Monday, October 31, 2011

Bryan brothers end drought with Vienna title

   It was an eternity for the Bryan brothers.
   The top seeds and former Stanford All-Americans won their first title since Wimbledon, beating second-seeded Max Mirnyi and Daniel Nestor 7-6 (10), 6-3 Sunday in the $905,000 Erste Bank Open in Vienna.
   It was the seventh title of the year and record 74th overall for the Bryans, the 33-year-old identical twin sons of longtime Capitals coach Wayne Bryan. Both teams already had qualified for next month's Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London.
   "It feels good to get back in the winner's circle," Mike Bryan said on the ATP World Tour's Web site. "We haven't won a title since Wimbledon. Hopefully, it bodes well for the rest of the indoor season, and hopefully we continue playing well and build toward London."
   The Bryans had gone six tournaments without a crown since winning their second Wimbledon title in July. Included in the drought was an opening-round loss in the U.S. Open, the first time they had fallen that early in a Grand Slam tournament in 10 years.
   The pair almost lost in the first round in Vienna, too, saving one match point in a 6-7 (9), 7-6 (4), 11-9 tiebreak victory over Christopher Kas of Germany and Alexander Peya of Austria. The Bryans played in Vienna for the first time since losing in the first round of their inaugural appearance in 200
   "It feels good to come back to Vienna since we haven't been back since 2002," Mike said. "I thought we played really well all week. We escaped a scare in the first round and felt we had no pressure the rest of the week. I thought today was great tennis and it came down to a few points in that first-set tiebreaker and we had a little luck and carried the momentum."
   During a break after the U.S. Open, the Bryans visited San Quentin State Prison near San Francisco last month. In other words, they went from a Slam to the slammer. To read about the experience, go to: www.atpworldtour.com/News/Tennis/2011/09/Features/Bryans-Put-On-Clinic-At-San-Quentin-Prison.aspx.
   Ex-Capital wins title -- Third-seeded Michelle Larcher De Brito of Portugal beat eighth-seeded Monica Puig of Puerto Rico 6-3, 6-2 to win the Puerto Rico $25,000 Women's Challenger in Bayamon.
   It was the second career singles title for the 18-year-old Larcher De Brito, a former Sacramento Capital. She also won a $25,000 tournament in Rancho Santa Fe in February.
   At 14 in 2007, Larcher De Brito helped the Capitals win the last of their record six World  TeamTennis titles. She was the youngest player in WTT history at the time, but 14-year-old Madison Keys of the Philadelphia Freedoms surpassed her by 19 days in 2009.
   The 5-foot-10 Keys, who reached the second round of the U.S. Open in August, is considered the top prospect in U.S. women's tennis.
   Hewitt, Sock in SAP Open -- Former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt and promising American teenager Jack Sock accepted wild cards into the 2012 SAP Open in San Jose, tournament officials announced.
   Hewitt, a 30-year-old Australian, reached No. 1 in the world 10 years ago and won the SAP Open in 2002. Sock, a 19-year-old resident of Overland Park, Kan., won this year's U.S. Open mixed doubles title with Melanie Oudin and reached the singles quarterfinals and doubles final at last month's $100,000 Sacramento Challenger.
   They will join defending champion Milos Raonic of Canada, three-time SAP Open champion Andy Roddick of Austin, Texas, 10th-ranked Gael Monfils of France, former world No. 4 James Blake of Tampa, Fla., and San Francisco native Sam Querrey in the SAP Open, scheduled for Feb. 13-19 at HP Pavilion.
   Tennis legend John McEnroe is scheduled to headline a doubles exhibition match on Feb. 13 at 7 p.m.
   For more information, go to http://www.sapopentennis.com/.
TEB BNP PARIBAS WTA CHAMPIONSHIPS
In Istanbul
Singles final
   Petra Kvitova (3), Czech Republic, def. Victoria Azarenka (4), Belarus, 7-5, 4-6, 6-3.
Doubles final
   Liezel Huber, Houston, and Lisa Raymond (2), Wayne, Pa., def. Kveta Peschke, Czech Republic, and Katarina Srebotnik (1), Slovenia, 6-4, 6-4.


Saturday, October 29, 2011

King-Shvedova end year with loss in elite tournament

   It's tough to call a year in which doubles partners Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova reached the U.S. Open final and the season-culminating WTA Championships disappointing.
   But they set a very high standard.
   The third-seeded team of King, a member of the Sacramento Capitals living in Boynton Beach, Fla., and Shvedova, a Moscow native who plays for Kazakhstan, ended its 2011 season with a 6-3, 6-4 loss Saturday to top-seeded Kveta Peschke of the Czech Republic and Katarina Srebotnik of Slovenia in the semifinals (first round) of the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships in Istanbul.
   King and Shvedova, who became partners in June 2010, are still looking for their first victory in the WTA Championships, featuring the top eight singles players and four best doubles teams of the year in the point standings. They also lost in the semifinals last year.  
   For the second consecutive year, King and Shvedova won two titles. But they won Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 2010 and no Grand Slams this year. They almost repeated at the U.S. Open, falling to Americans Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond 4-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3) in the final.
   Shvedova served for the U.S. Open crown at 5-4 in the second set. She 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.
  After the U.S. Open, King and Shvedova reached the semifinals in Tokyo and Beijing and the final in Osaka and won the title in Moscow before coming to Istanbul.
   When asked on Twitter to rate her 2011 season, King wrote, "not as good as last years, but hard to compare! But solid second half, esp from us open on."
   To read King and Shvedova's latest blog from Istanbul, go to wtatennis.com. 
   In the other semifinal, the second-seeded Huber and Raymond edged No. 4 seeds and defending champions Gisela Dulko of Argentina and Flavia Pennetta of Italy 4-6, 6-3, 10-7 tiebreak. Huber and Raymond trailed 3-6 in the match tiebreaker.
  Below are Saturday's singles and doubles results and Sunday's schedule. Tennis Channel will broadcast the doubles final at 5:30 a.m. PDT (live) and 2:30 p.m. (taped) and the singles final between third-seeded Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic and fourth-seeded Victoria Azarenka of Belarus at 5 p.m. (taped).
   Bryans reach final --Top-seeded Bob and Mike Bryan, former Stanford All-Americans living in Wesley Chapel, Fla., advanced to their 10th final of the year with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over fourth-seeded Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski of Poland in the $905,000 Erste Bank Open in Vienna.
   The Bryan twins are playing in Vienna for the first time since 2002. They will seek their seventh title of the year, but first since winning their second Wimbledon crown in July, when they face second-seeded Max Mirnyi of Belarus and Daniel Nestor of Canada.
  Ilyushin eliminated -- Unseeded Artem Ilyushin, a Mississippi State senior from Granite Bay, lost to top-seeded Nicolas Devilder of France 6-4, 6-2 Friday in the quarterfinals of the $10,000 Players' Choice Open in Birmingham, Ala. 
TEB BNP PARIBAS WTA CHAMPIONSHIPS
In Istanbul
Singles semifinals
   Petra Kvitova (3), Czech Republic, def. Samantha Stosur (7), Australia, 5-7, 6-3, 63. Victoria Azarenka (4), Belarus, def. Vera Zvonareva (6), Russia, 6-2, 6-3.
Doubles semifinals 
   Kveta Peschke, Czech Republic, and Katarina Srebotnik (1), Slovenia, def. Vania King, Boynton Beach, Fla., and Yaroslava Shvedova (3), Kazakhstan, 6-3, 6-4.
    Liezel Huber, Houston, and Lisa Raymond (2), Wayne, Pa., def. Gisela Dulko, Argentina (4), and Flavia Pennetta, Italy, 4-6, 6-3, 10-7 tiebreak.
Sunday's schedule
(Beginning at 5:30 a.m. PDT)
   Peschke and Srebotnik (1) vs. Huber and Raymond (2), Kvitova (3) vs. Azarenka (4) not before 7 a.m. PDT.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

King, Shvedova to face Peschke, Srebotnik

   Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova figure to be the underdogs when they play Kveta Peschke and Katarina Srebotnik on Saturday in the semifinals (first round) of doubles at the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships in Istanbul.
  Peschke, a 36-year-old Czech, and Srebotnik, a 30-year-old Slovenian, have won a WTA-high six titles this year. Among them was Wimbledon for their first Grand Slam crown.
   Peschke and Srebotnik became the first team to qualify for the WTA Championships, featuring the top eight singles players and top four doubles teams in this year's standings. They also reached last year's final, losing to Gisela Duko of Argentina and Flavia Pennetta of Italy.
   King, a 22-year-old American who plays for the Sacramento Capitals of World TeamTennis, and Shvedova, a 24-year-old Moscow native who competes for Kazakhstan, have won two titles this year (Cincinnati in August and Moscow last week). They also lost a heartbreaker in the U.S. Open final as the defending champions.
   King and Shvedova are 2-1 lifetime against Peschke and Srebotnik but lost the most recent meeting 6-4, 6-4 indoors in the Beijing semifinals three weeks ago. The WTA Championships also are indoors.
   "We've played them a few times and had a good match against them in Beijing so we can't wait to play!" Shvedova blogged at wtatennis.com.
   In the other semifinal, Australian Open champions Dulko and Pennetta will face U.S. Open winners Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond.
   Below are this week's singles results and Friday's schedule (live on Tennis Channel at 7 a.m. PDT and taped at 4 p.m.).
   Bryans survive -- No. 1 seeds and former Stanford All-Americans Bob and Mike Bryan saved one match point in a 6-7 (9), 7-6 (4), 11-9 tiebreak victory over Christopher Kas of Germany and Alexander Peya of Austria in the first round of doubles at the $905,000 Erste Bank Open in Vienna.
   The Bryans are playing in Vienna for the second time after a nine-year absence.
   Tursunov ousted -- Eighth-seeded Dmitry Tursunov, a Moscow native living in Folsom, lost to Potito Starace of Italy 6-2, 6-4 in the second round of the $663,750 St. Petersburg (Russia) Open.
   Tursunov, a semifinalist in St. Petersburg last year, fell to 0-3 lifetime against Starace. The first two matches were on clay. St. Petersburg is played on an indoor hardcourt.
   Ilyushin advances -- Artem Ilyushin, a senior at Mississippi State from Granite Bay, beat wild card Austin Smith of Atlanta 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 in the second round of the $10,000 Players' Choice Open in Birmingham, Ala.
   Ilyushin will meet top-seeded Nicolas Devilder of France in Friday's quarterfinals.
TEB BNP PARIBAS WTA CHAMPIONSHIPS
In Istanbul
Tuesday's results
Round Robin -- Red Group
   (1) Caroline Wozniaki (DEN) d. (8) Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) 5-7, 6-2, 6-4. 
   (3) Petra Kvitova (CZE) d. (6) Vera Zvonareva (RUS) 6-2, 6-4.
Round Robin -- White Group
   (7) Samantha Stosur (AUS) d. (2) Maria Sharapova (RUS) 6-1, 7-5.
Wednesday's results
Round Robin -- Red Group
   (6) Vera Zvonareva (RUS) d. (1) Caroline Wozniaki (DEN) 6-2, 4-6, 6-3.
Round Robin -- White Group
   (5) Li Na (CHN) d. (2) Maria Sharapova ((RUS) 7-6 (4), 6-4.
   (4) Victoria Azarenka (BLR) d. (7) Samantha Stosur (AUS) 6-2, 6-2.
Thursday's results
Singles
Round Robin -- Red Group
(3) Petra Kvitova (CZE) d. (1) Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) 64 62 (Kvitova qualifies for semifinals).
(8) Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) d. (6) Vera Zvonareva (RUS) 16 62 75 (saved three match points).
Round Robin - White Group
(4) Victoria Azarenka (BLR) d. (5) Li Na (CHN) 62 62 (Azarenka qualifies for semifinals).
Friday's schedule
(Beginning at 7 a.m. PDT)
1. Li Na vs. Samantha Stosur.
2. Petra Kvitova vs. Agnieszka Radwanska.
3. Marion Bartoli (substitute for injured Maria Sharapova) vs. Victoria Azarenka.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Lipsky continues skid after strong first half of year

