Friday, June 30, 2017

Bellis to make Wimbledon debut vs. Azarenka

CiCi Bellis, shown last year, wanted to go to Wimbledon
"from Day 1," her childhood coach told The New York
Times in March. Photo by Paul Bauman
   CiCi Bellis, an 18-year-old product of Atherton in the San Francisco Bay Area, is scheduled to play in the women's main draw at Wimbledon for the first time on Monday or Tuesday against former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka.
   It will be Bellis' first match against Azarenka, who will be playing in her second tournament since giving birth to her first child in December, and first at Wimbledon since losing in the opening round of the juniors three years ago.
   "From Day 1, she wanted to go to Wimbledon, and I mean Day 1," Bellis' childhood coach, Monique Javer, told The New York Times in March.
   It didn't hurt that Javer's favorite tournament during her 16-year pro career (1985-2000) was Wimbledon. Although Javer was born in Burlingame, near Atherton, she represented Great Britain because her mother is British. Javer rose to No. 1 in the nation and peaked at No. 56 in the world in 1992.
   The draw for Wimbledon, Monday through July 16, was held today. No. 24 seed Sam Querrey, a San Francisco native like Bellis, will play Thomas Fabbiano of Italy. Dmitry Tursunov, a 34-year-old Russian who trains in the Sacramento suburb of Granite Bay, will meet No. 28 seed Fabio Fognini of Italy.
   Bellis, the youngest woman in the top 50 at No. 40, reached the Mallorca semifinals last week in her first tournament on grass since the 2014 Wimbledon juniors.
   The 27-year-old Azarenka last week played in her first tournament since the 2016 French Open, losing in the second round at Mallorca to No. 7 seed Ana Konjuh of Croatia. Azarenka withdrew from Wimbledon last year with a knee injury and announced her pregnancy on July 15. She won the Australian Open in 2012 and 2013 and reached the Wimbledon semifinals in 2011 and 2012.
   The winner of the match between the 5-foot-7 (1.68-meter) Bellis and the 6-foot (1.83-meter) Azarenka likely will face No. 15 seed Elena Vesnina, a Wimbledon semifinalist last year, in the second round.
   Querrey, meanwhile, faces the pressure of trying to repeat his appearance in last year's Wimbledon quarterfinals, his best Grand Slam result. He stunned Novak Djokovic, ranked No. 1 and the two-time defending champion, in the third round.
   Querrey, 6-foot-6 (1.98 meters), and Fabbiano, only 5-foot-8 (1.73 meters) and 152 pounds (69 kilograms), will meet for the first time. Fabbiano, ranked 95th, has won three Challenger titles this year and advance to two other finals, including Nottingham on grass two weeks ago..
   Querrey could face No. 12 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, a two-time Wimbledon semifinalist, in the third round. Tsonga is 4-1 against Querrey, including a 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-7 (4), 6-3, 14-12 victory in the second round at Wimbledon in 2014.
   Tursunov is 1-0 against Fognini, but that match occurred eight years ago. Tursunov won 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 in the first round on grass at Eastbourne en route to the sixth of his seven career singles titles.
   But the injury-plagued Tursunov will be playing his first match since the Australian Open in January and only his second since Toronto last July. Ranked No. 701 after climbing a career-high No. 20 in 2006, he hasn't won a match at the tour level since Acapulco in February last year.
   Tursunov reached the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2005 and 2006 for his best Grand Slam singles results, but he's 0-4 at the All England Club since 2011.
   The 30-year-old Fognini's best results at Wimbledon are third-round appearances in 2010 and 2014.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

