Friday, September 30, 2011

Former Sacramento champ Young will crack top 50

   It was supposed to have happened a long time ago. Then it seemed it would never happen.
   Donald Young, a supremely gifted but undersized and temperamental left-hander with strong ties to Northern California, is projected to crack the top 50 in the world for the first time after reaching the semifinals of the PTT Thailand Open in Bangkok.
   The unseeded American routed Japanese qualifier Go Soeda, who won the 2009 Tiburon Challenger, 6-1, 6-2 Thursday night in the $587,000 tournament.
   “It wasn’t as easy as the score suggests,” Young said on the ATP World Tour's Web site. “I had to play well and figure out his game a little bit. I’m happy to move on to the semis, definitely. I hope to go further. I like playing here, and this year I’m coming with more confidence than I’ve had previously.”
   Young will face second-seeded Gael Monfils, ranked ninth in the world, for a berth in the final. Monfils is listed at 6-foot-4 and 177 pounds, Young at 6-0 and 160. In their only previous meeting, Monfils breezed 6-1, 6-1 in the first round at Cincinnati in 2008.
   Northern California has figured prominently in Young's career. He made his ATP World Tour debut in San Jose at 15 in 2005 and won Challenger singles titles in Aptos in 2007 and Sacramento in 2008.
   Young turned professional at 14. At 15, he won the Australian Open junior title to become youngest-ever and first African-American boy to be ranked No. 1 in the world.
   Even then, he accepted wild cards into ATP tournaments for the money, got hammered and lost confidence. He then essentially started his career over, gradually working his way up from Futures to Challengers and back to the ATP World Tour.
  There was one other problem. Having been told all his life how talented he is, Young thought he didn't have to work hard. He finally addressed that issue this year, and it has paid off handsomely.
  Still only 22, Young is ranked a career-high No. 55 after reaching his first ATP semifinal (in Washington) and the fourth round of the U.S. Open for his best Grand Slam result.
  The question is how much higher Young can go. One thing is certain. Confidence, especially when combined with rare talent, can do a lot for a player.
   Malaysian Open in Kuala Lumpur -- Seventh-seeded Dmitry Tursunov, a Moscow native living in Folsom, lost to second-seeded Viktor Troicki of Serbia 6-4, 6-4 in the quarterfinals of the $850,000 Malaysian Open. Tursunov is 0-4 lifetime against Troicki.
   Americans Scott Lipsky and Rajeev Ram, seeded fourth, defeated Australians Matthew Ebden and Bernard Tomic 6-2, 6-3 in the doubles quarterfinals.
   Lipsky, a former Stanford All-American, and Ram, a past singles and doubles runner-up in the Sacramento Challenger, will meet second-seeded Eric Butorac, a former Sacramento Capital from Rochester, Minn., and Jean-Julien Rojer of Netherlands Antilles in the semifinals.
   WTA tour in Tokyo -- Third-seeded Vania King, a Capital living in Boynton Beach, Fla., and Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan lost to second-seeded Gisela Dulko of Argentina and Flavia Pennetta of Italy 4-6, 6-3, 10-8 tiebreak in the doubles semifinals of the $2.05 million Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo.
   King and Shvedova, last year's Wimbledon and U.S. Open champions, led 6-4, 3-1 against the reigning Australian Open titlists.
   "We were down pretty much the whole match," Dulko said on the WTA tour's Web site. "They were very tough opponents. At the end we were a little bit nervous, but we closed it out, and we are very happy."
   It was the second consecutive tournament in which King and Shvedova blew a late lead. In a 4-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3) loss to Americans Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond in the U.S. Open final, Shvedova served for match at 5-4 in the second set and had the match on her racket serving at 5-4 in the second-set tiebreaker.
   Unseeded Raquel Kops-Jones, a former Cal All-American from Fresno, and Abigail Spears of San Diego fell to fourth-seeded Victoria Azarenka of Belarus and Maria Kirilenko of Russia 6-0, 6-1 in the Pan Pacific quarterfinals.
   Women's Challenger in Las Vegas -- Wild card Maria Sanchez of Modesto dismissed Krista Hardebeck  of Santa Ana 6-3, 6-2 in the second round of the $50,000 Lexus of Las Vegas Open.
   Sanchez and Yasmin Schnack of Elk Grove advanced to the doubles semifinals with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Gabriela Dabrowski of Canada and Laura Siegemund of Germany in a matchup of unseeded teams.
   Men's Futures in Laguna Niguel -- Unseeded Kiryl Harbatsiuk, who graduated from Sacramento State in May, wore down Connor Farren, a wild card from Hillsborough who will turn 17 Monday, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-2 in the second round of the $10,000 USTA Futures of Laguna Niguel.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

King falls to Wimbledon champion Kvitova

   Vania King faced a fellow Wimbledon champion, Petra Kvitova, in singles Wednesday at the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo.
   The problem for King was that her Wimbledon crown came in women's doubles.
   Kvitova, seeded fifth, eliminated the Sacramento Capital 6-1, 7-6 (4) in the third round of the $2.05 million tournament.
   Kvitova, a 21-year-old Czech who stands 6-foot, won Wimbledon in July for her first Grand Slam title.
   King, a 22-year-old Long Beach product who's only 5-5, captured the Wimbledon doubles championship last year with Yaroslava Shvedova. It was the first of two Grand Slam titles for the pair, who also won the U.S. Open last year.
   Kvitova will meet 6-2 Maria Sharapova, the second seed and 2004 Wimbledon champion, in the quarterfinals. They are 1-1 lifetime against each other.
   In doubles Wednesday, King and Shvedova reached the semifinals with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Natalie Grandin of South Africa and Vladimira Uhlirova of the Czech Republic. Grandin and Uhlirova were coming off their first title together Sunday in Seoul, South Korea.
   Kng and Shvedova will face No. 2 seeds Gisela Dulko and Flavia Pennetta, the reigning Australian Open champions. The teams have split two career meetings, both last year. King and Shvedova won 6-3, 6-3 in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open, and Dulko and Pennetta prevailed 6-4, 6-4 in the semifinals of the WTA Championships in Doha, Qatar.
   ATP World Tour in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia -- Folsom resident Dmitry Tursunov, seeded seventh, brushed aside Belgian wild card David Gofffin 6-3, 6-3 in the second round of the $850,000 Malaysian Open.
   Tursunov, a Moscow native ranked No. 41, will meet second-seeded Viktor Troicki, a Serb ranked 15th, in the quarterfinals. Tursunov is 0-3 lifetime against Troicki. 
   Women's Challenger in Las Vegas -- Wild card Maria Sanchez of Modesto defeated Monica Puig of Puerto Rico 6-1, 7-5 in the first round of the $50,000 Lexus of Las Vegas Open.
   Sanchez, 21, was named the Pacific-10 Conference Women's Player of the Year in May as a senior at USC. She will meet qualifier Krista Hardebeck, who turned 17 two weeks ago, in the second round.
   Hardebeck upset fourth-seeded Mirjana Lucic, 29, of Croatia 7-6 (4), 6-4. Lucic became the youngest player to win an Australian Open title when she took the 1998 women's doubles crown at 15 years, 10 months with Martina Hingis.
   At 17, Lucic reached the 1999 Wimbledon singles semifinals. She was the lowest-ranked player (No. 134) at the time to reach a Grand Slam semifinal but since has been surpassed. Her career was derailed by problems with her father, who Mirjana has said physically abused her and tampered with her prize money.
   Puig, who turned 18 Tuesday, advanced to the Australian Open and French Open junior finals this year.
   Men's Futures in Laguna Niguel -- Connor Farren, a 16-year-old wild card from Hillsborough, beat lucky loser Aaron Yovan, 27, of Irvine 6-1, 6-4 in the first round of the $10,000 USTA Futures of Laguna Niguel.
   Farren, who turns 17 Monday, will meet Kiryl Harbatsiuk -- a native of Minsk, Belarus, who graduated from Sacramento State in May -- on Thursday in the second round.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

King, Shvedova rally for wild victory; new rankings

   Playing their first doubles match since a heartbreaking loss in the U.S. Open final, Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova pulled out a wild victory in the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo.
   The third seeds edged Hsieh Su-Wei of Taiwan and Zheng Jie of China 2-6, 7-6 (4), 11-9 tiebreak Tuesday in the first round of the $2.05 million tournament.
   King and Shvedova trailed 5-0 in the first set, the WTA reported on its Web site. They were a game away from defeat at 5-4 in the second, but Shvedova held serve.
   King, a 22-year-old member of the Sacramento Capitals who grew up in Long Beach, and Shvedova, a 24-year-old Moscow native who plays for Kazakhstan, also trailed 4-2 in the second-set tiebreaker before winning five straight points for the set. They jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the match tiebreaker, but Hsieh and Zheng tied it 9-9 before King and Shvedova finally prevailed.
   King and Shvedova, last year's Wimbledon and U.S. Open champions in women's doubles, lost to Americans Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond 4-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3) in this year's U.S. Open final. Shvedova served for the match at 5-4 in the second set and had the match on her racket serving at 5-4 in the second-set tiebreaker. Shvedova then double-faulted, and she and King lost the next point after Shvedova's 76-mph first serve.
    Zheng won the 2006 Australian Open and Wimbledon women's doubles titles with Yan Zi.
    ATP World Tour in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia -- Fourth-seeded Scott Lipsky of Huntington Beach and Rajeev Ram of Carmel, Ind., defeated Paul Capdeville of Chile and Ryan Sweeting of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., 6-3, 6-2 in the first round of doubles at the $850,000 Malaysian Open. 
   Lipsky, a former Stanford All-American, and Ram, the singles runner-up in the 2006 Sacramento Challenger, will meet Matthew Ebden and Bernard Tomic in the quarterfinals. The Australian pair eliminated Lukasz Kubot of Poland and Dmitry Tursunov, a Russian living in Folsom, 6-3, 6-2.
   Men's Futures in Laguna Niguel -- Belarus' Kiryl Harbatsiuk, who graduated from Sacramento State last spring, ousted eighth-seeded Bassam Beidas, a former Pepperdine All-American from Lebanon, 6-3, 6-1 in the opening round of the $10,000 USTA Futures of Laguna Niguel.
   Beidas reached the junior doubles semifinals of the 2006 Australian Open with Sacramento's Matt Kecki, who helped USC win NCAA titles as a freshman in 2009 and in 2010 before quitting the team in a dispute with coach Peter Smith. The Trojans repeated this year, so Kecki would have had a chance to play on four NCAA championship teams. 
   In doubles Tuesday, Harbatsiuk and Boris Nicola Bakalov of Bulgaria lost to third-seeded Benjamin Rogers of the United States and John-Patrick Smith of Australia 6-4, 7-6 (4) in the first round.
   Women's Challenger in Las Vegas -- Maria Sanchez of Modesto and Yasmin Schnack of Elk Grove surprised second-seeded Irena Pavlovic of France and Kathrin Woerle of Germany 6-4, 6-3 in the first round of doubles at the $50,000 Lexus of Las Vegas Open. 
   New rankings -- Following are this week's world rankings of players with Northern California ties (change in parentheses):
Men
   Bob Bryan, 1998 NCAA doubles champion from Stanford -- No. 1 in doubles (no change), unranked in singles.
   Mike Bryan, 1998 NCAA doubles champion from Stanford -- No. 1 in doubles (no change), unranked in singles.
   Scott Lipsky, 2002 NCAA doubles runner-up from Stanford -- Career-high-tying No. 26 in doubles (no change), unranked in singles.
   Mark Knowles, Sacramento Capitals of World TeamTennis (2001-07, 2009-11) -- No. 40 in doubles (-1), unranked in singles.
   Dmitry Tursunov, Folsom resident -- No. 41 in singles (no change), No. 92 in doubles (+3).
   David Martin, 2002 NCAA doubles runner-up from Stanford -- No. 90 in doubles (+2), No. 696 in singles (+5).
   John Paul Fruttero, Cal All-American in 2001 and 2002 -- Career-high No. 135 in doubles (+10), 1,254 in singles (-10).
   Conor Niland, 2006 Pacific-10 Conference Player of the Year and two-time All-American at Cal -- No. 206 in singles (no change), unranked in doubles. 
   Jimmy Wang, Folsom resident -- No. 387 in singles (+4), No. 669 in doubles (+5).
   Dusan Vemic, Capitals (2010-11) -- No. 507 in doubles (+7), No. 1,523 in singles (-3).
   Kiryl Harbatsiuk, three-time Big Sky Conference MVP (2009-11) at Sacramento State -- No. 767 in singles (+4), No. 1,233 in doubles (-6).
Women
   Vania King, Capitals (2010-11) -- No. 9 in doubles (no change), No. 90 in singles (+8).
   Raquel Kops-Jones, 2003 NCAA doubles champion from Cal -- No. 45 in doubles (no change), unranked in singles.
   Yasmin Schnack, Elk Grove resident, Sacramento Capitals of World TeamTennis (2011) -- No. 228 in doubles (+2), No. 382 in singles (-3).
   Maria Sanchez, Modesto resident -- No. 354 in doubles (+69), No. 911 in singles (+196).

