Friday, January 20, 2017

No upset this time as Querrey falls to Murray

Sam Querrey, shown in 2014, lost to Andy Murray
in the third round of the Australian Open after stun-
ning Novak Djokovic in the same round at Wimble-
don last year. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Sam Querrey couldn't pull off another Grand Slam shocker.
   The 29-year-old San Francisco native, seeded 31st, lost to top-ranked Andy Murray 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 on Thursday (California time) in the third round of the Australian Open in Melbourne.
   Querrey ousted then-No. 1 and two-time defending champion Novak Djokovic in the same round at Wimbledon last July.
   Murray had 40 winners and 22 errors as he improved to 7-1 against Querrey.
   Murray, a three-time Grand Slam singles champion, seeks his first Australian Open. He has five runner-up finishes, falling short the last two years and in three of the last four. All five losses have come against the top-ranked player, Roger Federer in 2010 and Djokovic the subsequent four times.
   Djokovic, seeded second in Melbourne, lost to Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan in the second round.
   Murray went undefeated in the now-defunct SAP Open in San Jose, winning the title at 18 in 2006 and repeating the following year.
   Also Thursday:
   --Liezel Huber, a 40-year-old U.S. citizen from South Africa, and Maria Sanchez, a Modesto product, lost to third-seeded Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina of Russia 6-3, 6-1 in the second round of women's doubles.
   Huber, formerly ranked No. 1, was playing in her third tournament since retiring after Wimbledon in 2014.
   Makarova and Vesnina won the 2013 French Open and 2014 U.S. Open and reached the final of the 2014 Australian Open, losing to Italians Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci.
   --Top-seeded Bethanie Mattek-Sands of Phoenix and Mike Bryan (Stanford, 1997-98) of Wesley Chapel, Fla., edged Arina Rodionova and John-Patrick Smith of Australia 6-4, 4-6 [10-6] in the first round of mixed doubles.
   Mattek-Sands and Bryan won the 2015 French Open title.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Istomin shocks Djokovic; Gibbs to face Serena

