Friday, August 18, 2017

Coming next week: Tursunov Q&A

   I'll post a three-part Q&A with former top-20 player Dmitry Tursunov, a 34-year-old Russian with strong Northern California ties, next week.
   Part I -- Twilight of Tursunov's career.
   Part II -- Tennis issues.
   Part III -- Non-tennis issues.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Kratzer wins national 18s for spot in U.S. Open

Ashley Kratzer defeated Kelly Chen 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 to win the USTA
Girls 18 National Championships in San Diego. Kratzer, an 18-year-
old left-hander from Newport Beach, was the runner-up in last
month's $50,000 Stockton Challenger. Photo courtesy of USTA
   No Northern Californians won titles in last week's USTA National Championships for juniors at various sites around the country.
   But Ashley Kratzer, the runner-up in last month's $50,000 Stockton Challenger, captured the Girls 18s in San Diego to earn a wild card in the U.S. Open. The year's last Grand Slam tournament is scheduled for Aug. 28-Sept. 10.
   No. 3 seed Kratzer, an 18-year-old left-hander from Newport Beach, defeated No. 33 Kelly Chen of Cerritos 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 in the final. Newport Beach and Cerritos are in the Los Angeles area.
   Kratzer eliminated No. 6 Michaela Gordon of Saratoga, located in the San Francisco Bay Area, 7-5, 7-5 in the quarterfinals. Kratzer turned pro late last year. Gordon will enroll at Stanford next month.
   No. 8 seed Whitney Osuigwe of Bradenton, Fla., defeated No. 17 Katie Volynets of Walnut Creek, Calif., 7-5, 7-6 (3) in the round of 16 in a battle of decorated 15-year-olds.
   Osuigwe won the French Open junior title in June. Volynets last December became the first girl to win the 16s in the Eddie Herr International Championships and Orange Bowl in the same year. The tournaments were held in consecutive weeks in Bradenton, Fla., on hardcourts and Plantation, Fla., on clay, respectively.
   In the Boys 18s in Kalamazoo, Mich., No. 1 seed Sam Riffice, who grew up in the Sacramento suburb of Roseville, lost to No. 5 JJ Wolf of Cincinnati 5-7, 6-4, 6-1 in the quarterfinals. Riffice, now based at the USTA National Campus in Orlando, Fla., has verbally committed to the University of Florida for next year.
   In the Girls 14s in Rome, Ga., No. 1 seed Vivian Ovrootsky of San Jose lost to No. 16 Bridget Stammel of Dallas 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 in the round of 16. Ovrootsky swept the 12s singles and doubles titles at the USTA Winter Nationals in Tucson, Ariz., in January. She turned 13 on July 15.
   Other results of NorCal players who reached the later rounds:
BOYS
In Kalamazoo, Mich.
18-and-under
Doubles quarterfinals
   Nathan Perrone, Moorestown, N.J., and Jake Van Emburgh, Belleair Beach, Fla., def. Sam Riffice and Gianni Ross (4), Orlando, Fla., 6-4, 7-5.
   Oliver Crawford, Spartanburg, S.C., and Patrick Kypson (2), Greenville, N.C., def. Austen Huang, Elk Grove, Calif., and Sean Sculley (12), Hilton Head Island, S.C., 6-4, 6-4.
16-and-under
Doubles semifinals
   Will Grant, Boca Raton, Fla., and Tyler Zink (3), Bradenton, Fla., def. Robert Cash, New Albany, Ohio, and Ryder Jackson (1), Nicasio, Calif., 6-1, 3-6, 6-1.
In Mobile, Ala.
14-and-under
Singles quarterfinals
   Andrew Chang (17), Trophy Club, Texas, def. Luke Neal, Mill Valley, 6-2, 7-6 (4).
   Ben Shelton (17), Gainesville, Fla., def. Luke Casper (10), Santa Cruz, Calif., 6-4, 6-4.
Singles semifinals
   Saud Alhogbani (4), Alexandria, Va., def. Hugo Hashimoto (17), San Jose, Calif., 6-4, 6-0.
Doubles semifinals
   Connor Krug and Jake Krug (1), Lakewood Ranch, Fla., def. Alex Han, Tulsa, Okla., and Hugo Hashimoto (6), San Jose, Calif., 7-5, 7-6 (6).
12-and-under
Singles quarterfinals
   Aidan Kim (1), Milford, Mich., def. Kurt Miller, Los Gatos, Calif., 7-5, 6-2.
Doubles semifinals
   Lucas Brown, Plano, Texas, and Learner Tien (1), Irvine, Calif., def. Kurt Miller, Los Gatos, Calif., and Andrew Salu (3), Sarasota, Fla., 7-5, 6-3.
GIRLS
In San Diego
16-and-under
Singles semifinals
   Angelica Blake (9), Boca Raton, Fla., def. Connie Ma, Dublin, Calif., 6-2, 6-3.
In Rome, Ga.
14-and-under
Doubles quarterfinals
   Hibah Shaikh, Teaneck, N.J., and Madison Sieg (2), Greenwich, Conn., def. Kimberly Hance, Torrance, Calif., and Yuu Ishikawa (5), Los Altos, Calif., 7-6 (5), 6-2.  

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Bublik, 20, predicted to reach top 10 -- seriously