Capitals' King scores another upset

   One week after beating a top-10 singles player for the first time, Vania King pulled off another big victory Monday night.
   In a matchup of current and former Sacramento Capitals, the 90th-ranked King knocked off No. 16 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-4, 7-6 (6) in the second round of the $2.05 million Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo.
   King, a Long Beach product who has played for the Capitals for the last two seasons, is known primarily as a doubles star. The 22-year-old veteran, quick but lacking power at 5-foot-5, and 5-11 Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan won Wimbledon and the U.S. Open last year and narrowly lost in the U.S. Open final this year.
   But King stunned No. 10 Marion Bartoli, the 2007 Wimbledon runner-up, last week in the second round of the Hansol Korea Open in Seoul, South Korea.
   Pavlyuchenkova, seeded 11th in Tokyo, played for the Capitals in 2006 just after turning 15. The 5-10 Russian, now 20, reached her first Grand Slam singles quarterfinals this year at the French Open and the U.S. Open.
   Next for King is reigning Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, a 6-foot Czech who dispatched Mandy Minella of Luxembourg 6-2, 6-3. Kvitova beat King 6-4, 6-2 in the third round of this year's French Open in their only career meeting.
   Tursunov advances -- Folsom resident Dmitry Tursunov, seeded seventh at No. 41 in the world, defeated Paul Capdeville of Chile 6-2, 2-6, 6-1 in the first round of the $850,000 Malaysian Open in Kuala Lumpur.
   Tursunov, a 28-year-old Moscow native, was coming off a victory in the deciding match for host Russia against Brazil in the Davis Cup two weeks ago. He next faces 20-year-old wild card David Goffin, a 5-4 Belgian ranked No. 276.
   Goffin's countryman, Steve Darcis, beat Tursunov in consecutive weeks last month in the second round at Winston-Salem, N.C.,  and the first round of the U.S. Open.
    Tursunov could face second-seeded Viktor Troicki, who gave Serbia its first Davis Cup title with a victory in the deciding match against France last year, in the quarterfinals. Tursunov is 0-3 lifetime against the 15th-ranked Troicki.
   Schnack loses in qualifying -- Eighth-seeded Yasmin Schnack of Elk Grove lost to Gabriela Dabrowski, 19, of Canada 6-4, 7-5 in the second round of qualifying for the $50,000 Lexus of Las Vegas Open.
   Schnack, 23, and Maria Sanchez of Modesto are scheduled to face second-seeded Kathrin Woerle of Germany and Irena Pavlovic of France today in the first round of the doubles main draw.
   Schnack and Sanchez won the Redding doubles title two weeks ago.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Facing Faceys jolts opponent

   Now Jacqueline Cako knows what Yogi Berra meant when he said, "It's like deja vu all over again."
   Cako had a surreal experience when she faced the Faceys back to back in singles qualifying for the recent $25,000 Oak River Rehab Challenger in Redding.
   Cako, a sophomore at Arizona State seeded first in qualifying, beat the 18-year-old twins from the Sacramento suburb of Cameron Park by almost identical scores to advance to the main draw. Alexandra lost 6-2, 6-0 in the first round, and Kat fell 6-2, 6-2 the next day in the second round.
   "It was pretty funny," said the 5-foot-10 Cako, who lost to University of Florida junior and eventual semifinalist Allie Will in the second round. "It's never happened to me. I played on the same court, I warmed up with the same person, and I was following the same person as the day before. It was like the day before all over again."
   Cako, a pre-med major from Brier, Wash., near Seattle who took a year off after high school to play professional tennis, plans to graduate in 2 1/2 years because she's eager to return to the circuit. She reached the round of 16 in the NCAA championships at Stanford in May.
   Cako said the Faceys have "very similar" games featuring powerful serves and two-handed forehands and backhands.  
   The Ponderosa High School graduates received a wild card into the main draw of doubles in Redding. Playing as amateurs in their first professional tournament, they lost to unseeded Julia Boserup, 20, of Boca Raton, Fla., and Malou Ejdesgaard, 20, of Denmark 6-0, 6-4 in the first round. Boserup went on to win her first professional singles title.
   Three days after the doubles loss, the Faceys left for UC Irvine to begin their freshman year on full scholarships.
   Christina Fusano, a 30-year-old Ponderosa graduate who retired early this month after eight years on the professional circuit, has practiced frequently with the Faceys in the last two years.
   "They're really athletic and talented but need coaching and matches," said Fusano, now an assistant coach for the UC Davis women. "They will really develop in college. I'm bummed because we play Irvine. (The Faceys) looked at Davis, but (head coach Bill Maze) only had one scholarship (available)."    
   Somewhat surprisingly, neither of the Faceys named twins Bob and Mike Bryan, the No. 1 men's doubles team in the world, as tennis idols.
   Alexandra chose Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. "Both play every point, have a lot of motivation and never give up," she said.
   Kat picked Alexandra and their mother, Kim, who played No. 2 singles at Auburn in the late 1980s and coaches her daughters.
   The Facey twins, however, did meet the Bryans at a doubles invitational in New York two years ago.
   Unlike the Bryans, the Faceys are not identical twins. At 5-foot-9, Alexandra is two inches taller than Kat. And whereas Bob is left-handed and Mike right, both Faceys are right-handed.
   Kim and her husband -- Mike, an information technology consultant -- have one other child. Michael is a junior on the University of Montana tennis team.
   When asked if Alexandra and Kat have pro potential, Fusano said: "I don't see why not. They have big games, but they have a long way to go. First, they have four years of college."
   As Berra said, "You can observe a lot by watching."
   WTA tour -- Kops-Jones and fellow Californian Abigail Spears, coming off the women's doubles title in Quebec City, defeated Kimiko Date-Krumm of Japan and Zhang Shuai of China 7-6 (5), 6-4 in the first round of doubles in the $2.05 million Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Tursunov no longer thinks father committed fault