   Scott Lipsky had an outstanding first half of the year.
   The second half has been another story.
   The doubles specialist and former Stanford All-American suffered his fourth consecutive first-round loss Wednesday, falling with Rajeev Ram to Oliver Marach of Austria and David Marrero of Spain 7-6 (7), 6-1 in the $905,000 Erste Bank Open in Vienna.
   Playing primarily with Ram, Lipsky won three ATP World Tour titles (San Jose, Delray Beach and Barcelona) and three Challenger crowns (Singapore, Dallas and Athens) and reached another ATP final (Johannesburg) from January through April.
   In the Barcelona final on clay, Lipsky and first-time partner Santiago Gonzalez of Mexico saved four match points and beat Bob and Mike Bryan, arguably the greatest doubles team in history, 5-7, 6-2, 12-10 tiebreak.
   Lipsky, the doubles champion of the inaugural Sacramento Challenger in 2005 with ex-Stanford teammate David Martin, also reached the French Open quarterfinals with Ram and won the mixed doubles title there with Casey Dellacqua of Australia for his first Grand Slam crown.
   Since then, however, Lipsky's best results have been two semifinals on the ATP World Tour. The 30-year-old Huntington Beach resident is ranked 27th in doubles, down from his career high of No. 25 on Oct. 3.
   WTA Championships -- As Vania King of the Sacramento Capitals noted in her blog from the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships in Istanbul, the doubles draw will be held Thursday. King is playing with Kazakhstan's Yaroslava Shvedova, who's also blogging at wtatennis.com.
   The four-team doubles field also features Kveta Peschke of the Czech Republic and Katarina Srebotnik of Slovenia, Americans Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond, and defending champions Gisela Dulko of Argentina and Flavia Pennetta of Italy.
   Ilyushin falls in doubles -- Artem Ilyushin, a senior at Mississippi State from Granite Bay, and Gilad Ben Zvi of Israel lost to Andrei Daescu of Romania and Milan Pokrajac of Canada 7-6 (6), 6-3 in the doubles quarterfinals of the $10,000 Players' Choice Open in Birmingham, Ala.
   Ilyushin is scheduled to meet wild card Austin Smith of Atlanta on Thursday in the second round of singles.

Sacramento finalists lose early in Vienna

   It was a bad day for the finalists of the recent $100,000 Sacramento Challenger.
   Champion Ivo Karlovic and runner-up James Blake lost Tuesday in the first round of the $905,000 Erste Bank Open in Vienna.
   The 6-foot-10 Karlovic, 32, retired with a back injury after losing the first set 7-6 (4) to qualifier Aljaz Bedene of Slovenia. Karlovic was playing in his first tournament since winning Sacramento and the $100,000 Tiburon Challenger back to back.
   Blake, 31, fell to Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 in their first meeting in six years.
   Tursunov advances -- Eighth-seeded Dmitry Tursunov, a Moscow native living in Folsom, improved to 4-0 against qualifier Teymuraz Gabashvili, a Georgia native who plays for Russia, with a 7-5, 6-3 victory in the first round of the $663,750 St. Petersburg (Russia) Open.
   Tursunov, a semifinalist in St. Petersburg last year, will face Potito Starace of Italy for the first time in five years in the second round. Starace, 30, is 2-0 against Tursunov, but both matches were on clay.
   King, Shvedova blog -- Vania King of the Sacramento Capitals and Yaroslava Shvedova are blogging daily from Istanbul, where they'll compete in doubles this week in the WTA Championships. Here's the link to their latest post:
www.wtatennis.com/blog/20111025/vania-slavas-istanbul-blog-tuesday_2257191_2494282
   Ilyushin triumphs -- Artem Ilyushin, a senior at Mississippi State from Granite Bay, upset his doubles partner, seventh-seeded Gilad Ben Zvi of Israel, 7-5, 7-5 in the first round of the $10,000 Player's Choice Open in Birmingham, Ala.
   Ben Zvi and Ilyushin, meanwhile, knocked off second-seeded Haydn Lewis of Barbados and Marvin Rolle of the Bahamas 6-4, 3-6, 10-3 tiebreak in the first round of doubles.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

King, Shvedova have extra incentive in elite tourney

   Of the four doubles teams in this week's TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships in Istanbul, only Vania King and Yaroslova Shvedova did not win a Grand Slam title this year.
   Not that they didn't come close.
   As the defending U.S. Open champions, King and Shvedova lost to Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond 4-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3) in the final.
   Shvedova, a Moscow native who plays for Kazakhstan, served for the match at 5-4 in the second set. She also had the match on her racket at 5-4 in the second-set tiebreaker but double-faulted, and she and King, a member of the Sacramento Capitals living in Boynton Beach, Fla., lost the next point after Shvedova's 76-mph first serve.
   The top eight singles players and top four doubles teams in this year's point standings qualified for the WTA Championships.
   The tournament is being held in Istanbul for the first time after three years in Doha, Qatar. What, the WTA couldn't find somewhere more remote for its marquee event? Was Ulan Bator, Mongolia, booked?
   Competing in singles, in order of seeding, are Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark, Maria Sharapova of Russia, Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic, Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, Li Na of China, Vera Zvonareva of Russia, Samantha Stosur of Australia and Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland.
   Defending champion Kim Clijsters, plagued by injuries, finished 13th in the standings.
   The doubles field consists of, in order of seeding, Wimbledon champions Kveta Peschke of the Czech Republic and Katarina Srebotnik of Slovenia, Americans Huber and Raymond, King and Shvedova, and defending champions and Australian Open winners Gisela Dulko of Argentina and Flavia Pennetta of Italy and .
   French Open champions Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka finished 11th in the standings.
   Of course, the Venus and Serena Williams would demolish any of these teams, but they haven't been healthy at the same time since the Bill Clinton administration.
   Besides Dulko and Pennetta, Huber and Raymond are the only other former WTA Championships titlists in the field but with different partners. Raymond has won the crown three times, with Rennae Stubbs of Australia in 2001 and Stosur in 2005 and 2006. Huber has captured the title twice, with Cara Black of Zimbabwe in 2007 and 2008.
   King and Shvedova made their WTA Championships debut last year, losing to Dulko and Pennetta in the semifinals (first round).
   King and Shvedova are blogging from Istanbul. Here's the link: www.wtatennis.com/blog/20111024/vania-slavas-istanbul-blog-monday_2257191_2492902.
   Tursunov falls in doubles -- Dmitry Tursunov, a Moscow native living in Folsom, and Igor Kunitsyn of Russia lost to Michael Kohlmann and Alexander Waske of Germany 7-5, 6-4 Monday in the first round of doubles at the $663,750 St. Petersburg (Russia) Open.
   Tursunov, seeded eighth in singles, will face a qualifier in the first round.
   New rankings -- Following are this week's world rankings of professional 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), 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 -- No. 27 in doubles (-1), unranked in singles.
   Mark Knowles, Sacramento Capitals of World TeamTennis (2001-07, 2009-11) -- No. 42 in doubles (+2), unranked in singles.
   Dmitry Tursunov, Folsom resident -- No. 39 in singles (+1), No. 234 in doubles (-83).
   Sam Querrey, San Francisco native -- No. 116 in singles (-2), No. 31 in doubles (no change).
   David Martin, 2002 NCAA doubles runner-up from Stanford -- No. 106 in doubles (+2), No. 663 in singles (+39).
   John Paul Fruttero, Cal All-American in 2001 and 2002 -- Career-high No. 133 in doubles (no change), 1,236 in singles (+10).
   Conor Niland, 2006 Pacific-10 Conference Player of the Year and two-time All-American at Cal -- No. 193 in singles (+10), unranked in doubles. 
   Jimmy Wang, Folsom resident -- No. 281 in singles (+99), No. 551 in doubles (+2).
   Dusan Vemic, Capitals (2010-11) -- No. 501 in doubles (no change), No. 1,525 in singles (+9).
   Kiryl Harbatsiuk, three-time Big Sky Conference MVP (2009-11) at Sacramento State -- No. 763 in singles (+1), No. 1,253 in doubles (+6).
Women
   Vania King, Capitals (2010-11) -- No. 7 in doubles (+2), No. 77 in singles (+2).
   Raquel Kops-Jones, 2003 NCAA doubles champion from Cal -- No. 37 in doubles (no change), unranked in singles.
   Yasmin Schnack, Elk Grove resident, Sacramento Capitals of World TeamTennis (2011) -- No. 208 in doubles (career high, +4), No. 403 in singles (+3).
   Maria Sanchez, Modesto resident -- No. 377 in doubles (+1), No. 688 in singles (career high, +7).