German routs Bellis, 18, in Mallorca semifinals

Doubles partners Julia Goerges, left, and Karolina
Pliskova are interviewed at Indian Wells last year.
They reached the final, losing to Bethanie Mattek-
Sands and CoCo Vandeweghe 4-6, 6-4 [10-6]..
Photo by Paul Bauman
   CiCi Bellis' breakthrough week on grass ended abruptly today.
   Bellis, an 18-year-old San Francisco native who grew up in nearby Atherton, lost to resurgent Julia Goerges of Germany 6-1, 6-1 in 59 minutes in a semifinal matchup of unseeded players in the Mallorca Open. It was Bellis' first tournament on grass since she lost in the first round of Wimbledon juniors three years ago.
   Goerges, 10 years older and four inches (10.2 centimeters) taller than the 5-foot-7 (1.68-meter) Bellis, slugged 27 winners against just 12 errors. She pounded six aces versus two double faults and converted 6 of 7 break points.
   "I needed a little bit of time to figure out the way she's playing; I've watched her quite a few times but I haven't played her before," Goerges, who has plunged from a career-high No. 15 in 2012 to No. 54, said on wtatennis.com. "Obviously, she's very young and she's going to have a bright future. When you just play to her, she likes to hit the ball and redirect the ball very well, so I tried to mix it a little bit, to get the drop shots, and the slice and some volleys in and not only serving bombs. I tried to use this as my weapon today."
   Bellis won only 8 of 21 points (38 percent) on her first serve and just 4 of 17 points (24 percent) on her second delivery.
   Goerges, who routed top seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia 6-2, 6-1 in the second round, has lost only 14 games in her four matches without dropping a set. She will face No. 2 seed Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia in the final. Sevastova defeated No. 3 Caroline Garcia 6-4, 6-2 to avenge a loss to the Frenchwoman in last year's final.
   Bellis, the youngest player in the top 50, will rise from No. 42 to a career high of about No. 38 on Monday. A ranking of No. 32 or better would guarantee her a seeding in the U.S. Open in August. Bellis turned pro last September after reaching the third round at Flushing Meadows as a qualifier.
   Bellis won't have to wait long for a chance at revenge against Goerges. They are scheduled to meet in the first round at Eastbourne next week. The winner will play No. 8 seed and 2008 champion Agnieszka Radwanska, who has a first-round bye. Bellis stunned Radwanska in the third round at Dubai on hardcourts in February for her only victory over a top-10 player.
   Wimbledon begins a week from Monday.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Evans, '16 Aptos champ, tests positive for cocaine

Daniel Evans practices during the U.S. Open last
August. Photo by Paul Bauman
   England's Daniel Evans, who won the $100,000 Aptos (Calif.) Challenger last August and reached the 2013 final there, faces a suspension after admitting he tested positive for cocaine in April.
   Evans, ranked 50th, held a news conference in London today but took no questions.
   “It’s really important you know this was taken out of competition and the context was completely unrelated to tennis,” said Evans, 27. “I made a mistake, and I must face up to it. I can only deeply apologize from the bottom of my heart.”
   Evans, only 5-foot-9 (1.75 meters) and 165 pounds (75 kilograms), reached a career-high No. 41 in March. He failed a doping test on April 24 at the Barcelona Open.    
   “Mr. Evans will be provisionally suspended with effect from 26 June … pending determination of the case,” the International Tennis Federation said in a statement.
   Evans withdrew from next week's grass-court tournament in Eastbourne with a calf injury and is doubtful for Wimbledon, which begins a week from Monday.
   Three weeks after beating countryman Cameron Norrie in last year's Aptos final, Evans almost pulled off a huge upset in the U.S. Open. He held a match point in a 4-6, 6-3, 6-7 (6),  7-6 (8), 6-2 loss to No. 3 seed and eventual champion Stan Wawrinka in the third round.
    Evans lost to Stanford alumnus Bradley Klahn in the 2013 Aptos final after holding a championship point.

Bellis, 18, advances to first WTA Tour semifinal

CiCi Bellis poses with her coach, Anibal Aranda, last December
in Burlingame in the San Francisco Bay Area. Photo by Paul Bauman
   CiCi Bellis reached her first WTA Tour semifinal today in her first grass-court tournament as a pro.
   The 18-year-old product of Atherton in the San Francisco Bay Area breezed past Kristyna Pliskova, a 6-foot (1.84-meter) left-hander from the Czech Republic, 6-3, 6-2 in 62 minutes in the Mallorca Open.
   "It's definitely one of the biggest achievements so far in my career," the 5-foot-7 (1.68-meter) Bellis gushed on wtatennis.com of advancing to the semis. "Grass suits my game. I would say my movement was a big strength (today). I got to a lot of balls, and my defense was really good."
   Bellis, who's closing in on a seeding for the U.S. Open in August (if not Wimbledon beginning a week from Monday), ripped 26 winners and committed only six unforced errors. She won 24 of 27 points (89 percent) on her first serve and saved three of four break points against her.
   Pliskova, the 25-year-old twin of third-ranked Karolina Pliskova, had 21 winners and 17 unforced errors. She won only 22 percent of the points on her second serve.
   Both players cracked the top 50 for the first time in May. Bellis, the youngest player in that group, is ranked No. 42, and Pliskova is No. 46.
   Pliskova was playing in her fifth quarterfinal of the year on a fourth surface. She pounded a record 31 aces in a second-round loss to Monica Puig of Puerto Rico in last year's Australian Open. Puig won the singles gold medal in the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in August.
   Bellis will face unseeded German Julia Goerges, ranked No. 54 after climbing to a career-high No. 15 in 2012, for the first time. Goerges, who's 10 years older and four inches (10.2 centimeters) taller than Bellis, defeated wild card and countrywoman Sabine Lisicki 6-2, 6-4.
   Lisicki, the Wimbledon runner-up to Marion Baroli in 2013, set the record for fastest women's serve at 131 mph (210.8 kph) in the 2014 Bank of the West Classic at Stanford.
   Goerges, who routed top seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia 6-2, 6-1 in the second round, has lost only 14 games in her four matches in Mallorca without dropping a set.
   In Saturday's other semifinal, No. 2 seed Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia will meet either No. 3 Caroline Garcia, the defending champion from France, or No. 6 Roberta Vinci of Italy.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Bellis, 18, reaches Mallorca quarterfinals