Dmitry Tursunov, middle, poses with fellow Moscow natives Mischa Zverev,
left, and Igor Andreev at the 2012 Aptos, Calif., Challenger. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Igor Tursunov was obsessed.
   His only goal in life was for his son Dmitry to become a professional tennis player.
   If that meant forcing Dmitry to train five or six hours a day and eat healthy foods as a child in Moscow, too bad. If that meant belting Dmitry when he resisted, tough. If that meant sending Dmitry to live in the United States at 12, so be it.
   "He trained under a lot of duress from 6 to 12," said Vitaly Gorin, Dmitry's coach since the player was 12 and his former legal guardian in California. "Spending time with his father and (older) brother turned into a job, a profession he didn't sign up for. His father recognized his ability and pushed him hard."
   For many years, Dmitry resented his rigid upbringing. But then a funny thing happened. He grew up. Now 28, Dmitry adamantly defends his father.
   "When he was chasing me around during practice -- half the time I was running away -- he was saying I'll thank him later," said Dmitry, a Sacramento-area resident since 2000 who won the deciding Davis Cup match for host Russia against Brazil on Sunday. "I never believed it for a second, but in the end, he was right. He tried to get the result with whatever means he could."
   Igor Tursunov, a former nuclear engineer who played tennis recreationally, died of pancreatic cancer July 13 at 59 years old. That's the life expectancy for Russian men. The corresponding figure in the United States is 75.
   "I don't know many people who would be able to sacrifice their entire life for a child's potential career," Dmitry said. "I understand he was living vicariously through me. Maybe he was oppressed when he was younger. In the end, he achieved what he wanted."
   Mark Knowles, formerly ranked No. 1 in the world in doubles, has observed Tursunov on the ATP World Tour and played with him on the Sacramento Capitals of World TeamTennis in 2004. Five years ago, when Tursunov was ranked No. 26 in the world, Knowles told The Sacramento Bee: "He's a top-10 player for sure, maybe top five. The first time I saw him (in 2001), I thought he was a great player. He hits the ball as clean as anyone off both sides, he has a lot of power, and he serves big. He moves well and is a great athlete.
   "The only thing that has held him back is the mental side. He needs to develop points and use his strength better. He has a tendency to overhit, which is normal for a guy with that much power. It's hard to know when to pull the trigger and when to harness your power."
   Tursunov, who also has been plagued by injuries, hasn't quite reached the top 10. Still, as renowned coach and commentator Brad Gilbert said of his friend and former pupil, "He's done pretty well for himself."
   Ideally built at 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds, Tursunov has won seven singles titles on the ATP World Tour, reached a career-high No. 20 in 2006 and amassed $3.93 million in prize money. He has advanced to the fourth round at Wimbledon twice, narrowly missing the quarterfinals in 2006.
   Tursunov played the two signature matches of his career on Russia's 2006 Davis Cup championship team. He clinched a quarterfinal victory over France by defeating Richard Gasquet 7-5 in the fifth set before a hostile indoor crowd in Pau, France. Improbably, Tursunov topped that by outlasting Andy Roddick 17-15 in the fifth set in four hours, 48 minutes on clay, the worst surface for both players, in Moscow to clinch a semifinal win over the United States.            
   Tursunov also is accomplished in doubles with five career ATP titles and a career-high ranking of No. 36 in 2008. He reached the French Open semifinals in 2008 and quarterfinals in 2007 and 2009, all with Igor Kunitsyn of Russia.
   Tursunov was coming back from three operations within one year -- for bone spurs in his left ankle, a bone chip in the ankle and nerve inflammation and a cyst in his left foot -- when his father was diagnosed last November. Ranked No. 516 in July 2010, Tursunov has climbed back to No. 41. He won a Wimbledon tuneup tournament on grass in the Netherlands in June for his first ATP World Tour singles title in two years.
   "It's been a very interesting last six months for Dmitry," Gorin said last month at his tennis academy in Granite Bay, a Sacramento suburb, while watching Tursunov hit with fellow pro Jimmy Wang of Taiwan. "Outside of match play, he didn't train at all. He's hitting really well for as little training as he did. He was just going from home (in Moscow) to the hospital."
   Tursunov's lack of training caught up with him, though, on the summer hardcourt circuit. Also dealing with girlfriend issues and hassles with the homeowners' association that governs his two-bedroom Folsom townhouse, he went 1-4 in singles and 0-2 in doubles. Tursunov lost in the first round of singles and men's doubles at the U.S. Open. He did not play mixed doubles.
   "I feel like I'm constantly emptying water out of a lifeboat with no time to paddle," Tursunov said in a long, candid interview at the academy.
   Tursunov is a complex person: part Russian, part American, part pro tennis player, part comedian and part philosopher. With his curly, blond hair, blue eyes and impeccable, accent-less English, he easily could be mistaken for a Southern California surfer. In fact, Tursunov's countrymen call him "Surfer Dude" because of his California residence. Never mind that Sacramento is 100 miles from the Pacific Ocean. 
   Tursunov became the talk of the tour as the ATP's resident blogger in 2006 but gave it up because it took too much time. He remains as irreverent and self-deprecating as ever, though, as shown in his recent "bag check" video for Wilson Sporting Goods. Some highlights on YouTube:
   --On his tournament accreditation badge depicting a big letter "L": " 'L' for loser, I guess."
   --On a callous on his hand: "I'm single, so ... "
   --While flipping through a few bills in his wallet: "That's all my prize money for this year."
   Tursunov seems utterly without pretense and is very considerate. He is extremely accommodating with reporters and helps junior players and even other pros.
   Wang, for example, launched a comeback last November after two operations on his right (playing) wrist. Tursunov is the master of comebacks, having also suffered stress fractures in his left foot and ankle, two broken vertebrae and a re-fractured vertebra early in his career.   
   The 26-year-old Wang, a former top-100 player, said of Tursunov's guidance: "It's been very fortunate. I've stayed at his place the last 12 months. I was out for three years and had no idea how to get back in the right way. Experience-wise, he has helped me a lot, not just on the court but off."
   South African Rik de Voest,  in an interview with The Bee last October, described Tursunov as "a character with a very dry sense of humor." They had some unusual on-court conversations while winning the doubles title in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, two years ago, de Voest said.
  The pair discussed "everything but tennis ... the people in the crowd, what was going on in Dubai, where we were playing next and Dmitry's one-liners that would keep me laughing and relaxed," said de Voest, the singles champion of the inaugural Sacramento Challenger in 2005.     
   It figures that Tursunov would want to take his mind off tennis. His father never wanted to talk about anything but Dmitry's tennis. 
   When asked why Igor loved tennis, Dmitry said only that his father played at a court where he worked.
   "We never talked about it much or anything except (my) tennis, to be honest," Dmitry recalled. "That's why we had so much friction between (ages) 9 and 23. Everything was always tennis. If I was playing well, everything was peachy. If not, it was a world crisis. At 17, 18, 19, I got fed up with it. I started seeing my life in my results."
   Tursunov said he "blew a gasket a couple of times" when he was about 20.
   "I told my dad, 'If you don't want to talk about anything except tennis, let's not talk,' but in rougher terms. He was losing whatever connection he had with me. He started to mellow out the last five or six years, and we were able to talk about different stuff," Tursunov related.
   It wasn't quite that simple, though.
   "After I put the ultimatum down, he still went through the back door," Tursunov continued. "He'd ask, 'How's your girlfriend?' but he would always come back to tennis. I told him, 'I'm not that stupid.' He had no other passion. I became more lenient as long as we didn't only talk about tennis."
   An obvious comparison is with Andre Agassi and his fanatical father, Mike.
   "In the last couple years of his career, Agassi told me his father still called him to say he was using the wrong racket," said Tursunov, who sometimes hit with Agassi when Gilbert was coaching the legend. "You're never going to change the person, but my dad (eventually) understood there was more to life than tennis. He would love for me to be No. 1, but it was more important to have a connection with me than never have a conversation."  
   Igor was highly educated, but all it got him was a low-paying job as a nuclear engineer. He eventually quit to sell tennis rackets with Dmitry's only sibling, Dennis.
   "(Igor's) salary was not even enough to pay for (tennis) equipment," Dmitry said. "You also have to pay for courts and travel."
   But Dmitry was going to become a pro, one way or another.
   "I had a regimen," he recalled. "There was a lot of practice. If I didn't want to practice, he'd chase me around and beat me up. There were fights all the time. I did pushups, weights and squats."
    Igor also put Dmitry on a diet of healthy foods such as carrots (for better vision), walnuts, raisins, sour cream and cottage cheese (for calcium) and honey.
   "I was forced to eat it all," Dmitry growled.
   Only when discussing his regimen did Tursunov display any bitterness.
   "Every morning, you know you have to eat the god-damned cottage cheese and shaved carrots and work out," he snarled. "I hate routines and always have."
   Tursunov then turned philosophical again when discussing his father.
   "He did in a sense take away my childhood and force me to do things, but all kids are forced to go to school instead of playing on the monkey bars, eating candy and dissecting worms," he said. "Now, I get (paid for working out and playing tennis), but back then, I didn't get a new bike. I just got more work."
   Tursunov described his mother, Svetlana, as "very strong emotionally. She let me go (to the United States) at 12 1/2 and didn't see me (much) for nine years. She can handle a lot. She handled it well after my dad died."
   Tursunov admitted that he doesn't "know what I would do as a parent. If you provide everything, the child won't be able to solve problems and rise to challenges. In the end, you have to struggle to achieve something. If it's a gift, you haven't really succeeded. It's given to you.
   "I remember my first phone, sneakers and pair of jeans in the States. I don't know how many kids remember those things. They come so easy."
   Many kids at Gorin's academy, where Tursunov trains, lack the perseverance that Igor drilled into Dmitry, the tennis star lamented.
    "Some are happy to be in the setting, and others in the same situation feel shortchanged. It comes from background. I see a lot of kids stop short when the going gets tough. That's a big aspect of the sport -- how you get through challenges. Rafa (Rafael Nadal) will walk on burning coal to win a match. Others will give up just thinking about that. Sport brings out the best and worst in people."
   Tursunov took a swipe at American society when asked if he was physically abused as a child.
   "Yeah, I've gotten hit. My mom hit me with a wet dish rag across the face when I said something impolite. I didn't go to the school counselor, I didn't file for abuse, and I didn't go to a foster home.
   "If I didn't get hit by my mom or dad, I would get (figuratively) hit today. I think I'd rather get (physically) hit a couple of times."
   Economics dictated that Tursunov leave Moscow at 12 to fulfill his potential. Gorin's father had become acquainted with Tursunov through a distant cousin of Vitaly's who was a friend of the head of the Russian national junior team. Igor learned that Vitaly had attended legendary Australian coach Harry Hopman's academy in Florida and was convinced.
   "He idolized Hopman," said Vitaly, a 41-year-old Ukraine native who moved to the United States at 9.
   Igor took Dmitry to live and train with Gorin, who was living in Los Altos in the San Francisco area.
   "Tennis is so much more expensive in Russia," explained Gorin, who bought the Granite Bay Tennis Club in 2000 and converted it into an academy. "(Igor) was killing three birds with one stone. I had gone to the Hopman academy, tennis cost less in America, and (Dmitry) was getting involved with a family (the Gorins) capable of sponsoring him."       
   Tursunov, who spoke no English at the time, was hardly traumatized by the move.
   "When I was left to myself, it was a breath of fresh air," he conceded. "No one was standing over my head and forcing me to do stuff. I was still motivated to practice hard. If I didn't, I would have gone back to Moscow. I still realized everything was about tennis and I was supposed to become a pro by 17 or 18."
   At that point, Gilbert saw Tursunov play for the first time.
   "He didn't have a lot of confidence in his game," said Gilbert, who also has coached Andy Roddick and Andy Murray and currently works with promising Kei Nishikori of Japan. "I told him, 'For sure, you're going to be a good pro.' He was ranked about 500 at the time. Sometimes he can be self-deprecating. He said, 'Everyone says that.' But I'm not everyone."
   Tursunov, who has a friend in Mill Valley in the San Francisco area, often practices at Gilbert's house in nearby San Rafael.
  "I don't coach him (anymore), per se," said the 50-year-old Gilbert, who was born in Oakland, grew up in Piedmont and played at Foothill College in Los Altos before transferring to Pepperdine. "I like him a lot and encourage him. I root for him because he's been the best player from Northern California for a long time, and his coach went to Foothill."
    Like Agassi, Tursunov said he hated tennis for much of his life. And now?
   "I enjoy it quite a bit," he admitted. "I started enjoying it a whole lot more (in the past few years) without the pressure of having to prove myself to someone. I realized I'm the only one I have to impress."
   Why the change?
   "I started maturing," Tursunov said. "Definitely working with Brad helped me. He's very focused on being positive and complimenting yourself. ...
   "My potential is higher than my results, but I'm happy with my effort. I'm doing my best and learning. I enjoy the challenge. I'm not afraid to fail. I failed before, and I'm still alive."
   Tursunov plays more conservatively, reining in his power, but feels more internal pressure as he nears the end of his career.
   "I understand that one point can sway a match quite a bit," he explained. "I choke a little more. Everybody chokes. The more it means to you, the more you choke."
   Tursunov will turn 29 in December. One source of inspiration is American Mardy Fish, who's ranked a career-high No. 7 at 29. But few players excel once they hit 30. 
   "I definitely value the time I have left," he said. "I know I don't have the rest of my life to play tennis. I'd like to play the way I know I'm capable of playing. I have to figure out a way to focus on tennis."
   That was never a problem when Igor was hovering over Dmitry, who grew to appreciate his father's efforts.
  "It's very easy to criticize but hard to point out how to make it better," Dmitry said. "He was navigating unknown waters. He might have made a lot of mistakes, but there's no right or wrong way. I've gone through a bigger journey than most pro tennis players."
   In the end, Dmitry did not expressly thank his father. It wasn't necessary.
   "I'm not very good at being emotional," Dmitry said. "I think he understood (my gratitude), though. He would come out to practice and watch. He seemed content. He seemed happy with what he accomplished in life. There's no way he could have come to the tennis court, which split us apart for so long, and watched quietly if he wasn't content."

