Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Teen Bellis upsets No. 18 seed in French Open

CiCi Bellis, shown during the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford
last July, ousted No. 18 seed Kiki Bertens today in the second round
of the French Open. Photo by Paul Bauman
   CiCi Bellis' former coach, Monique Javer, taught the junior never to lose to the same player twice.
   Good luck with that now in the pros, but the trend continued today.
   Two weeks after losing to Kiki Bertens, Bellis upset the 18th-seeded Dutchwoman 6-3, 7-6 (5) on Court 2 in the second round of the French Open. The 6-foot (1.82-meter) Bertens, also ranked 18th, reached the semifinals at Roland Garros last year and won her second consecutive Nurnberg title last week. She admittedly felt pressure to return to the semis in Paris.
   Bellis, an 18-year-old product of Atherton in the San Francisco Bay Area, lost to Bertens 6-4, 6-0 in the second round of the Italian Open in their only other meeting. This time, Bertens saved four match points before dumping a drop shot in the net on the fifth.
   Bellis equaled her best result in a Grand Slam tournament. She reached the third round of last year's U.S. Open as a qualifier, then turned pro. Now the youngest player in the top 50 at No. 48, Bellis got straight into the French Open.
   By defeating Bertens, Bellis achieved her third career victory over a top-20 player. She stunned No. 6 Agnieszka Radwanska in the third round at Dubai in February and, at 15 years old, toppled No. 13 Dominika Cibulkova in the first round of the 2014 U.S. Open. Cibulkova had reached the Australian Open final that year, losing to since-retired Li Na.
   "This is better (than beating Cibulkova)," Bellis, who reached the French Open junior doubles final with Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic in 2014, said on rolandgarros.com. "It's huge. It's hard for me to believe I'm in the third round. On the final point, maybe her nerves got the best of her. Just really lucky (for me) on that points. I do love playing on big courts at these tournaments."
   Bellis recorded her sixth career win over a player who has reached a Grand Slam quarterfinal or better. Radwanska has advanced to one final (2012 Wimbledon), four semifinals and seven quarterfinals. Bellis also has beaten Timea Bacsinszky (2015 French Open semis plus the quarterfinals in the 2016 French Open and at Wimbledon in 2015), Shelby Rogers (2016 French Open quarters) and Zhang Shuai (2016 Australian Open quarters).
   Asked about the prospect of becoming a U.S. star, Bellis said: "I've been prepping for that since I was really young. If I keep working as hard as I can every single day, I'll get there for sure.
   "Pressure? I don't even think there's that much pressure that comes with it. It's more like encouragement. People want you to do well. I think it will be fine."
   Bellis will try to live up to Javer's edict again on Friday against 11th-seeded Caroline Wozniacki, who crushed 20-year-old Canadian qualifier Francoise Abanda 6-0, 6-0 in the second round.
   Wozniacki, formerly ranked No. 1 in the world, defeated Bellis 6-3, 6-2 on a hardcourt in the Dubai quarterfinals in February in their only previous meeting.
   Wozniacki is 14-9 lifetime in the French Open, her lowest winning percentage at any Grand Slam tournament. Her best result at Roland Garros, a quarterfinal appearance, came seven years ago.
   Bellis will rise to approximately No. 40 with a loss to Wozniacki and about No. 37 or higher with a victory.
   Javer, a 49-year-old resident of Hillsborough in the Bay Area, played professionally from 1985 to 2000. She climbed to a career-high No. 56 in 1992.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Querrey ousted early in French Open again

Sam Querrey, playing doubles at Indian
Wells in March, lost to rising star Hyeon
Chung today in the first round of the
French Open. Photo by Paul Bauman
   The struggles of Sam Querrey -- and U.S. men in general -- in the French Open continued today.
   Querrey, a San Francisco native seeded 27th and ranked 28th, lost to rising star Hyeon Chung of South Korea 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 in the first round in Paris.
   The 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) Querrey, who will turn 30 in October, has won only four matches in 11 appearances at Roland Garros. He has lost in the first round eight times, including the last three years, and the second round twice. He reached the third round in 2013.
   Chung, 21, is the fourth-youngest player in the top 70 at No. 67 (No. 53 Karen Khachanov of Russia is two days younger than Chung). He advanced to the quarterfinals in Barcelona as a qualifier, upsetting 20-year-old sensation Alexander Zverev in the third round, and the semifinals in Munich, knocking off 16th-ranked Gael Monfils in the second round, in consecutive clay-court tournaments recently.
   Chung climbed to a career-high No. 51 at 19 years old in October 2015 but missed three months last summer with an abdominal injury.
   U.S. men went 2-9 in the first round of singles in the French Open. The only remaining Americans are No. 21 seed John Isner and No. 25 Steve Johnson.
   U.S. women, meanwhile, went 8-7 in the first round of singles. Among the winners was CiCi Bellis, an 18-year-old San Francisco native who grew up in nearby Atherton. Bellis, the youngest player in the top 50 at No. 48, will face a Dutch player, 18th-seeded Kiki Bertens, for the second consecutive time on Wednesday.  
   The 6-foot (1.82-meter) Bertens, a semifinalist at Roland Garros last year, beat the 5-foot-7 (1.68-meter) Bellis 6-4, 6-0 two weeks ago in the second round of the Italian Open in Rome en route to the semis. Bertens then won her third career singles title, and second straight in Nurnberg, although the highest-ranked player she beat was No. 36 Alison Riske of the United States in the quarterfinals.
   Querrey will turn his attention to grass after he plays doubles with 20-year-old American Ernesto Escobedo in Paris. Querrey reached the Wimbledon quarterfinals last year for his best Grand Slam result, stunning two-time defending champion Novak Djokovic in the third round.
   Bellis is now based in Orlando, Fla., and Querrey in the Los Angeles suburb of Santa Monica.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Bellis, 18, wins French Open main-draw debut

   CiCi Bellis achieved another first in her blossoming career today.
   The 18-year-old San Francisco native, who grew up in nearby Atherton, won a women's main-draw match in a Grand Slam tournament other than the U.S. Open.
   Debuting in the main draw of the French Open, Bellis defeated qualifier Quirine Lemoine of the Netherlands 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 in the opening round in Paris.
   Bellis, the youngest player in the top 50 at No. 48, will face another Dutchwoman, 18th-seeded Kiki Bertens, in the second round. Bertens, a semifinalist at Roland Garros last year, beat Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia 4-6, 6-1, 6-1.
   The 6-foot (1.82-meter) Bertens dismantled the 5-foot-7 (1.68-meter) Bellis 6-4, 6-0 in the second round of the Italian Open in Rome on May 17 en route to the semifinals. Bertens then won her third career singles title, and second straight in Nurnberg, although the highest-ranked player she beat was No. 36 Alison Riske of the United States in the quarterfinals.
    Bellis reached the third round of the U.S. Open as a qualifier last year and the second round at Flushing Meadows at 15 in 2014. By stunning 12th-seeded Dominika Cibulkova three years ago, Bellis became the youngest player to win a match at the U.S. Open since 15-year-old Anna Kournikova in 1996.     
    Another San Francisco native, 27th-seeded Sam Querrey, is scheduled to meet Hyeon Chung, a 21-year-old South Korean, on Tuesday in the first round of the French Open.
   The 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) Querrey's best result in 10 appearances at Roland Garros is the third round in 2013. He has lost in the first round there seven times, including the past two years.
    Bellis is now based in Orlando, Fla., and Querrey in the Los Angeles suburb of Santa Monica.