CiCi Bellis, playing in the $50,000 Stockton (Calif.) Challenger last July,
defeated Mona Barthel of Germany 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 today in the second round
of the Mallorca Open. Photo by Paul Bauman
   CiCi Bellis, an 18-year-old San Francisco native who grew up in nearby Atherton, defeated Mona Barthel of Germany 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 today on grass to reach the quarterfinals of the Mallorca Open.
   It was the first meeting between the 5-foot-7 (1.68-meter) Bellis, the youngest player in the top 50 at No. 42, and the 6-foot-1 (1.85-meter) Barthel, ranked No. 49.
   Bellis, who's closing in on a seeding for the U.S. Open in August (if not Wimbledon in two weeks), is scheduled to play 46th-ranked Kristyna Pliskova, a 6-foot (1.84-meter) Czech left-hander, for the first time on Friday.
   Pliskova, the 25-year-old twin of third-ranked Karolina Pliskova, defeated Italy's Francesca Schiavone, the 2010 French Open champion who will turn 37 on Friday, 6-3, 7-6 (7).
   Pliskova pounded a record 31 aces in a second-round loss to Monica Puig of Puerto Rico in last year's Australian Open. Puig won the singles gold medal in the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in August.
   Both Bellis and Pliskova played in the $50,000 Stockton (Calif.) Challenger last July. The unseeded Bellis reached the semifinals, losing to eventual champion Alison Van Uytvanck of Belgium 6-2, 4-6, 6-4. Pliskova, seeded second, lost listlessly to South Africa's Chanel Simmonds, a qualifier ranked No. 430 at the time, 7-5, 6-3 in the first round.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Bellis, 18, surprises Suarez Navarro in Mallorca

CiCi Bellis, playing in the Stockton (Calif.) Challenger
last July, beat fourth-seeded Carla Suarez Navarro
6-3, 7-5 in the first round of the Mallorca Open.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   CiCi Bellis pulled off another upset on yet another surface today.
   The 18-year-old product of Atherton in the San Francisco Bay Area ousted fourth-seeded Carla Suarez Navarro, playing in her home country of Spain, 6-3, 7-5 on grass in the first round of the Mallorca Open. It was their first career meeting.
   Suarez Navarro, who has fallen from a career-high No. 6 early last year to No. 26, is the sixth top-30 player Bellis has beaten this year. Bellis knocked off two on hardcourts and three on clay, helping her rise to No. 42 in the world rankings.
   Suarez Navarro, 28, also is the fourth Grand Slam quarterfinalist or better Bellis has defeated this year and seventh overall. Suarez Navarro has reached the quarterfinals twice in the Australian Open, twice in the French Open and once at the U.S. Open. Although clay is her best surface, she has advanced to the fourth round at Wimbledon twice, including last year.
   Suarez Navarro is tied for the fifth-highest-ranked player Bellis has beaten in her career. Heading the list are No. 6 Agnieszka Radwanska in the third round at Dubai in February, No. 13 Dominika Cibulkova in the first round of the 2014 U.S. Open and No. 18 Kiki Bertens in the second round of the French Open on May 31.
   Bellis, who's closing in on a seeding for the U.S. Open in August (if not Wimbledon in two weeks), is scheduled to play 49th-ranked Mona Barthel of Germany for the first time on Wednesday.
   The 6-foot-1 (1.85-meter) Barthel, who climbed to a career-high No. 23 in 2013, defeated qualifier Anna Kalinskaya of Russia 7-6 (6), 6-4.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Jackson beats heat, Chari for NorCal boys 18 title