King eliminated in Seoul quarterfinals

   Vania King could not sustain her momentum in the Hansol Korea Open.
   After shocking 10th-ranked Marion Bartoli for her first career victory over a top-10 player, the Sacramento Capital lost to unseeded Klara Zakopalova of the Czech Republic 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 Friday in the quarterfinals of the $220,000 tournament in Seoul, South Korea.
   It was King's first loss to Zakopalova in four career meetings. Both players are 5-foot-5. The 29-year-old Zakopalova is ranked No. 43, and the 22-year-old King is No. 98.
   Zakopalova will meet sixth-seeded Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez of Spain in one semifinal, and fifth-seeded Polona Hercog of Slovenia will play unseeded Galina Voskoboeva of Kazakhstan in the other.
   Tiburon Challenger -- The field for the $100,000 First Republic Bank Tiburon Challenger, Oct. 10-16 at the Tiburon Peninsula Club, is much the same as for the $100,000 Natomas/USTA Challenger in Sacramento the previous week.
   The primary difference is San Francisco native Sam Querrey playing in Tiburon instead of James Blake. Entered in both tournaments are Fernando Gonzalez of Chile, Ivo Karlovic of Croatia, Robby Ginepri of Kennesaw, Ga., and Jack Sock of Lincoln, Neb.
   Blake and Gonzalez, both 31, are former top-five players. Karlovic, 32, and Ginepri, 28, reached the top 15. All four are coming back from serious injuries. Sock, 18, won the mixed doubles title in the recent U.S. Open with Melanie Oudin.
   Costa Mesa Futures -- Kiryl Harbatsiuk, a former Sacramento State standout from Belarus, lost to John-Patrick Smith of Australia 7-5, 6-4 in the second round of the $10,000 Costa Mesa Tennis Classic.
   Both players completed their collegiate eligibility in May. Smith, who starred at Tennessee, became the second player in college tennis history to be named a four-time All-American in singles and doubles. He joined Rick Leach of USC (1984-87).

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

King pulls off first win over a top-10 singles player

   Vania King, a doubles star on the WTA tour, recorded the biggest singles victory of her career Wednesday.
   The 22-year-old member of the Sacramento Capitals in World TeamTennis stunned 10th-ranked Marion Bartoli of France 6-3, 7-5 in the second round of the $220,000 Hansol Korea Open in Seoul, South Korea.
   King, ranked ninth in doubles and 98th in singles, had been 0-16 against top-10 players since turning pro in July 2006. In her last match against Bartoli, King had lost 6-1, 6-2 in the first round at Brisbane, Australia, in January.
   King won the first four games of Wednesday's match and overcame a 4-2 deficit in the second set. Bartoli, seeded second, finished with 17 double faults.
   "I'm very excited to win today," King said on the WTA Web site. "Last time I played her, I won just two (sic) games, but I've changed a lot and improved things in the last year. I'm much more confident in my abilities and have been working hard to be more creative. I'm happy this hard work is starting to show on court."
   King and Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan won the women's doubles title at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open last year and reached the final at Flushing Meadows, N.Y., two weeks ago. Shvedova, 5-foot-11, provides the power and King, 5-5, the quickness.
   Bartoli, the 2007 Wimbledon runner-up, will turn 27 on Oct. 2. She has reached the Stanford final in three of the last four years, beating Venus Williams for the 2009 title.
   King, who's not playing doubles in Seoul, will meet unseeded Klara Zakopalova of the Czech Republic in Friday's quarterfinals. Zakopalova, also 5-5, demolished seventh-seeded Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania 6-1, 6-1.
    "I played against Zakopalova about a year and a half ago," said King, who's 3-0 lifetime against the 29-year-old veteran ranked No. 43. "She has improved a lot since then -- today she won her match in less than an hour. I will need to be really focused to beat her."   
   Davis Cup draw -- If there was one unseeded team the United States didn't want to meet in the first round of the Davis Cup next year, it was Switzerland.
   But that's who the Americans, featuring doubles stars and former Stanford All-Americans Bob and Mike Bryan, drew in the ceremony in Bangkok, Thailand. That means, barring injury, the United States will face Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka.
   In singles, Federer has won a record 16 Grand Slam titles, and Wawrinka is ranked 19th after reaching a career-high ninth in 2008. In doubles, they won the gold medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
   Wait, it gets worse for the Americans. Switzerland will host the best-of-five-match series, Feb. 10-12. The rosters and exact location will be announced at a later date.
   The United States lost to Spain, playing without injured Rafael Nadal, in Austin, Texas, in this year's quarterfinals in July. Switzerland qualified for the World Group by coming from behind to beat host Australia 3-2 last weekend.
   The United States has won a record 32 Davis Cup titles, most recently in 2007 over Folsom resident Dmitry Tursunov and Russia in Portland, Ore. That U.S. team consisted of Andy Roddick, James Blake and the Bryans.
   Tursunov won the deciding match Sunday as host Russia rallied to defeat Brazil and remain in the World Group. The Russians will play at Austria in February. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

King advances in Seoul singles; new rankings; etc.

   The Hansol Korea Open, in which Vania King of the Sacramento Capitals advanced Tuesday, has a short but poignant history.
   Singles champions of the eight-year-old tournament in Seoul, South Korea, include Alisa Kleybanova of Russia (last year), Kimiko Date-Krumm of Japan (2009) and Nicole Vaidisova of the Czech Republic (2005). 
   Kleybanova is being treated for Hodgkin's lymphoma, a form of cancer, in Perugia, Italy. She hopes to return to the WTA tour eventually.
   "I am a strong person," Kleybanova wrote to her fellow players on July 15, her 22nd birthday. "I've shown it before. Obviously this is different than anything I've ever experienced, but after this is over I'm sure my life will be even better than ever before. This is the toughest time of my life till now, and I hope it always remains the toughest time of my life. I'm sure I'll be able to overcome this -- it's just a matter of patience and time and I believe I have enough!"
   Two years ago in Seoul, Date-Krumm capped one of the greatest comebacks in sports history. Two days short of her 39th birthday, Date-Krumm became the second-oldest player in the Open Era to win a WTA tournament. Billie Jean King was 39 years, 7 months old when she won the title in Birmingham, England, in 1983.
   Date-Krumm was playing in her first full season back on the WTA tour after retiring for 12 years. She has played in the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford for the past two years, reaching the second round in 2010 and falling to eighth-seeded Dominika Cibulkova in the first round this year.
   Vaidisova, the 2004 World TeamTennis Female MVP and Rookie of the Year for the Capitals at 15, rocketed to No. 7 in the world at 18 but slumped badly and retired last year at 20.   
    Date-Krumm, who will turn 41 on Sept. 28, lost to Vania King 6-2, 6-2 Tuesday in the first round in Seoul. King will face second-seeded Marion Bartoli of France on Wednesday in the second round. Bartoli has reached the Stanford final in three of the past four years, winning the 2009 title.
    King -- coming off a devastating loss in the U.S. Open women's doubles final after winning the 2010 title, both with Yaroslava Shvedova -- is playing singles only in Seoul.
    Esurance Classic -- Bob and Mike Bryan, the No. 1 men's doubles team in the world, head the field in the seventh annual Esurance Tennis Classic, Saturday and Sunday at the Harbor Point Tennis Club in Mill Valley.
   Also participating in the charity event are former top-20 player Sam Querrey, International Tennis Hall of Famers Tracy Austin and Gigi Fernandez, former French Open doubles champion Murphy Jensen and the Stanford men's and women's teams.
   Querrey, a San Francisco native who replaces injured John McEnroe, and Austin will appear Sunday only.
   Play begins at 12:30 p.m. Saturday and 10:30 a.m. Sunday. Tickets are $35 for adult general admission, $75 for adult reserved seats and $50 for adult weekend passes. Proceeds benefit To Celebrate Life Breast Cancer Foundation and Youth Tennis Advantage.
   For more information, call (415) 383-6114 or visit http://www.tennisclassic.org/.
   Women's Challenger --Unseeded Yasmin Schnack of Elk Grove and Ashley Weinhold of Spicewood, Texas, lost to wild cards Grace Min of Lawrenceville, Ga., and Melanie Oudin of Marietta, Ga., 6-4, 7-6 (4) in the first round of doubles at the $75,000 ColemanVision Tennis Championships in Albuquerque, N.M.
   Oudin and Min recently won U.S. Open titles in mixed doubles and junior girls singles, respectively. Schnack, who's not playing singles in Albuquerque, teamed with Maria Sanchez of Modesto to win her second consecutive Redding doubles title Sunday.
   Men's Futures -- Former Sacramento State star Kiryl Harbatsiuk upset third seed and former top-100 player Roko Karanusic of Croatia 6-3, 2-1, retired in the first round of the $10,.000 Costa Mesa Tennis Classic.
   In the first round of doubles, Harbatsiuk and Boris Nicola Bakalov of Bulgaria lost to top-seeded Bumpei Sato of Japan and Artem Sitak of New Zealand 5-7, 7-6 (6), 10-4 tiebreak.
   New rankings -- Following are this week's world rankings of players with Northern California ties (change in parentheses):
Men
   Bob Bryan, 1998 NCAA doubles champion from Stanford -- No. 1 in doubles (no change), unranked in singles.
   Mike Bryan, 1998 NCAA doubles champion from Stanford -- No. 1 in doubles (no change), unranked in singles.
   Scott Lipsky, 2002 NCAA doubles runner-up from Stanford -- Career-high-tying No. 26 in doubles (no change), unranked in singles.
   Mark Knowles, Sacramento Capitals of World TeamTennis (2001-07, 2009-11) -- No. 40 in doubles (-1), unranked in singles.
   Dmitry Tursunov, Folsom resident -- No. 41 in singles (no change), No. 95 in doubles (-2).
   David Martin, 2002 NCAA doubles runner-up from Stanford -- No. 92 in doubles (+10), No. 701 in singles (+4).
   John Paul Fruttero, Cal All-American in 2001 and 2002 -- No. 147 in doubles (-2), 1,244 in singles (-9).
   Conor Niland, 2006 Pacific-10 Conference Player of the Year and two-time All-American at Cal -- No. 206 in singles (+1), unranked in doubles. 
   Jimmy Wang, Folsom resident -- No. 391 in singles (-2), No. 674 in doubles (+3).
   Dusan Vemic, Capitals (2010-11) -- No. 514 in doubles (-6), No. 1,520 in singles (-5).
   Kiryl Harbatsiuk, three-time Big Sky Conference MVP (2009-11) at Sacramento State -- No. 771 in singles (-6), No. 1,227 in doubles (-3).
Women
   Vania King, Capitals (2010-11) -- No. 9 in doubles (no change), No. 98 in singles (-4).
   Raquel Kops-Jones, 2003 NCAA doubles champion from Cal -- No. 45 in doubles (+5), unranked in singles.
   Yasmin Schnack, Elk Grove resident, Sacramento Capitals of World TeamTennis (2011) -- No. 230 in doubles (-7), No. 379 in singles (no change).
   Maria Sanchez, Modesto resident -- No. 423 in doubles (+2), No. 1,107 in singles (+2).

