Sunday, August 2, 2015

Serena withdraws from Bank of the West at Stanford

Serena Williams will not defend her title in the Bank of the West
Classic at Stanford. Tri Nguyen/
   At least the Bank of the West Classic will be competitive now.
   Top-ranked Serena Williams withdrew from next week's Bank of the West Classic at Stanford with a right elbow injury, tournament officials announced Friday.
   Williams will seek the first calendar-year Grand Slam in more than a quarter century in the upcoming U.S. Open, then turn 34 on Sept. 26. She won her third Bank of the West singles title last year.
   The Bank of the West Classic, Monday through Aug. 9 at the Taube Family Tennis Stadium, still has three of the top 10 players in the world and eight of the top 20.
   Heading the field are No. 5 Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark, No. 7 Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland and No. 10 Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain.
   Also entered are No. 12 Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic, No. 13 Angelique Kerber of Germany, No. 16 Andrea Petkovic of Germany, No. 18 Madison Keys of the United States and No. 20 Elina Svitolina of Ukraine.
   The top four seeds receive first-round byes.
   On Monday, 16-year-old sensation CiCi Bellis of nearby Atherton will play a qualifier during the  day session, and Keys will face Aleksandra Krunic of Serbia in the featured 7 p.m. match.
   At 15, Bellis stunned 12th-seeded Dominika Cibulkova in the first round of last year's U.S. Open and ended 2014 as the No. 1 junior in the world. Cibulkova reached the final of last year's Australian Open, losing to Li Na.
   Tuesday's night session will begin with Kerber, last year's Bank of the West runner-up, taking on Daria Gavrilova of Russia at 7. Then 2013 Wimbledon finalist Sabine Lisicki of Germany will meet a qualifier. Lisicki set women's records with a 131-mph (210.8-kph) serve in last year's Bank of the West Classic and 27 aces in a June tournament in Birmingham, England.
   On Wednesday night, Radwanska will play the winner of the match between Bellis and a qualifier. Radwanska was the runner-up to Williams at Wimbledon in 2012 and to Cibulkova at Stanford in 2013.
  Wozniacki, who ascended to No. 1 in the world at 20 years old in 2010, is scheduled to make her tournament debut on Thursday night.
   Winners in the first round of qualifying on Saturday included 44-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm and former Stanford star Nicole Gibbs, 22. Maria Sanchez, who was born and raised in Modesto, lost to Julia Boserup of Newport Beach 4-6, 7-5, 6-2. 
At Stanford
First-round singles qualifying
   Misaki Doi (1), Japan, def. Yi-Fan Xu, China, 6-3, 7-6 (3).
   Julia Boserup, United States, def. Maria Sanchez, United States, 4-6, 7-5, 6-2.
   Kateryna Bondarenko (3), Ukraine, def. Caroline Doyle, United States, 6-0, 6-0.
   Petra Martic (6), Croatia, def. Jessica Pegula, United States, 6-7 (6), 6-4, 7-6 (9).
   Gabriela Dabrowski, Canada, def. Sachia Vickery (3), United States, 6-2, 6-4.
   Kimiko Date-Krumm, Japan, def. Naomi Osaka (7), Japan, 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-3.
   Anna Tatishvili (4), United States, def. Yung-Jan Chan, Taiwan, 5-7, 6-4, 6-0.
   Nicole Gibbs (5), United States, def. Taylor Davidson, United States, 6-0, 6-2.
Today's schedule
Stadium Court
(Starting at 10 a.m.)
   Gabriela Dabrowski, Canada, vs. Kimiko Date-Krumm, Japan.
(Not before 11:30 a.m.)
   Misaki Doi (1), Japan, vs. Julia Boserup, United States.
   Anna Tatishvili (4), United States, vs. Nicole Gibbs (5), United States.
Court 6
(Starting at 1 p.m.)
   Kateryna Bondarenko (2), Ukraine, vs. Petra Martic (6), Croatia.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Dream arrives late, falls at Austin in WTT playoffs

Anabel Medina Garrigues, shown earlier this season,
of the California Dream was named the World Team-
Tennis Co-Female MVP. Photo by Darryl Henick
   The California Dream already faced a big challenge playing on the road against the team with the best record in World TeamTennis.