Champion Ryder Jackson, left, and runner-up Siddharth Chari show the effects
of their marathon in brutal heat on Monday. Photo by Paul Bauman
   SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The final was sizzling in more ways than one.
   In a match as intense as the heat, Ryder Jackson rallied to edge Siddharth Chari 4-6, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (4) in 3 hours, 23 minutes today to win the Northern California Boys 18 Junior Sectional Championships.
   Chethan Swanson, the top seed who lost to Jackson 6-4, 6-2 in the quarterfinals, watched the grueling battle.
   "It was incredible," said Swanson, a friend of Chari's from Folsom in the Sacramento area. "I've been watching junior tennis obviously for so many years, and I can confidently say that was probably the tightest match I've ever seen. What I mean by that is nobody ever had a lead for more than a couple games for the entire match."
   The match at the Natomas Racquet Club began at 9:10 a.m. in 85-degree (29.4 Celsius) heat. By the time it ended at 12:33 p.m., the temperature had soared to 99 degrees (37.2) on the way to a record high of 107 (41.7).
   Can you say climate change?
   Chari, 6-foot-3 1/2 (1.92 meters) and only 160 pounds (72.6 kilograms), began cramping in both hamstrings while holding serve for 3-2 in the third set. At about the same time, his right (playing) forearm tightened up.
Ryder Jackson, left, rallied to edge Siddharth Chari
4-6, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (4) in 3 hours, 23 minutes for the
Sectional boys 18 title. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Jackson, seeded fifth, then held serve despite soreness in his left leg. After the ninth-seeded Chari held serve for 4-3, he took a medical timeout and proceeded to break Jackson. With Chari serving for the match, Jackson broke back on a return-of-serve cross-court passing shot. 
   Jackson broke Chari again to lead 6-5, but Chari valiantly saved three match points in a game featuring several long, exhausting rallies to break back and send the match to a decisive tiebreaker. Chari survived two more match points before netting a down-the-line backhand on the sixth one.
   Jackson roared triumphantly, and the combatants shook hands at the net. Then Chari slumped in a chair in the shade next to the court and buried his head in his arms. Jackson sat next to Chari and grimaced in pain.
   "The heat was really tough," conceded the 6-foot-1 (1.85-meter), 141-pound (64.0-kilogram) Jackson, from Nicasio in Marin County north of San Francisco. "I play a lot in San Francisco, so I'm not really used to intense heat. But the adrenaline is going, you want to win, and you just push through. I was thankful I didn't have a major injury and was able to keep going."
   Jackson, 16, admitted he had extra incentive after losing to towering Keenan Mayo of Roseville in the Sacramento area 6-1, 6-1 in last year's boys 16 Sectional final at Natomas.
   "That was a rough match," sighed Jackson, who won a gold ball in 14-and-under singles in the 2015 USTA Winter Nationals in Tucson, Ariz. "I played as well as I could, but he played better than me. This year, I definitely wanted to do better than I did last year, and winning a Sectionals is a major accomplishment.
   "It's like the biggest tournament in all of NorCal, and it's 18s, too, so this is huge for me because I'm going to probably start traveling more and playing some high-level tournaments now that I've kind of cemented the NorCal with this win."
Ryder Jackson had extra incentive after losing in
the boys 16 final last year. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Chari, a 17-year-old resident of Saratoga (near San Jose), eventually withered in the heat.
   "My legs gave out of me when I was serving 5-3 (in the third set)," he allowed. "The heat was exhausting. I haven't been in this situation much, especially in this 100-degree heat. That really got to me."
   Jackson and Chari had met twice previously, both three-setters in the last month in high school matches. Jackson, then a sophomore at St. Ignatius College Preparatory in San Francisco, won the first time and Chari, then a junior at Menlo School in Atherton, the second.
   "I knew coming in it was going to be tough," said Chari, ranked 12th in Northern California and 116th nationally in the 18s. "I had a feeling it was going to be a three-setter."
   The final essentially pitted Chari's offense against Jackson's defense.