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Tursunov gives Russia dramatic victory

   Dmitry Tursunov came through again for Russia.
   The longtime Sacramento-area resident defeated Ricardo Mello of Brazil 6-1, 7-6 (5), 2-6, 6-3 Sunday to give Russia a dramatic 3-2 victory in Kazan, Russia, in the Davis Cup World Group playoffs. Russia will remain in the World Group next year, while Brazil will be relegated to zone competition.
   Mikhail Youzhny had kept Russia alive with a thrilling victory in Sunday's first singles match. Saving two match points, Youzhny edged Thomaz Bellucci 2-6, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4, 14-12 in five-hours.
   Igor Andreev, ranked No. 81, was scheduled to face Mello, ranked No. 120, in the deciding match. But Russia captain Shamil Tarpischev substituted Tursunov, ranked No. 41. Andreev had lost to Bellucci 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 in Friday's second singles match.
   Tursunov, who struggled during the summer hardcourt season and lost in straight sets in Saturday's doubles match, said he found out "10 or 20 minutes" before Sunday's contest that he would be playing.
   "To be honest, I didn't look at it as how big the pressure is," Tursunov, 28, told Russia Today Sports. "I knew there are only two possible outcomes. I'm either going to win, or I'm going to lose. Neither of these are going to be career-ending or life-ending. The only thing my result would decide was where we would play our next match. I actually think that's a very rational way of looking at it."
   Tursunov helped Russia win the Davis Cup title five years ago. The Moscow native won clinching fourth matches against France in the quarterfinals and the United States in the semifinals and triumphed in doubles with Marat Safin in the final against Argentina. 
   Redding Challenger -- Third-seeded Julia Boserup of Boca Raton, Fla., defeated fifth-seeded Olga Puchkova of Russia 6-4, 2-6, 6-3 to win the $25,000 Oak River Rehab Challenger at Sun Oaks Tennis and Fitness in Redding.
   Boserup, a 20-year-old native of Santa Monica who turned pro last summer, earned $2,940 for her first career title. Ranked No. 297 in the world, she likely will move into the top 250.
   Meanwhile, Yasmin Schnack of Elk Grove won her second consecutive Redding doubles title.  The top-seeded team of Schnack and Modesto's Maria Sanchez of Modesto -- former rivals at UCLA and USC, respectively -- edged second-seeded Brittany Augustine of Carson and Whitney Jones of St. Louis 7-6 (2), 4-6, 10-7 tiebreak.
   Schnack made her professional debut in Redding last year and won the doubles crown with Sacramento native Christina Fusano, who retired two weeks ago.
   WTA tour -- Top-seeded Raquel Kops-Jones of Fresno and Abigail Spears of San Diego beat unseeded Jamie Hampton of Auburn, Ala., and Anna Tatishvili of Georgia 6-1, 3-6, 10-6 tiebreak to win the doubles title of the $220,000 Bell Challenge in Quebec City.
   Kops-Jones, a former Cal All-American, has won four WTA doubles titles overall and two with Spears. The pair also triumphed in Estoril, Portugal, two years ago.      

Tursunov loses in Davis Cup doubles

   Even though Dmitry Tursunov and Igor Kunitsyn were playing at home in Russia, their straight-set loss Saturday in the Davis Cup came as little surprise.
   Tursunov, a longtime Sacramento-area resident, and Kunitsyn fell to Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares of Brazil 6-4, 7-5, 6-2 in Kazan, Russia.
   Brazil leads the best-of-five-match World Group playoff 2-1 entering today's reverse singles matches. The winner will play in next year's World Group, while the loser will be relegated to zone competition.
   Melo and Soares have played 42 matches together this year to Tursunov and Kunitsyn's two.
   "I think the key was we don't play much doubles together at all," Kunitsyn, formerly Tursunov's regular partner, was quoted as saying on daviscup.com. "When you get to crucial points and you don't have the experience of playing doubles on a weekly basis, you're obviously going to make some wrong decisions or not take the risk you normally would."
   Also, Tursunov and Kunitsyn, both former top-50 doubles players, have fallen to No. 93 and No. 221, respectively. In contrast, Soares is ranked 22nd and Melo 35th.
  Today's scheduled singles matches are Mikhail Youhzny of Russia against Thomaz Bellucci followed by Igor Andreev of Russia against Ricardo Mello.
   Redding Women's Challenger -- Order was restored in the $25,000 Oak River Rehab Challenger at Sun Oaks Tennis and Fitness.
   After three seeds were upset in Friday's quarterfinals, each of which lasted three sets, third-seeded Julia Boserup and fifth-seeded Olga Puchkova breezed to straight-set victories.
   Boserup defeated wild card Allie Will 6-2, 6-3 in a matchup of 20-year-old residents of Boca Raton, Fla. Puchkova, a Russian who will turn 24 on Sept. 27, dismissed Yuliana Lizarazo, 18, of Colombia 6-1, 6-2.
   Boserup and Puchkova, both 5-foot-11, will vie for the title today at noon in their first career meeting. Boserup, ranked No. 293, seeks her first career singles title and Puchkova, who reached No. 32 in 2007 but has fallen to No. 287 because of injuries, her second.
   After the singles final, Yasmin Schnack of Elk Grove will play for her second consecutive Redding doubles title. The top-seeded team of Schnack and Maria Sanchez of Modesto will face second-seeded Brittany Augustine of Carson and Whitney Jones of St. Louis.
   Schnack made her professional debut in last year's tournament and won the doubles crown with Sacramento native Christina Fusano, who retired two weeks ago. 

  
 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Schnack, top two seeds upset in Redding

   Three seeds, including Yasmin Schnack of Elk Grove, were upset on a wild day at the $25,000 Oak River Rehab Challenger in Redding.
   Schnack, seeded eighth, lost to unseeded Yuliana Lizarazo, 18, of Colombia 6-7 (3), 6-1, 6-1 in Friday's quarterfinals at Sun Oaks Tennis and Fitness. Afterward, Schnack said she landed awkwardly on a serve in the second set and strained a hamstring.
   Every quarterfinal went three sets. Top-seeded Camila Giorgi of Italy suffered a particularly agonizing loss to fifth-seeded Olga Puchkova of Russia. Not only was the score 6-2, 6-7 (3), 7-6 (5), the match ended on a net-cord winner.
   "I was feeling pretty bad for her," Puchkova, who played two matches for the Sacramento Capitals of World TeamTennis in 2008, told the Redding Record-Searchlight. "It was a tough match, and for it to end that way, it was unfair to her. She is a real good player, and it was a tight third set. But that's tennis."
   Puchkova, who reached No. 32 in the world in 2007, and Lizarazo will meet in one semifinal. Third-seeded Julia Boserup will face wild card and fellow Boca Raton, Fla., resident Allie Will in the other.
   Will, a junior on Florida's reigning NCAA championship team, edged second-seeded Kurumi Nara of Japan 0-6, 7-6 (5), 7-5. Will, who has lost the first set in each of her three matches, eliminated seventh seed and former Capital Tammy Hendler in the first round.
   Boserup outlasted sixth-seeded Lauren Davis, 17, of Boca Raton 3-6, 6-4, 6-4. Davis, only 5-foot-2, won the girls 18 singles title in the USTA National Championships last month in San Diego.
   Schnack lost in the quarterfinals for the third straight time in Redding, the first two times as a qualifier. But the 23-year-old former UCLA All-American will play for her second consecutive doubles title in the tournament.
   The top-seeded team of Schnack and her former USC rival, Maria Sanchez of Modesto, advanced to the final with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over unseeded Boserup and Malou Ejdesgaard of Denmark. Schnack and Sanchez will play second-seeded Brittany Augustine of El Segundo and Whitney Jones of St. Louis on Sunday.
   G'day, mate -- Newly crowned U.S. Open champion Samantha Stosur of Australia played one year in the Redding Challenger, losing in the first round of singles and reaching the doubles semifinals in 2003.  
    
    
  
  
    

Friday, September 16, 2011

Blake, Gonzalez set to play in Natomas Challenger

   Although they come from different countries, James Blake and Fernando Gonzalez have much in common.
   Both are 31. Both have reached the top five in the world. Both are battling back from injuries. And both are scheduled to play in the $100,000 Natomas/USTA Challenger, Oct. 1-9 at the Natomas Racquet Club in Sacramento.
   Gonzalez, who received a wild card last week, climbed to a career-high No. 5 in the world in January 2007 after finishing as the runner-up to Roger Federer in the Australian Open. The Chilean won the singles silver medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and finished in the top 15 for the fifth consecutive year in 2009. However, he underwent right hip surgery last October and has plunged to No. 297.
   Blake, a three-time Grand Slam singles quarterfinalist, ascended to a career-high No. 4 in 2006 and played a key role on the United States' 2007 Davis Cup championship team. But the Yonkers, N.Y., native, now living in Tampa, Fla., missed 10 weeks in the spring of 2010 with a knee injury and fell to No. 173 last March. He has since climbed back to No. 73.
   Other entrants in the Natomas Challenger include former top-15 player Ivo Karlovic of Croatia, 2005 U.S. Open semifinalist Robby Ginepri of Kennesaw, Ga., and 2007 Sacramento Challenger champion Wayne Odesnik of Weston, Fla.
   Blake, Karlovic (32) and Ginepri (28) are no strangers to Northern California. All have done well in the SAP Open in San Jose.
   Blake reached the singles semifinals in 2003 and 2009 and won the doubles title in 2004 with Mardy Fish. The 6-foot-10 Karlovic came within a tiebreaker of winning the 2007 SAP Open, losing to Andy Murray.  Ginepri advanced to the semis in singles in 2008 and doubles in 2005 with Jan-Michael Gambill.
   Odesnik, 25, returned to action in January after serving a one-year suspension for possession of HGH.
   Also receiving a wild card last week was 18-year-old Jack Sock, who won the U.S. Open mixed doubles title with fellow American Melanie Oudin last week.
   Redding Women's Challenger -- Yasmin Schnack of Elk Grove, a Sacramento suburb, reached the Redding singles quarterfinals for the third time in four appearances.
   The eighth seed and former UCLA All-American defeated doubles partner and ex-USC rival Maria Sanchez of Modesto 7-6 (2), 6-2 in the second round of the $25,000 Oak River Rehab Challenger at Sun Oaks Tennis and Fitness.
   Schnack, 5-10, has a good chance to reach the Redding singles semifinals for the first time when she meets unseeded Yuliana Lizarazo of Colombia today. Schnack then could face top-seeded Camila Giorgi of Italy.
   In the bottom half of the draw, second-seeded Kurumi Nara of Japan will play wild card Allie Will of Boca Raton, Fla., and third-seeded Julia Boserup of Newport Beach will take on sixth-seeded Lauren Davis of Boca Raton. The 5-foot-2 Davis, nine inches shorter than Boserup, has lost only two games in two matches.
   Schnack and Sanchez, the top seeds in doubles, beat Surina de Beer of South Africa and Olga Puchkova of Russia 6-3, 6-2 in the quarterfinals. Schnack is the defending champion with Sacramento native Christina Fusano, who retired two weeks ago.
  