   Travel problems didn't help.
   After encountering flight delays and weather issues, California lost to the Austin Aces 25-14 tonight in the Western Conference Championship. The match began almost three hours late at 9:43 p.m. Central time and ended at 12:15 a.m.
   Austin, led by Teymuraz Gabashvili and Elina Svitolina, swept the five sets.
   Gabashvili received the WTT Male MVP award as a 30-year-old rookie at intermission. A native of Georgia in Asia who plays for Russia, he reached the fourth round of the French Open for the second time this year.
   Svitolina, from Ukraine, is ranked 20th in the world at only 20 years old. She advanced to the French Open quarterfinals this year.
   Two California players earned WTT awards. Anabel Medina Garrigues was named the Co-Female MVP with Anastasia Rodionova of the Washington Kastles, and Neal Skupski, a late substitute this season, was honored as the Male Rookie of the Year.
   The other two awards went to Austin's Alla Kudryavtseva (Female Rookie of the Year) and Rick Leach (Coach of the Year).
   The Dream, which had lost its two regular-season matches in Austin by one game and two games, ended its inaugural season at 9-6.
   Austin (13-2), in its second year in the league, will meet Washington (11-4) on Sunday in Washington, D.C., in the WTT Finals. The host Kastles demolished the Philadelphia Freedoms 25-9 in the Eastern Conference Championship.
   Washington seeks its fifth straight WTT title, which would break the now-defunct Sacramento Capitals' record (1997-2000), and sixth in seven years. A sixth overall title for the Kastles would tie the mark of the Capitals, who also won the crown in 2002 and 2007.  
In Austin, Texas
   Mixed doubles -- Teymuraz Gabashvili and Alla Kudryavtseva (Aces) def. Neal Skupski and Anabel Medina Garrigues 5-2.
   Women's doubles -- Kudryavtseva and Elina Svitolina (Aces) def. Jarmila Gajdosova and Medina Garrigues 5-3.
   Men's doubles -- Gabashvili and Jarmere Jenkins (Aces) def. Tennys Sandgren and Skupski 5-4.
   Women's singles -- Svitolina (Aces) def. Gajdosova 5-1.
   Men's singles -- Gabashvili (Aces) def. Sandgren 5-4.

Skupski, Medina Garrigues form unlikely Dream team

Neal Skupski, a last-minute substitute this season, and Anabel Medina Garri-
gues, a two-time major champion (2008-09), of the California Dream led World
TeamTennis in mixed doubles. Photo courtesy of Phil Kemp/California Dream
   They weren't supposed to play together, had never met on or off the court and got off to a rocky start.
   Just over two weeks later, Neal Skupski and Anabel Medina Garrigues finished the World TeamTennis regular season as the top mixed doubles team in the league and helped the California Dream reach the playoffs with a 9-5 record in its inaugural season.
   Both players earned WTT season awards. Medina Garrigues (pronounced Ga-REE-gus), who will turn 33 on Friday, was named the co-Female MVP with Anastasia Rodionova of the Washington Kastles after being named last year's Female Rookie of the Year. Skupski, 25, was honored as the Male Rookie of the Year.
   California coach David Macpherson, a former Sacramento Capital in WTT who reached No. 11 in the world in doubles in 1992, said Skupski has been "sensational. He's been so clutch. He's stepped up night after night. Anabel the same thing. Most nights, I played I've played them fifth as a mixed doubles team because they've been so clutch. They've made a great team. Hopefully, they'll get to come back for years to come."
   Skupski was contacted only three days before the season began on July 12 after fellow doubles specialist Aisam Qureshi withdrew from the league because of a "technicality," Macpherson said without elaborating.
   "I didn't know any of the rules, so I had to learn them coming over on the plane," said Skupski of Liverpool, England, best known as the home of The Beatles. "Our first match was in San Diego; I had to fly straight there and meet up with the team. ... "
   Although Skupski lacks the credentials of Qureshi, who's 10 years older, he's no slouch, either.