   Chari has a booming, high-kicking serve and powerful forehand, and moves well.
   "He moves really well, especially to his forehand," agreed Jackson, ranked first in NorCal and 13th nationally in the 16s and 18th in the NorCal 18s. "His running forehand I think is his best shot, besides his serve. He has an incredible running forehand. I always had to watch out for that. I couldn't hit it to the corner and think (the point) was over. I always had to be ready for the next ball."
Siddharth Chari will enroll at Yale in the fall of 2018.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Jackson countered with a strong return of serve, often getting back balls that bounced over his head, and consistency, frequently chasing down Chari's lasers.
  "I love my return of serve," Jackson gushed. "That's one of my best shots. That definitely helped a lot today, because he has a big serve and he's used to a lot of free points, so my goal was to try to make a lot of returns. It worked out great today."
   Jackson wore a soccer shirt to begin the match and switched to one advertising Etihad Airways of Abu Dhabi for the third set.
   "I always wear soccer jerseys and visors (for matches)," Jackson said. "I've been doing it since I was 10. That's kind of my look, my signature.
   "I like the World Cup, the big events. I like Real Madrid; Ronaldo is my favorite player. I played soccer when I was 11, then I quite to focus on tennis. I think I have like 25 (soccer shirts)."
   Both of Jackson's parents starred in college, Steve Jackson at Fresno State and Elizabeth Evans at Harvard. Steve is the director of tennis at the California Tennis Club in San Francisco.
   Ryder said he'll take online classes as a junior and perhaps return to St. Ignatius as a senior. He hopes to land a scholarship to a Division I school.
   Chari's father, Ranga, and mother, Vidya, are software engineers. Vidya stays home to travel with Siddharth, who will enroll at Yale in 2018. He plans to major in economics while playing on the tennis team.
   Said Swanson, who will play at UC Davis: "I'm really proud of him for getting a spot in an Ivy League school. It's going to be a great place (for him). He's really talented in tennis, and he's a genius, too, a really smart kid."
NORCAL JUNIOR SECTIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS
Finals
At Natomas Racquet Club in Sacramento
Boys 18
Singles
   Ryder Jackson (5), Nicasio, def. Siddharth Chari (9), Saratoga, 4-6, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (4).
Doubles
   Stevie Gould, Corte Madera, and Issa Yoshida (1), Campbell, def. Nitzan Ricklis, Sunnyvale, and Dean Stratakos (2), Saratoga, 7-6 (4), 6-3.
Boys 16
Singles
   Aryan Chaudhary (1), Santa Clara, def. Daniel Papacica, Carmel, 6-3, 6-3.
Doubles
   Brandon Aprill, Mountain View, and Zachery Lim (3), Vacaville, def. Marshall Leung, Tiburon, and Andrei Volgin (5), Fremont, 6-3, 6-4.
At Copper River Country Club in Fresno
Girls 18
Singles
   Ashley Yeah (3), Los Gatos, def. Rachel Eason (1), Union City, 6-4, 6-1.
Doubles
   Anna Campana and Carolyn Campana (3), Hillsborough, def. Jillian Taggart, Fair Oaks, and Elena Van Linge (4), Menlo Park, 8-4.
Girls 16
Singles
   Vivian Ovrootsky (4), San Jose, def. Avantika Willy (5), Dublin, 6-0, 6-1.
Doubles
   Allura Zamarripa and Maribella Zamarripa (4), Saint Helena, def. Yuu Ishikawa, Mountain View, and Avantika Willy (3), Dublin, 8-2.
At Arden Hills Resort & Spa in Sacramento
Boys 14
Singles
   Brian Chong (2), Cupertino, def. Max Fardanesh (1), Albany, 7-5, 3-6 [12-10].
Doubles
   Luvdeep Bal, Yuba City, and Brian Bilsey, Belmont, def. Max Fardanesh, Albany, and Jake Vassel (1), Danville, 8-5.
Girls 14
Singles
   Anushka Khune (2), Palo Alto, def. Priya Nelson (4), Sacramento, 6-1, 6-1.
Doubles
   Tara Chilton, Reno, and Karis Kim, San Ramon, def. Audrey-Marie Rafols, Vallejo, and Isabel Santiago (3), Hayward, 8-3.
At Sunnyvale Tennis Center
Boys 12
Singles
   Raghav Jangbahadur (1), Palo Alto, def. Mason Nguyen (3), El Dorado Hills, 6-0, 6-2.
Doubles
   Mason Nguyen, El Dorado Hills, and Lleyton Okada-Alonzo (1), Marina, def. Mitchell Lee, Oakland, and Julien Simonian (2), Redwood City, 6-4, 6-2.
Girls 12
Singles
   Ria Bhakta (1), Saratoga, def. Lauren Joyce (3), Lodi, 6-4, 6-1.
Doubles
   Ria Bhakta, Saratoga, and Lauren Joyce (2), Lodi, def. Caroline Beard, Santa Rosa, and Anya Murthy (1), Fremont, 7-6 (11), 6-7 (6) [10-8].