Virginia, Michigan players win NCAA singles titles

   Thai-Son Kwiatkowski pulled off an impressive double in the grueling NCAA Championships.
   Belinda Woolcock, however, fell short.
   Kwiatkowski, who helped Virginia win its third consecutive NCAA team title last week, defeated William Blumberg of North Carolina 6-4, 7-6 (5) today in an all-Atlantic Coast Conference men's singles final in Athens, Ga. Both players were seeded 9-16.
   Woolcock, who led Florida to the NCAA team title, lost to Brienne Minor of Michigan 6-3, 6-3 in the women's singles final. Woolcock was seeded sixth, and Minor was unseeded.
   Kwiatkowski, a senior from Charlotte, N.C., became the second Virginia man in three years to win the NCAA singles crown. Ryan Shane triumphed in 2015.
   Kwiatkowski and Blumberg played for the 12th consecutive day. Kwiatkowski lost to Blumberg 6-3, 6-2 on Court 2 in the team final last Tuesday, but the Cavaliers defeated the Tar Heels for their third consecutive championship.
   "Thank goodness the rest of the guys picked me up, because Will really took it to me when we met indoors last week," Kwiatkowski told reporters. "Today I felt that the coaches gave me a  really good game plan, one that was different than what we had before."
   Minor, a sophomore from the Chicago suburb of Mundelein, Ill., became the third Michigan player and first woman to win the NCAA singles title. Barry MacKay took the 1957 crown, and Mike Leach prevailed in 1982.                            
   "I'm still soaking it all in," Minor said. "When I threw my racket at the end of the match, I just felt this wave of relief because I was just so happy I could get that win. I was super tired, so I was excited to let that racket go and just be done with the match."
   Woolcock, a senior from Australia, also played for the 12th straight day. But Michigan lost to Stanford in the round of 16 on May 19, so Minor had four days off between the team and individual competition.
   Meanwhile, Andrew Harris added to his doubles resume. The unseeded team of Harris and Spencer Papa of Oklahoma edged top-seeded Robert Loeb and Jan Zielinski of host Georgia 4-6, 6-2 [10-6] for the title.
   Harris, a senior, won the 2012 Wimbledon and French Open boys doubles titles with fellow Australian Nick Kyrgios, now ranked No. 19 in the world in singles.
   In the women's doubles final, unseeded Francesca Di Lorenzo and Miho Kowase of Ohio State gave the Big Ten Conference a title sweep by nipping No. 5-8 seeds Maddie Pothoff and Erin Routliffe of Alabama 6-7 (6), 6-4 [10-7].
   Di Lorenzo lost in the first round of singles as the top seed to Pepperdine's Mayar Sherif Ahmed, a transfer from Fresno State.
   Routliffe won the NCAA doubles title in 2014 and 2015 with Maya Jansen, who played for Cal this season as a graduate student. Jansen and Maegan Manasse reached the NCAA semifinals, losing to Di Lorenzo and Kowase 6-2, 6-3.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Stanford's Fawcett falls in NCAA semifinals

   No. 9-16 seed Thai-Son Kwiatkowski of three-time reigning champion Virginia defeated No. 8 Tom Fawcett of Stanford 6-3, 6-2 today in the men's singles semifinals of the NCAA Championships in Athens, Ga.
   Fawcett, a 6-foot-5 (1.96-meter) junior from Winnetka, Ill., won his first four matches in straight sets.
   Kwiatkowski, a senior from Charlotte, N.C., is scheduled to play No. 9-16 William Blumberg of North Carolina on Monday at 8 a.m. Blumberg, a freshman from Greenwich, Conn., surprised No. 2 Nuno Borges of Mississippi State 6-2, 7-6 (1).
   Meanwhile, Maya Jansen and Maegan Manasse of Cal ended their collegiate careers with a 6-2, 6-3 loss to Francesca Di Lorenzo and Miho Kowase of Ohio State in a matchup of unseeded teams in the women's doubles semifinals.
   Manasse, a senior from Redondo Beach in the Los Angeles area, served underhand, and Di Lorenzo and Kowase stood far inside the baseline to return Manasse's first and second serve. The reason for Manasse's unconventional serve was not immediately available.
   Di Lorenzo and Kowase will face No. 5-8 seeds Maddie Pothoff and Erin Routliffe of Alabama on Monday. Pothoff and Routliffe dominated unseeded Ryann Foster and Joana Valle Costa of LSU 6-1, 6-1.
   Jansen, a graduate student, won the NCAA doubles crown with Routliffe for Alabama in 2014 and 2015. Manasse advanced to last year's final with Denise Starr.
   In other finals on Monday:
   --No. 6 seed Belinda Woolcock of NCAA champion Florida will  meet unseeded Brienne Minor of Michigan.
   --No. 1 seeds Robert Loeb and Jan Zielinski of host Georgia will play unseeded Andrew Harris and Spencer Papa of Oklahoma. Harris, a senior, won the 2012 Wimbledon and French Open boys doubles titles with fellow Australian Nick Kyrgios, now ranked No. 19 in the world in singles.
   Video streaming and live scoring of the NCAA Championships are available here.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Stanford's Fawcett reaches NCAA semifinals

Stanford's Tom Fawcett, playing in the $100,000 Fairfield (Calif.) Chal-
lenger last October, defeated Alex Ghilea of Oklahoma today in the
quarterfinals of the NCAA Championships. Photo by Paul Bauman
   No. 8 seed Tom Fawcett of Stanford outclassed unseeded Alex Ghilea of Oklahoma 6-2, 6-2 today in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championships in Athens, Ga.
   Even though Fawcett, a 6-foot-5 (1.96-meter) junior from Winnetka, Ill., has not lost a set in four matches, he said on georgiadogs.com: "I'm really tired right now; it's pretty hot. I think I played well (against Ghilea). I really tried to make the points short and not get too tired out there today, which I think I did pretty well. I won a lot of the deuce points today, which was big."
   Fawcett is scheduled to play No. 9-16 seed Thai-Son Kwiatkowski of three-time reigning NCAA champion Virginia on Sunday at 9 a.m. PDT. Kwiatkowski, a senior from Charlotte, N.C., outlasted No. 5 Christopher Eubanks of Georgia Tech 4-6, 6-2, 6-4.
   No. 2 seed Nuno Borges of Mississippi State will meet No. 9-16 William Blumberg of North Carolina in the other semifinal.
   Meanwhile, Maya Jansen and Maegan Manasse of Cal beat defending champions Brooke Austin and Kourtney Keegan of NCAA titlist Florida 7-6 (3), 6-2 in a matchup of unseeded teams in the women's doubles quarterfinals.
   Jansen and Manasse are set to meet unseeded Francesca Di Lorenzo and Miho Kowase of Ohio State on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. Di Lorenzo and Kowase ousted No. 3 seeds Mami Adachi and Aldila Sutjiadi of Kentucky 6-3, 7-5.
   Jansen, a graduate student, won the NCAA doubles crown with Alabama teammate Erin Routliffe in 2014 and 2015. Manasse advanced to last year's final with Denise Starr.
   In the women's singles semis, No. 6 Belinda Woolcock of Florida will face unseeded Estela Perez-Somarriba of Miami, and No. 9-16 Sydney Campbell of Vanderbilt will play unseeded Brienne Minor of Michigan.
   Video streaming and live scoring of the NCAA Championships are available here.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Stanford's Fawcett tops Cal's Lakat in NCAAs

   No. 8 seed Tom Fawcett of Stanford defeated No. 9-16 Florian Lakat of Cal 7-5, 7-5 today to reach the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championships in Athens, Ga.
   Fawcett, a 6-foot-5 (1.96-meter) junior from Winnetka, Ill., is scheduled to meet unseeded Alex Ghilea of Oklahoma on Saturday at 11 a.m. PDT. Ghilea, a 5-foot-11 (1.80-meter) senior from Romania, ousted No. 3 seed Petros Chrysochos of Wake Forest 7-6 (5), 7-5.
   The top seed, Mikael Torpegaard of Ohio State, also lost. No. 9-16 seed Thai-Son Kwiatkowski of three-time reigning NCAA champion Virginia defeated Torpegaard, last year's runner-up to UCLA junior Mackenzie McDonald, 6-1, 7-6 (3).
   McDonald, who grew up in Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area, turned pro last June after becoming the first man since Mathias Boeker of Georgia in 2001 to sweep the NCAA singles and doubles  titles.
   Lakat, a senior from France, also lost in his bid to reach the doubles quarterfinals for the second consecutive year with Filip Bergevi. Seeded 5-8, they fell to unseeded Jerry Lopez and Reese Stalder of Texas Christian 6-3, 6-4.
   In the third round of women's singles in Athens, unseeded Sara Daavettila of North Carolina eliminated No. 9-16 seed Karla Popovic of Cal 3-6, 6-4, 6-1.
   Cal's Maya Jansen and Maegan Manasse advanced to the doubles quarterfinals, beating Martina Frantova and Anna Rogers of North Carolina State 6-4, 7-6 (6).
   Jansen, a graduate student, won the NCAA doubles crown with Alabama teammate Erin Routliffe in 2014 and 2015. Manasse advanced to last year's final with Denise Starr.
   Jansen and Manasse are set to face the defending champions, unseeded Brooke Austin and Kourtney Keegan of NCAA champion Florida, on Saturday at 11:30 a.m.
   No. 3 seeds Mami Adachi and Aldila Sutjiadi of Kentucky edged Hadley Berg and Paige Cline, South Carolina teammates from the Bay Area, 2-6, 7-6 (6) [10-5].
  Video streaming and live scoring of the NCAA Championships are available here.