   The 6-foot (1.84-meter) Skupski is ranked No. 119 in men's doubles, down from a career-high No. 69 early last year. He and his older brother, Ken, have reached one final on the ATP World Tour (the major leagues of men's tennis), in Moscow in 2013, and won seven titles on the Challenger circuit (equivalent to Triple A in baseball).
   Qureshi is No. 48 after climbing as high as No. 8 in 2011. He has won 11 ATP doubles titles and reached the 2010 U.S. Open doubles final with Rohan Bopanna of India.
   Playing for California attracted Skupski for several reasons. For one, Bob and Mike Bryan, who have won a record 16 Grand Slam men's doubles titles, would join the team for three of the Dream's 14 regular-season matches. In addition, Macpherson has coached the 37-year-old Bryan twins for the past 10 years.    
   "I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to be around Dave and pick his brain and to be around Bob and Mike," said Skupski, a former three-time All-American at LSU. "They're the best doubles team of all time. Also, I heard California is an unbelievable state. I (had) been here a couple of times with LSU, but never for a long period of time like this."
   In addition, WTT gives Skupski the chance to play more.
   "Sometimes you don't play as many matches on the tour," noted Skupski, who also played men's doubles with Tennys Sandgren, a former Southeastern Conference rival at Tennessee who turned 24 on July 22. "You could get one a week if you lose (in the) first round. It's not ideal for confidence or for match play. But playing World TeamTennis, if you lose, there's another match probably the next night. You can get back on it and try and build your confidence."
   Skupski sat out while the Bryans played for the Dream but practiced with them every day.
   "It was a really good three intense days," Skupski said. "They train at a high level every day. There are no minutes that they don't perform. If it's an hour, it's a full, intense hour. That's what I need to work to because sometimes I can drop my level for five minutes in practice, which maybe is why I'm not at the level they are.
   "Also, they said my level is good enough to be in the top 50 in the world. That gives me a lot of confidence coming from the best team that's ever played doubles. I'll take that onboard, and hopefully that'll pay off."
   There has been one drawback to playing for the Dream for Skupski, though.
   "It's the stifling heat that's been a killer," he said. "It's definitely not like this in England. I'm used to about high 70s, low 80s in the summers, but not into the 100s.
   "That's been the biggest problem for me. It's a lot of fluids, a lot of eating the right foods because it can be tough out here playing in such heat."
   Skupski also initially felt heat playing with Medina Garrigues, who won French Open women's doubles titles in 2008 and 2009 and the Olympic silver medal in doubles at Beijing in 2008, all with fellow Spaniard Virginia Ruano Pascual.     
   "Anabel is a feisty character," Skupski observed. "She's a Grand Slam winner, she's experienced, and my level's gone up since I started playing with her. There's no time not to concentrate or to miss any balls. She's always on my case. The first couple of matches I played with her, she kind of shouted at me because I had missed a ball I shouldn't have. I remember that ever since, and we've grown, and it's gone really well.
   "The first couple of matches, she didn't even understand what I was saying to her because she doesn't speak that much English. She didn't understand the signals I was giving to her in doubles, like what 'poach' means. Sometimes we were all over the place at the start, but now we're on the same wavelength."
   Indeed, Garrigues and Skupski beat Martina Hingis and Leander Paes 5-3 in a 19-17 loss to Washington, which has won the last four WTT titles and five of the last six, on Monday in Washington, D.C. Hingis, a 34-year-old International Tennis Hall of Famer, and Paes, a 42-year-old future Hall of Famer, won the Wimbledon mixed doubles title one day before the WTT season started.
   Skupski said playing WTT "is probably one of the best decisions I've ever made. I've made a lot of friends here, and hopefully I can come back next year if they want me in the draft. Hopefully, I've put on a good show here."
Skupski, from England, and Medina Garrigues,
a Spaniard, overcame initial communication
problems. Photo by Darryl Henick
   Medina Garrigues played for the Texas Wild last season before the team relocated to the Sacramento area and became the California Dream.
