Monday, February 27, 2017

Ex-pro, 16-year-old win titles in Rio del Oro Open

Allie Will displays her trophy after winning the
women's open singles title at Rio del Oro in
Sacramento. Photo by Paul Bauman
   SACRAMENTO -- At the end of the 2014 season, Allie Will gave up a promising pro tennis career after only two years on the circuit.
   In her last singles match, the former University of Florida star lost to No. 376 Jasmine Paolini of Italy, 7-6 in the third set, in the first round of qualifying in the $50,000 Tennis Classic of Macon (Ga.).
   "I couldn't afford it," Will, a 25-year-old Fairfield resident, lamented Sunday. "Financially, it was really hard for me. I was kind of living week by week, and I think that was adding a little too much stress and took the fun out of the game for me. I rolled my ankle and was going to be out a little bit, I wasn't enjoying it was much, so I thought I'd go back and finish my education and go from there."
   Will didn't play in a tournament for 2 1/2 years (other than reaching the doubles quarterfinals in a $10,000 event in Gainesville, Fla., where the University of Florida is located, in March 2015).
   Last weekend, Will finally succumbed to the urge to play -- albeit at a much lower level. Seeded No. 1, she defeated No. 3 Muskan Mahajan, an impressive 14-year-old from San Ramon, 6-2, 6-1 Sunday to win the women's open title in the $2,500 Rio del Oro Open/Senior/NTRP at the Rio del Oro Racquet Club.
   Will lost only six games in four tournament matches.
   "It was just exciting to be out on a tennis court again after (2 1/2) years of not playing," said the 5-foot-10 (1.77-meter) Will, who did not play doubles. "It's just fun to be out here competing, and to end up with (the title) is exciting."
Jenson (J.T.) Brooksby, left, defeated Andrew Ton, right,
in a matchup of teenagers for the men's open singles title.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Meanwhile, two junior stars met in the men's open final. No. 2 seed Jenson (J.T.) Brooksby, 16, of Carmichael wore down No. 4 Andrew Ton, 17, of Milpitas 6-4, 6-1.
  Brooksby reached the boys 16s singles final in the USTA National Championships in Kalamazoo, Mich., last August, and Ton won the 16s doubles title with Maximillian Wild of Murrieta, Calif.
   Brooksby is ranked second nationally in singles in the 16s.
   Will was born in San Mateo, grew up in San Carlos and moved to Boca Raton, Fla. After playing No. 1 on Florida's 2011 and 2012 NCAA championship teams, she gave up her senior year and turned pro.
   Will reached career highs of No. 280 in singles and No. 98 in doubles. Although she did not win any singles titles, she advanced to the final of the $25,000 Redding Challenger in 2012 and the semifinals of the $50,000 Sacramento Challenger in 2013. Will collected 11 ITF (minor-league) crowns in doubles.
   After earning a telecommunications degree at Florida, Will moved back to Northern California, where most of her family lives. She teaches at the Cello International Tennis Academy (CITA) in Fairfield.
Will beat Muskan Mahajan, an impressive 14-year-old,
in the final. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Will said she has no plans to return to pro tennis. But she doesn't rule it out, either.
   "I'm just trying to take it one day at a time, just trying to make sure I'm in shape," Will said. "If I really want to make that happen, I have to make sure my game is ready and I'm in the best shape I can be. Since getting older sometimes makes things harder, you have to make sure you take care of your body first."
  Brooksby, who has grown to 5-foot-9 (1.75 meters) and 135 pounds (61.2 kilograms), already has begun playing in professional tournaments as an amateur. He came within a tiebreaker of beating Argentina's Marco Trungelliti, ranked No. 153 in the world at the time, in the second round of qualifying in the $100,000 Stockton Challenger last July. Brooksby also qualified for $25,000 Futures tournaments in Berkeley last October and Long Beach last month before losing in the first round of the main draw each time.
   "It's fun," Brooksby, a home-schooled sophomore in high school, said of playing in pro tournaments. "It's good to compete against pros and see where you need to get."
   The biggest difference between the pros and juniors, according to Brooksby, is that the pros "won't give you any points. You have to earn everything."
Brooksby dominated in the second set
of the final with his impeccable ground-
strokes. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Brooksby broke Ton, a 5-foot-6 (1.68-meter) left-hander, in the last game of the first set before dominating with his impeccable groundstrokes.
   "I knew Andrew's game pretty well in advance," said Brooksby, estimating that he has played Ton five times, with mixed results, "but I felt I was hitting pretty big, running him off the court and backing him off the baseline. I knew he likes to come to the net a lot, so I was able to keep him back. I think I have the advantage there."
   Ton said his serve let him down in the match.
   "I've been a little injured the last couple days. That can't be an excuse. He played well, but I think it came down to the serve in the second set. The first set was really tight. Then in the second set, my serve just wasn't there," Ton admitted.
   Ton will play at Navy in Annapolis, Md., beginning in the fall, following in the footsteps of his 25-year-old sister Stephanie.
   "I wanted to get a great education while getting good competition in college tennis," Andrew explained. "I was also looking at the coaching staff and team. I wanted a place where they'll help me grow not only as a tennis player but as a person, and I've always wanted to serve my country. It's kind of been in my blood."
   Whether pro tennis is in Will's blood remains to be seen.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Junior star Brooksby routs one of his coaches