            

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Rising star Davis bounces back from concussion

   REDDING -- Tiny Lauren Davis is handling the big girls in professional tennis just fine.
   Television cameras are another matter.
   It's not that Davis is shy. Rather, in one of the strangest accidents in sports history, the 17-year-old rising star suffered a concussion while filming a commercial at the Family Circle Cup in Charleston, S.C., in April. The wind knocked over the camera, which fell on the 5-foot-2, 120-pound Davis' head. 
   "I blacked out for five or 10 seconds," the sixth-seeded Davis said after demolishing Katie Ruckert, 27, of Vienna, Va., 6-0, 6-0 in 62 minutes Wednesday in the first round of the $25,000 Oak River Rehab Challenger at Sun Oaks Tennis and Fitness. "I didn't think it was too severe, but the pain was excruciating the next day. I got really nervous then. I felt like my head was going to explode. I had headaches for two months straight, but it was never that severe again."
   In other first-round matches involving seeds Wednesday, No. 1 Camila Giorgi of Italy wore down qualifier Tori Kinard of Pasadena 7-6 (4), 6-0, but No. 4 Maria-Fernanda Alvarez-Teran of Bolivia lost to Yuliana Lizarazo of Colombia, and No. 7 Tamaryn Hendler of Belgium fell to wild card Allie Will of Boca Raton, Fla., 5-7, 6-4, 6-2.
   Hendler, who played for the Sacramento Capitals of World TeamTennis in 2008, began cramping midway through the second set. She later complained of fatigue after arriving Monday night from Japan, where she won a $25,000 tournament last week and reached the semifinals of another the previous week.
   Will, a 5-10 junior at Florida, played No. 1 singles and doubles on the team that won the NCAA title at Stanford in May.
   In the opening round of doubles, top-seeded Yasmin Schnack of Elk Grove and Maria Sanchez of Modesto beat Yawna Allen of Phoenix and Jessica Roland-Rosario of Puerto Rico 7-5, 6-2, and wild cards Alexandra and Kat Facey, 18-year-old twins from Cameron Park outside of Sacramento, lost to Julia Boserup of Newport Beach and Malou Ejdesgaard of Denmark 6-0, 6-4.   
   Davis admitted that she missed tennis while sitting out for two months.
   "I couldn't do much other than watch TV. I was bored out of my mind," said Davis, a Cleveland product who trains at the Evert Tennis Academy in Boca Raton.
   Davis returned to competition in her hometown, losing in the first round of a $10,000 tournament. She then won 13 consecutive matches, capturing titles in $10,000 events in Buffalo, N.Y., and Atlanta and reaching the semifinals of a $50,000 tournament in Lexington, Ky.
   Last month, Davis won the girls 18 singles title at the USTA National Championships in San Diego to earn a berth in the main draw of the U.S. Open. She lost to eventual semifinalist Angelique Kerber of Germany 7-6 (3), 6-3 in the first round.
   "Taking time off made me want to come back and do well more than before," Davis said.
   Davis ended the 2010 season on a 27-match winning streak. She beat 6-1 Coco Vandeweghe, another former Capital, in a wild-card playoff in December to earn a spot in the Australian Open. Making her Grand Slam debut in Rod Laver Arena, Davis lost to fifth-seeded Samantha Stosur of Australia 6-1, 6-1 in January. Stosur won her first Grand Slam singles title Sunday in the U.S. Open.
   Davis, who began playing at the advanced age of 9 and turned pro two weeks before the Australian Open, has soared from No. 437 in the world at the end of 2010 to No. 320. She hopes to reach the top 10 eventually in a sport increasingly dominated by big, powerful, athletic players.
   "The thing hurting Lauren is her height, but she makes up for a lot of that territory by being an incredible athlete, very much like (5-8) Kim Clijsters,'' tennis legend and ESPN analyst Chris Evert told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel last month. "The way she moves, she's a great little competitor.''
   And a headache for opponents. 
      

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Schnack turns match around in Redding

   REDDING -- One of tennis' many allures is how quickly a match can turn around.
   Consider Yasmin Schnack's first-round encounter in the $25,000 Oak River Rehab Challenger.
   Seeded eighth, the 23-year-old Elk Grove resident trailed 5-2 in the first set against lucky loser Yolande Leacock, the only ranked player from the Caribbean islands of Trinidad and Tobago at No. 925 in the world.
   Schnack then reeled off 11 straight games to win 7-5, 6-0 Tuesday at Sun Oaks Tennis and Fitness.
    "I got off to a really slow start," the former UCLA All-American conceded. "I told myself, 'Fight for every point and make her win it. I was giving it to her. Give her credit -- she played well. But I took a couple deep breaths and said, 'Get some balls in the court and see what she can do.' "
   Unlike most players, Schnack is comfortable at the net.
   "I definitely wanted to go out playing super aggressively, come to the net and put pressure on her, but I was going for too much," the 5-foot-10 Schnack said. "I slowed it down a little bit. I was still aggressive but with a greater margin of error. I played smarter tennis."
   Schnack will meet her doubles partner and former USC rival, Maria Sanchez of Modesto, on Thursday in the second round.
   "I hate it when the draw is like that," said Schnack, seeded first with Sanchez. "It will definitely be a battle. She's a great player, but that's what we come out here for -- to battle for titles."
   Schnack is making her fourth appearance in the tournament. She has reached the singles quarterfinals twice, as a 17-year-old amateur and last year in her professional debut. She also won the 2010 doubles title with Sacramento native Christina Fusano, who retired two weeks ago.
   "This is the closest (USTA Pro Circuit) tournament to Sacramento," said Schnack, whose parents, William and Candida, attended Tuesday's match. "It's nice that my family can come here. It's a treat for me.
   "I love this place. I've always done well here, and everyone is so friendly. I don't have one bad thing to say about this place."
   Schnack, last year's Pacific-10 Conference Women's Player of the Year and a member of UCLA's 2008 national championship team, has skyrocketed more than 200 places in the singles world rankings this year to No. 379 and to No. 223 in doubles.
   She came within a match tiebreaker of her first Grand Slam appearance, falling in the mixed doubles final of last month's U.S. Open National Playoffs with Eric Roberson of Sacramento to Fusano and former Stanford All-American David Martin.
   Schnack said she has enjoyed her first year as a pro.
   "I've experienced a lot, and my game has improved. It's very tough on the circuit, grinding and traveling from tournament to tournament. My goal is to play in the Grand Slams, and I'm getting pretty close. I've gone to different countries and experienced different cultures. I'm very happy at this stage of my life. I can't imagine doing anything else," Schnack said.
   Schnack considers playing for the Sacramento Capitals of World TeamTennis in July as the highlight of her brief career. She finished fifth among 19 regulars in women's doubles, sixth among 15 part-time players in women's singles and eighth among 24 part-timers in mixed doubles.
   "It was so much fun," Schnack said. "I learned a lot from my teammates, and playing former No. 1s (Martina Hingis and Serena Williams) was a tremendous opportunity. I hope I get the opportunity to play team tennis next year, and it would be even better to play for the Capitals again."
    Schnack faced Hingis and Williams in consecutive matches, losing 5-1 and 5-0 in singles, respectively, but winning in women's doubles against Hingis and in mixed doubles against Williams.
   "Both were very intimidating, but they have different game styles," Schnack said. "I got killed by Serena, but just being on the court with her was a great experience. Martina is very solid. She takes everything early and takes time away from you. She's not overpowering, but she's very smart."
   After a rough start Tuesday, Schnack showed her intelligence, too.
   Men's Futures -- Seeded seventh in singles and second in doubles, former Sacramento State star Kiryl Harbatsiuk lost in the opening round of each event at the $10,000 Pomona Valley Hospital USTA Pro Circuit Event in Claremont.
   The native of Minsk, Belarus, fell to Darian King of Barbados 7-6 (4), 5-7, 6-3, then teamed with Boris Nicola Bakalov of Bulgaria in a 6-3, 3-6, 13-11 tiebreak loss to Jeremy Hunter Nicholas of the United States and Javier Pulgar-Garcia of Spain.  
  
  
   

Schnack seeded in Redding, new rankings, etc.