Alexander Bublik, left, overpowered Liam Broady, right, 6-2, 6-3 today to win
the $100,000 Nordic Naturals Challenger in Aptos, Calif. Photo by Paul Bauman
   APTOS, Calif. -- The term "wacky" generally is not associated with professional tennis players.
   "Serious," sure. "Dedicated," yes. "Resilient," check.
   But wacky? Not when only 100 men and 100 women on a planet of 7.5 billion people can make a comfortable living in the sport.
   Then there's Alexander Bublik.
   The 20-year-old Russia native confessed at Wimbledon this year that watching Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal can bore him.
   "It's interesting to see the highlights, how they're finishing (points), but when they're rallying for, like, 45 shots, you're sitting there thinking, Can I quit tennis please?"
   Playing Futures tournaments last year, the right-hander sometimes amused himself by hitting only trick shots or drop shots or, with a big lead, playing left-handed.
   At Indian Wells in March, Bublik interviewed Roger Federer and Andy Murray, among others, as part of a promotion for the inaugural Next Gen Finals, featuring the world's top 21-and-under men, in Milan in November.
   Some highlights:
   Bublik to Federer: "How can your hair be so perfect every time?"
   Federer: "It's not so perfect. It's a battle every day. Grow it out a little bit, and you'll see."
   Bublik to Murray: "What kind of advice can you give me to be as good as you are?"
   Murray: "A lot of training ... "
   Bublik: "Is that useful, training?"
   Having graduated to Challengers and some ATP and Grand Slam tournaments this year, Bublik is becoming more serious. It showed today as he overpowered qualifier Liam Broady of Great Britain 6-2, 6-3 in 62 minutes to win the $100,000 Nordic Naturals Challenger at the Seascape Sports Club.
   The Challenger, the oldest on the men's circuit in the United States, celebrated its 30th anniversary this year. Past competitors include International Tennis Hall of Famers Patrick Rafter and Michael Chang and future Hall of Famers Murray, Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan.
   The unseeded Bublik had lost in the quarterfinals and second round of U.S. Challengers in the previous two weeks.
   "I just decided, OK, let's try to be serious," a bubbly Bublik, who switched his allegiance to Kazakhstan because it offered financial support, said after celebrating his title with a dip in the pool. "I need to find a balance between my jokes and serious tennis, so this week I was quite calm. I didn't mess around that much, so that's why I won the tournament."
   Broady predicts stardom for Bublik, who stands 6-foot-4 (1.93 meters) and weighs only 165 pounds (75.0 kilograms).
   "I think he has the potential to go all the way," the affable Broady, a 23-year-old left-hander, said after facing Bublik for the first time. "There's a reason he's ranked (125) already. He's very (flashy), and I'm sure he'll refine his talents as he gets older and gets more experience. He's going to be a scary prospect.
   " ... You see the way he's built. He's still not fully grown into his frame yet. He's got six, eight years before he reaches his peak. I don't see why he can't be top 10."
   Bublik improved to No. 104 in the world with the title, putting him on the verge of direct entry into the U.S. Open, and pocketed $14,400 for his second Challenger singles title.
   Bublik, who lost to world No. 1 and defending champion Murray 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 in the first round at Wimbledon early last month as a lucky loser, is happy with his progress.
   "I feel great," he crowed. "It's my first year on tour. Last year I was playing Futures and I started, like, 900 (in the world), so it's been great. I had a rough clay-court season this year, but I'm getting back my rhythm after Wimbledon. The (match) I played with Andy gave me a lot of confidence. I improved a lot after that."
   There were glimpses of the old Bublik during the week in Aptos.
   While Dennis Novikov of Milpitas in the San Francisco Bay Area took a medical timeout in Friday's quarterfinals, Bublik entertained himself and the crowd by repeatedly bouncing a ball on the edge of his racket and off both feet.
   In the final, Bublik frequently hit drop shots and then became whimsical in the last game. Hitting his second serve as hard as his first, he double-faulted three consecutive times to give Broady a break point.
   "I just said, 'OK, everything or nothing,' " Bublik admitted.
   Bublik got back to deuce with a service winner, earned his third match point with a backhand volley winner and closed out the match with an ace down the middle.
   Bublik, who finished with six aces, still likes to have fun on the court.
   "That's my way of playing," he said. "It's a game. Of course, it's a great sport and you need to work hard, but you need to enjoy enjoy every moment of it. Tennis careers are not that (long)."
   Off the court, Bublik enjoys rap music. He has two Eminem quotes tattooed on his arms: "You won't break me; you just make me stronger than I was," and "Always be a leader and not a follower."
   Bublik already has beaten two top-20 players, No. 13 Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain and No. 16 Lucas Pouille of France, and it's easy see why. Power.
   Bublik crushed his serve and groundstrokes against Broady. After the 6-foot (1.83-meter) Broady held for 2-2 in the first set, Bublik reeled off the next seven games to lead 3-0 in the second set. 
   Broady took the next two games, breaking serve for the only time in the match, but Bublik broke right back with a perfect lob. In the next-to-last game, Bublik unleashed a cross-court forehand passing shot so hard that Broady could only flail helplessly at it.
    "Sasha played really good today," said Broady, who had lost in the first round in Aptos in each of the past two years. "He's obviously got a fantastic serve, which in finals and big moments really helps. I don't think I served as well today as I have during the week. I was a little bit nervous, but that doesn't usually stop me from playing well. It was more Sasha's fault today that I didn't play very well. I'll learn from it and come back stronger."
   Broady played his seventh match in nine days.
   "I said to my coach in the quarterfinals I started to feel little bit fatigued," he conceded. "By then, it was my fifth match, so it was like I was making the finals of a tournament. Then the semifinals ... I was a little bit sluggish (today), just one or two percent.
   "I'd have loved to come out here and been fresh as a daisy, but I think in the finals, no one is ever going to be completely fresh. I gave it the best I could with the situation, and he was too good on the day anyway."
   Broady became the third British singles finalist, and second to emerge from qualifying, in Aptos in the past two years. Dan Evans beat qualifier Cameron Norrie, who was born in South Africa to British parents and grew up in New Zealand, last year. Also, Scotland's Murray won the Aptos title in 2005 at age 18.
   Evans, 27, faces a suspension of up to four years after testing positive for cocaine in April.
   Broady, who fell to 0-2 in Challenger finals, jumped from No. 336 to No. 256 and collected $8,480. He's fighting his way back after climbing to a career-high No. 158 two years ago at age 21.
   "I was saying this to a friend the other day: I didn't really know why I got to (158)," mused Broady, whose older sister, 6-foot-2 (1.89-meter) Naomi, is ranked No. 127 after reaching a career-high No. 76 last year in March. "I was quite young, just playing tennis and playing well. I was on a wave of confidence, and before I knew it, the results stopped coming a little bit, and I didn't really know how to get them back.
   "I split from my coach (David Sammel) and didn't have one for about nine months. I just did what any young guy would do. I enjoyed myself and went out with my friends. I played tennis to the best of my ability, but I had no direction.
   "As I'm sure anyone can relate in any walk of life, it's very difficult to do things when you have no direction, but I called my coach at the end of November last year and said, 'Look, I want to sort things out. I'm hungry; I want to play tennis again.' I hope we're going to start seeing dividends for the last eight months of hard work."  
Neal Skupski, left, and Jonathan Erlich won the doubles title in their first
tournament together. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Broady's countryman, Neal Skupski, teamed with Jonathan Erlich of Israel to win the doubles title in their first tournament together. Seeded third, they edged fourth-seeded Alex Bolt and Jordan Thompson of Australia 6-3, 2-6 [10-8].
   On the last point, Bolt and Thompson had a sitter in the middle of the court at the service line but let the ball go between them for a winner.
   Both Erlich, 40, and Skupski, 27, said they had never had a match end that way.
   "We don't mind," Skupski cracked. "We're happy with the result."
   Erlich and Skupski, who split $6,200, saved five match points combined in the quarterfinals and semifinals.
   Erlich also paired with countryman Andy Ram to win the Aptos Challenger in 2013 and the Australian Open in 2008.
   Here are the complete Nordic Naturals Challenger singles and doubles draws.    

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Qualifier Broady to face Bublik, 20, in Aptos final

   Qualifier Liam Broady of Great Britain upset wild card Taylor Fritz, a top U.S. prospect, 7-6 (3), 6-3 today to reach the final of the $100,000 Nordic Naturals Challenger in Aptos, Calif.
   Throughout the match at the Seascape Sports Club near the Pacific Ocean, the 23-year-old Broady served his way out of trouble and outsteadied the 19-year-old Fritz from the backcourt.
   Broady, a 6-foot (1.83-meter) left-hander, won 84 percent of the points on his first serve (41 of 49) and saved all six break points against him.
   Fritz is ranked No. 131, down from a career-high No. 53 one year ago. Broady is No. 336 after climbing as high as No. 158 two years ago.
   Broady is the third British finalist, and second to emerge from qualifying, in Aptos in the past two years. Dan Evans defeated qualifier Cameron Norrie, a South Africa native, last year. Also, current world No. 1 Andy Murray of Scotland won the Aptos title in 2005 at age 18.
   Evans, 27, faces a suspension of up to four years after testing positive for cocaine in April.
   Broady's older sister, 6-foot-2 (1.89-meter) Naomi, is ranked No. 127 after reaching a career-high No. 76 in March last year.
   Liam Broady will face Alexander Bublik, who was born in Russia but changed his allegiance to Kazakhstan after being offered financial support, for the first time on Sunday after the 1 p.m. doubles final. The matches will be streamed live.
   Bublik, 20, defeated Sam Groth, a 29-year-old Australian with a booming serve, 7-6 (2), 6-3. The 6-foot-4 (1.93-meter), 165-pound (75-kilogram) Bublik won 82 percent of the points on his first serve (31 of 38).
   Groth set an unofficial record with a 163.7-mph (263.4-kph) serve in the 2012 Busan (South Korea) Challenger.
   Bublik already has beaten two top-20 players in his career: No. 13 Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain to reach the quarterfinals in Moscow on the ATP World Tour last October and No. 16 Lucas Pouille of France in the first round of the Australian Open in January as a qualifier.
   Both Bublik, ranked No. 125, and Broady will play in their second Challenger singles final. Bublik won a $50,000 hardcourt tournament in Morelos, Mexico, in February. Broady was the runner-up in Charlottesville, Va., also a $50,000 hardcourt tourney, in 2014.
   The Aptos Challenger, the oldest on the men's circuit in the United States, is celebrating its 30th anniversary. Past competitors include International Tennis Hall of Famers Patrick Rafter and Michael Chang, as well as future Hall of Famers Murray, Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan.
   Here are the Nordic Naturals singles and doubles draws and Sunday's schedule.