Jenson (J.T.) Brooksby, ranked second nationally in the 16-and-
unders, eyes a forehand against Anton Stryhas, a former Sacra-
mento State star, on Saturday in the men's open quarterfinals at
Rio del Oro in Sacramento. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Jenson (J.T.) Brooksby hits with assistant coach Anton Stryhas several times a week at the JMG Tennis Academy at the Arden Hills Club & Spa in Sacramento.
   They met Saturday in the men's open quarterfinals of the $2,500 Rio del Oro Open/Senior/NTRP tournament.
   Brooksby, seeded second and ranked No. 2 nationally in the 16-and-unders, outslugged Stryhas, seeded fifth, 6-3, 6-1 at the Rio del Oro Racquet Club in Sacramento.
   Brooksby, a 16-year-old Carmichael resident who trains under JMG director Joseph Gilbert, reached the 16-and-under final in the USTA National Championships in Kalamazoo, Mich., and the USTA National Clay Court Championships in Delray Beach, Fla., last summer. He won the 12-and-under title in the 2013 USTA National Championships in Little Rock, Ark.
   Stryhas, a Belarus native who lives in Fair Oaks, was named the 2008 Big Sky Conference MVP as a sophomore at Sacramento State.
   Brooksby will face ninth-seeded Karl Lee, an eighth-grader from Los Altos who also trains at JMG, today at 8 a.m. Lee outlasted Eric Hadigian, also seeded ninth, from Sacramento 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-4.
   In the other semifinal at 8 a.m., fourth-seeded Andrew Ton of Milpitas will play unseeded Tam Duong of Rancho Cordova.
   The women's open semis also are scheduled for 8 a.m. No. 1 seed Allie Will of Modesto will meet No. 4 Madeline Almeida of El Dorado Hills, and No. 3 Muskan Mahajan of San Ramon will take on unseeded Klara Kosan of Carmichael.
   Will led Florida to the NCAA title in 2011 and 2012. She played briefly on the pro tour, reaching career highs of No. 280 in singles in 2013 and No. 98 in doubles in 2014.
   The men's and women's open singles finals are set for today at 11 a.m.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Top men's open seed defaults Rio del Oro match

   Between them, Eric Johnson and Allie Will won five NCAA team titles.
   They are seeded first in the men's and women's open divisions, respectively, in the $2,500 Rio del Oro Open/Senior/NTRP tournament, which began Friday and concludes Sunday at the Rio del Oro Racquet in Sacramento.
   Both Johnson, who helped USC win three NCAA championships (2012-14), and Will, who led Florida to NCAA crowns in 2011 and 2012, received first-round byes.
   But Johnson, from San Jose, did not show up for his second-round match and defaulted to Tam Duong of Rancho Cordova.
   Will, who lives in Modesto, is scheduled to open against Maria Gonzalez of Sacramento today at 8 a.m. in the round of 16.
   Carmichael's Jenson Brooksby, ranked No. 2 nationally in the 16-and-unders, is seeded second in the men's open draw. He is scheduled to meet ninth-seeded Stevie Gould of Corte Madera in the San Francisco Bay Area today at 8 a.m. in the round of 16.
   The men's and women's singles quarterfinals are set for today at 11 a.m., the semifinals for Sunday at 8 a.m. and the finals for Sunday at 11 a.m.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Wozniacki ends Bellis' run in Dubai