Saturday, October 22, 2011

King, Shvedova head to Istanbul on high note

   Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova know how to peak for big events.
   The second seeds, preparing for next week's TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships in Istanbul, rallied to beat fourth-seeded Anastasia Rodionova and Galina Voskoboeva 7-6 (3), 6-3 Saturday for the doubles title at the $721,000 Kremlin Cup in Moscow.
   King and Shvedova saved two set points at 5-6 in the first set and overcame a 3-1 deficit in the second set to win their second WTA doubles title of the year and fourth since becoming partners in June 2010.
  King and Shvedova captured their first two titles in Grand Slam tournaments: Wimbledon and the U.S. Open last year. They also won the Cincinnati crown in their last tournament before this year's U.S. Open, in which they lost a three-set heartbreaker to Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond in the final.
  "I guess Slava and I bloom late in the season," King, a member of the Sacramento Capitals living in Boynton Beach, Fla., said on the WTA's Web site. "It was a high level from all four players (Saturday). We played consistently and stepped it up on the big points. They played well. Maybe their level dropped in the second set, but overall I think we all played a really good match. I guess we were just a bit luckier on the big points.
   "We didn't know our schedule for the last few weeks, but I'm really glad we came to Moscow. We had a great week for practice and for matches, and it was a great experience to play here to get ready for Istanbul."
   All four doubles finalists except King were born in Russia but play for other countries. Shvedova and Voskoboeva hail from Moscow but compete for Kazakhstan. Rodionova, a native of Tambov (300 miles southeast of Moscow) and a former Capital, became an Australian citizen in 2009.
   Blake falls -- James Blake, the runner-up in the $100,000 Sacramento Challenger two weeks ago, lost to Jarkko Nieminen 7-6 (5), 5-7, 6-2 in the semifinals of the $825,000 Stockholm Open.
   After losing his first six matches against Blake, Nieminen has won the last two, both in Stockholm. Blake, a 31-year-old Tampa, Fla., resident, was bidding for his third Stockholm crown after beating Paradorn Srichaphan of Thailand in the 2005 final and Nieminen in the 2006 title match.
   Nieminen, a 30-year-old Finn, will face top-seeded Gael Monfils, a Frenchman who beat sixth-seeded Milos Raonic of Canada 6-7 (6), 6-4, 6-3.
   Monfils and Raonic were scheduled to meet in the San Jose semifinals in February, but Monfils defaulted with a left wrist injury. Raonic, who will turn 21 in December, went on to beat defending champion Fernando Verdasco of Spain for his first ATP World Tour title.
   The unseeded Nieminen, who reached a career-high No. 13 in the world in 2006, seeks his first Stockholm title in his third appearance in the final. He fell to Sjeng Schalken of the Netherlands 10 years ago in addition to Blake five years ago.
   Nieminen is 1-9 in ATP World Tour finals, having beaten Mario Ancic of Croatia for the 2006 Auckland title.
   Lu tops Wang for title -- Top-seeded Yen-Hsun Lu, the runner-up in the 2007 Sacramento Challenger, defeated unseeded Jimmy Wang, a Folsom resident, 7-5, 6-3 in an all-Taiwanese final at the $100,000 Samsung Securities Cup in Seoul, South Korea.
   Wang, a former top-100 player who trains with Dmitry Tursunov at the Gorin Tennis Academy in Granite Bay, returned to action last November after missing three years because of two operations on his right (playing) wrist. He reached the semifinals of the $15,000 Sacramento Futures in June.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Tursunov eliminated in Moscow quarterfinals

   The home-court advantage wasn't enough for Dmitry Tursunov.
   Playing in his hometown, the sixth seed lost to top-seeded Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia 6-4, 6-2 Friday in the quarterfinals of the $725,000 Kremlin Cup in Moscow.
   Tipsarevic will meet his third Russian in a row, fourth-seeded Nikolay Davydenko, in the semifinals. It will be a rare matchup of two men under 6 feet tall. Tipsarevic, 27, is listed at 5-11 and Davydenko, 30, at 5-10.
   Three of Davydenko's 21 career ATP World Tour singles titles have come in Moscow (2004, 2006 and 2007).
   Tipsarevic, who has an outside chance to qualify for the Barclay ATP World Tour Finals next month in London, evened his career record against Tursunov, a longtime Sacramento-area resident, to 2-2.
   "It was my best match in a long time, but now it will be even tougher against Davydenko," Tipsarevic, who eliminated 2008 Moscow champion Igor Kunitsyn in the second round, said on the ATP's Web site. "It is not great to play against three Russian players in Moscow, but the crowd has been very fair, applauding my good shots."
   Tursunov beat Tipsarevic 7-6 (6), 6-7 (3), 7-5 two weeks ago in the first round at Tokyo. But Tipsarevic might have had a letdown after winning his first career ATP World Tour title the previous week in the Malaysian Open.
   In Saturday's other semifinal, second seed and defending champion Viktor Troicki of Serbia will face qualifier Jeremy Chardy of France.
   Troicki edged fifth-seeded Alex Bogomolov Jr., a Moscow-born American and semifinalist at last year's Sacramento Challenger, 7-6 (6), 6-7 (1), 7-6 (3) in 3  hours, 38 minutes. The marathon tied the longest best-of-three-set match of the year, Rafael Nadal's 7-6 (5), 6-7 (4), 7-6 (9) victory over Spanish countryman Fernando Verdasco in the third round at Cincinnati in August.
   "Mentally and physically it was very tough, and I am exhausted now," Troicki said. "I am in the semifinals now, and I hope I will be ready. Chardy is very talented and struggled a little bit this season but now is back in good form. I like playing here; it is almost like playing at home."
   Chardy had a much easier time than Troicki in the quarterfinals, defeating Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany 6-4, 6-3.
   Blake advances -- James Blake, the runner-up in the recent $100,000 Sacramento Challenger, reached the semifinals of the $825,000 Stockholm Open when David Nalbandian of Argentina defaulted with a strained left hamstring.
   Blake will face Finland's Jarkko Nieminen, who beat qualifier Tobias Kamke of Germany 3-6, 7-5, 6-1, in a matchup of unseeded players in their 30s who reached the top 15 five years ago. Blake climbed to No. 4 and Nieminen to No. 13 before injuries and age took their toll.
   Blake, 31, is 6-1 lifetime against Nieminen, 30. This will be their fourth meeting in Stockholm, all in the quarterfinals or later. Blake won 6-4, 6-2 in the 2006 final for the fourth of his 10 career ATP World Tour singles titles. He also won the 2005 Stockholm crown over since-retired Paradorn Srichaphan of Thailand.
   Nieminen, however, won the last meeting 6-0, 6-2 in the 2010 Stockholm quarterfinals.
   Kamke, a 25-year-old German, won last year's Tiburon Challenger.
   In the other semifinal, top-seeded Gael Monfils of France will play sixth-seeded Milos Raonic of Canada. The 6-5 Raonic, 20, won his first career ATP World Tour title in San Jose in February.
   WTA tour -- Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova advanced to the doubles final of the $721,000 Kremlin Cup with yet another victory over Natalie Grandin and Vladimira Uhlirova.
   The second-seeded King, a member of the Sacramento Capitals living in Boynton Beach, Fla., and Shvedova, a Moscow native who plays for Kazakhstan, edged the third-seeded Grandin of South Africa and Uhlirova of the Czech Republic 6-4, 2-6, 10-8 tiebreak.
   King and Shvedova improved to 4-0 this year against Grandin and Uhlirova, with three of the victories coming by two points in match tiebreakers.
   The winners will meet fourth-seeded Anastasia Rodionova, an Australian citizen from Russia and a former Capital, and Galina Voskoboeva of Kazakhstan in Saturday's final.

Tursunov to face Tipsarevic again

  Dmitry Tursunov and Janko Tipsarevic have plenty of motivation entering today's quarterfinal matchup in the $725,000 Kremlin Cup in Moscow.
   The sixth-seeded Tursunov, a 28-year-old Sacramento-area resident, is playing in his hometown three months after his father died of pancreatic cancer at 59. When Dmitry was a child, Igor Tursunov quickly recognized his son's talent and pushed him hard to become a professional tennis player.
   The top-seeded Tipsarevic, a 27-year-old Serb, hopes to qualify for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals and avenge a 7-6 (6), 6-7 (3), 7-5 loss to Tursunov two weeks ago in the first round at Tokyo.
   The top eight singles players of the year qualify for the ATP World Tour Finals, Nov. 20-27 in London. Tipsarevic ranks 14th in the point standings (and world rankings).
   After receiving a first-round bye in Moscow, Tipsarevic beat 2008 champion Igor Kunitsyn 6-7 (5), 6-1, 6-0 in the second round.
   "I am very motivated to do well in these last few tournaments in order to try and finish in the top 10 and maybe qualify for London," Tipsarevic said on the ATP's Web site. "I was sick in the last two weeks and had not played a match for nine days. The first match at a tournament is always tough, so I'm happy I could finish very strong."
   Tipsarevic was coming off his first ATP title, in the Malaysian Open, when he lost to Tursunov.
   "He beat me in a very tough match in Tokyo two weeks ago, so I am looking for revenge," said the 5-foot-11 Tipsarevic, who is 1-2 lifetime against Tursunov.
   Tursunov has rebounded to 40th in the world after undergoing three operations on his left ankle or foot between April 2009 and February 2010. He advanced Thursday with a 6-3, 7-6 (1) victory over Julien Benneteau of France.
   Blake vs. Nalbandian -- In a battle of former top-five players, James Blake will meet David Nalbandian today in the quarterfinals of the $825,000 Stockholm Open.
   Five years ago, Nalbandian reached No. 3 and Blake No. 4. They have dropped to No. 58 and No. 69, respectively, because of injuries and age.
   Nalbandian is a 29-year-old Argentine, and Blake, the runner-up in the $100,000 Sacramento Challenger two weeks ago, is a 31-year-old American.
   Blake is 2-0 lifetime against Nalbandian, including a 6-2, 6-4 victory in the second round at Washington, D.C., in August.
   Blake stunned second-seeded Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina 6-4, 6-4 Wednesday, and Nalbandian crushed No. 7 seed Ivan Dodig of Croatia 6-1, 6-1 Thursday.
   WTA tour in Moscow -- Second-seeded Vania King, a member of the Sacramento Capitals living in Boynton Beach, Fla., and Yaroslava Shvedova, a Moscow native who plays for Kazakhstan, reached the doubles semifinals of the Kremlin Cup when Russians Vitalia Diatchenko and Elena Vesnina retired while leading 6-4, 4-2. Diatchenko suffered a right knee injury.
    