   "I saw team tennis on TV when I was playing Indian Wells and Miami," said Medina Garrigues, who now specializes in doubles. "I was really interested in how the rules are, so I told my manager, 'Look, I'm almost at the end of my career. I'm not playing singles anymore, so my schedule is relaxed. It's not that pressure from singles, and in the time that team tennis is playing there (are) no big tournaments for doubles.'  So I said, 'OK, let's try.' "
   The 5-foot-6 (1.69-meter) Medina Garrigues is another in a long line of Spanish stars. She has reached career highs of No. 16 in singles (2009) and No. 3 in doubles (2008), won 11 singles and 25 career WTA doubles titles, and earned $5.74 million in prize money.
   "She's got a lot of things going for her," Macpherson explained. "She's got an incredible backhand, and I think her forehand is really going well now. She's so confident with her forehand as well as her backhand. She's got great instincts at the net. She's one of the premier net women -- reflex volleys and making poaches and interceptions.
   "And she's able to produce her best tennis at the most important times. That's an intangible that all great champions have. You don't win two French Opens without that."
   Jarka Gajdosova, Medina Garrigues' doubles partner on the Dream, lost to her in the third round of mixed doubles at Wimbledon.
   "I'd rather play with her than against her," Gajdosova confessed. " ... She reads the game well. She knows what shots to use and when. She lobs very well. She's not afraid at the net, so she doesn't mind crossing and hitting volleys."
    Spain's success, Medina Garrigues said, starts with tradition.
   "We have very good history. We always have very good players since 15 years ago from (Carlos) Moya, (Juan-Carlos) Ferrero, Carlos Costa, Albert Costa. All these players (were) top 10, so kids saw them on TV. They really like the sport.
   "Girls also (saw) Arantxa Sanchez and Conchita Martinez. They were top 10 and won Grand Slams. It's very (popular) in Spain, the tennis. It makes all the young people (want) to play," Medina Garrigues said.
   She added that "the conditions (in Spain are) very good. Is good weather. We can play outside all the year. We have very good coaches. They know how to teach the (winning) style of tennis. Also the Latin mentality is very (good). We are always positive and fighting until the end of the match."
   Medina Garrigues has been unable to recapture the magic she had with Ruano Pascual, who retired in 2010. The closest Medina Garrigues has come is reaching the women's doubles semis in the 2012 U.S. Open with Su-Wei Hsieh of Taiwan and the mixed doubles semis at Wimbledon this year with Robert Lindstedt of Sweden. 
   "I didn't really find the best (women's doubles) partner to try to be in the top rounds of the Grand Slams," said Medina Garrigues, who recently began playing with Arantxa Parra Santonja, another 32-year-old Spaniard. "I keep trying. I didn't win (another) Grand Slam, but I win 25 doubles titles, so I think it's a good record."
    Medina Garrigues plans to play at least through next year's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
    "After that, I will see if I continue to play or I just decide to stop," she said. "I have a new partner, and we won this year one tournament. We know each other, we are very good friends, and I feel very good with her."
   And with Skupski.

Dream triumphs in tuneup for WTT playoffs

Tennys Sandgren, shown earlier this
season, preserved California's win on
Wednesday night by beating San Diego's
Daniel Nguyen 5-3 in men's singles.
Photo by Darryl Henick
   CITRUS HEIGHTS, Calif. -- The California Dream enters the World TeamTennis playoffs with momentum.
   The Dream will need it.
   California defeated the San Diego Aviators 20-15 on Wednesday night at Dream Stadium at Sunrise Mall to end the regular season with six victories in its last seven matches.
   San Diego's Chani Scheepers, who retired after the match at 31, didn't exactly go out on a high note. She lost 5-0 to Jarka Gajdosova in women's singles, dropping 20 of 24 points and all 12 on Gajdosova's serve, and fell 5-2 in women's doubles.
   California led the league in women's singles with Gajdosova (.566 winning percentage in games) and in mixed doubles with Anabel Medina Garrigues and primarily Neal Skupski (.587). Medina Garrigues played with Mike Bryan twice and Bob Bryan once. 
   It already had been determined that the Dream (9-5) would visit the Austin Aces, who finished with the league's best record (12-2), today in the Western Conference championships. The match will be streamed live on ESPN3 at 7:30 p.m. PDT.