Friday, August 11, 2017

U.S. sensation Fritz reaches semis at 100K Aptos

After practicing, Taylor Fritz glances at a match
on Center Court in Aptos, Calif., on Wednesday.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Wild card Taylor Fritz, one of the United States' top prospects, defeated sixth-seeded Tennys Sandgren of Gallatin, Tenn., 6-5, 7-6 (1) today in the quarterfinals of the $100,000 Nordic Naturals Challenger at the Seascape Sports Club in Aptos, Calif.
   Fritz, 19, of Palos Verdes in the Los Angeles area, saved three sets points while serving at 5-6 in the second set.
   Fritz made his Challenger debut two years ago in Aptos, losing to veteran Mischa Zverev, now ranked 26th, in the first round. Two months later, Fritz won the Sacramento and Fairfield Challengers, also in Northern California, back to-back at 17.
   He became the second-fastest American man to reach an ATP World Tour final last year at Memphis and stunned then-No. 7 Marin Cilic, the 2014 U.S. Open champion, at Indian Wells in March.
   Ranked a career-high No. 53 one year ago, Fritz has tumbled to No. 131 because of knee problems.
   Fritz's mother (Kathy May), father (Guy Fritz) and uncle (Harry Fritz) all played professionally.  May peaked at No. 10 in the world in 1977 and played in three career Grand Slam quarterfinals.
   Taylor Fritz will meet qualifier Liam Broady of Great Britain in today's second semifinal. Broady, a 23-year-old left-hander, beat Raymond Sarmiento of Los Angeles 6-4, 6-4. Sarmiento, a 25-year-old former USC All-American, played in the Aptos quarterfinals for the second consecutive year.
    In the first semifinal, which will follow an 11 a.m. doubles semi, Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan will face Sam Groth of Australia.
   Bublik, a 20-year-old Russia native, eliminated wild card Dennis Novikov of Milpitas in the San Francisco Bay Area 6-1, 6-4 in 64 minutes. Milpitas is a one-hour drive north of Aptos.
   Bublik, 6-foot-4 (1.93 meters) and only 165 pounds (75 kilograms), qualified for the Australian Open and Wimbledon this year. He shocked France's Lucas Pouille, then ranked 16th, in the first round in Melbourne before losing to Malek Jaziri of Tunisia. Bublik fell to top-ranked Andy Murray 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 in the opening round at Wimbledon.
   Groth held off countryman Akira Santillan, a 20-year-old Tokyo native, 7-5, 7-6 (4). Groth pounded 17 aces, and Santillan had 15.
   Groth, 29, set an unofficial record with a 163.7-mph (263.4-kph) serve in the 2012 Busan (South Korea) Challenger and climbed to a career-high No. 53 in 2015.
    Both semifinals will be first-time meetings.
    The Aptos tournament, the oldest men's Challenger in the United States, is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. Past competitors include International Tennis Hall of Famers Patrick Rafter and Michael Chang, as well as future Hall of Famers Andy Murray, Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

NorCal's Novikov upsets seed, gains Aptos quarters

   Dennis Novikov, playing near home, upset fifth-seeded Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan 6-7 (3), 7-6 (3), 6-3 in 2 hours, 40 minutes today to reach the quarterfinals of the $100,000 Nordic Naturals Challenger in Aptos, Calif.
   Novikov, a 23-year-old wild card from Milpitas in the San Francisco Bay Area, converted only 42 percent of his first serves but saved 12 of 13 break points against him at the Seascape Sports Club.
   Milpitas is a one-hour drive north of Aptos.
   Novikov, who reached his first ATP World Tour quarterfinal last month on grass in Newport, R.I., will play another Kazakh, Alexander Bublik, on Friday at 11 a.m. It will be the first match between Bublik, ranked No. 125, and Novikov, ranked No. 216.
   Bublik, 20, routed third-seeded Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland 6-1, 6-1 in 45 minutes.
   Both Bublik and Kukushkin were born in Russia.
   Bublik, 6-foot-4 (1.93 meters) and only 165 pounds (75 kilograms), qualified for the Australian Open and Wimbledon this year. He stunned France's Lucas Pouille, then ranked 16th, in the first round in Melbourne before losing to Malek Jaziri of Tunisia. Bublik fell to top-ranked Andy Murray 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 in the opening round at Wimbledon.
   Only one seed reached the Aptos quarterfinals. No. 6 Tennys Sandgren will face wild card Taylor Fritz for the first time in an all-American showdown not before 6 p.m.
   Sandgren, 26, played in the main draw of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time in May. He lost to Kukushkin in the first round of the French Open.
   Fritz, 19, shocked Marin Cilic, the 2014 U.S. Open champion, at Indian Wells in March. Cilic was ranked seventh at the time.
   In Friday's other quarterfinals, Raymond Sarmiento of Los Angeles will play qualifier Liam Broady of Great Britain not before 1:30 p.m., and Sam Groth will take on fellow Australian Akira Santillan not before 4 p.m.
   Sarmiento, a 25-year-old former USC All-American and a quarterfinalist in Aptos last year, will try to reach a Challenger semifinal for the second consecutive week. He lost to eventual champion Michael Mmoh, a 19-year-old American, in three sets in Lexington, Ky., last week.
   Groth, 29, set an unofficial record with a 163.7-mph (263.4-kph) serve in the 2012 Busan (South Korea) Challenger and climbed to a career-high No. 53 in 2015. Santillan, a 20-year-old Tokyo native, won his first Challenger title last month in Winnetka, Ill.
    The Aptos tournament, the oldest men's Challenger in the United States, is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. Past competitors include International Tennis Hall of Famers Patrick Rafter and Michael Chang, as well as future Hall of Famer Andy Murray, Tommy Haas, James Blake, John Isner, Milos Raonic, Sam Querrey, Steve Johnson, Jack Sock, Bob and Mike Bryan, Mardy Fish, Marcos Baghdatis and Radek Stepanek.
   Here are the Nordic Naturals Challenger singles and doubles draws and Friday's schedule. Live streaming is available.

Bellis, 18, loses to Garcia in Toronto

   CiCi Bellis' run in the Rogers Cup in Toronto ended today with a 6-4, 6-2 loss to Caroline Garcia of France in the third round.
   The 18-year-old Bellis, who grew up in Atherton in the San Francisco Bay Area, had defeated 35th-ranked Julia Goerges of Germany and eighth-ranked Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia.
   Kuznetsova, a two-time Grand Slam singles champion, was the second top-10 player Bellis has beaten. She knocked off then-No. 6 Agnieszka Radwanska in the third round at Dubai in February.
   Bellis, the youngest player in the top 40, will improve approximately three places to No. 33. She could be seeded in the U.S. Open, Aug. 28-Sept. 10, after reaching the third round at Flushing Meadows as a qualifier last year. Bellis then turned pro.
   Garcia, five years older than Bellis and ranked 21st, will play second-ranked Simona Halep in the quarterfinals.

Bellis beats another top-10 player

   CiCi Bellis racked up another big win on Wednesday, upsetting No. 8 seed and two-time Grand Slam singles champion Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia 6-4, 7-5 to reach the round of 16 in the Rogers Cup in Toronto.
   "I think I played really well today," Bellis, an 18-year-old product of Atherton in the San Francisco Bay Area, said on wtatennis.com. "Obviously I told myself I had to because she's unbelievable, so I'm really happy with it."
   Bellis recorded her second victory over a top-10 player. She knocked off then-No. 6 Agnieszka Radwanska in the third round at Dubai in February.
   The 36th-ranked Bellis will face Caroline Garcia, a 23-year-old Frenchwoman ranked 21st, for the first time today at 8 a.m. PDT. The winner likely will play second-ranked Simona Halep.
   A victory over Garcia could ensure a U.S. Open seeding for Bellis, the youngest player in the top 40 and one of four teenagers in the top 100. She reached the third round at Flushing Meadows last year as a qualifier, then turned pro.
   This year's U.S. Open is scheduled for Aug. 28-Sept. 10.