Friday, June 16, 2017

Coming Monday: NorCal Boys 18 Sectional final

   I will cover the singles final of the Northern California Boys 18 Junior Sectional Championships at the Natomas Racquet Club in Sacramento on Monday.
   The match is scheduled for 9 a.m., along with the boys 16 final.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Sharapova receives wild card for Bank of the West

Maria Sharapova, shown in 2014, returned from a 15-month
doping suspension in April. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Five-time Grand Slam singles champion and former world No. 1 Maria Sharapova has received a wild card into the main draw of the Bank of the West Classic, tournament officials announced today.
   The Bank of the West, which begins the U.S. Open Series, is scheduled for July 31-Aug. 6 at Stanford's Taube Family Tennis Center.
   The 30-year-old Sharapova has played in three tournaments, all on clay, since returning from a 15-month doping suspension in late April. She reached the semifinals in Stuttgart, then lost in the second round at Madrid and Rome.
   Sharapova was denied a wild card into the French Open, which ended last weekend, and was not ranked high enough to enter qualifying. Now ranked 175th, she withdrew from Wimbledon, July 3-16, with a thigh injury sustained in Rome.
   The Bank of the West will be Sharapova's first U.S. tournament since March 2015, when she lost to Daria Gavrilova of Australia in the second round in Miami.
   Sharapova, one of only six women to complete a career Grand Slam in singles, will play at Stanford for the fourth time. She reached the quarterfinals in 2009 and 2011 and the final in 2010, losing to Victoria Azarenka.
   Azarenka, who gave birth to her first child on Dec. 20, plans to return to the WTA tour next week in Mallorca and play at Stanford.
   Also entered in the Bank of the West are American Madison Keys, ranked 14th, and CiCi Bellis, ranked 40th at 18 years old. Bellis was born in San Francisco and grew up in Atherton, a five-minute drive from Stanford.
   The full acceptance list for the Bank of the West Classic will be released the week of June 19. To purchase tickets, visit www.bankofthewestclassic.com or call (866) 982-8497.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Riffice falls in French Open boys doubles semis

   Top-seeded Nicola Kuhn of Spain and Zsombor Piros of Hungary beat unseeded Americans Sam Riffice and Gianni Ross 6-4, 6-4 today in the boys doubles semifinals of the French Open in Paris.
   Riffice, who grew up in the Sacramento suburb of Roseville, and Ross had won all three of their previous contests in match tiebreakers. Both are 18 and based at the new USTA National Campus in Orlando, Fla.
   Kuhn and Piros will play another unseeded American team, Vasil Kirkov and Danny Thomas, for the title on Saturday. Kirkov and Thomas edged fourth-seeded Jurij Rodionov of Austria and Michael Vrbensky of the Czech Republic 6-3, 2-6 [10-8].
   Riffice has verbally committed to the University of Florida. He advanced to the singles final of $15,000 Futures tournaments on clay in Vero Beach, Fla., in April and Bucharest, Romania, last month to climb to No. 806 in the world.
   In 2014, Riffice joined Grigor Dimitrov as the only players two sweep the boys 16 singles titles in the Eddie Herr International Championships in Bradenton, Fla., and the Orange Bowl in Plantation, Fla. The tournaments are played in consecutive weeks in December.
   Dimitrov, 26, is ranked 13th after reaching a career-high No. 8 in 2014.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Riffice gains boys doubles semis in French Open

   Sam Riffice and Gianni Ross survived another match tiebreaker today.
   Riffice, who grew up in the Sacramento suburb of Roseville, and countryman Ross nipped Axel Geller of Argentina and Nicolas Mejia of Colombia 3-6, 6-2 [10-7] to reach the boys doubles semifinals in the French Open.
   Riffice and Ross, both 18 and based in Orlando, Fla., have won all three of their contests in match tiebreakers. They edged third-seeded Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain and Alexei Popyrin of Australia 6-2, 1-6 [10-8] in the first round.
   Riffice and Ross are scheduled to meet top-seeded Nicola Kuhn of Spain and Zsombor Piros of Hungary on Friday. Kuhn and Piros won twice in match tiebreakers today after breezing in the opening round on Wednesday.
   Ross lost to the third-seeded Popyrin 4-6, 6-1, 7-5 today in the boys singles quarterfinals. Riffice fell in the second round to 12th-seeded Jurij Rodionov of Austria.
   Riffice has verbally committed to the University of Florida. He advanced to the singles final of $15,000 Futures tournaments on clay in Vero Beach, Fla., in April and Bucharest, Romania, last month to climb to No. 806 in the world.
   In 2014, Riffice joined Grigor Dimitrov as the only players two sweep the boys 16 singles titles in the Eddie Herr International Championships in Bradenton, Fla., and the Orange Bowl in Plantation, Fla. The tournaments are played in consecutive weeks in December.
   Dimitrov, 26, is ranked 13th after reaching a career-high No. 8 in 2014.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Riffice reaches boys doubles quarters in French Open