   CiCi Bellis couldn't pull off two huge upsets in a row.
   Caroline Wozniacki, a former world No. 1 and two-time U.S. Open runner-up, dismantled Bellis, a 17-year-old product of Atherton in the San Francisco Bay Area, 6-3, 6-2 today in 68 minutes in the quarterfinals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
   Bellis was coming off her first victory over a top-10 player, No. 6 Agnieszka Radwanska.
   Bellis, 5-foot-7 (1.68 meters) and 120 pounds (54.4 kilograms), led 3-1 in the first set. But the 5-foot-10 (1.77-meter) Wozniacki, seeded 10th and ranked 15th, won the next nine games en route to her sixth consecutive Dubai semifinal. Bellis finished with 33 unforced errors to Wozniacki's 15.
   "She's just really solid, really solid off the ground and serving well," Bellis said on wtatennis.com. "(She was) more consistent than me today. Moved me a lot.
   "She's such a great player. It was really fun for me to see what the highest level is."
   Bellis, the youngest player in the top 100 at No. 70, is projected to crack the top 60 when the new rankings are released on Monday.
   Wozniacki, the 2011 Dubai champion, will play unseeded Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia. Sevastova beat Wang Qiang of China 6-4, 7-5.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Bellis, 17, earns first victory over top-10 player

CiCi Bellis, playing in last year's U.S. Open, defeated
sixth-ranked Agnieszka Radwanska today to reach the
quarterfinals in Dubai. Photo by Paul Bauman
   CiCi Bellis' decision to turn pro last September is looking pretty good.
   The 17-year-old San Francisco Bay Area product earned her first victory over a top-10 player today, ousting Agnieszka Radwanska, seeded fourth and ranked sixth, 6-4, 2-6, 6-2 to reach the quarterfinals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
   "It's one of the best feelings in my life, for sure," Bellis, the youngest player in the top 100 at No. 70, gushed in her post-match news conference. "I'm really happy about the outcome tonight. I work so hard for it, and I think my work is paying off. I'm definitely playing some of my best tennis right now."
   Bellis, now based in Orlando, Fla., has won 21 of 23 matches since she turned pro after reaching the third round of the U.S. Open as a qualifier.
   "I have had kind of a dream couple of months since I have turned pro," said Bellis, who nonetheless missed January with strained hamstring and gluteus muscles. "Obviously it's not always going to be happy-go-lucky, but I have been really lucky so far.
   "I'm really just enjoying it more just thinking about how much fun I'm having and what an experience it's been for me so far."
   Bellis had not won a set in three matches against top-10 players. She lost to then-No. 1 Serena Williams 6-1, 6-1 in the third round in Miami in 2015, No. 7 Venus Williams 6-4, 6-1 in the Stanford quarterfinals last July and No. 2 Angelique Kerber 6-1, 6-1 in the third round of the U.S. Open last September.
   Radwanska reached the 2012 Wimbledon final to climb to a career-high No. 2 in the world. She is the second Grand Slam runner-up whom Bellis has beaten.
   Bellis burst onto the scene at 15 by stunning Dominika Cibulkova, seeded 12th and ranked 13th at the time, in the first round of the 2014 U.S. Open. Cibulkova had advanced to the Australian Open final that year.
   Bellis also has defeated two players, Shelby Rogers and Zhang Shuai, who have reached Grand Slam quarterfinals.
   Radwanska, the 2012 Dubai champion, finished with three aces and six double faults against Bellis and had a higher first-serve percentage (62) than her opponent (58). Bellis, meanwhile, actually won a higher percentage of points on her second serve (64) than her first (61).
   Moaned Radwanska: "I didn't feel good from the beginning. I didn't play really great, and I was trying everything. I did what I could today. For me, it was really hard to control the ball and make the angles. Also, my serve didn't work at all.
   "In those kind of tight matches, you need those things. When you don't have it and you're struggling pretty much from the beginning, then you have a problem. I was really struggling. I was really focusing on myself today, but I just wasn't good enough."
   Radwanska described Bellis as "very solid. Very consistent. She can really play good rallies with good intensity, and I think that's a really good thing for that kind of young player. I think she was the best today."
   Bellis' victory was all the more surprising because she had needed 2 hours, 22 minutes to subdue Laura Siegemund of Germany 7-5, 7-6 (3) on Tuesday. Radwanska, meanwhile, had dismissed qualifier Elise Mertens of Belgium 6-3, 6-2.
   Bellis is scheduled to face 10th-seeded Caroline Wozniacki, a former world No. 1 and two-time U.S. Open runner-up, for the first time on Thursday at 7 p.m. (7 a.m. California time). Live scoring will be available. Wozniacki, ranked 15th, defeated Kateryna Bondarenko of Ukraine 3-6, 6-2, 6-3.
   Bellis is projected to crack the top 60 with a loss to Wozniacki and the top 50 with a win.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Bellis beats No. 41 Siegemund, will face Radwanska