Sandgren routs NorCal's McDonald in 100K Aptos

   APTOS, Calif. -- Mackenzie McDonald met a nemesis on Wednesday, and it wasn't pretty.
   Sixth-seeded Tennys Sandgren of Gallatin, Tenn., routed McDonald, a wild card playing near his childhood home of Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area, 6-1, 6-2 in 1 hour to reach the quarterfinals of the $100,000 Nordic Naturals Challenger at the Seascape Sports Club.
   Sandgren, who's big at 6-foot-2 (1.88 meters) and 192 pounds (87 kilograms) yet very athletic, improved to 4-0 against McDonald, only 5-foot-10 (1.78 meters) and 145 pounds (66 kilograms). Three of the victories have come this year, but McDonald extended Sandgren to three sets in the other two.
   McDonald, 22, was coming off a grueling three-set win over 2015 champion John Millman on Tuesday that lasted 2 hours, 24 minutes. But that wasn't the main problem.
   "Sandgren didn't make many errors today," observed McDonald, who turned pro last year after sweeping the NCAA singles and doubles titles as a UCLA junior. "He played really tough, and it was tough to match that. He's playing really good right now, so it's difficult."
   Sandgren, 26, played spectacular offense and defense and hustled relentlessly. It looked as if he were on clay, his favorite surface, as he slid into shots and his shoes screeched on the hardcourt a la Novak Djokovic and Gael Monfils. At times, Sandgren did the splits.
   On one point early in the second set, Sandgren raced to reach a well-executed drop shot, somehow hit a sharply angled forehand cross-court passing shot and wound up sitting on the court.
   Sandgren has had a breakthrough year, winning three Challenger titles, playing in his first Grand Slam tournament (losing in the first round of the French Open) and reaching the third round in Washington, D.C., on the ATP World Tour last week. He is ranked No. 102 after climbing to a career-high No. 100 in June.
   Sandgren -- who's named after his great grandfather, not tennis -- will face 19-year-old wild card Taylor Fritz of Palos Verdes in the Los Angeles area for the first time on Friday in a blockbuster quarterfinal.
   Fritz, one of the United States' top prospects, beat 27-year-old qualifier Austin Krajicek of Bradenton, Fla., 2-6, 6-1, 6-2.
   Fritz recorded the first top-10 win of his career at Indian Wells in March, stunning then-No. 7 and 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic in the second round before losing to Malek Jaziri of Tunisia in the third round.
   Krajicek, the Aptos runner-up in 2015, dominated the top-seeded Jaziri 6-2, 6-1 in the first round of the Nordic Naturals Challenger.
   Also in Friday's quarterfinals, Sam Groth will meet fellow Australian Akira Santillan for the first time.
   Groth, who set an unofficial record with a 163.7-mph (263.4-kph) serve in the 2012 Busan (South Korea) Challenger, defeated Jason Jung, a native of Torrance in the Los Angeles region who plays for Taiwan, 4-6, 6-3, 6-0.
   Santillan, a 20-year-old Tokyo native who won his first Challenger title last month in Winnetka, Ill., beat Darian King of Barbados 6-3, 6-4 after ousting second-seeded Jordan Thompson of Australia in the first round.
   The other two quarterfinal matchups will be determined today.
   Here are the Nordic Naturals singles and doubles draws and today's schedule.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

NorCal's McDonald tops ex-champ Millman in Aptos

   APTOS, Calif. -- It seemed like a natural in the Nordic Naturals Challenger.
   Former champion John Millman was scheduled to play Northern Californian Mackenzie McDonald on Tuesday in the first round of the $100,000 tournament at the Seascape Sports Club near the Pacific Ocean.
   Perfect for the featured evening match on Center Court, right?
   Nope.
   Instead, seventh-seeded Casper Ruud, 18, of Norway and Quentin Halys, 20, of France received top billing in their tournament debuts, and Millman and McDonald played on an outside court at 4:30 p.m.
   Huh?
   "It was a tournament sponsor request," explained Keith Crossland, the on-site USTA supervisor.
   Guess where Nordic Naturals, a worldwide supplier of fish oils, was founded in 1995. Bingo ... Norway. Ruud, the first Norwegian to be ranked No. 1 in the juniors and the son of former top-40 pro Christian Ruud, is pictured on a Nordic Naturals banner on Center Court.
   Not only was McDonald relegated to an outside court, Millman had a bigger cheering section.
   No matter. McDonald, who grew up a 90-minute drive north of Aptos in Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area, outlasted Millman 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-0 in a hard-hitting baseline battle lasting 2 hours, 24 minutes.
   "This is my home, or near my home," said McDonald, a 22-year-old wild card. "Actually, it didn't really feel like it because it felt like the crowd was a lot in his favor, which was really odd to me. I don't know why that was, but it's good to be home. I used to play here all the time in the juniors."
   Millman, meanwhile, ran out of energy in the third set.
   "I came onto the court struggling," admitted the 28-year-old Australian, who reached the final of last week's $75,000 Lexington (Ky.) Challenger, losing to 19-year-old American Michael Mmoh 4-6, 7-6 (3), 6-3. "I spent all day traveling yesterday, and with the time difference and everything, it was tough. I probably had to win it in straight sets. I tried my hardest.
   "Mackie did well to get through -- all credit to him. I felt like I was maybe a little bit unlucky with -- I've just gone over some footage -- and I thought that maybe ... yeah, it was a bit unfortunate."
   Millman, a consummate professional, was trying to be diplomatic about two line calls on one critical point in the second set that went against him. With McDonald facing break point at 4-4, he hit two shots that appeared to be long but were called in. Millman eventually netted a backhand to end the longest rally of the match. Normally composed and businesslike, he yelled in frustration.
   "That's a killer when you're feeling pretty flat," Millman conceded. "Sometimes it goes your way, which is lucky, and sometimes you're unlucky. In this case, I was unlucky, but don't take anything away from my opponent. He fought hard and played better tennis than me at the end, for sure. It's frustrating, though."  
   Millman squandered another break point in the game, and McDonald held serve for 5-4. McDonald then broke for the set when Millman netted a forehand after another long rally.
   The Aptos tournament, the oldest men's Challenger in the United States, is celebrating its 30th year. Two years ago, Millman became the first No. 1 seed in tournament history to win the title. Last year, he reached the third round at the Australian Open and Wimbledon and climbed to a career-high No. 60.
   Millman was unseeded this year in Aptos at No. 152 after missing the first 4 1/2 months of the season because of surgery for a torn groin tendon.
   "The body is probably not what it used to be (before the surgery)," lamented Millman, a right-hander who also has had two operations, one major and one minor, on his right shoulder. "I'm still trying to get back that conditioning. It's tough doing all that traveling.
   "It's kind of uncharted waters for me to play back-to-back tournaments after coming back from the surgery and flying five hours. It's tough on the body. Some people think that you're like a robot or it's like a video game and you can just keep going, but it's tough."
   Especially against a player like McDonald who can match Millman's consistency.
   "Mackie's going to make you work for it, for sure," said Millman, a rock-solid 6 feet (1.83 meters) and 175 pounds (79 kilograms). "He's going to make you earn your win. I still was probably one point away from winning it in the second set, to be honest with you. I thought the external conditions (line calls) were tough."
    Given Millman's long week in Lexington, McDonald thought he might be able wear him down in their first meeting.
   "Yeah, but that guy's also an animal, and he's been doing this for a while," McDonald said. "John's known for not really breaking down, so I knew I had to put up a fight, and I did.
   "He seemed totally fine, totally fresh, to be honest. Maybe at the end (he got tired), but I really took it to him at the end as well. I really earned those last three games."
   McDonald, only 5-foot-10 (1.78 meters) and 145 pounds (66 kilograms), displayed good pop on his serve.
  "Thanks for saying that," McDonald, the doubles runner-up in Aptos last year with former Cal star Ben McLachlan, gushed to a reporter. "I haven't heard that yet. If that's happening, that's good. That's something I need to keep improving on, that pop. I feel like I held (serve) a lot today. I think I just got broken once."
   McDonald was correct. Millman broke for 4-4 in the first set when McDonald committed four double faults. He had only one other double fault in the match to go with four aces.
   When asked what the problem was on the four double faults, McDonald retorted: "I have no idea. If I knew, I'd tell you. They were all going long, though."
   McDonald reached the quarterfinals of the $100,000 Granby Challenger near Montreal two weeks ago. He trained last week in the heat and humidity of Washington, D.C., during the Citi Open on the ATP World Tour.
   "It was unfortunate I couldn't get in there because of the time of my match in Granby," McDonald said, "but I put in a couple good days of work there, then I came here and put some more days of work in. It can see it pays off."
   Just over one year after turning pro, McDonald is on the verge of cracking the top 200 for the first time at No. 207. As a UCLA junior in May 2016, he became the first man to sweep the NCAA singles and doubles titles since Mathias Boeker of Georgia in 2001.
   U.S. veteran Denis Kudla, who reached a career-high No. 53 that month, guaranteed this past February that McDonald eventually would break into the top 100.
    By the way, Halys topped Ruud 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 in Tuesday's featured evening match. Only three seeds remain after the first round: No. 3 Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland and No. 5 Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan in the bottom half and No. 6 Tennys Sandgren of Gallatin, Tenn., in the top half. Kukushkin reached the Aptos final in 2014, falling to former world No. 8 Marcos Baghdatis.
   An American is guaranteed to advance to the semifinals. In the top half of the draw today, Sandgren will play McDonald at about 3 p.m., and wild card Taylor Fritz will meet qualifier Austin Krajicek not before 6 p.m.
   Krajicek, a distant relative of 1996 Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek, ousted top seed Malek Jaziri of Tunisia in the first round and was the runner-up to Millman two years ago in Aptos.
   Although McDonald still won't appear in the featured evening match, he will play on Center Court. So, as Bill Murray would say, he's got that going for him, which is nice.
   Here are the Aptos singles and doubles draws and Wednesday's schedule.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Four seeds, including top two, fall in 100K Aptos