   Sam Riffice and Gianni Ross, both 18-year-old Americans based in Orlando, Fla., have reached the boys doubles quarterfinals in the French Open.
   Riffice, who grew up in the Sacramento suburb of Roseville, and Ross edged Alan Fernando Rubio Fierros of Mexico and Duarte Vale of Portugal 4-6, 6-4 [10-5] today in a second-round battle of unseeded teams.
   Riffice and Ross will meet unseeded Axel Geller of Argentina and Nicolas Mejia of Colombia on Thursday. Geller and Mejia outclassed unseeded Artem Dubrivnyy of Russia and Marvin Moeller of Germany 6-3, 6-1.
   Ross also reached the singles quarterfinals, in which he will play third-seeded Alexei Popyrin of Australia. Riffice lost in the second round of singles to 12th-seeded Jurij Rodionov of Austria.
   Riffice has verbally committed to the University of Florida. He advanced to the singles final of $15,000 Futures tournaments on clay in Vero Beach, Fla., in April and Bucharest, Romania, last month to climb to No. 806 in the world.
   In 2014, Riffice joined Grigor Dimitrov as the only players to sweep the boys 16 singles titles in the Eddie Herr International Championships in Bradenton, Fla., and the Orange Bowl in Plantation, Fla.
   Dimitrov, 26, is ranked 13th after reaching a career-high No. 8 in 2014.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Riffice's boys doubles match postponed by rain

   Sam Riffice's second-round boys doubles match in the French Open, scheduled for today, was postponed by rain.
   Riffice, who grew up in the Sacramento suburb of Roseville, and American Gianni Ross now are set to play Alan Fernando Rubio Fierros of Mexico and Duarte Vale of Portugal on Wednesday in Paris for a quarterfinal berth.
   The chance of rain, according to weather.com, is 10 percent for the rest of the week except for 40 percent on Friday.
   Riffice and Ross are both 18 and based at the new USTA National Campus in Orlando, Fla.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Riffice falls to seed in French Open boys singles

   Sam Riffice, an 18-year-old product of Roseville in the Sacramento area, played seeds in boys singles and doubles today in the French Open in Paris.
   The results were mixed.
   Riffice lost to No. 12 Jurij Rodionov of Austria 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 in the second round, then teamed with Gianni Ross to edge No. 3 Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain and Alexei Popyrin of Australia 6-2, 1-6 [10-8] in the first round.
   Riffice and Ross, both based at the USTA National Campus in Orlando, Fla., are scheduled to play Alan Fernando Rubio Fierros of Mexico and Duarte Vale of Portugal on Tuesday for a quarterfinal berth. Rubio Fierros and Vale defeated Russia's Timofey Skatov and Nikolay Vylegzhanin 6-3, 6-4.
   Riffice has verbally committed to the University of Florida. He reached the singles final of $15,000 Futures tournaments on clay in Vero Beach, Fla., in April and Bucharest, Romania, last month to climb to No. 806 in the world.
   In 2014, Riffice joined Grigor Dimitrov as the only players to sweep the boys 16 singles titles in the Eddie Herr International Championships in Bradenton, Fla., and the Orange Bowl in Plantation, Fla.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Riffice advances in French Open boys singles

   Sam Riffice, who grew up in the Sacramento suburb of Roseville, defeated Thiago Augustin Tirante of Argentina 6-7 (4), 6-2, 6-1 today in the first round of boys singles at the French Open in Paris.
   Riffice, 18, is scheduled to face 12th-seeded Jurij Rodionov of Austria on Monday. Rodionov beat Nikolay Vylegzhanin of Russia 6-4, 6-2.
   Later Monday, Riffice and Gianni Ross of Orlando, Fla., are set to meet third-seeded Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain and Alexei Popyrin of Australia in the opening round of boys doubles.
   Riffice, now based at the USTA National Campus in Orlando, verbally committed to the University of Florida. He reached the final of $15,000 Futures tournaments on clay in Vero Beach, Fla., in April and Bucharest, Romania, last month to climb to No. 806 in the world.
   In 2014, Riffice joined Grigor Dimitrov as the only players to sweep the boys 16 titles in the Eddie Herr International Championships in Bradenton, Fla., and the Orange Bowl in Plantation, Fla.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Bellis, 18, falls to Wozniacki in French Open