  Eighth-seeded Yasmin Schnack of Elk Grove is scheduled to face lucky loser Yolande Leacock of Trinidad and Tobago today in the first round of the $25,000 Oak River Rehab Challenger at Sun Oaks Tennis & Fitness in Redding.
  In her professional debut last year, Schnack reached the Redding singles quarterfinals and won the doubles title with Sacramento native Christina Fusano.
   Schnack, who graduated from UCLA in 2010, is seeded first in doubles this year with former USC rival Maria Sanchez of Modesto. Fusano, 30, recently retired to become an assistant coach at UC Davis.
  Italy's Camila Giorgi, the No. 1 singles seed in Redding, is set to open against qualifier Tori Kinard of Pasadena on Wednesday.
   The 19-year-old Giorgi, ranked 154th in the world, won a $50,000 tournament in Carson in May and qualified for Wimbledon in June, losing in the first round to eventual quarterfinalist and 2010 semifinalist Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria.
   Schnack, 23, is one of three current or former Sacramento Capitals in the Redding singles draw. She completed her first season with the World TeamTennis franchise in July. In 2008, Tammy Hendler of Belgium played 14 matches for the Capitals at 15 years old and Olga Puchkova of Russia two.
   Mike Bryan fined -- Former Stanford All-American Mike Bryan received the maximum on-site fine of $10,000 for an off-court unsportsmanlike conduct violation after he and brother Bob, the top-ranked men's doubles team in the world, lost in the first round of the U.S. Open.
   The nature of the infraction was not revealed because Bryan can appeal the fine.
   The 33-year-old twins, who have a squeaky clean image, had not lost in the first round of a Grand Slam tournament in 10 years.  
   Men's Futures -- Seventh-seeded Kiryl Harbatsiuk, a Belarus native who graduated from Sacramento State in May, is scheduled to play Darian King of Barbados today in the first round of the $10,000 Pomona Valley Hospital USTA Pro Circuit Event in Claremont.
   Also today, second-seeded Harbatsiuk and Boris Nicola Bakalov of Bulgaria will face Jeremy Hunter Nicholas of the United States and Javier Pulgar-Garcia of Spain in the opening round of doubles.
   New rankings -- Following are this week's world rankings of players with Northern California ties (change from last week in parentheses):  
Men
   Bob Bryan, 1998 NCAA doubles champion from Stanford -- No. 1 in doubles (no change), no singles ranking.
   Mike Bryan, 1998 NCAA doubles champion from Stanford -- No. 1 in doubles (no change), no singles ranking.
   Scott Lipsky, 2002 NCAA doubles runner-up from Stanford -- Career-high-tying No. 26 in doubles (+2), no singles ranking.
   Mark Knowles, Sacramento Capitals of World TeamTennis (2001-07, 2009-11) -- No. 39 in doubles (+1), no singles ranking.
   Dmitry Tursunov, Folsom resident -- No. 41 in singles (+2), No. 92 in doubles (+4).
   David Martin, 2002 NCAA doubles runner-up from Stanford -- No. 99 in doubles (+6), No. 705 in singles (-4).
   John Paul Fruttero, Cal All-American in 2001 and 2002 -- Career-high No. 146 in doubles (+6), 1,235 in singles (-1).
   Conor Niland, 2006 Pacific-10 Conference Player of the Year and two-time All-American at Cal -- No. 207 in singles (-10), no doubles ranking. 
   Jimmy Wang, Folsom resident -- No. 389 in singles (+1), No. 678 in doubles (+4).
   Dusan Vemic, Capitals (2010-11) -- No. 508 in doubles (-5), No. 1,515 in singles (-7).
   Kiryl Harbatsiuk, three-time Big Sky Conference MVP (2009-11) at Sacramento State -- No. 765 in singles (+2), No. 1,224 in doubles (+1).
Women
   Vania King, Capitals (2010-11) -- No. 9 in doubles (-2), No. 94 in singles (+9).
   Raquel Kops-Jones, 2003 NCAA doubles champion from Cal -- No. 50 in doubles (+3), no singles ranking.
   Yasmin Schnack, Elk Grove resident, Sacramento Capitals of World TeamTennis (2011) -- No. 223 in doubles (-3), No. 379 in singles (+1).
  

Sunday, September 11, 2011

King, Shvedova fall short in bid to repeat

   Vania King sat at courtside and buried her head in a towel.
   King and Yaroslava Shvedova, seeded third and seeking their second consecutive U.S. Open women's doubles title, had just lost to fourth-seeded Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond 4-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3) in Sunday's final at Flushing Meadows, N.Y.
   Shvedova, who will turn 24 Monday, served for the match at 5-4 in the second set. The Moscow native, who plays for Kazakhstan, also had the match on her racket at 5-4 in the second-set tiebreaker but double-faulted, and she and King lost the next point after Shvedova's 76-mph first serve.
   "Bloody devastated but trying to put it in perspective ... we had a great tournament," tweeted the 22-year-old King, who completed her second season with the Sacramento Capitals of World TeamTennis in July.
   King and Shvedova won Wimbledon in addition to the U.S. Open last year, their first season together. In the final at Flushing Meadows, they saved a match point and defeated Huber and Nadia Petrova in a third-set tiebreaker.
   This year, however, King and Shvedova failed to win a Grand Slam title. Shvedova missed the Australian Open because of a knee injury.
   King and Shvedova were trying to become the first women's doubles team to repeat at the U.S. Open since Virginia Ruano Pascual of Spain and Paola Suarez of Argentina won three straight titles from 2002 to 2004. Nathalie Dechy of France won in 2006 and 2007 with Vera Zvonareva and Dinara Safina, respectively.
   Huber, a 35-year-old U.S. citizen originally from South Africa, and Raymond, 38, of Wayne, Pa., began playing together in April and finished as the runners-up to Victoria Azarenka and Maria Kirilenko at Stanford in July.
   Raymond leads active players with 72 career women's doubles titles, and Huber ranks fourth with 46. They have won six and five Grand Slam women's doubles crowns, respectively. Experience helped them prevail in Sunday's tiebreakers, Raymond said.
   "We have numerous titles and numerous Grand Slams, and we've been in these positions before. Even when we were down and they were serving for the match, we just stuck together and grinded it out, and now we're sitting here as U.S. Open champions," Raymond, who became the oldest player to win a Grand Slam women's doubles title, told reporters.
  Huber, who will rise to No. 1 in women's doubles Monday for the third time in her career, has reached the U.S. Open women's doubles final for the past four years. She won the 2008 crown with Cara Black against Raymond and Samantha Stosur.
  It took Huber exactly three years to win another Grand Slam women's doubles title. Raymond had gone more than five years without one, last triumphing at the 2006 French Open with Samantha Stosur.

Stanford's Gibbs drops two U.S. Open junior semis

   Nicole Gibbs came up short again Saturday. Still, the Stanford sophomore is having an outstanding year.
   Gibbs, from Santa Monica, lost to Grace Min of Lawrenceville, Ga., 6-3, 6-3 in a matchup of unseeded players in the U.S. Open junior girls semifinals at Flushing Meadows, N.Y.
   In junior girls doubles, the unseeded team of Gibbs and Kyle McPhillips of Willoughby, Ohio, stunned second-seeded Victoria Bosio of Argentina and Montserrat Gonzalez of Paraguay 6-1, 6-4 in the quarterfinals. Gibbs and McPhillips then fell to sixth-seeded Irina Kromacheva of Russia and Demi Schuurs of the Netherlands 6-3, 6-3.
   Gibbs reached the NCAA singles semifinals on her home courts as a freshman in May before losing to top-ranked and eventual champion Jana Juricova, then a junior, of Cal.
   Gibbs also advanced to the girls 18 singles final in the USTA Junior National Championships for the second consecutive year last month in San Diego.
   King in final --Vania King, a member of the Sacramento Capitals who grew up in Long Beach, and Yaroslava Shvedova, a Moscow native who plays for Kazakhstan, will play for their second straight U.S. Open women's doubles title today.
   The third seeds will meet fourth-seeded Liezel Huber, a U.S. citizen originally from South Africa, and Lisa Raymond of Wayne, Pa., at 10 a.m. PDT (ESPN2).
     In the teams' only previous meeting, King and Shvedova won 7-6 (5), 6-4 in the quarterfinals at Cincinnati three weeks ago en route to the title.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

King, Shvedova eye U.S. Open repeat

   Vania King of the Sacramento Capitals and Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan will play for their second straight U.S. Open women's doubles title.
   The third seeds outlasted fifth-seeded Maria Kirilenko and Nadia Petrova, both of Russia, 7-6 (7), 2-6, 6-3 in two hours, 26-minutes Friday in Flushing Meadows. Kirilenko and Petrova, playing in their first Grand Slam tournament together, had a set point at 7-6 in the tiebreaker.
   "I wouldn't want to be in the finals with anyone other than Slava," King, who served on the set point, was quoted as saying on the WTA Web site. "We have fun and help each other out. That's why we play so well together."
   In men's singles, 28th-seeded John Isner of Tampa, Fla., lost to fourth seed and 2008 U.S. Open runner-up Andy Murray of Great Britain 7-5, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (2) in the quarterfinals. It was the best showing in a Grand Slam tournament for the 6-foot-9 Isner, who won a $15,000 tournament in the Sacramento suburb of Shingle Springs in his professional debut four years ago.
  Also, Stanford sophomore Nicole Gibbs advanced to the junior girls semifinals in singles and quarterfinals in doubles. Connor Farren, 16, of Hillsborough lost in the second round of junior boys doubles.
   King, a 22-year-old Long Beach product, and Shvedova, who will turn 24 Monday, will face fourth-seeded Liezel Huber, a U.S. citizen from South Africa, and Lisa Raymond of Wayne, Pa., on Sunday at 10 a.m. PDT (ESPN2). Huber and Raymond advanced with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over unseeded Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia and Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland.
   In the finalists' only previous meeting, King and Shvedova won 7-6 (5), 6-4 in the quarterfinals at Cincinnati three weeks ago en route to the title.
   King and Shvedova won Wimbledon and the U.S Open last year, their first season together, but have been unable to win a Grand Slam in 2011.
   King lost in the first round of the Australian Open with Arantxa Parra Santonja of Spain while Shvedova recovered from a knee injury. King and Shvedova then lost in the French Open semifinals to eventual champions Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka of the Czech Republic and in the second round at Wimbledon to eventual runners-up Sabine Lisicki of Germany and Samantha Stosur of Australia.
   Huber, 35, and Raymond, 38, began playing together five months ago. They have not won a Grand Slam as a pair, but Huber has won four major women's doubles titles (all with Cara Black) and Raymond five (three with Rennae Stubbs and two with Samantha Stosur).
   Huber's last Grand Slam women's doubles crown came in the 2008 U.S. Open; Raymond last prevailed in the 2006 French Open with Stosur.
   Huber and Raymond finished as the runners-up to Victoria Azarenka and Kirilenko at Stanford in late July and won the Toronto title last month.

Friday, September 9, 2011

King, Shvedova gain revenge, reach doubles semis

   Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova avenged a devastating loss and advanced to the women's doubles semifinals at the U.S. Open.
   The third seeds and defending champions beat eighth-seeded Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka of the Czech Republic 6-4, 7-5 Thursday in Flushing Meadows.
   "Got through our match today. Ran like a bee stung me! Oh wait, one did," tweeted King, who indeed was stung on her left hip during the win.
   King, a member of the Sacramento Capitals living in Boynton Beach, Fla., and Shvedova, a Moscow native who plays for Kazakhstan, were undefeated in Grand Slam tournaments when they lost to Hlavackova and Hradecka 6-3, 6-3 in the French Open semifinals in June. The Czechs went on to win their first Grand Slam title.
   King and Shvedova are scheduled to meet fifth-seeded Maria Kirilenko and Nadia Petrova today at about 4 p.m. PDT on the Grandstand court. The Russian pair, playing in their first major together, surprised top seeds and reigning Wimbledon champions Kveta Peschke of the Czech Republic and Katarina Srebotnik of Slovenia 6-3, 6-3 in the quarterfinals.
   Meanwhile, No. 28 seed John Isner of Tampa, Fla., reached his first Grand Slam quarterfinal with a 7-6 (2), 3-6, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (4) over No. 12 seed Gilles Simon of France.
   Isner, who's listed at 6-foot-9, uncharacteristically lost his serve five times yet won in four sets.
   "That's pretty encouraging," Isner, who won a $15,000 tournament in the Sacramento suburb of Shingle Springs in 2007, told reporters.
   Isner will face Great Britain's Andy Murray, the fourth seed and 2008 U.S. Open runner-up who dispatched unseeded Donald Young of Atlanta 6-2, 6-3, 6-3.
   Young, who won the 2008 Sacramento Challenger, did not appear ready to play after rain wiped out all of Tuesday's matches and all but 15 minutes of play Wednesday.
   "I haven’t had to do that, especially at this level of a tournament, this deep in a tournament," said Young, 22. "To get up every day, getting ready to play and not playing, it’s kind of emotionally draining."
   Tournament officials announced that the women's and men's singles finals will be pushed back one day to Sunday and Monday, respectively. Both matches are scheduled for 1 p.m. PDT.
   In junior girls singles Thursday, qualifier Nicole Gibbs, a Stanford sophomore from Santa Monica, outlasted 15-year-old wild card Taylor Townsend of Stockbridge, Ga., 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 to reach the quarterfinals.
   In junior boys singles, 16-year-old Connor Farren of Hillsborough lost to 10th-seeded George Morgan of Great Britain 7-6 (3), 7-6 (8) in the second round.
  