   All four seeds in action on Monday, including the top two, lost in the first round of the $100,000 Nordic Naturals Challenger in Aptos, Calif.
   U.S. qualifier Austin Krajicek, the runner-up two years ago, routed No. 1 Malek Jaziri of Tunisia 6-2, 6-1 at the Seascape Sports Club.
   Akira Santillan, 20, knocked off No. 2 Jordan Thompson 6-4, 5-7, 6-2 in an all-Australian affair. Santillan, a Tokyo native, won last month's $75,000 Winnetka (Ill.) Challenger.
   Qualifier Liam Broady of Great Britain ousted No. 4 Ruben Bemelmans of Belgium 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 in a battle of left-handers. Bemelmans won the Aptos doubles title in 2014 with Laurynas Grigelis of Lithuania.
   Also, Sam Groth of Australia downed No. 8 Bjorn Fratangelo of Orlando, Fla., 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-3.
   Groth, 6-foot-4 (1.93 meters) and 220 pounds (100.0 kilograms), holds the unofficial record for the world's fastest serve. He reached 163.7-mph (263.4-kph) in the 2012 Busan (South Korea) Challenger.
   Fratangelo, 24, had reached the semifinals of the last two Aptos Challengers. He advanced to the semis on grass in Newport, R.I., on the ATP World Tour last month, losing to eventual champion John Isner.
   Jaziri is ranked No. 76, Thompson No. 78 and Bemelmans No. 97.
   Australia's John Millman, the 2015 Aptos champion, will take on Mackenzie McDonald, a 22-year-old wild card from Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area, in the opening round today not before 4:30 p.m.
   Millman became the first No. 1 seed in the then-28-year history of the Aptos tournament, the longest-running Challenger in the United States, to win the title.
   McDonald and former Cal star Ben McLachlan of Japan reached last year's doubles final, losing to South Africans Nicolaas Scholtz and Tucker Vorster 6-7 (5), 6-3 [10-8].
   Aptos, located on the Pacific Ocean, is a 90-minute drive south of San Francisco.
   Here are the Nordic Naturals Challenger qualifying draw, singles and doubles draws, and today's schedule.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Friendly foes: Keys tops Vandeweghe for Stanford title

Madison Keys sits on CoCo Vandeweghe's
lap after winning the Bank of the West
Classic at Stanford. Photo by Mal Taam
   STANFORD, Calif. -- A touching, likely unprecedented, scene occurred today in the cutthroat world of professional tennis.
   After defeating fellow American CoCo Vandeweghe 7-6 (4), 6-4 for the title in the Bank of the West Classic, Madison Keys walked to Vandeweghe's chair, hopped on her good friend's lap and hugged her.
   The horde of photographers, who had been aiming their cameras toward one end of the court for the impending trophy presentation, suddenly pivoted 90 degrees to capture the tender moment.
   Vandeweghe then walked to Keys' side of the court and sat next to her for the awards ceremony.
   Keys said the title "means a lot. It's my first title in the States and against a friend. Truly, I think the moments afterwards are part of what makes it so special and what I will always remember about this week."
   Keys and Vandeweghe became friends when they helped the United States rout host Australia 4-0 in the World Group playoffs of the Fed Cup in April 2016.
   "The whole team really bonded -- myself, Bethanie (Mattek-Sands), Maddie and Christina (McHale)," said Vandeweghe, also the runner-up to Serena Williams five years ago at Stanford as a lucky loser. "It was the first time really that we were all together for that long of a time because the tie (series) was in Australia. We had pretty much like two weeks together. It was a lot of fun, a lot of instances where the Australian media really did a good job in making it fun for us out there. And we won the tie, so that's a bonus of making everyone really like each other."
   Entering today, Keys and Vandeweghe each had won two WTA titles, both on grass in Europe. Aside from Keys' 6-3, 6-2 dismantling of top seed and reigning Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza in Saturday's semfinals, there was little indication that Keys would add to her total.
   Keys, a right-hander with a two-handed backhand, underwent surgery on her left wrist last November, returned to the tour in March and had arthroscopic surgery on the wrist in early June after losing in the second round of the French Open.
   Keys missed the Wimbledon grass-court tune-up tournaments, withdawing from Birmingham after winning the 2016 title there, and lost in the second round at the All England Club.
Madison Keys, 22, won her third career WTA title
but first in the United States. Photo by Mal Taam
   Keys arrived at Stanford, her first tournament since Wimbledon, with modest expectations.
   "I came into this tournament with the goal of having good, solid matches and trying to get consistent and feel good on the tennis court, and I think I did that," said Keys, who had lost in the second round in both of her previous Stanford appearances (2013 and 2015). "That's going to be my goal not only for the next tournament, but the tournament after that and for the rest of the season."
   Keys, who received a first-round bye as the No. 3 seed, trailed by a set and a break against U.S. qualifier Caroline Dolehide in the second round before prevailing 3-6, 6-2, 6-3.
   "I think that first match really tested me in the sense of staying composed and figuring things out and just playing smarter," Keys said. "I think that match really, really helped me for the rest of the week."
   Both the 5-foot-10 (1.78-meter) Keys and the 6-foot-1 (1.85-meter) Vandeweghe have powerful serves and groundstrokes. But Keys is more athletic, which is saying something considering Vandeweghe's background. Her uncle Kiki and grandfather Ernie played in the NBA. Her mother, Tauna, competed in the Olympics in swimming in 1976 and volleyball in 1984.
   Keys' parents are lawyers, but she chose a different kind of court.
   There were no service breaks in the first set of the initial meeting between Keys, 22, and Vandeweghe, 25, on a beautiful 75-degree (23.9 Celsius) day in front of an announced crowd of 2,391. Keys saved three break points, and Vandeweghe escaped a set point serving at 4-5.
   Keys pulled out the first set with the help of a net cord. With the sixth-seeded Vandeweghe serving at 4-5 in the tiebreaker, Keys slugged a forehand passing shot down the line set up by her ball that clipped the tape and went over the net.
   "I felt, in the first set especially, I was putting the most pressure on her service games," said Vandeweghe, who began working with 1987 Wimbledon champion Pat Cash at the start of the grass-court season. "I had three or four break points, and I want to say at least three of them were second serves. She came up with really good shots off those second serves, but if you look back and (say) coulda, woulda, shoulda, you're going to drive yourself crazy. Tennis is a game of millimeters, centimeters, whatever you want to call it. I looked at the end, and I think it was 72 points to 68 (correct), so there you go. That's how close it was."
    The only service break of the match came with Vandeweghe serving at 4-4 in the second set.  Vandeweghe fought back from 15-40 to deuce but lost the next two points. Keys laced a backhand winner down the line with Vandeweghe at the net, and Vandeweghe wasted an open court by sailing a runaround forehand long.
   Still, Keys was wary.
   "I definitely didn't know it was over," she said, "I just knew that if I kept hanging in on my service games (during the match) that hopefully I would have a chance to break. I knew there probably weren't going to be very many opportunities, so I knew when I had a break point in that game that I really needed to step up."
   Keys' worries were misplaced. She held serve at love, converting her first match point with a runaround forehand passing shot down the line.
Madison Keys, who had two operations on her left wrist, questioned whether
she could regain the form that took her to No. 7 in the world. Photo by Mal Taam 
   Keys earned $132,380 for the title. Vandeweghe collected $70,550 as the singles runner-up and added $20,825 for winning the doubles title with American Abigail Spears.
   Both singles finalists rose four places in the world rankings, Keys to No. 17 and Vandeweghe to No. 20, one spot off her career high in May.
   During Keys' layoffs, she had doubts that she could return to the form that carried her to a career-high No. 7 in the world last October.
   "There was lots of times when I thought maybe it just wasn't ever going to happen again," Keys confessed. "There's lots of low moments, but as great as this week is, I don't expect my wrist to be perfect forever and never have an issue with it again. It's going to be something I have to keep up and have a really good mentality about."
   Keys, though, wasn't surprised to win the title.
   "It definitely felt like my wrist has been the final missing piece in my game," said Keys, who's coached by former world No. 1 Lindsay Davenport and Dieter Kindlmann. I've actually felt pretty good about my game for a while. It was just really good to finally feel healthy for lots of matches."
   Notes -- The tournament's future is uncertain following the expiration of the Bank of the West's five-year contract. The Bank of the West Classic, in its 47th year, is the longest-running women's professional tournament in the world. It has been sponsored by Bank of the West since 1992 and held at Stanford's Taube Family Tennis Stadium since 1997.
   Former Bank of the West champions include Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Andrea Jaeger, Monica Seles, Martina Hingis, Davenport, Serena Williams, Venus Williams and Kim Clijsters.
   --Vandeweghe and Spears, seeded third, outclassed unseeded Alize Cornet of France and Alicja Rosolska of Poland 6-2, 6-3 in the final. It was the 36-year-old Spears' second consecutive Bank of the West doubles crown and third overall. The first two came with Raquel Atawo (formerly Kops-Jones) of nearby San Jose.
   --Here are the complete Bank of the West singles and doubles draws.
   --Here are the men's $100,000 Aptos (Calif.) Challenger qualifying draw, singles and doubles main draws, and Monday's schedule. Aptos, situated on the Pacific Ocean, is a one-hour drive south of Stanford.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Americans Vandeweghe, Keys gain Stanford final