Stanford's Fawcett, Cal's Lakat to meet in NCAAs

Cal's Florian Lakat, serving in the 2015 Tiburon
(Calif.) Challenger, defeated Jordi Arconada
of Texas A&M on Thursday in the second round
of the NCAA Singles Championships.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   One man from a San Francisco Bay Area school will reach the quarterfinals of the NCAA Singles Championships.
   No. 8 seed Tom Fawcett of Stanford is scheduled to meet No. 9-16 Florian Lakat of Cal today at 7 a.m. PDT in Athens, Ga. They have split two matches this season.
   Fawcett, a 6-foot-5 (1.96-meter) junior from Winnetka, Ill., thrashed Eduardo Mena of Tennessee Tech 6-0, 6-1 in the second round on Thursday. Lakat, a senior from France, topped Jordi Arconada of Texas A&M 6-4,
6-3.
   Lakat's teammate, Andre Goransson, lost to No. 9-16 seed William Blumberg of NCAA runner-up North Carolina 7-5, 6-2. Goransson, a senior from Sweden, will begin his professional career after graduation.
   Lakat also won in the first round of doubles with Filip Bergevi. Seeded 5-8, they beat Spencer Furman and Nick Stachowiak of Duke 6-2, 6-4.
   On the women's side, No. 9-16 Karla Popovic of Cal dismissed Ingrid Gamarra Martins of South Carolina 6-0, 6-3 to reach the round of 16. Popovic, a junior from Croatia, is set to play Sara Daavettila of North Carolina today at 8:30 a.m.
   Popovic and Daavettila have met once this season. Daavettila led 5-7, 6-3, 5-2 when the Tar Heels clinched a quarterfinal victory over Cal in the ITA National Women's Team Indoor Championship in February in New Haven, Conn.
   Two other women from the Bay Area lost to players from NCAA champion Florida. Stanford's Melissa Lord fell to No. 6 seed Belinda Woolcock 6-3, 6-4, and Felicity Maltby of Texas Tech and Sunnyvale was drubbed by Anna Danilina 6-1, 6-1.
   Danilina stunned No. 2 seed and 2016 runner-up Haley Carter of North Carolina in the opening round. No. 1 Francesca Di Lorenzo of Ohio State also lost in the first round.
   In the first round of doubles, Maya Jansen and Maegan Manasse of Cal dismissed Amina Ismail and Beatriz Machado Santos of Missouri 6-2, 6-2. Jansen, a graduate student, won the NCAA doubles crown with Alabama teammate Erin Routliffe in 2014 and 2015. Manasse advanced to last year's final with Denise Starr.
   Hadley Berg and Paige Cline, South Carolina teammates from the Bay Area, defeated Jada Hart and Ena Shibahara of UCLA 6-3, 5-2, retired. Hart and Shibahara won the U.S. Open girls doubles title last September.
   Stanford's Emily Arbuthnott and Taylor Davidson fell to No. 5-8 seeds Maddie Pothoff and Routliffe of Alabama 6-1, 6-3.
   Video streaming and live scoring of the tournament are available here.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Stanford, Cal players advance in NCAA singles

Stanford's Tom Fawcett, serving in the $100,000 Fairfield (Calif.)
Challenger last October, beat Wayne Montgomery of host Georgia
today in the first round of the NCAA Men's Singles Championships
in Athens, Ga. Photo by Paul Bauman
   No. 8 seed Tom Fawcett of Stanford defeated Wayne Montgomery of host Georgia 6-1, 7-5 today in the first round of the NCAA Men's Singles Championships in Athens, Ga.
   Fawcett, a 6-foot-5 (1.96-meter) junior from Winnetka, Ill., is scheduled to play Eduardo Mena of Tennessee Tech on Thursday at 8 a.m. PDT. Mena, a 6-foot (1.82-meter) junior from Spain, beat Maxime Tchoutakian of Baylor 6-4, 7-6 (6).
   Also advancing were Cal's Florian Lakat, seeded 9-16, and Andre Goransson. Lakat, a senior from France, defeated Ronnie Schneider of NCAA runner-up North Carolina 6-4, 6-3. Goransson, a senior from Sweden, dismissed Harrison O'Keefe of South Carolina 6-2, 6-2.
   One day after helping Virginia win its third consecutive NCAA title, junior Collin Altamirano of Sacramento lost to David Biosca of East Tennessee State 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. Biosca, a senior from Spain, reached the doubles semifinals last year.
   Daniel Valent of Vanderbilt eliminated Columbia's Victor Pham, from Saratoga in the San Francisco Bay Area, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.
   On the women's side, No. 9-16 seed Karla Popovic of Cal dispatched Katarina Adamovic of Oklahoma State 6-4, 6-0.
   Popovic's teammate Maegan Manasse lost to Arianne Hartono of Mississippi 6-2, 6-3. Manasse, a senior from Redondo Beach in the Los Angeles area, reached the singles round of 16 in 2015 and 2016 and the doubles final with Denise Starr last year.
   Melissa Lord of NCAA runner-up Stanford defeated Johnnise Renaud of Georgia Tech 2-6, 6-4, 6-0. Lord, a sophomore from Bloomfield, Conn., will face No. 6 seed Belinda Woolcock of NCAA champion Florida.
   Lord's teammate, Caroline Doyle of San Francisco, fell to Shannon Hudson of Arkansas 6-3, 6-1. Doyle, a senior, advanced to the doubles semifinals two years ago.
   In an all-Northern California matchup, Felicity Maltby of Texas Tech and Sunnyvale in the Bay Area, eliminated Kassidy Jump of Arizona State and Granite Bay in the Sacramento region 6-4, 6-2.
   Maltby, a sophomore, is set to meet Florida's Anna Danilina on Thursday at 10 a.m. Danilina stunned North Carolina's Hayley Carter, the No. 2 seed and last year's runner-up, 6-2, 6-3.  
   The second round of men's and women's singles and the first round of men's and women's doubles are scheduled to begin Thursday at 6 a.m. Video streaming and live scoring are available here.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Altamirano, UVA three-peat; Stanford women fall in final

Collin Altamirano of Sacramento chats before playing
in an exhibition in nearby Antelope last October.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Collin Altamirano made it 3 for 3 today.
   The junior from Sacramento helped the Virginia men win their third consecutive NCAA title, and fourth in five years, today with a 4-2 victory over Atlantic Coast Conference rival North Carolina in Athens, Ga. The match, the last for Brian Boland after 16 years as the Cavaliers' coach, was moved indoors because of rain.
   Altamirano, the USTA Boys 18 champion four years ago, and J.C. Aragone triumphed 6-1 on Court 3 as second-seeded Virginia (34-1) took the doubles point.
   Altamirano, ranked 40th in singles, then dominated Simon Soendergaard 6-3, 6-1 on Court 4 to give the Cavaliers a 3-1 lead. After Robert Kelly won on Court 3 for ninth-seeded North Carolina (29-5), the 109th-ranked Aragone beat Jack Murray 7-6 (2), 6-2 on Court 5 to clinch the victory.
   Virginia became the first team from outside the Pacific-12 Conference to win three straight NCAA titles or more. Stanford (1988-90, 1995-98), USC (1962-64, 1966-69 and 2009-12) and UCLA (1952-54) have accomplished the feat.
   In 2013, Altamirano became the first unseeded player to win the USTA Boys 18 National Championships in the tournament's 71-year history. In the final, he defeated Jared Donaldson, now a professional ranked 71st in the world. Altamirano is 10 months older than Donaldson.
   Boland announced in March that he would leave after this season to become the USTA head of men's player development.
   No. 1 seed Florida won the women's title, defeating No. 7 seed and defending champion Stanford 4-1 outdoors at night. Ingrid Neel, ranked 31st, beat hobbling Taylor Davidson, ranked 54th, 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 on Court 3 to clinch the victory for the Gators (29-3). The Cardinal ended its season at 26-3.
   Stanford has won a record 18 NCAA team titles. Florida is next with seven.
   The NCAA Men's and Women's Singles Championships are scheduled to begin Wednesday at 6 a.m. PDT in Athens. Doubles play is set to start Thursday at the same time. Video streaming and live scoring of the individual tournaments will be available here.
   Following are Northern California singles and doubles players in the NCAA Championships (seedings in parentheses):
   Men's singles -- Tom Fawcett (8), Stanford; Florian Lakat (9-16), Cal; Andre Goransson, Cal; Saratoga's Victor Pham, Columbia.
   Men's doubles -- Filip Bergevi and Florian Lakat (5-8), Cal.
   Women's singles -- Karla Popovic (9-16), Cal; Maegan Manasse, Cal; Taylor Davidson, Stanford; Melissa Lord, Stanford; San Francisco's Caroline Doyle, Stanford; Granite Bay's Kassidy Jump, Arizona State; Sunnyvale's Felicity Maltby, Texas Tech.
   Women's doubles -- Maya Jansen and Maegan Manasse, Cal; Emily Arbuthnott and Taylor Davidson, Stanford; Greenbrae's Hadley Berg and Kentfield's Paige Cline, South Carolina.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Stanford women win thriller to reach NCAA final