Caroline Wozniacki, playing at Indian Wells
in March, defeated CiCi Bellis 6-2, 2-6, 6-3
today in the third round of the French Open.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   No. 11 seed Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark defeated 18-year-old CiCi Bellis, who grew up in Atherton in the San Francisco Bay Area, 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 today in the completion of a suspended match in the third round of the French Open.
   Bellis was about to serve for the second set at 5-2 on Friday night when rain and darkness halted play. After holding her serve for the set today, she broke for 2-1 in the third set.
   "That's when Wozniacki really started to settle down and be a little more consistent," commentator Lindsay Davenport said on Tennis Channel. "Also, she started to attack the forehand side of the Bellis court more."
   Wozniacki, who climbed to No. 1 in the world in 2010, broke back and won the last three games of the match. She ended the match with a service winner and two aces.
   Bellis still took away many positives. She equaled her best Grand Slam result with her third-round showing and is projected to rise from No. 48 to No. 40. She is the youngest player in the top 50.
   "What a tournament for CiCi Bellis," Davenport crowed. "She showed a lot of people how good she is going to be, but Wozniacki used her experience well to finish this final set."
   Wozniacki, who will turn 27 on July 11, reached the fourth round of the French Open for the first time since advancing to the quarterfinals in 2010 for her best result at Roland Garros.
   Wozniacki will face No. 8 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, the 2009 champion, on Sunday in their first meeting on clay. Wozniacki leads the head-to-head series 7-6.
   In the second round of men's doubles on Friday, No. 3 seeds and two-time French Open champions Bob and Mike Bryan (Stanford, 1997-98) lost to Sam Groth of Australia and Robert Lindstedt of Sweden 7-6 (4), 6-3.
   The 39-year-old Bryan twins won the last of their record 16 Grand Slam men's doubles titles in the 2014 U.S. Open.
   Groth, 6-foot-4 (1.93 meters) and 220 pounds (100.0 kilograms), holds the unofficial record for the world's fastest serve. He unleashed a 163.7-mph (263.4-kph) rocket in the 2012 Busan (South Korea) Challenger.
   Lindstedt, 40, played at Fresno State before transferring to Pepperdine and reaching the 1998 NCAA doubles final with Kelly Gullett. In that match, they lost to the Bryans 6-4 in the third set.  

Friday, June 2, 2017

Bellis on verge of tying suspended match vs. Wozniacki

CiCi Bellis, playing in the Stockton (Calif.) Challenger last July,
will serve to even her third-round match against 11th-seeded
Caroline Wozniacki on Saturday in the French Open. Photo
by Paul Bauman
   CiCi Bellis was about to serve for the second set against former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki today when their French Open match was suspended by rain and darkness.
   The 11th-seeded Wozniacki led 6-2, 2-5 in the third round when play was halted. The match, which was moved from Court Suzanne-Lenglen to Court 2, is scheduled to resume on Court 2 on Saturday after the 2 a.m. (PDT) encounter between Kevin Anderson of South Africa and Kyle Edmund of Great Britain.
   Wozniacki defeated Bellis 6-3, 6-2 on a hardcourt in the Dubai quarterfinals in February in their only previous meeting.
   The 18-year-old Bellis, who grew up in the San Francisco suburb of Atherton, is playing in the women's main draw of the French Open for the first time. She reached the junior doubles final at Roland Garros in 2014 with Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic.
   Bellis, now ranked No. 48 in women's singles, is the youngest player in the top 50. Wozniacki, 26, is ranked No. 12.
   Wozniacki is trying to reach the fourth round of the French Open for the first time since 2010, when she advanced to the quarterfinals for her best result in nine appearances at Roland Garros entering this year.
   Wozniacki withdrew from last year's French Open with a right ankle injury, the only Grand Slam she has missed since her first one in 2007 at Roland Garros. It snapped a streak of 36 main-draw appearances in majors.
   The winner of the Wozniacki-Bellis match will play eighth-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova, the 2009 champion who outlasted 32nd-seeded Zhang Shuai of China 7-6 (5), 4-6, 7-5. Kuznetsova is 6-7 against Wozniacki and 0-0 vs. Bellis.