   California is 0-3 against Austin this season, with all of the meetings taking place within four days in the first half of the season. The Aces won 20-19 and 20-18 in Austin, and 22-16 in the Sacramento area.
   "The close losses at Austin let our team know that if we play our best, if we bring our 'A' game, we can win," Dream coach David Macpherson, a former Sacramento Capital in WTT, said after Wednesday's victory over San Diego. "They're a very good team, and, of course, we have to travel and they're practicing on their home court.
   "Certainly, the advantage is with them, but we proved that we like their (indoor) court. It's a little bit slower than our (outdoor) court."
   California, meanwhile, will pray that the Philadelphia Freedoms (5-9) somehow upset the Washington Kastles (10-4), who have won the last four WTT titles and five of the last six, today in the Eastern Conference championships. The winner of that match will host the WTT Finals on Sunday at 8:30 a.m. PDT (live on ESPN3, with ESPN2 joining at 10 a.m.).
   The Kastles, with International Tennis Hall of Famer Martina Hingis and Sam Querrey, beat the Dream 19-17 in Washington, D.C., on Monday after trailing 10-4.
   Coming today: A profile of unlikely pair Skupski and Medina Garrigues.
In Citrus Heights, Calif.
   Men's doubles -- Raven Klaasen and Daniel Nguyen (Aviators) def. Tennys Sandgren and Neal Skupski 5-3.
   Women's singles -- Jarka Gajdosova (Dream) def. Chani Scheepers 5-0.
   Mixed doubles -- Darija Jurak and Klaasen (Aviators) def. Anabel Medina Garrigues and Neal Skupski 5-2 (Gajdosova substituted for Garrigues at 2-4).
   Women's doubles -- Gajdosova and Medina Garrigues (Dream) def. Jurak and Scheepers 5-2.
   Men's singles -- Sandgren (Dream) def. Nguyen 5-3.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Dream falls to Kastles, will visit Austin in WTT playoffs

Hall of Famer Martina Hingis helped the Wash-
ington Kastles rally to beat the California Dream.
2014 photo by Paul Bauman 
   Pack your cowboy boots, pardner.
   The California Dream of World TeamTennis is heading back to Austin, Texas.
   California lost to International Tennis Hall of Famer Martina Hingis and the host Washington Kastles 19-17 on Monday, allowing the Austin Aces to clinch the top seeding in the Western Conference playoffs.
    The second-seeded Dream (8-5), whose winning streak ended at five matches, will play at Austin (10-2) on Thursday for the Western Conference championship.
   Washington (9-3), which has won the last four WTT titles and five of the last six, will host either the Philadelphia Freedoms (5-8) or Boston Lobsters (4-8) on Thursday for the Eastern Conference title.
   The Eastern Conference champion will host the WTT Finals on Sunday at 8:30 a.m. (California time). The match will be shown live on ESPN3, with ESPN2 joining at 10 a.m.
   California is 0-3 against Austin this season, with all of the meetings taking place within four days. The Aces won 20-19 in Austin, 22-16 in the Sacramento area and 20-18 in Austin.
   Washington, which already had clinched the top seeding in the Eastern Conference, had nothing riding on Monday's match.
   In the opening set, California's Neal Skupski and Anabel Medina Garrigues beat recent Wimbledon mixed doubles champions Leander Paes and Hingis 5-3. 
   Jarka Gajdosova then routed Hingis, who plays only doubles on the women's circuit at 34 years old, 5-1 in singles to give California a whopping 10-4 deficit after two sets. But Washington won the last three sets to overtake the Dream.
   Hingis and Anastasia Rodionova dominated Gajdosova and Medina Garrigues 5-1 to cut California's lead to 15-14 entering the last set, men's singles. Sam Querrey then defeated Tennys Sandgren 5-2 to lift Washington.
   California will end its regular season on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. against the San Diego Aviators (4-8) at Dream Stadium at Sunrise Mall in Citrus Heights, Calif.
In Washington, D.C.
   Mixed doubles -- Neal Skupski and Anabel Medina Garrigues (Dream) def. Leander Paes and Martina Hingis 5-3.