CoCo Vandeweghe routed local favorite CiCi Bellis 6-3, 6-1 today in the semifinals
of the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford. Photo by Mal Taam
   The local favorite won't play for the Bank of the West Classic title.
   But two Americans will.
   No. 6 seed CoCo Vandeweghe overwhelmed No. 8 CiCi Bellis 6-3, 6-1 in 65 minutes this afternoon at Stanford.
   It was the first semifinal in a WTA Premier Level tournament for Bellis, who grew up a five-minute drive from Stanford in Atherton. At 18, she became the youngest semifinalist in the Bank of the West Classic since 17-year-old Nicole Vaidisova of the Czech Republic in 2006.
   In the evening semifinal, third-seeded Madison Keys ousted top seed and reigning Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza 6-3, 6-2 in 57 minutes to end the Spaniard's winning streak at nine matches. Keys improved to 3-0 against Muguruza, who also won tlast year's French Open.
   Vandeweghe will play in her second Bank of the West final. As a lucky loser in 2012, she held a set point in the first set of a 7-5, 6-3 loss to Serena Williams.
   "I'm five years older, and hopefully I'm more mature," Vandeweghe said today in her on-court interview. "I think (I'm) a little bit of a different tennis player. You grow and evolve as a tennis player and as a person, and I think especially in the last two years, it's been kind of clicking in that regard."
Madison Keys ousted top seed and reigning Wim-
bledon champion Garbine Muguruza 6-3, 6-2 in
less than an hour. Photo by Mal Taam
   Keys had lost in the second round in her two previous appearances at Stanford, in 2013 and 2015.
   Surprisingly, Vandeweghe and Keys will meet for the first time (2 p.m. PDT on ESPN2). But the similarities between them are uncanny. Besides being American (Vandeweghe is from Rancho Santa Fe in the San Diego area, and Keys resides in Boca Raton, Fla.), both:
   --Are young. Vandeweghe is 25 and Keys 22.
   --Are tall. Vandeweghe is 6-foot-1 (1.85 meters) and Keys 5-foot-10 (1.78 meters).
   --Are ranked in the 20s, Keys at No. 21 and Vandeweghe at No. 24.
   --Seek their third WTA title.
   --Have won two titles on grass in Europe.
   --Have reached one Grand Slam semifinal in the Australian Open, Keys in 2015 and Vandeweghe this year.
   Vandeweghe played for now-defunct Sacramento Capitals of World TeamTennis at 17 in 2009, one year after winning the U.S. Open girls singles title, and 2012.
   Vandeweghe comes from a renowned athletic family. Her uncle Kiki averaged 19.7 points during his 13-year NBA career (1980-93), and her grandfather Ernie played for the New York Knicks in the 1950s. CoCo's mother, Tauna, competed in the Olympics in swimming in 1976 and volleyball in 1984.
   Keys, a right-hander with a two-handed backhand, had left wrist surgery last November and returned to the tour in March.
   Vandeweghe also will play for the doubles title with Abigail Spears of Colorado Springs, Colo. Seeded third, they will face unseeded Alize Cornet of France and Alicja Rosolska of Poland after the singles final.
   ATP Tour -- Sam Querrey, a San Francisco native like Bellis, completed a Sombrero Double by winning the title in Los Cabos, Mexico.
   Seeded second, Querrey defeated wild card Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia 6-3, 3-6, 6-2. The victory will put Querrey in the top 20 for the first time since 2013.
   Querrey also defeated Rafael Nadal for the Acapulco title in March.
   Men's Challenger -- Here are the singles main draw, qualifying draw and Sunday's schedule for the men's $100,000 Nordic Naturals Challenger at the Seascape Sports Club in Aptos, a one-hour drive south of Stanford.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Bellis, 18, crushes Kvitova in Stanford quarters