  
     

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Blake shocks del Potro in Stockholm

   Apparently, playing in the recent $100,000 Sacramento Challenger helped James Blake.
   After reaching the Sacramento final and taking last week off, Blake stunned second-seeded Juan Martin del Potro 6-4, 6-4 Wednesday in the second round of the $825,000 Stockholm Open on the ATP World Tour.
    "This is my best win in the last three years, I'd say," Blake asserted on the ATP's Web site. "I played some of my best tennis, and I'm really proud of it. He's going to be a great champion for many years, so I'll be proud of this one for a long time."
   Blake, the runner-up to 6-foot-10 Ivo Karlovic in Sacramento, evened his career record against del Potro at 2-2. Del Potro had won the last two meetings, 6-4, 7-6 (3) in July in the second round at Los Angeles and 6-4, 6-7 (3), 5-7, 6-3, 10-8 in 4 hours, 17 minutes in the second round of the 2010 Australian Open.
   "Juan Martin is an excellent player, and he made me work for everything," Blake said. "I felt coming into Stockholm, I had some confidence. The body feels good for a change. We had a tight match earlier in the summer. and the breaks just went my way today."
   The 31-year-old Blake, who splits his time between his childhood home of Fairfield, Conn., and his training base of Tampa, Fla., is ranked 69th in the world after reaching a career high of No. 4 in 2006. He suffers from chronic tendinitis in his right knee.
   The 6-5 del Potro, the 2009 U.S. Open champion, missed eight months last year because of a right (playing) wrist injury that required surgery. The 23-year-old Argentine, a semifinalist at San Jose in February, has rebounded to No. 15.
   Blake could face another Argentine, David Nalbandian, in Friday's quarterfinals. Nalbandian, the 2002 Wimbledon runner-up who underwent right hip surgery in 2009, is scheduled to play seventh-seeded Ivan Dodig of Croatia on Thursday in the second round.
   Blake is 2-0 against Nalbandian, including a 6-2, 6-4 victory in the second round at Washington in August, and has never played Dodig.
   Also reaching the Stockholm quarterfinals were fifth-seeded Kevin Anderson of South Africa and sixth-seeded Milos Raonic of Canada. The 6-8 Anderson, ranked 31st, won the 2007 Sacramento Futures. The 6-5 Raonic, ranked 29th, won his first career ATP title in February at San Jose.
   Ryan Sweeting, a 6-5 American who reached the semifinals of last week's $100,000 Tiburon Challenger, lost to Grigor Dimitrov, a 20-year-old Bulgarian, 6-3, 6-1 in the first round.
   In Tiburon, Sweeting complained of burnout following an outstanding first half of the year that propelled him to a career-high No. 64 last month. He's now No. 66.
   Scott Lipsky, an ex-Stanford All-American, and Rajeev Ram, the Sacramento Challenger runner-up in singles (2006) and doubles (2008, with John Isner), lost in the first round of doubles to Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus and del Potro 4-6, 7-5, 10-6 tiebreak.
   Tursunov playing in hometown --Eighth-seeded Dmitry Tursunov, a Folsom resident playing in his hometown, is scheduled to meet Julien Benneteau of France on Thursday in the second round of the $725,000 Kremlin Cup in Moscow.
   Tursunov, who beat Albert Ramos of Spain 7-6 (5), 6-4 in the first round, is 0-1 lifetime against Benneteau after falling 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 in the first round at Cincinnati four years ago.
   Tursunov and countryman Igor Kunitsyn, the defending Moscow doubles champions, lost to Alex Bogomolov Jr., an American born in Moscow, and Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan in the opening round 7-5, 3-6, 10-8 tiebreak. Tursunov also won the Moscow doubles title in 2007 with countryman Marat Safin, who retired at the end of 2009.
   WTA tour in Moscow -- Second-seeded Vania King, a member of the Sacramento Capitals living in Boynton Beach, Fla., and Yaroslava Shvedova, a Moscow native who plays for Kazakhstan, defeated Maria Kondratieva of Russia and Petra Martic of Croatia 6-2, 6-2 in the first round of the Kremin Cup.
   Neither King nor Shvedova is playing singles in Moscow.

Monday, October 17, 2011

After struggling, ex-Capital Hendler on the rise

   It was all going to be so easy.
   Tammy Hendler was going to skyrocket to stardom. Maybe even go all the way to
No. 1.
   After all, at age 15, hadn't she:
   --Represented Belgium three times in the Fed Cup, the prestigious women's international team competition?
   --Beaten three of the top 200 players in the world?
   --Been ranked No. 5 in the world among girls 18 and under?
   --Reached the girls singles semifinals at Wimbledon?
   --Become the youngest active player in World TeamTennis as a member of the Sacramento Capitals in 2008?
   And hadn't Belgium, about the size of Maryland, recently produced two No. 1 women in Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin?
   Professional tennis, though, has been anything but easy for Hendler. She finished 2008 at No. 350 in the world, 2009 at No. 365 and last year at No. 367. At least she was consistent.
   "My best results were at 13, 14, 15," Hendler, who's still a teenager after turning 19 in August, marveled during last month's Redding Challenger. "I was so tremendously young. I was out of the juniors at 15, which is crazy.
   "If I could go back, I would definitely take more time to develop physically. Starting at 14, I played 20 weeks a year on the tour for five years, and it took a toll on me.
   "I was (near) 260 (in the world) at 16. Until a couple of months ago, I would have died for that ranking. But I feel I'm twice the player now."
    After cutting ties with the Belgian Tennis Federation and getting fitter, Tammy is enjoying a career renaissance.
   In $50,000 tournaments, the 5-foot-9 Hendler won her first career doubles title in Lexington, Ky., with American Chi Chi Scholl in July and reached the singles quarterfinals as a qualifier in Bronx, N.Y., in August. 
   Competing in $25,000 events in Japan during the two weeks before Redding, Hendler advanced to the semifinals, then won her second career singles title. Seeded seventh in Redding, she succumbed to fatigue and cramps in a first-round loss to wild card Allie Will, the top player for reigning NCAA champion Florida.
   Hendler arrived in Redding on Monday night of the tournament and won in the first round of doubles on Tuesday before facing Will on Wednesday.
   "I was seeded here for the first time and pushed myself to come, but your body is the boss," lamented Hendler, who defaulted her next doubles match. "I guess I got punished for it."
   After recovering at home in Bradenton Fla., for a week, Hendler played in two $25,000 tournaments in Indonesia. She won the singles title in Jakarta, beating No. 107 Iryna Bremond of France in the semifinals, and reached the singles quarterfinals and captured the doubles title in Palembang. Hendler is now ranked a career-high No. 232 in singles.
   "A lot of people counted me out before Japan," the outspoken, gregarious Hendler admitted on the phone from Bradenton, where she trains at the IMG Bollettieri Tennis Academy, before leaving for Indonesia. "Nick (Bollettieri) has always been supportive. I told him yesterday, 'Thank you, Nick. You always believed in me.' He's had a big role in my tennis career."
  Bollettieri did not return phone calls seeking comment.  
  Hendler was born in South Africa, like her father and coach, Mark. Her mother, Rachel, is a native of the Belgian Congo (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo). The family has lived in Bradenton since Tammy was 9, except for the 1 1/2 years in 2008 and 2009 they spent in Belgium.
   "I don't think Belgium was the right environment for me," Hendler said. "I have a good support team here at the IMG academy."
   The low point for Hendler came at the end of her stay in Belgium.
  "I told my dad I didn't want to play anymore," she said. "We came back here (to Bradenton), and within two weeks, I said, 'I want to get back on the court.' "
   Hendler left the Belgian Tennis Federation, which had paid all her expenses, at the beginning of last year.
   "They put totally unrealistic expectations on me," Hendler charged. "It was the biggest disaster of my life. A good part of my development was held back because of them. At 17, they wanted me to be top 100, which is totally insane unless you're 6-2. But it's over, it made me stronger, and I learned from it. I have no contact with them."
   Perhaps Belgium was spoiled by the success of Clijsters and Henin. Yves Freson, the president of the Belgian Tennis Federation, did not reply to an e-mai seeking comment.
   Hendler would consider playing for the United States.
   "A lot can change if the (Belgian) federation comes around and supports me," she said. "But if America comes around before then, I'd take it in a minute."
  When Mark Hendler was asked if he would do anything differently in retrospect, he replied without hesitation: "Not moved to Belgium. Tammy was 15, 16 (years old) and No. 5 in the world in the juniors. She started playing pro tournaments and doing well. But as she says, 'That was lucky; this is real.' "
   After improving her mental state by leaving Belgium and the federation, Hendler addressed her physical condition. By doubling her off-court training to 10 hours a week this year and eating healthier, she lost 20 to 25 pounds from her Capitals days. She said she weighs 65 to 66 kilograms (143 to 145 pounds).
   "Not many girls are as fit as I am now," Hendler said. "I can physically outfight them."
   Hendler has fond memories of her stint with the Capitals, who went 8-6 in the 2008 regular season and lost in the semifinals of the WTT playoffs.
   "It was a time I'll never forget," Hendler said. "I had so much fun. It was a great team. I would consider playing again. This year, I was too late. If I had the opportunity to play again, I definitely would."
   After the Capitals drafted Hendler, The Sacramento Bee interviewed her on the telephone. Regarding tennis, she said: "I love it, love it, love it, and I'm sure I will until the day I die."
   Does she still feel that way?
   "I can honestly say I love it more now than on the phone," Hendler said. "Success makes you love it even more. I've developed as a person so much. My dad has been by my side the whole time. He has great discipline, I've grown up, and it has given me perspective. If you don't dedicate yourself to your business, you won't be as successful as you want, and this is my business.
   "What's not to love about it? At 16, I just knew if I stayed up and watched movies, it would be too late and I'd have to work out the next morning. What 16-year-old wants to do that?"
   Back then, Hendler didn't think about where she'd be ranked at 19.
   "I just wanted to be No. 1," she said. "I still want to be No. 1. It's what I wake up thinking about and what I go to bed thinking about. But I'm keeping it realistic. I've learned my lesson, and my goal is the top 20. When you're there, a good Grand Slam result can put you in the top 10. If I get to the top 20, I'll be very happy."
   Follow Tammy Hendler at www.twitter.com/tamhendler.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Karlovic completes NorCal sweep; new rankings

   There was no stopping Ivo Karlovic and his blistering serve in Northern California.
   The 6-foot-10 Croat outlasted Sam Querrey, a 6-6 San Francisco native, 6-7 (2), 6-1, 6-4 Sunday to win the $100,000 First Republic Bank Tiburon Challenger at the Tiburon Peninsula Club. Karlovic also won the $100,000 Sacramento Challenger the previous week.
   Both Karlovic, 32, and Querrey, 24, are former top-20 players coming back from injuries.
   Karlovic, who reached a career-high No. 14 in 2008, missed the last half of 2010 after undergoing Achilles' tendon-related surgery. Querrey, who climbed to a career-high No. 17 in January, sat out for three months after having arthroscopic elbow surgery in June.
   The difference in Sunday's final was that Karlovic, seeded second, saved all seven break points against him, whereas Querrey, seeded third, lost three of the six break points he faced.
   The other statistics were essentially even between two of the most dominating servers in tennis.
   Karlovic had 14 aces to Querrey's 12 and converted 70 percent of his first serves to his opponent's 64. Both players won 81 percent of the points on their first serves and committed  three double faults. Karlovic won 97 total points and Querrey 93.
    In the doubles final, Carsten Ball and Chris Guccione of Australia also completed a Northern California sweep with a 6-1, 5-7, 10-6 tiebreak victory over Steve Johnson of Orange and Querrey.
   WTA tour -- Vania King of the Sacramento Capitals and Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan clinched the fourth and final spot in the doubles field of the WTA Championships, Oct. 25-30 in Istanbul, Turkey.
   King and Shvedova, the U.S. Open runners-up, join Wimbledon champions Kveta Peschke and Katarina Srebotnik, U.S. Open titlists Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond and Australian Open winners Gisela Dulko and Flavia Pennetta.
   New rankings -- Following are this week's world rankings of professional 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), 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 -- No. 26 in doubles (no change), unranked in singles.
   Mark Knowles, Sacramento Capitals of World TeamTennis (2001-07, 2009-11) -- No. 44 in doubles (-1), unranked in singles.
   Dmitry Tursunov, Folsom resident -- No. 40 in singles (+1), No. 151 in doubles (+17).
   Sam Querrey, San Francisco native -- No. 114 in singles (+6), No. 31 in doubles (+3).
   David Martin, 2002 NCAA doubles runner-up from Stanford -- No. 108 in doubles (-14), No. 702 in singles (+5).
   John Paul Fruttero, Cal All-American in 2001 and 2002 -- Career-high No. 133 in doubles (no change), 1,246 in singles (-+3).
   Conor Niland, 2006 Pacific-10 Conference Player of the Year and two-time All-American at Cal -- No. 203 in singles (-10), unranked in doubles. 
   Jimmy Wang, Folsom resident -- No. 380 in singles (+2), No. 553 in doubles (+115).
   Dusan Vemic, Capitals (2010-11) -- No. 501 in doubles (+2), No. 1,534 in singles (-3).
   Kiryl Harbatsiuk, three-time Big Sky Conference MVP (2009-11) at Sacramento State -- No. 764 in singles (-33), No. 1,259 in doubles (-3).
Women
   Vania King, Capitals (2010-11) -- No. 9 in doubles (no change), No. 79 in singles (+4).
   Raquel Kops-Jones, 2003 NCAA doubles champion from Cal -- No. 37 in doubles (+5), unranked in singles.
   Yasmin Schnack, Elk Grove resident, Sacramento Capitals of World TeamTennis (2011) -- No. 212 in doubles (-2), No. 406 in singles (-20).
   Maria Sanchez, Modesto resident -- No. 378 in doubles (-2), No. 695 in singles (+2).