Taylor Davidson, shown in 2014, won the deciding
match 7-6 in the third set today. Tri Nguyen/
TriNguyenPhotography.com
   Today's women's semifinal between No. 7 seed and defending champion Stanford and No. 3 Ohio State in the NCAA Championships came down to a tiebreaker.
   Predictably, Cardinal senior Taylor Davidson won it.
   Davidson, ranked 54th, edged Gabriella De Santis, ranked 95th, 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (5) on Court 3 to lift Stanford a 4-3 rain-delayed victory over Ohio State in Athens, Ga. The Cardinal overcame a 2-0 deficit to end the Buckeyes' 18-match winning streak.
   In last year's final, Davidson beat Vladica Babic of Oklahoma State 3-6, 7-5, 7-5 on Court 2 to give Stanford a 4-3 victory. It was Davidson's third victory in the deciding match in the tournament.
   The Cardinal (26-2) will face rival Florida (28-3), the No. 1 seed, on Tuesday at 2 p.m. PDT (ESPNU). The Gators defeated No. 4 Vanderbilt 4-2.
   The second-seeded Virginia men, meanwhile, will play for their third consecutive NCAA title and fourth in five years. The Cavaliers advanced with a 4-2 victory over No. 3 Ohio State in Athens.
   Virginia's Collin Altamirano, a junior from Sacramento ranked 40th, dominated Martin Joyce 6-0, 6-3 on Court 4 but lost 6-4 in doubles with J.C. Aragone to Hunter Tubert and JJ Wolf on Court 3.
   The Cavaliers (33-1) will meet Atlantic Coast Conference rival North Carolina (29-4) on Tuesday at 10 a.m. (ESPNU). The Cavaliers are 3-0 against the Tar Heels this season.
   Virginia can become the fourth school, and first outside the Pacific-12 Conference, to win three or more straight men's team titles. Others that have accomplished the feat are UCLA (1952-54), USC (1962-64, 1966-69 and 2009-12) and Stanford (1988-90, 1995-98).

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Stanford women upset UNC, gain NCAA semis

   Emily Arbuthnott came through again for the Stanford women.
   The freshman from England won the clinching match for the 10th time this season, a team high, as the No. 7 seed and defending champion Cardinal topped No. 2 North Carolina 4-2 today in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championships in Athens, Ga.
   Arbuthnott oustlasted freshman Makenna Jones, ranked 100th, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 on Court 5 to improve to 6-0 in three-setters this season. Jones' father, Kelly Jones, climbed to No. 1 in the world in doubles in 1992 and now coaches the men's team at Furman in Greenville, S.C. Her mother, Tami Whitlinger-Jones, reached No. 73 in the world in singles in 1997 and was a two-time All-American at Stanford.
   Here are the full results of the Stanford-North Carolina match.
   Stanford (25-2) will face No. 3 seed Ohio State (32-2) on Monday at 11 a.m. PDT. The Buckeyes, with top-ranked Francesca Di Lorenzo, overwhelmed No. 6 Texas Tech 4-0.
   The Red Raiders' Felicity Maltby, a sophomore from Sunnyvale in the San Francisco Bay Area ranked 58th, lost on Court 2 in singles and doubles.
   In the other semifinal, No. 1 seed Florida (27-3) will meet No. 4 Vanderbilt (24-5).
   The men's semifinals are scheduled for Monday at 7 a.m. No. 2 and two-time defending champion Virginia (32-1), with junior Collin Altamirano of Sacramento, will play No. 3 Ohio State (33-3). No. 9 North Carolina (28-4) will take on No. 13 and host Georgia (22-7).
   Video streaming and live scoring of the tournament are available here

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Altamirano helps Virginia men reach NCAA semis

   The No. 2-seeded Virginia men, seeking their third consecutive title in Brian Boland's final season as the coach, beat No. 10 Texas 4-1 today in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championships in Athens, Ga.
   Collin Altamirano, a junior from Sacramento, won both of his matches for the Cavaliers (32-1). He and J.C. Aragone defeated Yuya Ito and Harrison Scott 6-2 on Court 3 to help Virginia win the doubles point. Altamirano, ranked 40th in singles, then demolished George Goldhoff 6-1, 6-0 on Court 4.
   Four years ago, Altamirano became the first unseeded player to win the USTA Boys 18 National Championships in the tournament's 71-year history. In the final, he defeated Jared Donaldson, now a professional ranked 71st in the world.
   Boland announced in March that he will leave after this season, his 16th as Virginia's head coach, to become the USTA head of men's player development.
   Virginia will play No. 3 seed Ohio State (33-3) on Monday at 9 a.m. PDT. The Buckeyes edged No. 6 Texas Christian 4-3.
   In Monday's other semifinal, No. 9 North Carolina (28-4) will play No. 13 and host Georgia (22-7). The Tar Heels upset No. 1 Wake Forest 4-2, and the Bulldogs surprised No. 5 UCLA 4-2.
   The Bruins' Logan Staggs, a junior from Tracy, led 59th-ranked Emil Reinberg 7-6 (3), 5-6 on Court 3 when the match was abandoned. Staggs did not play doubles.
   The women's quarterfinals are scheduled for Sunday. Stanford (24-2), the No. 7 seed and defending champion, will take on No. 2 North Carolina (33-2) at 7 a.m.
   Video streaming and live scoring of the tournament are available here.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Stanford women reach NCAA quarters; Cal loses

   The Stanford women, seeded No. 7 and the defending champions, beat No. 10 Michigan 4-1 today to reach the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championships in Athens, Ga.
   Emily Arbuthnott, a freshman from England, clinched the victory with a 3-6, 6-0, 6-4 victory over Mira Ruder-Hook on Court 5.
   The Cardinal (24-2) will face No. 2 North Carolina (33-2) on Sunday at 9 a.m. PDT. The Tar Heels blitzed No. 15 Duke 4-0.
   Stanford, which has won a record 19 national team championships (18 NCAA, 1 AIAW), is trying to become the first team to repeat since the Cardinal won three consecutive titles from 2004 through 2006.
   No. 13 seed Cal lost to No. 4 Vanderbilt, the 2015 champion, 4-1. Maya Jansen won on Court 5 for the Bears (19-6), beating Georgina Sellyn 6-4, 6-3.
   The men's quarterfinals are set for Saturday. No. 2 seed and two-time defending champion Virginia (31-1), with junior Collin Altamirano of Sacramento, will face No. 10 Texas (22-8) at 9 a.m. No. 4 UCLA (22-5), with junior Logan Staggs of Tracy, will meet No. 13 and host Georgia (21-7) at 1 p.m.           
   Video streaming and live scoring of the tournament are available here.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Cal, Stanford men lose in NCAA round of 16

   The Cal and Stanford men lost today in the round of 16 at the NCAA Championships in Athens, Ga.
   The No. 8-seeded Bears fell to No. 9 North Carolina 4-1, and the No. 16 Cardinal lost to No. 1 Wake Forest. Cal's Bjorn Hoffman, a freshman from Newport Beach, defeated Bo Boyden 3-6, 6-3, 6-0 on Court 6.
   The Bears ended their season at 20-8, and Stanford finished at 18-9.
   Cal's Florian Lakat and Andre Goransson and Stanford's Tom Fawcett will play in the NCAA Singles Championships, which begin Wednesday in Athens. Lakat and Filip Bergevi will compete in the NCAA Doubles Championships, which start the following day in Athens.
   No. 2 Virginia, seeking its third consecutive NCAA title, routed No. 15 Florida 4-0. The Cavaliers' Collin Altamirano, a junior from Sacramento, was tied with Maxx Lipman 6-3, 3-6, 1-1 on Court 4 when the match was abandoned. Altamirano and J.C. Aragone won 6-2 at No. 3 doubles.
   Virginia (31-1), which has not lost a match in the first three rounds, will play No. 10 Texas in Saturday's quarterfinals.
   No. 5 UCLA, with Logan Staggs of Tracy, beat No. 12 Texas A&M 4-1. Staggs, a junior, led AJ Catanzariti 2-6, 6-4, 3-2 on Court 3 when the match was abandoned. Staggs did not play doubles.
   The Bruins (22-5) will play No. 13 and host Georgia, which surprised No. 4 USC 4-3, on Saturday.
   The women's round of 16 is scheduled for Friday in Athens. Stanford (23-2), the No. 7 seed and defending champion, will face No. 10 Michigan (23-5) at 6 a.m. PDT. Also, No. 13 Cal (19-5) will meet No. 4 Vanderbilt (22-5) at 1 p.m. Video streaming and live scoring are available.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