CiCi Bellis exults after demolishing two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova
6-2, 6-0 tonight in the quarterfinals of the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford.
Photo by Mal Taam
   It was one thing for CiCi Bellis to beat Petra Kvitova tonight in the quarterfinals of the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford.
   But 6-2, 6-0 in 62 minutes?
   We're talking about a two-time Wimbledon champion, not some obscure qualifier.
   Yes, Kvitova returned to the tour in May after suffering career-threatening cuts to her left (playing) hand in a knife attack at her home in the Czech Republic in December.
   But it's not as if the 27-year-old left-hander has been playing badly (a second-round loss to No. 95 Madison Brengle at Wimbledon notwithstanding).
   Kvitova won Birmingham on grass in the second tournament of her comeback and dispatched Kateryna Bondarenko of Ukraine 6-2, 6-2 in the second round at Stanford on Thursday.
   Tonight, the second-seeded Kvitova had only one ace, double-faulted six times and committed 26 unforced errors to Bellis' nine.
   "I think this is definitely one of the biggest wins of my career,” the 18-year-old Bellis, who grew up a five-minute drive from Stanford in Atherton, told reporters. “I’m just really happy with how I played, and really excited I was able to get through it.
   “I don’t think Kvitova played her best tennis, but on my side I feel like just played a real unbelieveable match.”
    Kvitova is ranked No. 14 after reaching a career-high No. 2 in 2011. At 6 feet (1.83 meters), she towers over the 5-foot-7 (1.70-meter) Bellis.
   Bellis, the youngest player in the top 50 at No. 44, beat a top-20 player for the fourth time. She stunned No. 13 Dominika Cibulkova in the first round of the 2014 U.S. Open at age 15, knocked off No. 6 Agnieszka Radwanska in the third round at Dubai in February and upended No. 18 Kiki Bertens in the second round of the French Open in May.
   Cibulkova and Radwanska have reached one Grand Slam final each, but this was Bellis' first victory over a major champion. That does not include her win over Jelena Ostapenko in the first round of last year's Bank of the West Classic. Ostapenko won the French Open two days after her 20th birthday in June.
   Bellis also advanced to the semifinals of a WTA Premier Level tournament for the first time. Seeded eighth, she will face No. 6 seed and 24th-ranked CoCo Vandeweghe, 6-foot-1 (1.85 meters) from Rancho Santa Fe in the San Diego area, for the first time on Saturday at 2 p.m. (ESPN2).
   Vandeweghe, the runner-up to Serena Williams as a lucky loser five years ago at Stanford, downed No. 4 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia 6-2, 6-3.
   Hey, if CiCi can beat Kiki, she might beat CoCo, the oldest Stanford semifinalist at 25.
   In the other semifinal, top seed and reigning Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza of Spain will play third-seeded Madison Keys of Boca Raton, Fla., at 7 p.m. (ESPN2). Keys, 22, is 2-0 against Muguruza, 23.
   Muguruza, ranked fourth, outclassed No. 5 seed Ana Konjuh, a 19-year-old Croatian ranked 20th, 6-1, 6-3. Muguruza has lost only six games in her two Stanford matches. The top four seeds received first-round byes.
   Keys, a right-hander who had left wrist surgery last November and returned to the tour in March, eliminated seventh-seeded Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine 6-4, 6-3.
   Here are the Bank of the West singles and doubles draws and Saturday's schedule.
   Here are the qualifying draw in the men's $100,000 Nordic Naturals Challenger in Aptos, Calif., and Saturday's schedule. Aptos, situated on the Pacific Ocean, is a one-hour drive south of Stanford.

Bellis, 18, to face Kvitova in Stanford quarterfinals

   For the second consecutive year, CiCi Bellis will face a former Wimbledon champion in the quarterfinals of the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford.
   The eighth-seeded Bellis will take on second-seeded Petra Kvitova for the first time tonight at 7 (ESPN3) after losing to Venus Williams 6-4, 6-1 last year.
   Williams owns five Wimbledon crowns (2000, 2001, 2005, 2007 and 2008) and Kvitova two (2011 and 2014).
   Both Williams and Kvitova are 6-foot (1.82 meters) or taller, and both have had physical issues off the court.
   Williams was diagnosed with Sjogren's Syndrome, an energy-sapping autoimmune disease, in 2011. Kvitova suffered career-threatening cuts on her left (playing) hand while fending off a knife attack at her home in the Czech Republic in December. She returned to the circuit in May.
   Williams, a 37-year-old right-hander, lost to Johanna Konta in last year's final. Neither player returned this year.
   Kvitova, 27, debuted in the Bank of the West Classic with a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Kateryna Bondarenko of Ukraine in the second round on Thursday. The top four seeds received first-round byes.
   The 18-year-old Bellis, who grew up a five-minute drive from Stanford in Atherton, defeated qualifier Veronica Cepede Royg of Paraguay 7-6 (3), 6-2.
   Bellis, the youngest player in the top 50 at No. 44, evened her record against the 5-foot-4 (1.63-meter) Cepede Royg at 1-1. Cepede Royg won 6-4, 6-0 in the first round of qualifying for the 2015 French Open.
   All eight singles seeds reached the Bank of the West quarterfinals, the first time that has happened in a WTA tournament since Philadelphia in 2004.
   In the other quarterfinal in the bottom half of the draw, fourth-seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia will meet sixth-seeded CoCo Vandeweghe of Rancho Santa Fe in the San Diego area at about 2 p.m.
   Vandeweghe, the runner-up to Serena Williams at Stanford five years ago as a lucky loser, overpowered former Stanford star Nicole Gibbs of Santa Monica in the Los Angeles region 6-0, 6-2.
   Pavlyuchenkova also debuted in the Bank of the West Classic. She downed American Alison Riske, a semifinalist last year and quarterfinalist two years ago at Stanford, 6-4, 6-0.
   In the top half of the draw, top seed and reigning Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza will play fifth-seeded Ana Konjuh, a 19-year-old Croatian ranked 20th, at noon.
   Third-seeded Madison Keys of Boca Raton, Fla, will face seventh-seeded Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine at about 4 p.m.
   Here are the Bank of the West singles and doubles draws and today's schedule.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Sharapova, like Azarenka, withdraws from Stanford

Maria Sharapova, shown on Monday night, withdrew from her second-round
match in the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford today with soreness in her
left arm. Photo by Mal Taam
   STANFORD, Calif. -- First Victoria Azarenka, now Maria Sharapova.
   Midway through the second round of the Bank of the West Classic, withdrawals have cost the tournament two of its four marquee players.
   Sharapova pulled out with soreness in her left arm, officials announced shortly before noon PDT today. She was to have played seventh-seeded Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine not before 2:30 p.m.
   "Unfortunately, I have to withdraw from today's match," Sharapova, a 30-year-old right-hander with a two-handed backhand, said in a statement. "Toward the end of Monday night's match, I felt pain in my left forearm. After yesterday's scan, the doctor has recommended I don't risk further injury. Monday night's crowd was so special, and I wish I could continue playing, but I have to make a preventative decision."
    Sharapova, a wild card ranked No. 171, returned from a 15-month doping suspension in April. In the third tournament of her comeback, she retired from her second-round match in the Italian Open in May with a thigh injury. Stanford was Sharapova's first tournament since then.    
   Tsurenko, playing in the Bank of the West for the first time this year, will meet third-seeded Madison Keys of Boca Raton, Fla., in Friday's quarterfinals.
   Keys, who underwent left wrist surgery last fall and returned to the circuit in March, defeated qualifier Caroline Dolehide 3-6, 6-2, 6-3. Dolehide, who's scheduled to play in a doubles quarterfinal with fellow U.S. teenager Kayla Day on Friday, is competing in her first WTA tournament.
   Azarenka, who won the 2010 Bank of the West Classic (beating Sharapova in the final), withdrew from this year's tournament on Friday with a viral illness. She gave birth to her first child in December and came back to the tour in June.
   Both Sharapova and Azarenka have reached No. 1 in the world. Sharapova has won Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the Australian Open once each and the French Open twice. Azarenka owns two Australian Open titles.
Top-seeded Garbine Muguruza, playing her first match since winning Wim-
bledon last month, crushed 17-year-old Kayla Day 6-2, 6-0 in the second
round of the Bank of the West Classic. Photo by Mal Taam
   In tonight's featured match, top-seeded Garbine Muguruza of Spain crushed Day, a 17-year-old left-hander from Santa Barbara, Calif., 6-2, 6-0 in 58 minutes. Muguruza hammered her serve, pounded her groundstrokes into the corners and kept Day on her heels with deep returns of serve.
   It was Muguruza's first match since she won Wimbledon last month for her second Grand Slam singles title. The top four seeds received first-round byes.
   "I'm happy because it's never easy -- I remember that from last year -- to go back to a tournament pretty soon (after winning a Slam)," said Muguruza, who won the 2016 French Open. "To forget about what just happened, just concentrate on a new tournament, that match, and start fresh, so I'm happy it went my way because it's easy to make a mess of it."
   Muguruza, who won the doubles title at Stanford in 2014 with compatriot Carla Suarez Navarro, beat Day 3-6, 7-5, 6-2 in the third round at Indian Wells in March in their only previous meeting.
   "In that match, I started a little bit bad," Muguruza recalled. "My game was not there, and I missed a lot of shots. I really wanted to start well here, especially trying to return her serve. She has a big serve, and she's lefty, and I was working on that. That made a huge difference to start well in the match and not almost losing in the second set and trying to survive."
   Muguruza will play fifth-seeded Ana Konjuh of Croatia for the first time in the quarterfinals. Konjuh, ranked 20th at 19 years old, topped Natalia Vikhlyantseva of Russia 7-5, 6-4.
   Second-seeded Petra Kvitova, who accepted a late wild card, is scheduled to make her Bank of the West debut against Kateryna Bondarenko of Ukraine in the second round on Thursday not before 1 p.m.
   Kvitova, a two-time Wimbledon singles champion, suffered career-threatening injuries to her left (playing) hand when she was attacked with a knife during a home invasion in Prostejov, Czech Republic, in December. She returned to the tour in May.
   In a doubles quarterfinal today, third-seeded Abigail Spears of Colorado Springs, Colo., and CoCo Vandeweghe of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., in the San Diego area edged former Stanford teammates Kristie Ahn of Orlando, Fla., and Nicole Gibbs of Santa Monica in the Los Angeles area 6-7 (7), 6-4 (10-6].
   Vandeweghe, the singles runner-up to Serena Williams as a lucky loser at Stanford in 2012, was treated for a nosebleed after the second set.
   Here are the Bank of the West singles and doubles draws and Thursday's schedule.