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Karlovic, Querrey to meet in Tiburon final

   One week ago, Sam Querrey and Ivo Karlovic met in the semifinals of the $100,000 Sacramento Challenger.
   On Sunday, they'll play for the title in the $100,000 First Republic Bank Tiburon Challenger at the Tiburon Peninsula Club.
   The third-seeded Querrey, a 6-foot-6 native of nearby San Francisco, knocked out top-seeded Ryan Sweeting of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., 6-4, 6-3 in Saturday's first semifinal. The second-seeded Karlovic, a 6-10 Croat, downed eighth-seeded Bjorn Phau, 5-9 of Germany, 7-5, 7-5.
   Karlovic outlasted Querrey 7-6 (6), 3-6, 6-4 in Sacramento in their first meeting in three years and went on to win the title. Querrey, though, leads the head-to-head series 3-2.
   The 32-year-old Karlovic is the hardest server in tennis, and Querrey, 24, isn't far behind.
   Karlovic pounded a 156-mph serve in March to break Andy Roddick's record of 155. Karlovic also set a Davis Cup record with 78 aces two years ago in a five-set loss to Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic that lasted 5 hours, 59 minutes.
   Querrey, meanwhile, fired 10 consecutive aces in a quarterfinal victory over James Blake in Indianapolis four years ago.
   WTA tour in Osaka, Japan -- Top-seeded Vania King of the Sacramento Capitals and Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan lost to fourth-seeded Kimiko Date-Krumm, 41, and Zhang Shuai of China 7-5, 3-6, 11-9 tiebreak in the final of the $220,000 HP Japan Women's Open.
   Earlier, King and Shvedova completed a rain-suspended 6-0, 6-2 victory over third-seeded Raquel Kops-Jones, a former Cal star from Fresno, and Abigail Spears of San Diego.
   Even at 41, Date-Krumm isn't close to the record for oldest player to win a title on the WTA tour. Martina Navratilova was two months shy of her 50th birthday when she won in Montreal with Nadia Petrova in 2006.

$100,000 FIRST REPUBLIC BANK TIBURON CHALLENGER
At Tiburon Peninsula Club
Singles semifinals
   Sam Querrey (3), Las Vegas, def. Ryan Sweeting (1), Fort Lauderdale, Fla., 6-4, 6-3. Ivo Karlovic (2), Croatia, def. Bjorn Phau (8), Germany, 7-5, 7-5.
Doubles semifinals
   Steve Johnson, Orange, and Sam Querrey, Las Vegas, def. Alex Kuznetsov, Tampa, Fla., and Ryan Sweeting, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., 6-3, 7-5.
Today's schedule
Stadium Court
(Beginning at noon)
   Karlovic (2) vs. Querrey (3), Johnson and Querrey vs. Ball and Guccione not before 2 p.m.

Friday, October 14, 2011

With less drama, Karlovic tops Fischer again

   This time, Ivo Karlovic didn't have to save any match points.
   Not that there wasn't some suspense.
   The second-seeded Karlovic, a 6-foot-10 Croat, defeated unseeded Martin Fischer, a 5-11 Austrian, 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 Friday in the quarterfinals of the $100,000 First Republic Bank Tiburon Challenger at the Tiburon Peninsula Club.
   The third set was closer than the score indicated. Serving at 5-3, Karlovic saved three break points before triumphing on his third match point.
   Had Fischer converted one of the break points, he would have served to even the match at 5-5. Easier said than done against Karlovic, who unleashed a 156-mph serve in March to break Andy Roddick's record of 155.
   Last week in Sacramento, Karlovic survived two match points against him in the first round against Fischer and proceeded to win the title.
   Karlovic will play eighth-seeded Bjorn Phau, perhaps the fastest player in men's tennis, Saturday in a matchup of 32-year-olds in the Tiburon semifinals. Phau, a 5-9 German, eliminated unseeded Laurynas Grigelis, a 20-year-old Lithuanian, 6-3, 6-2 in the quarterfinals.
   Karlovic and Phau apparently play each other every five years. The head-to-head series is tied 1-1, with Phau winning 7-6 (5), 7-5 on a hardcourt in the Bronx, N.Y., in 2001 and Karlovic prevailing 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (8) on clay in Munich in 2006.
   In the other semifinal, top-seeded Ryan Sweeting of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., will face third-seeded Sam Querrey of Las Vegas in a matchup of 24-year-olds. Sweeting topped fifth-seeded Vasek Pospisil of Canada 6-2, 3-6, 6-1, and Querrey dispatched unseeded Alex Kuznetsov of Tampa, Fla., 6-1, 6-4.
   Sweeting, a 6-5 native of the Bahamas, is 2-1 lifetime against Querrey, a 6-6 native of San Francisco (across the bay from Tiburon). They have met twice this year, with Sweeting winning on a hardcourt in Delray Beach, Fla., in February and on clay in Houston in April. He went on to win the Houston crown for his only ATP World Tour title.
   WTA tour in Osaka, Japan -- Top-seeded Vania King of the Sacramento Capitals and Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan led third-seeded Raquel Kops-Jones, a former Cal star from Fresno, and Abigail Spears of San Diego 6-0, 2-1 when rain suspended play early Saturday morning PDT in the doubles semifinals at the HP Japan Women's Open. King and Shvedova won the first eight games.

$100,000 FIRST REPUBLIC BANK TIBURON CHALLENGER
 At Tiburon Peninsula Club
 Singles quarterfinals
   Ryan Sweeting (1), Fort Lauderdale, Fla., def. Vasek Pospisil (5), Canada, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1. Ivo Karlovic (2), Croatia, def. Martin Fischer, Austria, 7-5, 4-6, 6-3. Bjorn Phau (8), Germany, def. Laurynas Grigelis, Lithuania, 6-3, 6-2. Sam Querrey (3), Las Vegas, def. Alex Kuznetsov, Tampa, Fla., 6-1, 6-4.
Doubles semifinals
   Carsten Ball and Chris Guccione, Australia, def. Vasek Pospisil, Canada, and Bobby Reynolds, Acworth, Ga., 6-4, 6-3.
Saturday's schedule
Stadium Court
(Beginning at 11 a.m.)
   Sweeting (1) vs. Querrey (3), Phau (8) vs. Karlovic (2) not before 1 p.m., Kuznetsov and Sweeting vs. Johnson and Querrey.
       

Prospects Pospisil, Grigelis reach Tiburon quarters

   Remember the names: Vasek Pospisil and Laurynas Grigelis.
   Two of the brightest prospects in men's professional tennis, they have skyrocketed about 200 places each in the world rankings this year. On Thursday, they reached the quarterfinals of the $100,000 First Republic Bank Tiburon Challenger at the Tiburon Peninsula Club.
   Pospisil, a 21-year-old Canadian, routed Roman Borvanov of Moldova 6-3, 6-0. The 6-foot-4 Pospisil, who beat 22nd-ranked Juan Ignacio Chela of Argentina in the first round at Montreal in August before losing to Roger Federer 7-5, 6-3, has soared from No. 339 at the beginning of the year to No. 135.
   Grigelis, a 20-year-old Lithuanian, outlasted fourth-seeded Bobby Reynolds, a 29-year-old American who reached a career-high No. 63 two years ago, 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-4. Grigelis lacks Pospisil's size but has a tremendous two-handed backhand. He won the Aptos Challenger at 19 in July and has jumped from No. 404 at the beginning of the year to No. 212. 
   In today's quarterfinals, Pospisil will meet top-seeded Ryan Sweeting of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Grigelis will face eighth-seeded Bjorn Phau of Germany, second-seeded Ivo Karlovic of Croatia will take on Martin Fischer of Austria, and third-seeded Sam Querrey will play fellow American Alex Kuznetsov.
   Querrey, 6-6,  was born across the bay in San Francisco and lived in Santa Rosa until moving to Las Vegas at 8 and Thousand Oaks at 11. Phau, 5-9, is one of the fastest players in tennis.
   Karlovic, 6-10, saved two match points against Fischer in the first round of the Sacramento Challenger last week and went on to win the title. 
   WTA tour in Osaka, Japan -- Vania King of the Sacramento Capitals lost to second-seeded Marion Bartoli of France 6-1, 6-2 in the second round of the $220,000 HP Japan Women's Open Tennis. Bartoli avenged a loss to King three weeks ago in the second round at Seoul, South Korea. It was King's first singles victory over a top-10 player.
   Top-seeded King and Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan overwhelmed Eleni Daniilidou of Greece and Mandy Minella of Luxembourg 6-2, 6-1 to reach the doubles semifinals. King and Shvedova will face third-seeded Raquel Kops-Jones, a former Cal All-American from Fresno, and Abigail Spears of San Diego.
   ATP World Tour in Shanghai -- Top-seeded Bob and Mike Bryan, former Stanford All-Americans, lost to sixth-seeded Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski of Poland 3-6, 6-4, 12-10 tiebreak in the doubles quarterfinals of the $3.24 million Shanghai Rolex Masters.
   Fystenberg and Matkowski, the U.S. Open runners-up last month, had dismissed Tommy Robredo of Spain and Dmitry Tursunov of Folsom 6-1, 6-2 in the second round.
$100,000 FIRST REPUBLIC BANK TIBURON CHALLENGER
At Tiburon Peninsula Club
Second-round singles
   Ryan Sweeting (1), Fort Lauderdale, Fla., def. Alex Bogdanovic, Great Britain, 6-2, 6-1. Alex Kuznetsov, Tampa, Fla., def. Uladzimir Ignatik, Belarus, 7-6 (8), 7-5. Sam Querrey (3), Las Vegas, def. Amer Delic, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 6-4, 6-2. Laurynas Grigelis, Lithuania, def. Bobby Reynolds (4), Acworth, Ga., 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-4. Vasek Pospisil (5), Canada, def. Roman Borvanov, Moldova, 6-3, 6-0. Bjorn Phau (8), Germany, def. Alejandro Gonzalez, Colombia, 6-2, 6-2.
Doubles quarterfinals
   Alex Kuznetsov, Tampa, Fla., and Ryan Sweeting, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., def. Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah (1), Colombia, 4-6, 6-2, 11-9 tiebreak. Steve Johnson, Orange, and Sam Querrey, Las Vegas, def. Brian Battistone and Chris Wettengel, Las Vegas, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (4). Vasek Pospisil, Canada, and Bobby Reynolds, Acworth, Ga., def. Treat Conrad Huey, Philippines, and Izak Van der Merwe (2), South Africa, 4-6, 6-3, 10-7 tiebreak. Carsten Ball and Chris Guccione, Australia, def. Laurynas Grigelis, Lithuania, and Uladzimir Ignatik, Belarus, 6-1, 6-2.
Friday's schedule
Stadium Court
(Beginning at 11 a.m.)
   Sweeting (1) vs. Pospisil (5), Fischer vs. Karlovic (2), Ball and Guccione vs. Pospisil and Reynolds, Querrey (3) vs. Kuznetsov.
Court 1
(Beginning at noon)
   Phau (8) vs. Grigelis.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Top seed Sweeting ends skid, advances in Tiburon