CiCi Bellis, 17, recorded her seventh win
over a top-50 player today. She will seek
her first victory over a top-10 star on
Wednesday. 2016 photo by Paul Bauman
   Now that beating top-50 players has become routine for CiCi Bellis, the 17-year-old San Francisco Bay Area product will try to take the next step in her blossoming career.
   Beating a top-10 player.
   Bellis, the youngest player in the top 100 at No. 70, held off No. 41 Laura Siegemund of Germany 7-5, 7-6 (3) in 2 hours, 22 minutes today in the second round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
   Bellis saved 12 of 18 break points against her versus 12 of 19 for Siegemund, who committed seven double faults.
   Siegemund, who will turn 29 on March 4, is the seventh top-50 player Bellis has beaten and the second in two days. She toppled Kazakhstan's Yulia Putintseva, seeded 17th and ranked 27th, 6-1, 7-5 in the first round.
   Bellis, who grew up in Atherton but now is based in Orlando, Fla., has won 18 of her last 19 matches. She ended 2016 with titles in two $50,000 indoor tournaments in Canada and the inaugural $125,000 Hawaii Open in Honolulu.
   Bellis is scheduled to face Agnieszka Radwanska, seeded fourth and ranked sixth, for the first time in Wednesday's featured night match at 7 o'clock (7 a.m. California time). Live scoring will be available.
   Radwanska dismissed qualifier Elise Mertens of Belgium 6-3, 6-2 after receiving a first-round bye.
   Bellis has not won a set in three matches against top-10 players. She lost to then-No. 1 Serena Williams 6-1, 6-1 in the third round at Miami in 2015, No. 7 Venus Williams 6-4, 6-1 in the Stanford quarterfinals last July and No. 2 Angelique Kerber 6-1, 6-1 in the third round of the U.S. Open last September.
   Entering Dubai, Siegemund had lost in the first round of seven straight tournaments after a sensational summer. In consecutive tourneys, she reached the semifinals in Bucharest on clay, won her first career WTA singles title in Bastad on clay and advanced to the Olympic quarterfinals in Rio de Janeiro on hardcourts.
   Siegemund also reached the Stuttgart final on indoor clay last April as a qualifier, defeating then-No. 2 Radwanska in the semifinals.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Bellis, 17, claims another top-50 victim

CiCi Bellis, shown last July, upset 17th-seeded Yulia Putintseva in the first round
in Dubai. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Despite a late start this season, 17-year-old CiCi Bellis upset another top-50 player today.
   Bellis, a product of Atherton in the San Francisco Bay Area, surprised 17th-seeded Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan 6-1, 7-5 in the first round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
   Bellis, the youngest player in the top 100 at No. 70, trailed 5-1 in the second set of the Premier Level tournament on the elite WTA Tour.
   "I think some players, when they are up by a lot like that, they relax a little bit," Bellis told reporters, "so I think that's a good time that you can take advantage of, like, a little bit of a level drop from them."
   Bellis, now based in Orlando, Fla., missed January with strained hamstring and gluteus muscles. She returned to the circuit last week in Doha, losing in the second round of qualifying.
   Putintseva, the runner-up in St. Petersburg three weeks ago, is ranked No. 27. The 5-foot-4 (1.63-meter) Moscow native is the sixth top-50 player Bellis has beaten. Three of them -- Dominika Cibulkova, Shelby Rogers and Zhang Shuai -- have reached the quarterfinals or better in a Grand Slam tournament. Cibulkova and Zhang also were ranked in the top 30 at No. 13 and No. 23, respectively.
   Bellis is scheduled to play Germany's Laura Siegemund, ranked No. 41, for the first time on Tuesday at midnight (California time). Siegemund, who will turn 29 on March 4, edged qualifier Silvia Soler-Espinosa of Spain 6-7 (4), 6-4, 7-6 (3) in 2 hours, 57 minutes on Sunday.
   College -- Virginia finally lost a point in the ITA National Men's Team Indoor Championships.
   No matter. The top-ranked Cavaliers, with junior Collin Altamirano of Sacramento playing No. 1 singles, defeated third-ranked Ohio State 4-1 at home in Charlottesville, Va., for their sixth title in the tournament.
   Virginia (9-0), which appears headed to its third consecutive NCAA title in May, had won its first three dual matches in the National Indoors 4-0.
   The unranked Altamirano lost to second-ranked Mikael Torpegaard, a junior from Denmark, 6-3, 7-6 (3). Torpegaard, who won the $50,000 Columbus (Ohio) Challenger on his home courts in September, is ranked No. 342 in the world. Altamirano, the runner-up in last month's $25,000 Long Beach Futures, is No. 813.
   Today's dual match was closer than the score indicated. Ohio State (12-1) was on the verge of closing out matches and No. 3 and No. 5 singles when Virginia's J.C. Aragone edged Herkko Pollanen 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4) at No. 4 to clinch the overall victory.