CiCi falls to Kiki in Italian Open

CiCi Bellis, playing in the Stockton (Calif.) Challenger
last July, lost to 15th-seeded Kiki Bertens 6-4, 6-0 today
in the second round of the Italian Open. Photo by
Paul Bauman
   CiCi Bellis, an 18-year-old qualifier who grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, lost to 15th-seeded Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands 6-4, 6-0 today on clay in the second round of the Italian Open in Rome.
   The 6-foot (1.82-meter) Bertens, a French Open semifinalist last year, won 27 of 30 points (90 percent) on her first serve but only six of 22 on her second delivery (27 percent).
   Bertens, ranked 20th, will face Russia's Ekaterina Makarova, who upset fourth-seeded Dominika Cibulkova, for a quarterfinal berth.
   Bellis, who turned pro last September after reaching the third round of the U.S. Open as a qualifier, will become the youngest player in the top 50 when the new rankings are released on Monday. The Atherton product, now based in Orlando, Fla., will rise from No. 53 to about No. 45.    
   Three teenage women, all 19, are ranked in the top 50. They are No. 28 Ana Konjuh of Croatia, No. 49 Naomi Osaka of Japan and No. 50 Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia.
   Against Bertens, the 5-foot-7 (1.68-meter), 120-pound (54.4-kilogram) Bellis was trying to defeat a Grand Slam quarterfinalist or better for the sixth time and a top-20 player for the third time. She stunned No. 13 Cibulkova in the 2014 U.S. Open at 15 years old and No. 6 Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland in the third round at Dubai in February.
   By beating Cibulkova, Bellis became the youngest player to win a match at the U.S. Open since 15-year-old Anna Kournikova in 1996.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Bellis wins in Italian Open, will crack world top 50

CiCi Bellis slugs a backhand in her victory over fellow
American Shelby Rogers in the second round of the
U.S. Open last August. Photo by Paul Bauman
   CiCi Bellis, an 18-year-old qualifier who grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, defeated Misaki Doi of Japan 6-4, 7-6 (6) today on clay in the first round of the Italian Open in Rome.
   Doi, a 5-foot-3 (1.59-meter) left-hander, is ranked No. 62. She held a match point against Angelique Kerber in the first round of last year's Australian Open. Kerber won the match and went on to capture the first of her two Grand Slam singles titles.
   The victory assures that Bellis, who turned pro last September after reaching the third round of the U.S. Open as a qualifier, will crack the top 50 in the world for the first time on Monday.
   The Atherton product, now based in Orlando, Fla., will rise from No. 53 to about No. 45 -- or higher if she upsets Kiki Bertens, seeded 15th and ranked 20th, on Wednesday.
   Three teenage women, all 19, are ranked in the top 50. They are No. 28 Ana Konjuh of Croatia, No. 49 Naomi Osaka of Japan and No. 50 Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia.
   The 5-foot-7 (1.68-meter), 120-pound (54.4-kilogram) Bellis is headed higher, according to Chris Evert.
   "There are a handful of players who are going to overpower her right now, but by the end of the year I wouldn't be surprised if she was top 20," Evert, who has been mentoring Bellis through a USTA program, declared in a March 7 profile of the phenom in the New York Times.
   When Bellis plays Bertens, a 6-foot (1.82-meter) Dutchwoman, for the first time, she will try to defeat a Grand Slam quarterfinalist or better for the sixth time. Bertens reached the semifinals of last year's French Open.
   Bellis also will try to beat a top-20 player for the third time. She stunned No. 13 Dominika Cibulkova in the 2014 U.S. Open at 15 years old and No. 6 Agnieszka Radwanska in the third round at Dubai in February.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Despite loss, teenager Bellis nears top 50 in world

CiCi Bellis (above in 2016) and Sorana Cirstea (below
in 2013) meet the press during the Bank of the West
Classic at Stanford. Photos by Paul Bauman
   Despite losing today in the second round of the Madrid Open, CiCi Bellis is closing in on a top-50 world ranking.
   For the second consecutive week, the 18-year-old San Francisco Bay Area product lost 6-3, 6-2 after beating a top-30 player on clay.
   Bellis fell to resurgent Sorana Cirstea, a 27-year-old Romanian, in Madrid after  upsetting No. 26 Daria Gavrilova, a Moscow-born Australian, 7-5, 5-7, 6-2.
   Last week, Bellis lost to Varvara Lepchenko, a 30-year-old American from Uzbekistan, in the quarterfinals in Rabat, Morocco, after surprising No. 2 seed and defending champion Timea Bacsinszky of Switzerland 6-7 (3), 7-5, 7-5 in 3 hours, 8 minutes.
   Unlike last week, Bellis had a day to rest before her loss. She was trying to beat a Grand Slam quarterfinalist or better for the sixth time. Cirstea reached the French Open quarters in 2009.
   Bellis, now based in Orlando, Fla., will rise about three spots to No. 52 on Monday. Three teenagers, all 19, are ranked in the top 50: No. 29 Ana Konjuh of Croatia, No. 46 Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia and No. 49 Naomi Osaka Of Japan.
   Bellis defeated Ostapenko in the first round of the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford last July en route to the quarterfinals. Bellis grew up in neighboring  Atherton.
   Bellis, who turned pro last September after reaching the third round of the U.S. Open as a qualifier, is by far the youngest woman in the top 100. Next is Konjuh, who's 15 months older than Bellis.
   Cirstea, ranked No. 83, will play No. 53 Misaki Doi of Japan for a berth in the Madrid quarterfinals. Doi, a 5-foot-3 (1.59-meter) left-hander, routed qualifier Donna Vekic of Croatia 6-1, 6-2 after ousting No. 9 seed Madison Keys in the first round.
   Keys, a 22-year-old American right-hander with a two-handed backhand, underwent arthroscopic surgery on her left wrist last November.
   Doi held a match point against Angelique Kerber in the first round of last year's Australian Open. Kerber went on to win the first of her two Grand Slam singles titles.
   Cirstea advanced to the Bank of the West semifinals in 2012 and climbed to a career-high No. 21 in 2013. However, she dropped out of the top 200 in 2015 because of shoulder problems.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Xiao bounces back from injury for RDO boys 18 title