  

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Rain plays havoc with U.S. Open

   Rain wiped out all but 15 minutes of play Wednesday at the U.S. Open.
   Only three matches began at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, N.Y. Gilles Muller of Luxembourg led second-seeded Rafael Nadal 3-0 in the fourth round, Donald Young of Atlanta was ahead of No. 4 Andy Murray of Great Britain 2-1, and No. 21 Andy Roddick of Austin, Texas, led No. 5 David Ferrer of Spain 3-1 before rain halted action.
   Each match is scheduled to resume at 8 a.m. PDT Thursday. Also at that time, weather permitting, No. 28 John Isner of Tampa, Fla., will play No. 12 Gilles Simon of France in another fourth-round men's singles match, and third-seeded Vania King of Boyton Beach, Fla., and Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan will face eighth-seeded Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka of the Czech Republic in the women's doubles quarterfinals.
   Young and Isner have won tournaments in the Sacramento area. King, a member of the Sacramento Capitals in World TeamTennis, and Shvedova are defending their title against the reigning French Open champions.
   Thursday's weather forecast calls for scattered thunderstorms with a 40 percent chance of rain.
   Including the cancellation of Tuesday's schedule because of rain, the U.S. Open essentially has lost two consecutive days of play. Players in the bottom half of the men's singles draw, mentioned above, might have to win four matches in four days to win the title. Alternatively, a fourth consecutive Monday finish for the tournament is possible.
  
  

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Rain washes out Tuesday's matches in U.S. Open

   Rain canceled Tuesday's day and night sessions at the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.
   All matches were rescheduled for Wednesday, but the chance of rain is 100 percent then and 60 percent on Thursday, according to weather.com.
   The U.S. Open, which began Aug. 29, is scheduled to end Sunday. However, rain has postponed the men's final until Monday in each of the past three years.
  Americans Donald Young and John Isner, both of whom have won tournaments in or near Sacramento, are scheduled to play back-to-back on the Grandstand court beginning at 8 a.m. PDT Wednesday (ESPN2) as they seek their first Grand Slam quarterfinal berths.
   The unseeded Young, who won the $50,000 Sacramento Challenger in 2008, will take on Great Britain's Andy Murray, the fourth seed and 2008 U.S. Open runner-up. Young beat Murray 7-6 (4), 6-3 in the first round at Indian Wells in March in their only career meeting.
   The 28th-seeded Isner, who won a $15,000 tournament in Shingle Springs in 2007 in his professional debut, will meet France's Gilles Simon, the 12th seed who knocked off 2009 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro in the third round. Isner and Simon have never played each other.
   Also at 8 a.m., third seeds and defending champions Vania King (Sacramento Capitals) and Yaroslava Shvedova will face eighth seeds and reigning French Open champions Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka on Court 17 in the women's doubles quarterfinals.

Monday, September 5, 2011

No more child's play for King, Shvedova

   There's no more kidding around for Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova. Now it's time to face the big girls.
   King and Shvedova, the third seeds and defending champions, dismissed American wild cards Jessica Pegula and Taylor Townsend 6-4, 6-2 Monday in the third round of women's doubles at the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows, N.Y. Pegula is 17 and Townsend 15.
   King, an American who plays for the Sacramento Capitals of World TeamTennis, and Shvedova, from Kazakhstan, will meet Czechs Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka, the eighth seeds and reigning French Open champions, Wednesday in the quarterfinals.
   The winner will face either Kveta Peschke and Katarina Srebotnik, the top seeds and reigning Wimbledon champions, or fifth-seeded Maria Kirilenko and Nadia Petrova in the semifinals.
   Meanwhile, Americans John Isner and Donald Young, both of whom have won tournaments in the Sacramento area, face stiff challenges at 8 a.m. PDT Tuesday (ESPN2) as they seek their first Grand Slam quarterfinal berths.
   The 28th-seeded Isner, who won a $15,000 tournament in Shingle Springs in 2007 in his professional debut, will meet France's Gilles Simon, the 12th seed who knocked off 2009 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro in the third round, in Louis Armstrong Stadium. Isner and Simon have never played each other.
   The unseeded Young, who won the $50,000 Sacramento Challenger in 2008, will take on Great Britain's Andy Murray, the fourth seed and 2008 U.S. Open runner-up, in Arthur Ashe Stadium. Young beat Murray 7-6 (4), 6-3 in the first round at Indian Wells in March in their only career meeting.
   In the first round of junior girls singles Monday, Stanford sophomore Nicole Gibbs pounded Patricia Iveth Ku Flores of Peru 6-1, 6-1.
  
     
    
  

Young begins to fulfill promise

   Perseverance and patience are paying off for Donald Young.
   Once touted as the future of American men's tennis, Young has struggled since turning professional at 14 years old. Heading into this year's U.S. Open, he had lost in the first round of singles in 11 of his 13 Grand Slam tournaments. Never had he advanced past the third round.
   Furthermore, Young blasted the USTA in an obscenity-laced Twitter message in April for declining to give him a wild card into the French Open.
   Young's troubles seemed distant memories Sunday, though, as the 22-year-old left-hander knocked off his second consecutive seed to reach the fourth round in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.
   The Atlanta resident, born in Chicago, followed his five-set victory over No. 14 Stanislas Wawrinka with a 7-5, 6-4, 6-3 decision over No. 24 Juan Ignacio Chela, a U.S. Open quarterfinalist in 2007.
   "You have your highs and lows in tennis," the 84th-ranked Young told reporters. "I've definitely had the lows. Hopefully I'll have a lot more highs."
   Northern California has figured prominently in Young's career. He made his ATP World Tour debut in San Jose at 15 in 2005 and won Challenger singles titles in Aptos in 2007 and Sacramento in 2008.
   Young, who will eclipse his career high of No. 73 after the U.S. Open, will face fourth-seeded Andy Murray, the 2008 U.S. Open runner-up, of Great Britain on Tuesday for a berth in the quarterfinals.
   Young beat Murray, who won Aptos in 2005 and San Jose in 2006 and 2007, 7-6 (4), 6-3 in the first round at Indian Wells in March in their only career meeting.
   Meanwhile, Mark Knowles of the Bahamas did not have a very happy 40th birthday Sunday. Not only did the longtime Sacramento Capital in World TeamTennis lose in his only U.S. Open events, men's doubles and mixed doubles, he and his partners lost in straight sets to unseeded teams.
   Knowles and Belgium's Xavier Malisse, the 15th seeds in men's doubles, fell to Italians Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini 7-5, 6-4 in the third round. Then Knowles and Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia lost to Barbora Zahlavova Strycova of the Czech Republic and Philipp Petzschner of Germany 6-4, 6-3 in the second round of mixed doubles.
   Knowles won the 2004 U.S. Open men's doubles title with Daniel Nestor.
   In junior boys singles, 16-year-old Connor Farren of Hillsborough defeated Diego Hidalgo of Ecuador 6-4, 6-4 in the first round.
   Labor Day Grand Prix -- Rob Lessler edged Robert Crawford 7-5, 3-6, 10-7 tiebreaker for the title in 4.5 singles, the highest men's division, in the 58th annual Labor Day Grand Prix at McKinley Park in Sacramento.
   Marisol Prieto-Valle routed Eva Wilson 6-0, 6-0 in the final of 4.0 singles, the top women's category.
   Paul Gregory, playing in the tournament for the 31st consecutive year, won the men's 4.0 singles crown.
  
    

   
  

Sunday, September 4, 2011

King falls to Wozniacki in U.S. Open

   At least Vania King can turn her full attention to defending her U.S. Open women's doubles title with Yaroslava Shvedova.
    King, who has played for the Sacramento Capitals in World TeamTennis for the past two seasons, lost to top-ranked Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark 6-2, 6-4 Saturday in the third round of the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows.
   “To be honest, I felt like I was playing with her,” King, who had lost to Wozniacki 6-1, 6-0 the last time they had met, told reporters. “But she isn’t No. 1 without a good reason. She is used to winning. She has that confidence.”
   The match took place on a warm, windy day.
   “The wind, it was going everywhere,” said Wozniacki, the runner-up in the 2009 U.S. Open to Kim Clijsters. “You had to keep the margin over the net and away from the lines.”
   King, a Los Angeles-area native who's listed at 5-foot-5 but appears smaller, fell to 0-3 lifetime against the 5-10 Wozniacki.
   King was seeded fifth in mixed doubles with Rohan Bopanna of India, but they lost to Barbora Zahlavova Strycova of the Czech Republic and Philipp Petzschner of Germany 7-6 (1), 4-6, 10-7 tiebreak Friday in the first round.
   King and Shvedova, from Kazakhstan, will face American wild cards Jessica Pegula, 17, and Taylor Townsend, 15, in the third round of women's doubles. That match likely will be on Monday.
   Meanwhile, wild cards Melanie Oudin, 19, and Jack Sock, 18, stunned top seeds and defending champions Liezel Huber and Bob Bryan 2-6, 6-3, 10-6 tiebreak in the second round of mixed doubles.
   Bryan, a former Stanford All-American, has won four U.S. Open mixed doubles titles (all with different partners) and seven overall. He and his twin brother, Mike, lost in the first round of men's doubles in a Grand Slam tournament for the first time in 10 years last week.
   Scott Lipsky, another ex-Stanford All-American, also lost in mixed doubles. He and U.S. veteran Lisa Raymond fell to Jarmila Gajdosova of Australia and Bruno Soares of Brazil 6-4, 7-6 (3).
   Lipsky, who turned 30 last month, teamed with Casey Dellacqua of Australia to win the French Open mixed doubles title in June for his first Grand Slam crown. Raymond, 38, has won two U.S. Open mixed doubles titles (1996 and 2002) and four overall.