Denis Istomin lines up a backhand in the
final of the 2012 SAP Open in San Jose.
Istomin lost to Milos Raonic. Photo by
Paul Bauman
   ESPN2 commentator Brad Gilbert called it one of the biggest men's upsets in history.
   Denis Istomin, a 30-year-old wild card from Uzbekistan ranked No. 117, shocked second seed and six-time champion Novak Djokovic 7-6 (8), 5-7, 2-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4 on Wednesday (PST) in the second round of the Australian Open in Melbourne.
   It was Djokovic's earliest exit from a Grand Slam tournament since he fell to Marat Safin in the second round at Wimbledon in 2008 and only his second loss to a player ranked outside the top 100 in the past seven years. He fell to No. 145 Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina in the first round of the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro last August.
   Del Potro, a right-hander with a two-handed backhand, has had three operations on his left wrist and one on his right wrist since beating Roger Federer to win the 2009 U.S. Open.
   Djokovic also lost to Sam Querrey, a San Francisco native, in the third round at Wimbledon last year amid what he called "private issues," believed to be with his wife, Jelena.
   Gilbert said Istomin's victory ranks with losses by seven-time champions Roger Federer and Pete Sampras in the second round at Wimbledon. Federer fell to No. 116 Sergiy Stakhovsky of Ukraine in 2013, and Sampras lost to No. 145 George Bastl of Switzerland in 2002.
   Veteran San Francisco Bay Area fans know Istomin well. In the now-defunct SAP Open in San Jose, he reached the 2012 final (losing to Milos Raonic), 2010 semifinals and 2013 quarterfinals. In the latter matches, Istomin fell to eventual champion Fernando Verdasco and Raonic, respectively.
   Istomin will face 30th-seeded Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain in the third round of the Australian Open. Raonic, seeded third, becomes the favorite to reach the final in the bottom half of the draw. 
   There were also big upsets in women's singles and men's doubles on Wednesday.
   Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, a Croat who will turn 35 in March, ousted No. 3 seed Agnieszka Radwanska, the runner-up to Dominika Cibulkova in the 2013 Bank of the West Classic at Stanford, 6-3, 6-2.
   Querrey and Donald Young of Atlanta surprised second seeds and defending champions Jamie Murray of Great Britain and Bruno Soares of Brazil 6-3, 7-6 (5). Querrey, seeded 31st in singles, is scheduled to play Murray's younger brother, top-ranked Andy, in the third round today not before 7 p.m. PST (ESPN2).
Nicole Gibbs serves in the fourth round at Indian
Wells last March. Gibbs lost to Petra Kvitova.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Meanwhile, Nicole Gibbs (Stanford 2011-13) equaled her best Grand Slam singles result as she advanced to the third round. Her reward is a matchup with No. 2 seed and six-time champion Serena Williams.
   Gibbs, who also reached the third round of the 2014 U.S. Open, improved to 4-0 against fellow American Irina Falconi with a 6-4, 6-1 victory.
   Gibbs, a resident of Marina del Rey in the Los Angeles area, converted six of a whopping 18 break-point opportunities. Falconi, 26, put in only 46 percent of her first serves and committed six double faults. She had one ace.
   Williams dismissed Lucie Safarova, the 2015 French Open runner-up, 6-3, 6-4. It was Williams' 10th victory in as many matches against the Czech left-hander, who will turn 30 on Feb. 4.
   Williams needed three match points to subdue Safarova, who survived nine of them against Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium in the first round.
   Safarova battled a bacterial infection, reactive arthritis, a torn abdominal muscle, a left wrist injury and food poisoning from August 2015 to May 2016.
   Gibbs and Williams have met once. Williams won 6-2, 6-1 in the second round of the Bank of the West Classic in 2012, between Gibbs' sophomore and junior year at Stanford. She turned pro in 2013 after winning her second straight NCAA singles title.
   Gibbs ousted No. 25 seed Timea Babos of Hungary in the first round of the Australian Open in a matchup of 23-year-olds. 
   Babos is the third-highest-ranked player Gibbs has beaten. She toppled No. 24 Madison Keys of Boca Raton, Fla., in the second round at Indian Wells last year and No. 25 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia in the second round of the 2014 U.S. Open. Gibbs also upset No. 29 Kristina Mladenovic of France in the second round at Miami last year.
   In other first-round doubles matches on Wednesday:
   --No. 11 seeds Raquel Atawo (formerly Kops-Jones) and Xu Yifan of China defeated Jessica Moore and Storm Sanders of Australia 6-4, 3-6, 6-2.
   --Jonathan Erlich, 39, of Israel and Scott Lipsky (Stanford, 2000-03), 35, of Irvine in the Los Angeles area lost to Karen Khachanov and Andrey Kuznetsova of Russia 6-4, 6-4. Erlich won the 2008 Australian Open with countryman Andy Ram.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Querrey hopes to pull off another major upset

