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 2105 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."
   Chethan Swanson, the top seed who lost to Jackson 6-4, 6-2 in the quarterfinals, watched the final.
   "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."
   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.