1.88-meter) Norrie said modestly. "I've been winning the long rallies against him, and that's what he usually does well. That's paid dividends, and I've been coming forward when I've needed to and knocking off some volleys when he's on the run and slices. I've been staying positive and staying tough."
   Sandgren led 4-1 (one service break) in the second set, but Norrie broke back for 3-4 when Sandgren sailed a high backhand volley long. Both players then held serve to force the tiebreaker, in which Norrie bolted to a 5-1 lead and held on for the match.
   "He played a good game to break me (early in the second set)," said Norrie, who reached the second round of the U.S. Open as a qualifier before losing to eventual semifinalist Pablo Carreno Busta. "I felt like I was playing well. I just tried to focus on the present. Then I fought back and played a very good tiebreaker and served really well. It's the best I've served the last two weeks. I'm feeling really good about the match."
   Mmoh, the son of former journeyman pro Tony Mmoh from Nigeria, skipped college and turned pro last year. He was happy that his match against Tursunov lasted only 39 minutes.
   Mmoh was coming off a 1-6, 6-2, 7-6 (4) victory over Mackenzie McDonald, who grew up in Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area, on Thursday. Mmoh saved two match points in the 2-hour, 34-minute battle.
   "I had a super-long match yesterday and was pretty sore this morning," conceded Mmoh, who was named after Michael Jordan and has much of his namesake's athleticism. "Having a 30-minute match or whatever it was is going to help me the rest of the tournament and if I decide to play Fairfield (next week) as well."
   Norrie is 2-0 against Mmoh, including a 7-5, 6-2 win last week in the Tiburon quarterfinals.
   "I need to be a little more aggressive and take my chances," said the 6-foot-1 (1.85-meter) Mmoh, ranked No. 156. "I don't think I'm going to have a lot of success just putting the ball in play and hoping he's going to miss because he can make a ton of balls. I'm going to look to use my firepower and take it upon him."
   Here are the Stockton singles and doubles draws and today's schedule. The tournament is being streamed live.
   Also, here are the singles qualifying draw and today's schedule for the $100,000 Northbay Healthcare Men's Pro Championships at Solano Community College in Fairfield, Calif.