   Women's singles -- Jarka Gajdosova (Dream) def. Martina Hingis 5-1.
   Men's doubles -- Paes and Sam Querrey (Kastles) def. Skupski and Tennys Sandgren 5-4.
   Women's doubles -- Hingis and Anastasia Rodionova (Kastles) def. Gajdosova and Medina Garrigues 5-1.
   Men's singles -- Querrey (Kastles) def. Sandgren 5-2.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Kalinina overcomes big deficit for Challenger title

No. 8 seed Anhelina Kalinina, right, of Ukraine toppled No. 1
An-Sophie Mestach of Belgium for the Sacramento Challenger
title after trailing by a set and two breaks. Photo by Paul Bauman
   GOLD RIVER, Calif. -- An-Sophie Mestach was cruising.
   The Belgian, whose sculpted 5-foot-7 (1.70-meter) physique makes Jillian Michaels look like a couch potato, was scurrying around the court and outslugging lethargic Anhelina Kalinina on Sunday night.
   Leading by a set and two breaks, the top-seeded Mestach appeared to be minutes away from winning the $50,000 FSP Gold River Women's Challenger.
   "The crowd was even (getting bored)," groaned Kalinina, 18, of Ukraine. "I was just, 'Oh my God, c'mon, you have to play for them, for you, for everybody who's supporting me in my country. They're watching online.' " 
   Finally playing her trademark aggressive game, the eighth-seeded Kalinina rallied to stun Mestach 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 in 2 hours, 38 minutes at the Gold River Racquet Club in the Sacramento area.
   Kalinina earned $7,600 and Mestach $4,053 in the first final in the four-year history of the tournament without an American. Earlier, however, the U.S. team of Ashley Weinhold and Caitlin Whoriskey edged Nao Hibino of Japan and 16-year-old Rosie Johanson of Canada 6-4, 3-6 [14-12] for the doubles title in a matchup of unseeded teams.
   Weinhold and Whoriskey trailed 8-4 in the match tiebreaker and survived three championship points. They split $2,786.   
   There was more drama ahead in the singles final, although it took a while to materialize. Mestach, a 21-year-old Fed Cup veteran and former world No. 1 junior, served at 4-1 in the second set. As the lead slipped away, she put up a colassal fight in the epic last game of the set. Mestach saved six set points before Kalinina finally converted.
Kalinina's sensational backhand, along with her
excellent volley, helped her subdue Mestach.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   During the awards ceremony, Mestach's voice broke as she addressed an estimated crowd of 400.
   "It sucks to lose like this," lamented Mestach, drawing laughs from spectators. "I mean, 6-4, 4-1, so ... I'm not very happy at the moment, but OK. I want to congratulate her. She (had) a good week. ... "
   As if Sunday's loss wasn't agonizing enough, it was Mestach's second runner-up finish in two weeks. Also seeded first in the inaugural Stockton Challenger, she fell to the 20-year-old Hibino 6-1, 7-6 (6) in the final. In the second round, Mestach beat Kalinina 7-6 (3), 6-2.
   At least Mestach improved five spots in this week's world rankings to a career-high No. 99, surpassing her previous best by one notch.
   Kalinina also attained a career high, jumping 44 places to No. 148 with her third and biggest professional singles title. She won $25,000 Challengers in Jackson, Miss., and Pelham, Ala., both on clay, in consecutive weeks in April.
   The daughter of two teaching pros, Kalinina excelled in the juniors last year. She won the Australian Open doubles title with Elizaveta Kulichkova of Russia and reached the U.S. Open singles final, losing to Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic 6-4, 7-6 (5).
   Kalinina has a big upside -- literally. Like many top players, she's tall (5-foot-10 or 1.79 meters) with a strong serve and punishing groundstrokes.
Mestach lost a Challenger final for the second
consecutive week. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Kalinina, though, is unusual in several ways. She's very quick at her size, her two-handed backhand is even better than her forehand, she has an excellent volley, and she's not afraid to use it. At least she wasn't in the last half of Sunday's match.