Andre Xiao, left, defeated Stevie Gould 7-5, 6-4 to win the boys 18
title in the Rio del Oro Junior Championships. Photo by Paul Bauman
   SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- For Vivian Ovrootsky and Andre Xiao, the Rio del Oro 18s, 16s & 14s Junior Championships was a tournament of firsts.
   Playing her first tournament in the 18s, the 12-year-old Ovrootsky swept the singles and doubles titles at the Rio del Oro Racquet Club. The San Jose resident, ranked second nationally in the 12s, beat 17-year-old Shirley Hall of Chico in Saturday's singles final.
   Xiao, playing his first tournament after a nine-month injury layoff, defeated Stevie Gould 7-5, 6-4 on Sunday for the boys 18 championship.
   "I'm really happy to be back and just playing in general," said the fourth-seeded Xiao, 17, of Saratoga. "It was a great tournament for me."
   It was a great tournament for Priya Nelson, too. The 11-year-old Sacramentan, who won the Easter Bowl girls 12 title in March, beat top-seeded Gabriela Tevez of San Jose 7-6 (1), 6-2 for the 16s crown.
   The Nelson family almost swept the 16s singles titles. Fifteen-year-old Ravi Nelson, seeded fifth, lost to top-seeded Milad Shafaie of San Carlos 6-2, 6-4 in the boys final.
   Priya Nelson is scheduled to leave Wednesday for a national training camp at the USTA's new 64-acre, 100-court headquarters in Orlando, Fla. It will be the first of undoubtedly many trips to Florida for Nelson.
Xaio, who was named after Andre Agassi, played in his
first tournament after a nine-month injury layoff.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Xiao developed tendinitis in his right (playing) wrist last summer, took six months and began training in February.
   "I played a lot during the summer," Xiao explained. "I played four big national tournaments in two months. At the end, (the wrist) was really sore. I just needed a few months. In February, it was still bothering me a little bit, but it's been getting better since then."
   Xiao, a senior at Saratoga High School, will play for Middlebury College in Vermont in the fall. The Panthers, ranked No. 1 in NCAA Division III, are coached by former longtime UC Santa Cruz coach Bob Hansen.
   Sunday's final had an old-school feel, as both players have been heavily influenced by their fathers.
   Peter Xiao, an information technology consultant, named his son after Andre Agassi.
   "My dad was really into tennis," said Xiao, who was turning 7 when Agassi retired after the 2006 U.S. Open. "He actually taught himself tennis and watched a lot of tennis. I'm actually pretty happy to be named after Andre Agassi, one of the all-time greats."
   Gould, a 16-year-old left-hander from Corte Madera, has a beautiful one-handed backhand and can finish points with a stylish volley. He learned the game from his father, Steve Gould, a bartender and the general manager at Vasco, an Italian restaurant in Mill Valley, and a 4.5 player.
Gould rips the one-handed backhand he learned
from his father. Photo by Paul Bauman
   "I always watched my dad playing, and he had a one-hander," said the outgoing, exuberant Stevie, who's not related to legendary Stanford men's coach Dick Gould. "I went with it and kept going with it. He started playing really late, when he was 35. I hit with him for the first four years of my tennis career because it was fun, and he taught me to love the game."
   In the final, Xiao served for the first set at 5-4 but was broken. Xiao broke back for 6-5 when Gould netted a backhand and held with a service winner for the set.
   Xiao recorded the only break of the second set to lead 2-1 and barely held on from there. Gould saved two break points to hold for 3-4 and escaped two match points serving at 3-5.
   After Gould held serve, Xiao served for the match at 5-4 but fell behind 15-40 when he netted a forehand. He got back to deuce with a service winner and deep forehand winner.
   Then came a stroke of luck for Xiao. He hit a backhand net-cord winner down the line with Gould at the net to earn a third match point. This time, Xiao converted with another service winner.
   "At 15-40, I still thought I could win this game," Xiao asserted. "I had confidence in my serve, so I was like, All right, go for your serve and play the points, and you have a good chance to come back."
   Gould rued "a couple sloppy forehand errors" when he was broken early in the second set.
   "That kind of was what changed the match today, was a couple service games of mine where I let him back in with forehand errors," Gould said. "That's my best shot, so when I'm making errors like that, it's definitely downhill from there."
RIO DEL ORO 18s, 16s & 14s JUNIOR CHAMPIONSHIPS
At Rio del Oro Racquet Club
In Sacramento, Calif.
Finals
Boys singles
18-and-under
   Andre Xiao (4), Saratoga, def. Stevie Gould (3), Corte Madera, 7-5, 6-4.
16-and-under
   Milad Shafaie (1), San Carlos, def. Ravi Nelson (5), Sacramento, 6-2, 6-4.
14-and-under
   Ryan Torres (1), Pleasanton, def. Lucca Liu, Palo Alto, 6-0, 7-5.
Boys doubles 
18-and-under
   Nitzan Ricklis, Sunnyvale, and Issa Yoshida (2), Campbell, def. Thomas Reznik, Belmont, and Ethan Smith, San Mateo, 8-4.
16-and-under
   Sheldon On and Justin Pau (1), San Francisco, def. Manroop Saini, San Jose, and Milad Shafaie (2), San Carlos, 8-6.
14-and-under
   Jason Lew, Pleasant Hill, and Ryan Torres (1), Pleasanton, def. Derek Babb and Dean Babb (4), Roseville, 8-1.
Girls singles
18-and-under
   Vivian Ovrootsky, San Jose, def. Shirley Hall (5), Chico, 7-6 (3), 6-2.
16-and-under
   Priya Nelson, Sacramento, def. Gabriela Tevez (1), San Jose, 7-6 (1), 6-2.
14-and-under
   Madison Weekley (5), Alamo, def. Isabel Santiago (5), Hayward, 6-0, 6-1.
Girls doubles
18-and-under
   Vivian Ovrootsky, San Jose, and Monica Stratakos (2), Saratoga, def. Stephanie Ren, Saratoga, and Meichen Zhu, San Ramon, 8-6.
16-and-under
   Elena Lottich, Castro Valley, and Trinity Zhang, Alameda, def. Annissa Mu, Saratoga, and Priya Nelson, Sacramento, 8-4.
14-and-under
   Georgia Beard, Santa Rosa, and Madison Weekley (2), Alamo, def. Sophie Evans, Pleasanton, and Isabel Santiago (1), Hayward, 8-6.

Teen Bellis beats another top-30 player

CiCi Bellis, playing in the U.S. Open last August, defeated
26th-ranked Daria Gavrilova on Sunday in the first round
of the Madrid Open on clay. Photo by Paul Bauman
   CiCi Bellis was back to her energetic self on Sunday.
   The 18-year-old product of Atherton in the San Francisco Bay Area beat 26th-ranked Daria Gavrilova of Australia 7-5, 5-7, 6-2 on clay in the first round of the Madrid Open.
   It was Bellis' sixth victory over a top-30 player and fourth this year, even though she missed the first six weeks of 2017 with a hamstring injury.
   On Thursday, a physically drained Bellis lost to American Varvara Lepchenko 6-3, 6-2 in the quarterfinals on clay in Rabat, Morocco. Bellis was playing for the third consecutive day after winning two matches 7-5 in the third set. On Wednesday, she survived one match point and outlasted No. 2 seed and defending champion Timea Bacsinszky of Switzerland 6-7 (3), 7-5, 7-5 in 3 hours, 8 minutes.
    Bellis, by far the youngest player in the top 100 at No. 59, will play Sorana Cirstea, a 27-year-old wild card from Romania, for the first time in Madrid on Tuesday. Cirstea, ranked No. 83, upset 13th-seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the Rabat champion, 6-1, 3-6, 7-6 (5).
   Cirstea reached the French Open quarterfinals in 2009 and the Toronto final in 2013. In the latter tournament, she beat Caroline Wozniacki, Jelena Jankovic, Petra Kvitova and Li Na before losing to Serena Williams. That catapulted Cirstea to a career-high No. 21.
   However, Cirstea dropped out of the top 200 in 2015 because of shoulder injuries.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Ovrootsky, 12, wins girls 18s in Rio del Oro tourney

Vivian Ovrootsky has an "unbelievable" backhand, runner-up Shirley Hall
said. Photo by Paul Bauman
 SACRAMENTO, Calif.
-- It was hard to tell who was the 12-year-old and who was the 17-year-old in the girls 18 singles final of the Rio del Oro Junior Championships.
   Vivian Ovrootsky, 12, of San Jose is a compact 5-foot-5 3/4 (1.67 meters) and 125 pounds (56.7 kilograms). Shirley Hall, a 17-year-old Chico resident, is a slight 5-3 (1.6 meters) and 115 pounds (52.2 kilograms).
   The number that really matters, though, is two. That's Ovrootsky's national ranking in the 12s. She's also No. 8 in the 14s.
   Playing in the 18s of a tournament for the first time, the unseeded Ovrootsky wore down the fifth-seeded Hall 7-6 (3), 6-2 on Saturday at the Rio del Oro Racquet Club.
   "It was an easy decision," Ovrootsky said of playing the 18s. "I've been playing a lot of national tournaments, so I said, I'll play the 18s in my section."
   Ovrootsky has won two gold balls and one silver ball, all in the 12s. She swept the singles and doubles titles in the USTA Winter Nationals in Tucson, Ariz., in January and was the runner-up in the USTA Hardcourt Nationals last August in Alpharetta, Ga.
   Ovrootsky, who will turn 13 in July, put her Rio del Oro title in perspective.
   "It's really nice to win the 18s, but I still have a long way to go," she said. "I'll have plenty more chances to win the 18s in tournaments down the road."
Hall will be a guaranteed walk-on at UC Davis in the fall. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Both players survived long semifinals on Saturday morning, but Hall's was longer. Ovrootsky topped third-seeded Zlata Uzdenova of Granite Bay 6-4, 7-5. Hall overcame Margherita Andreassi of Santa Rosa 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-2.
   Ovrootsky had about 90 minutes between matches and Hall about an hour. Fortunately for them, the weather was unseasonably cool. Still, both players said fatigue was a factor.
   "Even though I didn't have my 'A' game, I fought through it and didn't let my emotions get me down," Ovrootsky said.
   Hall wasn't at her best, either, but it might not have made a difference.
   "Her backhand is unbelievable," conceded Hall, who will be a guaranteed walk-on at UC Davis in the fall. "Anywhere on the court, she can counterpunch and do a winner.
   "We had a close first set, and I got a little tired. Then I got more tired, she played better, and I started making a lot more unforced errors."  
   Ovrootsky was born in Los Gatos (near San Jose), but her father, Val, is from Ukraine, and her mother, Lea, is from Estonia. They work for a credit union and financial company, respectively.
   Ovrootsky said power is her biggest strength.
   "At age 12, a lot of girls don't have as much power as I do. I would say I'm consistent with it as well," she offered.
   The other singles finals in the boys and girls 18s, 16s and 14s tournament are scheduled for today at 9 a.m.
Priya Nelson, 11, reached the girls 16 final. Photo by
Paul Bauman
   In the boys 18s, third-seeded Stevie Gould of Corte Madera will face fourth-seeded Andre Xiao of Saratoga.
   Gould, a 16-year-old left-hander, beat top-seeded Issa Yoshida of Campbell 6-3, 6-4.
   "We started off holding serve," noted Gould, who's ranked No. 2 in the 16s and No. 13 in the 18s in NorCal, "and it was tough to get a break. Then I got a lead in the first set. In the second set, he started serve-and-volleying -- he's probably got the best hands in Northern California -- and it was all I could do to hold on and weather the storm."
   Gould, who's not related to legendary Stanford coach Dick Gould, and Yoshida are close friends and frequent doubles partners.
   "He's a really good player," said Yoshida, 17. "You have to be on your 'A' game to have a chance to win. My first serve didn't really work for me today. My first-service percentage was pretty low. He kept me behind the baseline. He hits a heavy ball, and it was tough for me to come in, which is what I like to do."
   Xiao downed second-seeded Nitzan Ricklis of Sunnyvale 6-2, 4-6, 6-1.
   In the girls 16 final, top-seeded Gabriela Tevez of San Jose will face unseeded Priya Nelson of Sacramento.
   Tevez defeated unseeded Canela Luna of Rocklin 1-6, 6-3, 5-2, default. Luna accidentally drilled Tevez in the head with the ball while intending to hit it into the net in frustration.
   Nelson, 11, beat unseeded Tiffany Boudagian of South San Francisco 6-1, 6-0 after losing to her 6-0, 6-1 in their only previous meeting two years ago in Fremont.
   "I knew what to do this time, and I wasn't intimidated," said Nelson, wearing her trademark Roger Federer cap autographed by Stan Wawrinka. "I wanted to move her and try to hit deep. She tried to hit winners, so I just tried to be patient. ... "
   Nelson's 15-year-old brother, Ravi, will take on top-seeded Milad Shafaie of San Carlos in the 16s final. Ravi Nelson, seeded fifth, outlasted unseeded Herrick Legaspi of Sacramento 2-6, 6-2, 7-5.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Precocious Priya: Already like a pro at 11