Bellis, making the grade as pro, breezes at Stanford

   STANFORD, Calif. -- At this time last year, CiCi Bellis was entering her senior year of high school and planning to attend Stanford University.
   One year later, the product of neighboring Atherton returned to the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford as a professional and the youngest player in the world's top 50 at No. 44.
   "It's crazy," the eighth-seeded Bellis marveled after using her impeccable groundstrokes to dismiss French veteran Alize Cornet 6-3, 6-2 in 1 hour, 17 minutes on Tuesday night in the first round. "The two choices I had last year, being on this path or going to Stanford, are great ones. If I had chosen Stanford, I would probably be going there in a few weeks. It's crazy how different life could be if I had chosen that."
   Bellis, 18, turned pro last September after reaching the third round of the U.S. Open as a qualifier. Seeded in a WTA tournament for the first time at Stanford, she raised her arms after converting her first match point as if she had won the title.
   "This being my home tournament, I just get so much more excited for every winning points and matches," gushed Bellis, who estimated that she had "40, maybe more" family members and friends in the announced crowd of 1,179.
   Cornet, 27, is ranked one spot lower than Bellis. In 2014, Cornet became the first player to defeat Serena Williams three consecutive times since Justine Henin in 2007. One of Cornet's victories over Williams came in the third round at Wimbledon; another came via retirement.
   Cornet has the most Grand Slam appearances (46) without reaching a quarterfinal of all active players.
   Bellis, now based in Orlando, Fla., will face Veronica Cepede Royg, a 25-year-old qualifier from  Paraguay, on Thursday in a bid to reach the quarterfinals at Stanford for the second consecutive year.
   Cepede Royg, only 5-foot-4 (1.63 meters), downed Kristie Ahn, a 25-year-old former Stanford star also based in Orlando, 2-6, 7-5, 6-1.
   Cepede Royg defeated Bellis 6-4, 6-0 in the first round of qualifying in the 2015 French Open in their only previous meeting.
   Bellis could play second-seeded Petra Kvitova, a two-time Wimbledon champion, in the quarterfinals on Friday. Kvitova returned to the tour in May after her left (playing) hand was severely injured in a knife attack at her home in the Czech Republic in December.
   During Tuesday's day session, sixth-seeded CoCo Vandeweghe of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., in the San Diego area beat Alja Tomljanovic (pronounced Eye-la Tom-lee-on-o-vich) of Croatia 6-2, retired (right shoulder).
   Tomljanovic, 24, withdrew from Sunday's final against 15-year-old U.S. sensation Amanda Anisimova in the $60,000 Sacramento Challenger with soreness in her surgically repaired shoulder.
   By playing one set in the Bank of the West Classic, Tomljanovic pocketed $7,225 (minus 30 percent tax), far exceeding the $4,863 (minus tax) she earned in Sacramento.
   Vandeweghe reached the final of the 2012 Bank of the West Classic as a lucky loser, falling to Serena Williams. Vandeweghe, then 20, held a set point in the first set of her 7-5, 6-3 loss.
   American Alison Riske, a semifinalist last year at Stanford and quarterfinalist in 2015, defeated Magda Linette of Poland 6-2, 6-4.
   Also, qualifier Caroline Dolehide, from Hinsdale, Ill., outplayed Naomi Osaka of Japan 6-4, 6-2 in a matchup of teenagers. It was the 18-year-old Dolehide's first main-draw match in a WTA tournament.
   Among the four doubles seeds, only the No. 3 team of Abigail Spears of Colorado Springs, Colo., and Vandeweghe remains alive after the first round.
   Americans Jennifer Brady and Madison Keys ousted top seeds Raquel Atawo (formerly Kops-Jones) of nearby San Jose and Hao-Ching Chan of Taiwan 4-6, 7-5 [10-6]. Atawo and Spears won the title last year and in 2013.
   Highlighting today's day session, former world No. 1 Maria Sharapova will meet seventh-seeded Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine not before 2:30 p.m. in the second round.
   In the featured night match, top seed and reigning Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza will face 17-year-old Kayla Day of Santa Barbara, Calif., at 7. The top four singles seeds received first-round byes.
   Here are the Bank of the West singles and doubles draws and today's schedule.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Sharapova triumphs in U.S. return at Stanford

Maria Sharapova won in her first tournament match in North America in more
than two years on Monday night at Stanford. Photo by Mal Taam
   Former world No. 1 Maria Sharapova defeated Jennifer Brady 6-1, 4-6, 6-0 Monday night in the first round of the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford.
   It was Sharapova's first tournament match in North America in more than two years and her first anywhere since the Italian Open in May.
   Sharapova, 30, returned from a 15-month doping suspension in April. In the third tournament of her comeback, she retired from her second-round match against Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in Rome with a thigh injury.
   "I feel like I face a lot of things: not competing for a long time, an opponent who's able to play some great tennis -- what a year she's had already!" Sharapova, a wild card ranked No. 171, told reporters. "I feel like I'm playing catch-up against everyone who's had a head start.
   "All that matters is that I keep playing. As long as I'm the one winning the last point, I get to play another match, and another. The more I play, the better I'll do. That's the goal."
   Brady, 22, of Orlando, Fla., reached the fourth round of the Australian Open as a qualifier in January and the quarterfinals of last week's $60,000 Gold River Women's Challenger in the Sacramento area.
   Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam singles champion, will play seventh-seeded Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine on Wednesday or Thursday. Tsurenko, who reached the third round at Wimbledon and the French Open and won Acapulco this year, dismissed Lara Arruabarrena of Spain 6-3, 6-3.
   After Sharapova's victory, former Stanford star Nicole Gibbs edged 17-year-old wild card Claire Liu 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (5) in a battle of Southern Californians. Liu, the Wimbledon girls champion, is ranked No. 1 in the juniors.
   Gibbs, 24, will face the winner of today's scheduled match between sixth-seeded and 24th-ranked CoCo Vandeweghe of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., in the San Diego area and Ajla Tomljanovic of Croatia.
   Tomljanovic withdrew from Sunday's final in the Gold River Challenger with soreness in her surgically repaired right shoulder.
   Vandeweghe reached the final at Stanford five years ago as a lucky loser, falling to Serena Williams.
   In tonight's featured match at 7, local favorite CiCi Bellis will take on Alize Cornet of France. Bellis, 18, is the youngest player in the top 50 at No. 44. Cornet, 27, is one spot lower.
   Bellis was born in San Francisco and grew up in Atherton, a five-minute drive from Stanford. She now lives in Orlando, Fla.
   Here are the Bank of the West singles and doubles draws and today's schedule.