   On the other hand, the final marked Kalinina's second mental lapse in three matches. She was the one who blew a big second-set lead in the quarterfinals against third-seeded CiCi Bellis, 16, of Atherton in the San Francisco Bay Area, but she recovered to dominate the third set. 
   Kalinina knew early against Mestach that something was amiss.
   "Even 3-all in the first set, I realized I'm not there; I'm not fighting," she said. "I was not even ready to beat her right there. It's impossible to win (that way) against top players.
   "I don't know why I started that bad. Maybe I was a little bit nervous because I really want to show that (after) last week I'm going to win this match. (I made) too many mistakes in the first set. Main thing is I was not that aggressive. I was just pushing balls, and of course she was beating me every rally."
   After Mestach jumped to a 4-1 lead in the second set, Kalinina took the advice of her coach, Dmitry Mazur. Sitting at courtside with Kalinina's mother, Halyna, he spoke to Anhelina in their native language. (Never mind that coaching is prohibited in Challenger tournaments, although it's allowed on the elite WTA tour.)
   "He said, 'Play your game; go to the net,' " Kalinina said. "Especially, 'Go to the net.' And, 'Be aggressive. You (have nothing to lose), so just play. Just try.' "
Americans Ashley Weinhold, left, and Caitlin Whoriskey
won the doubles title, surviving three championship points.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Kalinina proceeded to reel off five straight games to steal the second set. But even after Kalinina pulled to 3-4 in the set, Mestach seemed to have the match in hand. She served at 40-0 in the next game but double-faulted on three of the next six points, including on break point.
   The last game of the second set was the highlight of the match -- and probably the tournament. Back and forth it went on Mestach's serve. Kalinina would rifle a shot into the corner, follow it to the net and put away the volley for set point. Mestach then would play spectacular defense and eventually crack a passing shot to stay alive.
   Finally, from deuce, Kalinina spanked a backhand winner and a backhand passing shot, both down the line, for the set.
   Kalinina secured the only break of the third set on a reflex forehand volley to lead 5-3. Serving for the title, she hammered a service winner down the middle on her second championship point.
   Mestach said Kalinina was the fresher player in the third set.
   "Let's be honest -- that's my 10th match in two weeks. I've been playing doubles as well," noted Mestach.
   Also, honestly, the singles final shouldn't have gone to three sets.  

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Surging Dream clinches WTT playoff berth

   The California Dream, which was 2-3 at one point this season, today clinched a berth in the World TeamTennis playoffs with its fifth consecutive victory and sixth in seven matches.
   California defeated the host Philadelphia Freedoms 22-16 as Bob and Mike Bryan completed their three-match stint with the Dream. The 37-year-old Bryan twins won five of the six sets in which one or both of them played, including both today.
   "An awesome 4 days with the @CalDreamTennis! Proud to help their playoff run," Bob Bryan tweeted.
   California (8-4) will play the Austin Aces (9-2) for the Western Conference championship on Thursday, almost certainly in Austin, Texas. For California to host the match in the Sacramento area, the Dream would have to win both of its remaining regular-season matches, and the Aces would have to lose all three of theirs.
   If California and Austin tie for first place, the Aces own the tiebreaker by virtue of their 3-0 head-to-head record.
   The Dream will end its three-match road trip on Monday against International Tennis Hall of Famer Martina Hingis and the Washington Kastles (8-3), who already have clinched the top seed in the Eastern Conference. The Kastles have won four straight WTT titles and five of the last six.
   California will play its regular-season finale on Wednesday against the San Diego Aviators (4-7) at Dream Stadium at Sunrise Mall in the Sacramento suburb of Citrus Heights. 
In Villanova, Pa.
   Men's singles -- Tennys Sandgren (Dream) def. Robby Ginepri 5-4.
   Women's singles -- Taylor Townsend (Freedoms) def. Jarka Gajdosova 5-2.
   Men's doubles -- Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan (Dream) def. Ginepri and Marcelo Melo 5-1.
   Women's doubles -- Gajdosova and Anabel Medina Garrigues (Dream) def. Abigail Spears and Townsend 5-4.
   Mixed doubles -- Garrigues and Bob Bryan (Dream) def. Townsend and Melo 5-2.