Priya Nelson displays her Easter Bowl gold ball and sportsman-
ship award with her father, John, left, and coach, Joseph Gilbert,
at Indian Wells in March. Photo courtesy of Joseph Gilbert
   For Priya Nelson, winning the Easter Bowl girls 12 singles title in March was a breeze compared to the last time she stepped on a court at Indian Wells.
   On the other side of the net was a pretty good player. You might have heard of him. Fellow named Novak Djokovic.
   Two years ago, Djokovic was getting ready to practice on a distant back court in front of a handful of fans during the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
   Normally, stars practice on one of three front courts at Indian Wells while fans pack the surrounding stands.
   "There was like five people, and I was the only kid there," recalled Nelson, a lifelong Sacramentan who will turn 12 on June 22. "Well, there was one other kid. So (Djokovic) had me and the other kid come down to his court, and we (each) played one point with him."
   Nelson's Indian mother, Bonnie (born Bhavna Parmar), witnessed the -- ahem -- stroke of luck.
   "He was like, 'I want some kids to practice with me, get me started, get me warmed
up,' " said Bonnie, a financial planner.  
   Djokovic handed Priya one of his rackets, and the showdown began. Who won?
   "Him," Nelson groused.
   Ditto for the point against the other kid, a boy. Hey, children have to learn that nothing in life is going to be handed to them -- other than grades, of course -- right? But Djokovic complimented Nelson afterward.
   "He said, 'You did a good job for having my heavy racket,' " Bonnie noted.
   Priya said she wasn't nervous facing Djokovic, which seems odd until you consider that she has exhibited traits of professional players almost since she first picked up a racket at 3 years old. Nelson has unusual intelligence, variety, natural ability, poise, touch, competitiveness and dedication.
   Three weeks before the Easter Bowl, Nelson played No. 1 singles and doubles (except for one match at No. 2 doubles) in the USTA National Boys & Girls 12 Spring Team Championships in Tucson, Ariz. The tournament used a college dual-match format, with six singles and three doubles matches. Nelson went 4-0 in singles without losing a set and 2-2 in doubles for the Tootsie Pops, who won the Northwest consolation bracket.
   Janusz Conradi, the Tootsie Pops' coach, was so impressed with Nelson that he likened her to a friend and childhood practice partner in Poland. You might have heard of her, too. Young lady named Agnieszka Radwanska, ranked eighth in the world and formerly second.
   "(Nelson) has a gift that not too many players have at this stage," Conradi said. "She knows how to win points. In certain situations, she knows what she needs to do to win the point, and she's going to do it. She can come up with a pretty clear pathway.
   "She's very organized when it comes to her pattern of play. She's also able to change it. This is something very unique among junior players. Many kids know how to hit topspin cross-court and topspin down the line. She's able to change the pace with her slice, she's able to change the pace with a heavy topspin, able to hit a flat backhand down the line. These are shots that you are expecting from professionals. She has that variety at a very young age."
   Conradi continued: "This is something I'm sure she learned from watching other players. I'm sure she's going to improve physically and technically later on. I would like to see how she plays in three years, how she improves in those areas. She's tall (5-foot-4 or 1.62 meters), but she's tiny (91 pounds or 41.3 kilograms). ... The intelligence, the tennis IQ, reminds me a lot of Agnieszka."
   Gay Goff, who plays at the Rio del Oro Racquet Club in Sacramento, observed Nelson's intelligence last weekend as the phenom cruised to the girls 16 semifinals in the Rio del Oro 18s, 16s and 14s Junior Championships. The semis are scheduled for Saturday at 10:30 a.m. and the final for Sunday at 9 a.m.
Priya Nelson, wearing her trademark Roger Federer
cap, takes a selfie with Federer's Swiss countryman,
Stan Wawrinka, during the BNP Paribas Open at In-
dian Wells in March. Photo courtesy of the Nelsons
   "She's amazing," Goff marveled. "If she sees her opponent likes pace, she doesn't give it to her. It's instinctive. If she has to run wide for a shot, (the ball) goes up to give her time."
   Nelson also is perceptive on the practice court.
   "She learns well when you teach her," said Conradi, the director of junior tennis at Oakbourne Country Club in Lafayette, La. "Sometimes you teach a student five things, and they learn four. With Priya, you teach her five things, but she learns seven or eight. It's very unique the way she sees things."
   John Nelson said he first saw something special in his daughter when she was 4. And John knows what he's talking about. He teaches physical education at Pacific Elementary School in south Sacramento.
   "She had a little Dora the Explorer pink racket, and she would hit foam balls with her (older) brother," said John, who met Bonnie when they were students at Sacramento State. Priya and Ravi, 15, are their only children. "She just did a lot of things that were natural. She would keep to the side of the ball and move and hit the ball with topspin. She had never been taught to do that. Her footwork was really interesting for such a small kid."
   Priya, a home-schooled sixth grader, and Ravi, a freshman at Rio Americano High School, train under Joseph Gilbert at the JMG Tennis Academy at the Arden Hills Club & Spa in Sacramento. Ravi, Rio Americano's No. 1 singles player, won the Capital Athletic League championship last week.
   "(Priya) watched her brother," said Gilbert, the academy's founder and owner. "From a coach's side, the younger ones watching the older ones, it definitely helps."
   Goff saw Priya play mini-matches at age 4.
   "They played four games then," Goff said. "She was like a professional. There was no fussing."
   Nothing has changed in that regard.
   "Priya's always mentally calm," Gilbert said. "I've had my share of different kids on that, but she's definitely one of the best at keeping her emotions under control."
   Gilbert began working with Nelson when she was 5.
   "Priya picked up (the game) pretty easily," he said. "She has very good hands, very good feel. She understands the game really well, and she has since a young age. It's easy to teach the skills she needs, and she likes to compete. That's one thing we changed in her schedule as I got to know her and talked to the parents. We upped the tournament side because she liked to compete so much, and that started making a difference right away. She was the one who said she wanted to play more tournaments. I usually have a lower (frequency) of tournaments, but you've got to adjust to every kid."
   Gilbert elaborated on Nelson's understanding of tennis.
   "She just understands the feel of it, the movement, covering the court," he said. "She has good hands, so she has the skills to put the ball where she needs to when she's in trouble. And (she has) good court sense -- when to be aggressive, when to be more defensive. She's always had that. Since 6, 7, 8 years old, she could feel the court really well.
   "As a coach, you've got to move her in that direction, to her strengths. It works well with me because I like it. I was attracted to her as a player from a very young age because I felt she had good hands, good feel and good court sense, which is right up my alley for what I enjoy teaching (versus power)."
   Nelson won the girls 8-and-under singles title in the 2013 Little Mo Nationals in Austin, Texas, and made her Easter Bowl debut this year. She was unseeded at Indian Wells because it was only her second Level 1 national tournament; Nelson reached the third round of the USTA National Winter Championships in Tucson in late December.
   The Easter Bowl singles draw featured five of the top 10 girls in the USTA 12-and-under rankings but only one of the top five. No. 1 Katja Wiersholm of Kirkland, Wash., No. 2 Vivian Ovrootsky of San Jose and No. 4 Robin Montgomery of Washington, D.C., played in the 14s, and No. 5 Nikita Vishwase of Phoenix did not play in the tournament.
   No. 3 Matilyn Wang, a Scottsdale, Ariz., resident seeded first in the Easter Bowl girls 12s, lost to unseeded Eleana Yu of Mason, Ohio, in the semifinals.
   Nelson ousted three seeds in the Easter Bowl, including No. 2 Tsehay Driscoll of Pacific Palisades in the Los Angeles area 6-1, 6-4 in the first round, before beating Yu 6-1, 6-3 for the title. Yu is the top-ranked sixth grader on tennisrecruiting.net. Driscoll is fourth and Nelson fifth.
Priya Nelson poses in front of a pool at the Arden Hills
Club & Spa, where she trains, in Sacramento last month.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   "After I saw that match (against Driscoll)," Gilbert said, "I was like 'All right, it pretty much shows she can play with anybody in the tournament. Now let's keep it consistent throughout a whole week.' That's something we've been working on, and I was trying to challenge her at the tournament to do that, not to have any sluggish days or down days or where you're not 100 percent prepared. ...
   "To her credit, she did the thing I thought was toughest for her to do, is to do that throughout a week. She was probably the best (all week) in the final. She was the most fired up and the most energetic (with) the most attention to detail, which for a coach was really fun to watch."
   Nelson became the fifth junior and first girl from the JMG Tennis Academy to earn a gold ball for winning a national Level 1 title. The others are Collin Altamirano (2013 USTA National boys 18 singles), Jenson Brooksby (USTA National boys 12 singles), Austen Huang (2015 USTA Winter Nationals boys 18 singles) and Karl Lee (2015 USTA National Clay Court boys 12 singles plus three doubles titles).
   Altamirano, a University of Virginia junior who's 15-5 at Nos. 1-4 singles and 17-3 at No. 3 doubles, will try to help the Cavaliers win their third consecutive NCAA title this month.
   Nelson came close to an Easter Bowl "Triple Crown." She reached the doubles quarterfinals with Maryia Hrynashka of Rancho Cordova in the Sacramento area, losing 10-8 in a match tiebreaker to the fifth seeds, and won the girls 12 sportsmanship award.
  Nelson, whose favorite shot is her slice backhand, now is ranked sixth nationally in girls 12 singles.
   "She has a good, clean game," Gilbert said. "Her serve is solid, she's consistent, she moves well. I like her forehand -- she can hit it heavy. Sometimes that's the shot that gets a little inconsistent at times, or the backhand gets a little stray. But overall, if she stays focused, she's clean on all of her shots, and that's what makes her tough to beat."
   Like Conradi, Gilbert appreciates Nelson's variety.
   "She plays points that are fun for me to watch because she'll hit so many different shots in a point, whether it's a high ball, whether it's a slice, whether it's an angle, whether it's a cut serve," Gilbert said. "She can do all of that in one point. She's pretty comfortable at the net, she's got good hands, so it's a little bit of a well-rounded game. I don't think anything really sticks out. I just think it's clean all over."
   Less than 48 hours after winning the Easter Bowl, Nelson was back on the court in the first round of the 16s in the Gold River Junior Championships at the Gold River Racquet Club in the Sacramento area.
   "Most of the time -- probably with 90, 99 percent of our players -- I would not have suggested that, but Priya likes to compete and play, so I let that one fly," Gilbert said with a laugh. "Three or four years ago, I would have texted or called the parents and said, 'Take her out of the tournament,' but I'm adjusting to her, and she's enjoying it. That's showing -- she got to the final of the 16s (at Gold River). She had a great tournament. ...
  "In the past, I spaced out the tournaments a lot more, and I still do with some players because they need that mental break from it, but Priya doesn't bring those emotions. Collin is a good example. Collin is so emotional on the court that doing back-to-back-to-back tournaments is exhausting for everybody (laughs), so we take breaks. Priya keeps a good, even demeanor, so I have to look at that and go, 'You know what? It doesn't take as much of an emotional toll on her to play these tournaments.' "
   Nelson ousted top-seeded Avantika Willy, last year's girls 14 NorCal Sectional champion, 6-3, 6-4 in the second round at Gold River en route to the final and won the 14s doubles title with Tomi Main of Seaside in the Monterey area.
   Nelson always wears a Roger Federer cap on the court and rarely takes it off at home. She idolizes Federer "because he's really good on court and his mental is really good and he's always really calm and I like how he moves and the way he treats others on court," she said.
   Nelson hopes to play professionally someday. She already trains like a pro, pounding balls and working out at Arden Hills from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. five days a week to prepare for weekend and national tournaments.
   The question, according to Gilbert, is whether Nelson can stay motivated for the next five or six years.
   "It's hard not to get distracted, to stay healthy, to enjoy it, to come out every day and be fired up and want to keep working and improving," Gilbert said. "That's the hard thing about tennis. It's a really long path these kids have to take, so where Priya's at right now, I don't have any big things I feel are holes in her game. To keep doing what she's doing for a long period of time is probably the biggest challenge."
   Bonnie Nelson is realistic but not worried about Priya burning out.  
   "There are no guarantees of any sort," Bonnie conceded. "Kids change as they grow. But one of the biggest things I can say towards her success is if there's something she needs to work on -- footwork or her backhand, whatever it is -- she works on it. That's the difference between my son and her. She wants it; she's hungry for it. That's what's driving her."