   TIBURON -- The best year of Ryan Sweeting's career has taken a toll on him.
   After losing three straight matches and five of six in tennis' major leagues, the top-seeded Sweeting defeated wild card and fellow American Steve Johnson 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 Wednesday in the first round of the $100,000 First Republic Bank Tiburon Challenger at the Tiburon Peninsula Club.
   "I'm trying to find energy for the last run of the year," said Sweeting, the 2005 U.S. Open boys champion. "I'm trying to give it one last push. It's been a long year. I had good results early in the year, but the 10-month season is always tough for me. It's been a tough few months."
   Sweeting, who combines power and quickness at 6-foot-5, steadily rose in the world rankings from No. 249 at the end of 2007 to a career-high No. 64 one month ago. He's now No. 70.
   Sweeting achieved a significant result in each of the first four months of this year in tennis' big leagues. As a qualifier, he reached the second round of the Australian Open in January, the quarterfinals at Delray Beach (Fla.) in February and the third round at Indian Wells in March. Then Sweeting won his first career ATP World Tour title in April on clay in Houston.
   "I got physically a lot fitter and stronger," explained Sweeting, a 24-year-old native of the Bahamas who moved to Fort Lauderdale, Fla, at 12 and still lives there. "I really focused on that in the offseason. I had a lot of confidence after the Australian Open, which is the name of the game."
   Rafael Nadal has been a nemesis, beating Sweeting in straight sets in the Australian Open and Indian Wells and in the first round of Wimbledon.
   Tiburon is only Sweeting's second Challenger, equivalent to Triple-A baseball, since he reached the semifinals in Sarasota, Fla., in late April. He has not advanced past the second round since Sarasota.
   But Sweeting wore down Johnson, the reigning NCAA singles champion from USC. Sweeting lost his serve twice late in the first set, double-faulting three times at 4-5, but recovered.
   "I was up a break in the first set and playing well, but then my serve went away, and I threw in a few double faults," Sweeting said. "He served well in the first set, but then I think his legs went away. He started missing first serves, and I was more aggressive on his second serve. I tried to stay more aggressive in the last two sets."
   Johnson, a senior, is taking this semester off to play professional tournaments as an amateur. He plans to return to USC in the spring in an attempt to join Stanford's Paul Goldstein (1995-98) as the only men to play on four national championship teams and earn All-America honors all four years.
   Martin Fischer of Austria, meanwhile, defeated seventh-seeded Wayne Odesnik of Weston, Fla., 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-1 in the second round to earn another crack at Ivo Karlovic of Croatia.
   Odesnik, the 2007 Sacramento Challenger champion who served a one-year suspension last year for bringing human growth hormone into Australia, was treated for a right thigh injury at 2-5 in the second set.
   The second-seeded Karlovic, 6-10, advanced with a 7-6 (2), 6-2 victory over Robert Farah of Colombia. Farah, a former teammate of Johnson's at USC, hurt his back reaching for a two-handed backhand early in the tiebreaker and took a medical timeout between sets.
   Karlovic saved two match points against Fischer in the first round of last week's Sacramento Challenger and went on to win the title.
   Also Wednesday, sixth-seeded Izak Van der Merwe of South Africa fell to Alex Kuznetsov of Tampa, Fla., 6-4, 4-6, 7-5. Kuznetsov reached the semifinals in Sacramento for the second time.
   ATP World Tour in Shanghai -- Folsom resident Dmitry Tursunov defaulted his second-round singles match against second-seeded Andy Murray in the $3.24 million Shanghai Rolex Masters with a thigh injury.
   Tursunov is scheduled to play in the second round of doubles with Tommy Robredo of Spain against sixth-seeded Poles Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Markowski, the runners-up in the U.S. Open last month.
   Top-seeded Bob and Mike Bryan reached the quarterfinals with a 6-1, 6-4 victory over Marcel Granollers of Spain and Viktor Troicki of Serbia.
   WTA tour in Osaka, Japan --Vania King of the Sacramento Capitals in World TeamTennis defeated fellow American Jill Craybas 6-1, 3-6, 6-1 in the first round of the HP Japan Women's Open.
   King is scheduled to meet second-seeded Marion Bartoli of France in the second round. King recorded her first victory over a top-10 player three weeks ago when she stunned Bartoli in the second round at Seoul, South Korea.
   In doubles, top-seeded King and Yaroslava Shvedova beat Americans Lindsay Lee-Waters and Megan Moulton-Levy 7-5, 6-4 in the first round.
   If King and Shvedova defeat Eleni Daniilidou of Greece and Mandy Minella of Luxembourg, they'll play third-seeded Raquel Kops-Jones, a former Cal All-American from Fresno, and Abigail Spears in the semifinals.
   ITF Men's Circuit in Austin, Texas -- Granite Bay resident Artem Ilyushin, a senior at Mississippi State, and Daniel Chu of Canada lost to fourth-seeded Jesse Levine of Boca Raton, Fla., and Peter Polansky of Canada 6-7 (7), 6-2, 10-8 tiebreak in the first round of doubles at the $15,000 Austin Hill Country Classic.
$100,000 FIRST REPUBLIC BANK TIBURON CHALLENGER
At Tiburon Peninsula Club
First-round singles
   Alejandro Gonzalez, Colombia, def. Jack Sock, Overland Park, Kan., 4-6, 6-0, 6-3. Bjorn Phau (8), Germany, def. Greg Jones, Australia, 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-1. Alex Bogdanovic, Great Britain, def. Chris Guccione, Australia, 7-6 (1), 6-3. Alex Kuznetsov, Tampa, Fla., def. Izak Van der Merwe (6), South Africa, 6-4, 4-6, 7-5. Amer Delic, Bosnia and Herzegovina, def. Artem Sitak, New Zealand, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2. Uladzimir Ignatik, Belarus, def. Pierre-Ludovic Duclos, Canada, 5-7, 6-1, 6-3. Ryan Sweeting (1), Fort Lauderdale, Fla., def. Steve Johnson, Orange, 4-6, 6-2, 6-2. Sam Querrey (3), Las Vegas, def. Fritz Wolmarans, South Africa, 6-4, 6-4.
Second-round singles
   Ivo Karlovic (2), Croatia, def. Robert Farah, Colombia, 7-6 (2), 6-2. Martin Fischer, Austria, def. Wayne Odesnik (7), Weston, Fla., 6-7 (6), 6-3, 6-1.
Thursday's schedule
Stadium Court 
(Beginning at 11 a.m.)  
   Sweeting (1) vs. Bogdanovic, Querrey (3) vs. Delic not before 1 p.m., Cabal and Farah (1) vs. Kuznetsov and Sweeting, Johnson  and Querrey vs. Battistone and Wettengel not before 4:30 p.m.
Court 1
(Beginning at 11 a.m.)
   Ignatik vs. Kuznetsov, Grigelis vs. Reynolds (4), Pospisil and Reynolds vs. Huey and Van Der Merwe (2) not before 4 p.m.
Court 4
(Beginning at noon)
   Borvanov vs. Pospisil (5), Phau (8) vs. Gonzalez, Ball and Guccione vs. Grigelis and Ignatik not before 4 p.m.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Three players quit matches in Tiburon

   There were more retirements in Tiburon on Tuesday than in Brett Favre's recent past.
   Three players quit, all against seeds, in the first round of the $100,000 First Republic Bank Tiburon Challenger at the Tiburon Peninsula Club.
   Most notably, Denis Gremelmayr of Germany retired because of dizziness while leading second-seeded Ivo Karlovic of Croatia 7-6 (4), 1-2. The 6-foot-10 Karlovic won last week's Sacramento Challenger.
   Thiemo de Bakker of the Netherlands strained his groin while trailing seventh-seeded Wayne Odesnik 6-1. Finally, Denis Kudla, a  19-year-old wild card from Arlington, Va., sprained his ankle against fifth-seeded Vasek Pospisil of Canada while behind 7-5, 2-0.
   The only other seed in action, No. 4 Bobby Reynolds of Acworth, Ga., actually had to play two sets to advance. A quarterfinalist in Sacramento last week, Reynolds dispatched Raven Klaasen of South Africa 6-4, 6-3.
  Former doubles stars Ken Flach, 48, of Mill Valley and Rick Leach, 46, of Laguna Beach lost to Las Vegas residents Brian Battistone and Chris Wettengel 6-4, 6-2 in the first round. Leach won five Grand Slam men's doubles titles and Flach four. They teamed to win the 1993 U.S. Open crown.
   ATP World Tour in Shanghai -- Folsom resident Dmitry Tursunov and Tommy Robredo of Spain defeated Chinese wild cards Gong Mao-Xin and Li Zhe 7-6 (5), 7-6 (5) in the first round of doubles at the $3.24 million Shanghai Rolex Masters.
   Former Stanford All-American Scott Lipsky and Kevin Anderson of South Africa lost to Nicolas Almagro of Spain and Bruno Soares of Brazil 6-2, 6-3.   
 $100,000 FIRST REPUBLIC BANK TIBURON CHALLENGER
At Tiburon Peninsula Club
Final-round singles qualifying
   Artem Sitak (8), New Zealand, def. Luka Gregorc, Slovenia, 6-3, 6-4. Alex Bogdanovic (6), Great Britain, def. Tim Smyczek (2), Milwaukee, Wis., 7-5, 6-4. Alejandro Gonzalez (3), Colombia, def. Dimitar Kutrovsky, Bulgaria, 6-3, 6-4. Pierre-Ludovic Duclos (4), Canada, def. Greg Ouellette, Ormand Beach, Fla., 4-6, 7-6 (7), 6-3.
First-round singles
    Laurynas Grigelis, Lithuania, def. Frederik Nielsen, Denmark, 6-3, 6-3. Bobby Reynolds (3), Acworth, Ga., def. Raven Klaasen, South Africa, 6-4, 6-3. Wayne Odesnik (7), Weston, Fla., def. Thiemo de Bakker, Netherlands, 6-1, 0-0, retired. Martin Fischer, Austria, def. Simon Greul, Germany, 6-3, 6-3. Robert Farah, Colombia, def. Daniel Kosakowski, Downey, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (4). Vasek Pospisil (5), Canada, def. Denis Kudla, Arlington, Va., 7-5, 2-0, retired. Roman Borvanov, Moldova, def. Juan Sebastian Cabal, Colombia, 1-6, 6-4, 7-6 (6). Ivo Karlovic (2), Croatia, def. Denis Gremelmayr, Germany, 6-7 (4), 2-1.
First-round doubles
   Steve Johnson, Orange, and Sam Querrey, Las Vegas, def. Jordan Kerr, Australia, and David Martin (4), Huntington Beach, 6-1, 3-6, 10-8 tiebreak. Brian Battistone and Chris Wettengel, Las Vegas, def. Ken Flach and Rick Leach, 6-4, 6-2. Alex Kuznetsov, Tampa, Fla., and Ryan Sweeting, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., def. Sanchai Ratiwatana and Sonchat Ratiwatana, Thailand, 7-5, 6-1.