Sam Querrey, shown in 2014, knocked off top-ranked Novak
Djokovic in the third round at Wimbledon last year en route
to his first Grand Slam quarterfinal. Photo by Paul Bauman
   The showdown is set.
   No. 31 seed and San Francisco native Sam Querrey, hoping to knock off a top-ranked player again, will face Andy Murray in the third round of the Australian Open.
   Querrey advanced with a 7-6 (5), 6-0, 6-1 victory over Alex De Minaur, a 17-year-old wild card from Australia, on Tuesday night (PST) in Melbourne.
   The 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) Querrey won 93 percent of the points on his first serve (43 of 46) against the slightly built De Minaur, the Wimbledon junior runner-up last July.
   Querrey pounded nine aces and committed nine double faults as he equaled his best Australian Open result, the third round, in his 11th appearance.
   Murray trounced 19-year-old Russian Andrey Rublev, the French Open boys champion and No. 1 junior in the world in 2014, 6-3, 6-0, 6-2 in a late match at Rod Laver Arena.
   Querrey, who stunned top-ranked Novak Djokovic in the third round at Wimbledon last year en route to his first Grand Slam quarterfinal, is 1-6 against Murray.
   Murray won the first two of his 44 career tour-level singles titles (tied for 14th in the Open Era and fourth among active players) in the now-defunct SAP Open in San Jose.
   In men's doubles on Tuesday, No. 3 seeds Bob and Mike Bryan got off to a good start in their quest for a seventh Australian Open title.
   The 38-year-old twins (Stanford, 1997-98) dominated Frenchmen Paul-Henri Mathieu and Benoit Paire 6-3, 6-0 in the first round.
   The Bryans have won a record 16 Grand Slam men's doubles titles but none since the 2014 U.S. Open.
   Aussies John Bromwich and Adrian Quist hold the record of eight Australian Open men's doubles titles, which they won consecutively from 1938 to 1950. The tournament was not held from 1941 to 1945 because of World War II.
   Meanwhile, Liezel Huber, formerly ranked No. 1 in women's doubles, and Modesto product Maria Sanchez defeated Madison Brengle of Dover, Del., and Anastasia Rodionova of Russia 7-6 (4), 6-2 in the opening round.
   Huber, a 40-year-old U.S. citizen from South Africa, is playing in her third tournament since retiring after Wimbledon in 2014. She and Sanchez will meet No. 3 seeds Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina of Russia.
   Makarova and Vesnina won the 2013 French Open and 2014 U.S. Open and reached the final of the 2014 Australian Open, losing to Italians Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci.
   Chuang Chia-jung of Taiwan and Nicole Gibbs (Stanford, 2011-13) of Marina del Rey in the Los Angeles area lost to No. 2 seeds Bethanie Mattek-Sands of Phoenix and Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic 6-1, 7-5.
   Mattek-Sands and Safarova have won three Grand Slam titles, including the 2015 Australian Open.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Gibbs ousts No. 25 seed Babos in Australian Open

Ex-Stanford star Nicole Gibbs, playing in the Stockton (Calif.)
Challenger last July, reached the second round of the Australian
Open for the third consecutive year. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Nicole Gibbs reached the second round of the Australian Open for the third consecutive year on Monday (PST).
  This time, the ex-Stanford star needed one of the biggest victories of her career.
  Gibbs, a resident of Marina del Rey in the Los Angeles area, ousted No. 25 seed Timea Babos of Hungary 7-6 (3), 6-4 in a matchup of 23-year-olds in Melbourne. Babos, a two-time Wimbledon runner-up in women's doubles, had one ace and six double faults.
  Babos, at No. 28 in the world, is the third-highest-ranked player Gibbs has beaten. Gibbs toppled No. 24 Madison Keys of Boca Raton, Fla., in the second round at Indian Wells last year and No. 25 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia in the second round of the 2014 U.S. Open. Gibbs also upset No. 29 Kristina Mladenovic of France in the second round at Miami last year.
    Gibbs has a good chance to equal her best result in a Grand Slam tournament, a third-round appearance in the 2014 U.S. Open. She will meet Irina Falconi of West Palm Beach, Fla.
   Falconi, 26, defeated Han Xinyun of China 6-1, 7-5 to reach the second round of the Australian Open for the fourth straight year. Gibbs, ranked No. 92, is 3-0 against Falconi, ranked No. 104.
   The winner of the Gibbs-Falconi match will play either No. 2 seed and six-time Australian Open champion Serena Williams or Lucie Safarova, the 2015 French Open runner-up, in the third round.
   On the men's side, Dmitry Tursunov, a 34-year-old Russian based in the Sacramento suburb of Granite Bay, lost to Radek Stepanek, a 38-year-old qualifier from the Czech Republic, 6-2, 7-6 (1), 6-3 in the first round.
   The injury-plagued Tursunov was playing in his first tournament since last July. He used a protected ranking to gain entry into the Australian Open.
   Stepanek and Tursunov climbed to career highs of No. 8 and No. 20, respectively, in 2006. Stepanek won the now-defunct SAP Open in San Jose in 2009 and reached the 2008 final, losing to Andy Roddick.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Querrey ends Aussie skid; Altamirano falls in Futures