Bellis, 18, loses to Lepchenko in Morocco

Varvara Lepchenko, shown in the 2015 Bank of the West Classic at Stanford,
dispatched CiCi Bellis 6-3, 6-2 today in the quarterfinals on clay in Rabat,
Morocco. Photo by Mal Taam
   For CiCi Bellis, one day was not enough time to recover from two consecutive long matches.
   The 18-year-old product of Atherton in the San Francisco Bay Area lost to American Varvara Lepchenko 6-3, 6-2 in 65 minutes today in the quarterfinals on clay in Rabat, Morocco.
   Lepchenko, a 30-year-old left-hander originally from Uzbekistan, broke Bellis' serve six times and saved the only break point against her.
   Bellis played for the third straight day after winning her first two matches 7-5 in the third set. On Wednesday, she survived one match point and outlasted No. 2 seed and defending champion Timea Bacsinszky of Switzerland 6-7 (3), 7-5, 7-5 in 3 hours, 8 minutes.  
   Bellis, by far the youngest player in the top 100 at No. 59, will rise about five spots when the next rankings are released on Monday.
   Lepchenko reached her first WTA semifinal since Stanford in 2015 and first on clay in her career. She will play Francesca Schiavone, a 36-year-old wild card from Italy. 
   Schiavone, the 2010 French Open champion who will turn 37 on June 23, is coming off her eighth career singles title, on clay in Bogota. She has announced that she will retire at the end of the year. 

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Morocco marathon: Bellis, 18, ousts Bacsinszky

CiCi Bellis poses with her coach, Anibal Aranda, at the Broadway Tennis
Center in Burlingame, near San Francisco International Airport, on Dec. 28.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   CiCi Bellis took another step in her blossoming career today, upsetting No. 2 seed and defending champion Timea Bacsinszky 6-7 (3), 7-5, 7-5 in 3 hours, 8 minutes to reach the quarterfinals on clay in Rabat, Morocco.
   Bellis, an 18-year-old product of Atherton in the San Francisco Bay Area, saved one match point.
   "I feel amazing; it's definitely one of the longest matches I've played on the pro tour, so I'm happy to come through," Bellis said in an on-court interview.
   Bellis won 7-5 in the third set for the second consecutive day. She topped Japan's Nao Hibino, the champion of the inaugural Stockton Challenger in 2015, 6-1, 4-6, 7-5 in 2 hours, 2 minutes in the first round.
   Bacsinszky, ranked No. 27 to match her age, is the fifth top-30 player Bellis has beaten but the first on clay.
   Bacsinszky also is the fifth player to reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal or better whom Bellis has defeated. Bacsinszky advanced to the French Open semifinals in 2015 and the quarterfinals at Wimbledon in 2015 and Roland Garros last year.
   Bellis, by far the youngest player in the top 100 at No. 59, will play American Varvara Lepchenko, a 30-year-old left-hander originally from Uzbekistan, for the first time on Thursday.
   Lepchenko, ranked No. 73, surprised fifth-seeded Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan 1-6, 6-4, 6-1 in 2 hours, 15 minutes.
   Bellis can crack the top 50 for the first time by reaching the final of the $226,750 tournament. The champion will collect $43,000.