Tursunov continues to haunt Brazil; new rankings

   Dmitry Tursunov is driving Brazil nuts.
   After giving host Russia a 3-2 Davis Cup victory over Brazil last month, the Folsom resident outlasted Brazilian No. 1 Thomaz Bellucci 6-7 (5), 6-4, 7-5 early today in the first round of the $3.24 million Shanghai Rolex Masters.
   Tursunov did not play Bellucci in the Davis Cup. In fact, they had never faced each other before today. They have similar rankings, Bellucci at No. 35 and Tursunov at No. 41. But Bellucci is a 23-year-old left-hander and Tursunov a 28-year-old right-hander.
   Bellucci probably would just as soon not see another Russian for a while. Mikhail Youzhny saved two match points to edge Bellucci 2-6, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4, 14-12 in five hours and even the Davis Cup series at 2-2, setting up Tursunov's heroics against Ricardo Mello.
   But Tursunov isn't in such an enviable position, either. He must face red-hot Andy Murray, who received a first-round bye as the second seed in Shanghai. Murray, ranked fourth, is coming off titles in Bangkok and Tokyo in the past two weeks In the Tokyo final Sunday, Murray beat Rafael Nadal 3-6, 6-2, 6-0.
   Murray, a 24-year-old Scotland native, is 5-0 lifetime against Tursunov. They will meet for the first time in three years.
   Tursunov's former teammate on the Sacramento Capitals, Mark Knowles, lost in the first round of doubles. The 40-year-old Bahamian teamed with Lukasz Kubot of Poland in a 2-6, 7-6 (5), 10-7 tiebreak decision against Marcel Granollers of Spain and Viktor Troicki of Serbia.
   WTA tour in Osaka, Japan --Third-seeded Raquel Kops-Jones, a former Cal star from Fresno, and Abigail Spears of San Diego defeated Japanese wild cards Misaki Doi and Kurumi Nara 6-2, 6-2 in the first round of doubles at the $220,000 HP Japan Women's Open.
   ATP Challenger Tour in Tiburon -- All first-round matches in the $100,000 First Republic Bank Tiburon Challenger were rained out.
   Seeded in singles are No. 1 Ryan Sweeting of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., No. 2 Ivo Karlovic of Croatia, No. 3 Sam Querrey of Las Vegas, No. 4 Bobby Reynolds of Acworth, Ga., No. 5 Vasek Pospisil of Canada, No. 6 Izak Van der Merwe of South Africa, No. 7 Wayne Odesnik of Weston, Fla., and No. 8 Bjorn Phau of Germany.
   The 6-foot-10 Karlovic won the singles title in last week's $100,000 RelyAid Natomas Racquet Club Challenger in Sacramento. Odesnik, who won the 2007 Sacramento Challenger, returned to action in January after serving a one-year suspension for importing human growth hormone into Australia.
   The doubles seeds are No. 1 Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah of Colombia, No. 2 Treat Conrad Huey of the Philippines and Van der Merwe, No. 3 Frederik Nielsen of Denmark and Travis Parrott of Portland, Ore., and No. 4 Jordan Kerr of Australia and David Martin of Huntington Beach.
   Martin returns to the San Francisco Bay Area, where he starred at Stanford from 2000 to 2003.
   New rankings -- Following are this week's world rankings of professional 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), 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 -- No. 26 in doubles (-1), unranked in singles.
   Mark Knowles, Sacramento Capitals of World TeamTennis (2001-07, 2009-11) -- No. 43 in doubles (-3), unranked in singles.
   Dmitry Tursunov, Folsom resident -- No. 41 in singles (-1), No. 168 in doubles (-61).
   Sam Querrey, San Francisco native -- No. 120 in singles (no change), No. 34 in doubles (+1).
   David Martin, 2002 NCAA doubles runner-up from Stanford -- No. 94 in doubles (-4), No. 707 in singles (-5).
   John Paul Fruttero, Cal All-American in 2001 and 2002 -- Career-high No. 133 in doubles (+3), 1,249 in singles (-+11).
   Conor Niland, 2006 Pacific-10 Conference Player of the Year and two-time All-American at Cal -- No. 193 in singles (+10), unranked in doubles. 
   Jimmy Wang, Folsom resident -- No. 382 in singles (+9), No. 668 in doubles (-).
   Dusan Vemic, Capitals (2010-11) -- No. 503 in doubles (+5), No. 1,531 in singles (+5).
   Kiryl Harbatsiuk, three-time Big Sky Conference MVP (2009-11) at Sacramento State -- No. 731 in singles (+30), No. 1,256 in doubles (-5).
Women
   Vania King, Capitals (2010-11) -- No. 9 in doubles (no change), No. 83 in singles (-1).
   Raquel Kops-Jones, 2003 NCAA doubles champion from Cal -- No. 37 in doubles (+5), unranked in singles.
   Yasmin Schnack, Elk Grove resident, Sacramento Capitals of World TeamTennis (2011) -- No. 210 in doubles (+12), No. 386 in singles (+7).
   Maria Sanchez, Modesto resident -- No. 376 in doubles (+3), No. 697 in singles (+13).

Sunday, October 9, 2011

After almost flunking out, Karlovic aces big test

   He came within an eyelash of losing in the first round, struggled with his serve in the semifinals and met a player formerly ranked No. 4 in the world in the final.
   But Ivo Karlovic overcame everything the $100,000 RelyAid Natomas Racquet Club Challenger threw at him. It helps when you're 6-foot-10, well-coordinated and mentally tough.
   In a tantalizing matchup of power vs. speed, the second-seeded Karlovic edged top-seeded James Blake 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 Sunday in Sacramento for his first title in three years.
   Karlovic, a 32-year-old Croat, attributed his drought to "injuries and ups and downs." Ranked a career-high No. 14 in 2008, he missed the last six months of 2010 because of Achilles' tendon-related surgery and plunged to No. 239 in March.
   "Now everything is good. I've been playing since January," said Karlovic, who rose from No. 76 to No. 61 with the Sacramento title.
   Karlovic, the tallest player ever to be ranked in the top 100 and owner of the world's fastest serve (156 mph), also is enjoying life off the court. He took a month off after the U.S. Open to stay home in Miami while his Jamaican wife, Alsi, gave birth to the couple's first child, a daughter named Jada.
   "It's the best thing that can happen in life," Karlovic said.
   In his first match after his layoff, Karlovic saved two match points in a 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (8) victory over Martin Fischer of Austria. On the first match point, Fischer ripped what appeared to be a winning first-service return deep to Karlovic's backhand. But Karlovic, showing surprising quickness, slugged a cross-court shot, and Fischer netted an ill-advised backhand drop shot. 
   In the quarterfinals, Karlovic survived in two tough sets against Thiemo de Bakker, the 2006 Wimbledon junior champion who reached No. 40 in the world last year. Then Karlovic converted only 56 percent of his first serves in a 7-6 (6), 3-6, 6-4 victory over former top-20 player Sam Querrey.  
   Karlovic found his rhythm in the final, increasing his first-service percentage to 71. He improved to 6-3 lifetime against Blake, a 31-year-old Tampa, Fla., resident who missed three months last year because of knee tendinitis. Six of the previous meetings came on the ATP World Tour (the major leagues of tennis), one occurred in the French Open, and one took place in the Davis Cup.
   Adding to the ATP-like atmosphere Sunday were an announced sellout crowd of 725, the largest in the tournament's seven-year history, and the presence of Brad Gilbert, the renowned coach, commentator and author who served as the master of ceremonies.
   The match was even closer than the score indicated. When Blake stepped to the line to serve at 4-5 in the third set, each player had won 14 games and broken the other once. 
   But Blake double-faulted to trail 0-30, and Karlovic's backhand return of a first serve handcuffed the approaching Blake to make it 0-40. Blake then hit a cross-court forehand that appeared to be long, but the ball was ruled in, and Karlovic netted a forehand for 15-40. It was only a brief reprieve for Blake, though. On the next point, he sprayed a backhand wide to end the match.
   Karlovic fired 23 aces overall, faced only one break point in the match and -- brace yourself -- won all 20 points on his serve in the last set, including 12 aces. Several times in the match, after watching another Karlovic missile whiz past him out of reach, Blake flailed weakly at an imaginary ball as if to say, "This is hopeless."
   Facing Karlovic's serve is "not fun," said Blake, who improved from No. 75 to No. 67 by reaching the final. "His serve is part of it, but the rest of his game was in form today. He returned well and put a lot of pressure on me. There's nothing you can do about the serve."
   Nicholas Monroe and Jack Sock know the feeling. The American wild cards lost to hard-serving Australian left-handers Carsten Ball, 6-foot-6, and Chris Guccione, 6-7, in the doubles final, 7-6 (3), 1-6, 10-5 tiebreak.
   Ball, 24, and Guccione, 26, reached the quarterfinals of the 2009 U.S. Open and have represented Australia in the Davis Cup. Ball, a Newport Beach native and resident, plays for Australia because his father, former top-25 doubles player Syd, is from Down Under.
   Monroe, 29, and Sock, 19, played in their first tournament together but have known each other for years in the Kansas City, Mo., area.
   Sock turned pro in July and won the U.S. Open mixed doubles title with Melanie Oudin last month. Monroe, who's listed at 5-10 but appears smaller, lost in doubles final at Natomas for the second consecutive year. He played with Donald Young in 2010. Young, the 2008 Sacramento Challenger singles champion, is playing in Asia on the ATP World Tour.
   Intercollegiate Tennis Association in Pacific Palisades -- Stanford's Mallory Burdette and Nicole Gibbs defeated Florida's Sophie Oyen and Allie Will 6-2, 7-6 (2) to win the doubles title in the Women's All-American Championships.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Karlovic, Blake advance to Sacramento final