No. 31 seed Sam Querrey, a San Francisco native, beat French
wild card Quentin Halys in four sets on Sunday in the first round
of the Australian Open. 2014 photo by Paul Bauman
   With one notable exception, Sam Querrey endured terrible Grand Slam campaigns in 2015 and 2016.
   The 29-year-old San Francisco native lost in the first round of six of eight majors and the second round of another. However, he stunned top seed and defending champion Novak Djokovic in the third round at Wimbledon last year en route to his first Grand Slam quarterfinal.
   Querrey, seeded 31st, ended a two-match losing streak in the Australian Open on Sunday (California time) with a  6-7 (10), 7-6 (4), 6-3, 6-4 victory over 20-year-old wild card Quentin Halys of France in the first round in Melbourne.
   The 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) Querrey blasted 31 aces and committed 10 double faults in his first match against the 6-3 (1.91-meter) Halys, who had 24 aces and nine double faults.
   Querrey won 89 percent of the points (72 of 81) on his first serve and Halys, the runner-up in the $50,000 Fairfield (Calif.) Challenger last October, 74 percent (66 of 89).    
   Querrey, who now lives in the Los Angeles suburb of Santa Monica, will face another wild card, 17-year-old Alex De Minaur of Australia, on Tuesday.
   De Minaur, the Wimbledon boys runner-up to Denis Shapovalov of Canada last year, outlasted Gerald Melzer of Austria 5-7, 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (2), 6-1 It was De Minaur's Grand Slam men's debut.
   The winner of the Querrey-De Minaur match likely will meet top-ranked Andy Murray in the third round. Querrey, who has never advanced past that stage of the Australian Open in 10 appearances, is 1-6 against Murray.
   Dmitry Tursunov, a 34-year-old Russian who trains in the Sacramento suburb of Granite Bay, is scheduled to open today against Radek Stepanek, a 38-year-old qualifier from the Czech Republic. It will be the injury-plagued Tursunov's first match since July. Ranked as high as No. 20 in 2006, Tursunov has tumbled to No. 405.
   On the women's side, ex-Stanford star Nicole Gibbs of Marina Del Rey in the Los Angeles area will try to reach the second round of the Australian Open for the third consecutive year. However, she will face 25th-seeded Timea Babos, a two-time Wimbledon runner-up in women's doubles, for the first time. Both players are 23.
   Men's USTA Pro Circuit in Long Beach -- Unseeded Marcos Giron, continuing his comeback from two hip operations, defeated Collin Altamirano, a 21-year-old wild card from Sacramento, 7-6 (3), 6-1 to win the Legends $25K Tennis Tournament.
   Giron, the 2014 NCAA singles champion from UCLA, earned his fifth career ITF Pro Circuit singles title. He saved two match points in the semifinals against Germany's Sebastian Fanselow, a former All-American at Pepperdine in the Los Angeles area.
    Atamirano, a junior at two-time defending NCAA champion Virginia, was playing in his first ITF singles final. In 2013, he became the first unseeded player to win the USTA Boys 18 National Championships in the history of the then-71-year-old tournament.
   Giron, from Thousand Oaks in the Los Angeles region, returned from a 14-month layoff  last September. In his fourth tournament back, he won the $25,000 Berkeley Futures.
   Giron had surgery on his left hip on Christmas 2015 and on his right hip six weeks later.
   Women's USTA Pro Circuit in Daytona Beach, Fla. -- Qualifier Anhelina Kalinina, who won the $50,000 Sacramento Challenger in 2015, swept the titles in the Daytona Beach $25,000 Women's Pro Championships.
   Ukraine's Kalinina routed unseeded American Elizabeth Halbauer 6-1, 6-2 on Sunday in a matchup of 19-year-olds. Unseeded Kalinina and Robin Anderson of the United States knocked off top-seeded Paula Kania and Katarzyna Piter of Poland 6-4, 6-1 in Saturday's final.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Altamirano avenges loss, gains first ITF singles final

Collin Altamirano, shown in 2014, beat University of Virginia
teammate Carl Soderlund to reach the final of a $25,000 pro-
fessional tournament in Long Beach. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Collin Altamirano's victory today was especially sweet.
   The 21-year-old wild card from Sacramento avenged last week's loss to a University of Virginia teammate to reach his first ITF Pro Circuit singles final.
   Altamirano, a junior at two-time defending NCAA champion Virginia, outlasted No. 7 seed Carl Soderlund, a freshman from Sweden, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 in 2 hours, 5 minutes in the Legends $25,000 Tennis Tournament in Long Beach.
   Soderlund beat Altamirano 7-6 (7), 6-3 in the quarterfinals of the USC/Los Angeles $25,000 Tennis Tournament en route to the final.
   Altamirano, who owns one ITF doubles title, will face unseeded Marcos Giron, 23, of Thousand Oaks in the Los Angeles area.
   Giron, the 2014 NCAA singles champion from UCLA, topped Germany's Sebastian Fanselow, a 25-year-old former Pepperdine All-American, 6-7 (1), 7-6 (6), 6-2 in 2 hours, 46 minutes.
   Altamirano, 6-foot-2 (1.88 meters), and Giron, 5-11 (1.80), have split their two meetings. Giron seeks his fifth ITF singles title.
   In 2013, Altamirano became the first unseeded player to win the USTA Boys 18 National Championships in the tournament's then-71-year history.

Altamirano routs McDonald in all-NorCal matchup

Collin Altamirano, shown in 2014,
reached the semis of 25K Long
Beach. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Collin Altamirano and Mackenzie McDonald have much in common.
   Both are 21-year-old Northern California products with sterling NCAA credentials.
   The main difference is size. Altamirano is 6-foot-1 (1.85 meters), while McDonald is 5-10 (1.78) and weighs only 145 pounds (66 kilograms).
   Altamirano, a wild card from Sacramento, routed the fourth-seeded McDonald, who grew up in Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area, 6-3, 6-1 on Friday in the quarterfinals of the Legends $25,000 Tennis Tournament in Long Beach.
   Two rounds of singles were played Friday after rain wiped out play on Thursday. McDonald, who won last week's USC/Los Angeles $25,000 Tennis Tournament, dismissed U.S. qualifier Mico Santiago 6-2, 6-2 in 1 hour, 17 minutes earlier in the day.
   Altamirano had a tougher time against McDonald in the 2013 U.S. Open boys round of 16, prevailing 3-6, 6-4,
6-3. Altamirano then lost to top-seeded Alexander Zverev, a German now ranked No. 24 in the world at 19 years old and touted by Rafael Nadal as a future No. 1.
   Both Altamirano and McDonald won NCAA titles last year. Altamirano helped Virginia win its second consecutive team championship as a sophomore. He is returning to the team this season. McDonald swept the NCAA singles and doubles crowns as a UCLA junior, then turned pro.
   Altamirano will meet his Virginia teammate, freshman Carl Soderlund of Sweden, for the second straight week. Soderlund won 7-6 (7), 6-3 in the Los Angeles quarterfinals en route to the final.
   Soderlund, seeded No. 8 in Long Beach, upset No. 1 Tommy Paul of Boca Raton, Fla., 6-3, 7-5 in Friday's quarterfinals. In 2015, Paul joined John McEnroe (1977) and Bjorn Fratangelo (2011) as the only Americans in the Open Era (since 1968) to win the French Open boys singles title.  
   In the other semifinal, Marcos Giron, the 2014 NCAA singles champion from UCLA, will face Sebastian Fanselow, a former Pepperdine All-American from Germany.