   Ivo Karlovic was disappointed in his serve.
   Sam Querrey was disgusted with his.
   Within minutes of edging Querrey 7-6 (6), 3-6, 6-4 Saturday in the semifinals of the $100,000 RelyAid Natomas Racquet Club Challenger in Sacramento, Karlovic was practicing his serve on a side court.
   "Today my serve didn't work at all," lamented the second-seeded Karlovic, a 6-foot-10 veteran who holds the record for the fastest serve (156 mph). "I had a really low (first-serve) percentage, but I was able to make it up with my baseline game and fighting."
   Karlovic, who converted 56 percent of his first deliveries, recorded the only service break of the third set in the last game. Querrey committed his second double fault of the match to trail 30-40, then missed a first serve. The second serve allowed Karlovic to get into the point, and he capitalized by ripping a runaround forehand passing shot down the line for the victory.
   The normally mild-mannered Querrey was incensed after the match, played before an announced capacity crowd of 650 that included Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and coach Dennis Green of the Sacramento Mountain Lions in the United Football League.
   "My second serve sucked the whole week,"  snapped the third-seeded Querrey, a 6-6 native of San Francisco who lives in Las Vegas. "Pathetic ... "
   Karlovic, whose wife gave birth to the couple's first child on Sept. 15, is playing in his first tournament since the U.S. Open one month ago. He agreed that his layoff affected the timing on his serve Saturday.
   Querrey, meanwhile, was competing in his second tournament since undergoing arthroscopic elbow surgery in June. But he didn't use that as an excuse for his serving woes.
   "I just need to go for it more," he said. "I'm too conservative on my serve and forehand."
   Karlovic will meet top-seeded James Blake of Tampa, Fla., for the title after today's 12:30 p.m. doubles final pitting American wild cards Nicholas Monroe and Jack Sock against Australians Carsten Ball and Chris Guccione.
  Blake outclassed unseeded Alex Kuznetsov of Tampa 6-2, 7-5 in the other semifinal. Kuznetsov, a Ukraine native who moved to the United States at 3, also reached the semifinals of the Sacramento Challenger five years ago at 19. The tournament was held at the Sutter Lawn Tennis Club at the time.
   At first glance, Blake and Karlovic couldn't be more different. Blake is nine inches shorter and an African-American. Karlovic is a white Croat.
   On further inspection, however, they are remarkably similar.
   Both were born in 1979 (Karlovic, 32, is exactly 10 months older). Both have reached the top 15 in the world, Blake peaking at No. 4 in 2006 and Karlovic at No. 14 in 2008.
   Both have played on Davis Cup championship teams, Karlovic helping Croatia win in 2005 for its only title and Blake helping the United States end its longest title drought (12 years).
   Both endured long injury layoffs last year, Blake for three months with knee tendinitis and Karlovic for six months after Achilles' tendon-related surgery.        
   Their current rankings? Blake is No. 75, Karlovic No. 76.  
   Karlovic leads the head-to-head series 5-3 overall and 3-2 on hardcourts. In their last meeting, Karlovic won 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-1 on a hardcourt in the quarterfinals at Delray Beach, Fla., in February 2010.
   "I didn't watch him in the last year or two, but I know he was injured like me," said Karlovic, who saved two match points in the first round of the Natomas Challenger against Martin Fischer of Austria. "He can play really well. It will be an interesting match."
   ATP Challenger Tour in Tiburon -- Kiryl Harbatsiuk, a former Sacramento State star from Belarus, lost to Blake Strode of Cary, N.C., 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 in the first round of qualifying for the $100,000 First Republic Bank Tiburon Challenger.
   Strode, the Chico Futures runner-up in June, has deferred his acceptance to Harvard Law School several times to play professional tennis.
    ITF Women's Circuit in Kansas City, Mo. -- Yasmin Schnack of Elk Grove and Amanda Fink of Calabasas lost to Jamie Hampton of Auburn, Ala., and Ajla Tomljanovic of Croatia 7-5, 2-6, 10-8 tiebreak in the doubles semifinals of the $50,000 Women's Tennis Classic.
   Intercollegiate Tennis Association in Pacific Palisades -- Jacqueline Cako of Arizona State knocked off  Jana Juricova, the top seed and reigning NCAA champion from Cal, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (1) in the quarterfinals of the Women's All-American Championships.
   Stanford's Stacey Tan, the NCAA runner-up, and Nicole Gibbs, an NCAA semifinalist, lost in the first round of doubles. The Cardinal's Mallory Burdette, who won the NCAA doubles title with Hilary Barte in May, and Gibbs will play Florida's Sophie Oyen and Allie Will in the finall.
   Intercollegiate Tennis Association in Tulsa, Okla. -- Cal's Nick Andrews (Folsom), Carlos Cueto and Ben McLachlan and Stanford's Ryan Thacher lost in the first round of the Men's All-American Championships.
   In doubles, fifth-seeded Andrews and Christoffer Konigsfeldt and qualifiers Cueto and McLachlan also fell n the first round.
  
RELYAID NATOMAS CHALLENGER
At Natomas Racquet Club
Singles semifinals

   Ivo Karlovic (2), Croatia, def. Sam Querrey (3), Las Vegas, 7-6 (6), 3-6, 6-4. James Blake (1), Tampa, Fla., def. Alex Kuznetsov, Tampa, Fla., 6-2, 7-5.
Sunday’s schedule
(Beginning at 12:30 p.m.)
Center Court

   Monroe and Sock vs. Ball and Guccione. Blake (1) vs. Karlovic (2).

Friday, October 7, 2011

Blake is head and shoulders above Sock

   A sprained ankle and sore hip were the least of Jack Sock's problems Friday.
   Much more damaging was his inexperience against a cagey veteran.
   Top-seeded James Blake, who will turn 32 in December, dismantled Sock, a wild card who turned 19 two weeks ago, 6-4, 6-2 in the quarterfinals of the $100,000 RelyAid Natomas Racquet Club Challenger in Sacramento.
   An announced capacity crowd of 650, the largest in the tournament's seven-year history, watched the matchup of players representing the United States' past and future on a gorgeous afternoon following several days of cold, rainy weather.
   Blake will face fellow Tampa, Fla., resident Alex Kuznetsov in today's second semifinal. The unseeded Kuznetsov, who also reached the Sacramento semifinals five years ago at 19, beat fourth-seeded Bobby Reynolds of Acworth, Ga., 7-6 (0), 6-3.
   Blake is 2-0 lifetime against Kuznetsov, a Ukraine native who moved to the United States at 3, with both matches coming in 2007.
   In today's first semifinal at noon, second-seeded Ivo Karlovic of Croatia will meet third-seeded Sam Querrey, a San Francisco native living in Las Vegas. Don't look for a lot of long rallies in this one. Karlovic, 6-foot-10, and Querrey, 6-6, are two of the hardest servers in tennis.
   Querrey, who turned 24 Friday, leads the series 3-1 (3-0 on hardcourt). All of the matches came in 2007 and 2008.  
   Blake, ranked a career-high No. 4 in the world in 2006, missed three months last year with knee tendinitis and plunged to No. 173 in March. He has rebounded to No. 75.
   Sock, from Overland Park, Kan., turned pro in July and won the U.S. Open mixed doubles title with Melanie Oudin last month. Last year, he became the first American since Andy Roddick in 2000 to win the U.S. Open junior boys title. This summer, he became the first player since Donald Young in 2006 to win two consecutive USTA Boys 18 National Championships.
   "He's a great player," Blake said of Sock. "He has a lot of talent. He would have beaten the pants off me at 19. He has a lot to learn, for sure, but he's already done a lot at 19. I can see him being a completely different player next year at this time."
   Sock rolled his ankle running down a drop shot Wednesday but said it was 95 percent of normal Friday. He also hurt his hip running for a ball early in the first set Friday but said the pain subsided during the match and that the injury didn't affect the outcome.
   Sock has the firepower to play with Blake, but mentally there's no comparison. Blake, unlike Sock, has learned how to control his emotions on the court and maintain his concentration.
   With Blake serving at 5-4 in the first set, Sock earned his only break point of the match but failed to convert.
   "He probably felt he should have gotten into a tiebreaker," Blake said. "He got a little negative after that, and I used it to my advantage."
   After Sock lost his serve to open the second set, he swatted a ball halfway to Yolo County and received a warning from the chair umpire for ball abuse. In contrast, the most emotion Blake showed when he missed a shot was muttering "James ... "
   When Sock later double-faulted on break point to trail 4-1, the match was essentially over.
   "I started well and overall wasn't bad," Sock said. "But these guys have been out here a long time. You can't have loose points and games, or it'll cost you the match, and that's what happened."
   Sock finished with seven double-faults, which mystified him.
   "I've been serving well all week," said Sock, who will play in Sunday's doubles final with Nicholas Monroe of Chapel Hill, N.C. "One of (Blake's) better shots is his backhand return. When it's on, he can do whatever he wants with it. I thought I'd take some chances, and they didn't go in today."
   ATP, WTA tours in Beijing -- Two teams with Northern California ties lost in doubles semifinals of the China Open.
   Bob and Mike Bryan, the No. 1 men's seeds and former Stanford All-Americans, lost to third-seeded Michael Llodra of France and Nenad Zimonjic of Serbia 3-6, 7-6 (4), 10-3.
   Vania King of the Sacramento Capitals and Kazakhstan's Yaroslava Shvedova, seeded fourth in women's doubles, fell to No. 1 seeds and reigning Wimbledon champions Kveta Peschke of the Czech Republic and Katarina Srebotnik of Slovenia 6-4, 6-4.
    
RELYAID NATOMAS MEN’S CHALLENGER
At Natomas Racquet Club
Singles quarterfinals

   James Blake (1), Tampa, Fla., def. Jack Sock, Lincoln, Neb., 6-4, 6-2. Alex Kuznetsov, Tampa, Fla., def. Bobby Reynolds (4), Acworth, Ga., 7-6 (0), 6-3. Sam Querrey (3), Las Vegas, def. Uladzimir Ignatik, Belarus, 7-5, 7-6 (9). Ivo Karlovic (2), Croatia, def. Thiemo de Bakker, Netherlands, 6-4, 7-6 (2).
Doubles semifinals
   Nicholas Monroe, Chapel Hill, N.C., and Jack Sock, Overland Park, Kan., def. Travis Rettenmaier, Los Angeles, and Simon Stadler, Germany, 6-4, 6-4. Carsten Ball and Chris Guccione, Australia, def. Vasek Pospisil, Canada, and Bobby Reynolds, Acworth, Ga., 6-2, 6-4.
Today’s schedule
(Beginning at noon)
Center Court

   Querrey (3) vs. Karlovic (2), Blake (1) vs. Kuznetsov.