Sunday, July 28, 2013

Cibulkova avenges shutout loss for Stanford title

   Dominika Cibulkova fell to the court and covered her face in disbelief as if she had just won Wimbledon.
   Who could blame her?
   Cibulkova had just shocked Agnieszka Radwanska  3-6, 6-4, 6-4 today to win the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford's Taube Family Tennis Stadium.
   Radwanska entered the match with a 4-0 record against Cibulkova, including a 6-0, 6-0 thrashing in their last meeting. The shutout at Sydney in January was the first in a WTA final in more than six years and the first of Cibulkova's career.
   But the third-seeded Cibulkova, only 5-foot-3 (1.61 meters), played aggressively from the backcourt at Stanford to topple the No. 1 seed. After Cubulkova ripped a backhand crosscourt passing shot on her fifth championship point to end the 2-hour, 30-minute battle, her father, Milan, ran out of the stands to hug her.
   “The difference between Sydney and today was that I made the first game," Cibulkova, who served to open the match, told reporters. "And after the first game, I looked at my coach and was like, ‘Here we go. I’m out here, and it’s going to be good today.' "
   Cibulkova overcame two service breaks in the final set, both on double faults, and won the last four games.
   “I didn’t use my chances when I was 4-2 up, and I paid the price,” said Radwanska, who also blew a 3-0 lead in the final set of her semifinal loss to Sabine Lisicki at Wimbledon early this month.
   Cibulkova, from Slovakia, earned $125,000 for her third career WTA singles title in eight finals. She is expected to rise from No. 25 in the world to No. 21 when the new rankings are released on Monday.
   Poland's Radwanska, a Wimbledon finalist last year, pocketed $68,200. Ranked fourth, she fell to 12-5 in WTA singles finals.
   The 24-year-old players, born exactly two months apart in 1989, often met as juniors in Europe.
   In the doubles final, top-seeded Raquel Kops-Jones of Fresno and Abigail Spears of San Diego topped second-seeded Julia Goerges of Germany and Darija Jurak of Croatia 6-2, 7-6 (4).
   Kops-Jones, 30, starred across San Francisco Bay at Cal in the early 2000s. She won the NCAA doubles title 10 years ago with Sacramento native Christina Fusano.
   Kastles three-peat -- The host Washington Kastles routed the Springfield (Mo.) Lasers 25-12 for their third straight World TeamTennis title.
   Washington joined the Sacramento Capitals as the only teams to earn three consecutive WTT crowns. Sacramento won four in a row (1997-2000).
   The Kastles' winning margin was the largest since WTT switched to a first-to-five-games format in sets in 1999. The Capitals held the previous mark of eight against the New York Buzz in 2002.

Bank on Radwanska to win Classic at Stanford

   There are no certainties in sports -- other than daily arrests of NFL players.
   But Agnieszka Radwanska is about as close to a lock to beat Dominika Cibulkova in the Bank of the West Classic final today as possible. The match will be televised on ESPN2 at 2 p.m. PDT.
   Radwanska is 4-0 against Cibulkova and crushed her 6-0, 6-0 the last time they met, in the final at Sydney in January. It was the first shutout in a WTA final in more than six years and the first of Cibulkova's career.
   The top-seeded Radwanska, from Poland, reached the final with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over fourth-seeded Jamie Hampton of Atlanta on Saturday on a hardcourt at Stanford's Taube Family Tennis Stadium. Hampton had beaten Radwanska 7-6 (2), 6-2 in the first round at Eastbourne on grass in June in their last meeting.
  The third-seeded Cibulkova, from Slovakia, eliminated fifth-seeded Sorana Cirstea of Romania 6-4, 6-0 in the semifinals.         
   Cibulkova, only 5-foot-3 (1.61 meters), said the Sydney match was closer than the score indicated.
    "Tennis is a lot about mentally," she told reporters. "If you will see that match, you will not believe it can be like that because I was putting pressure all the time. All the first six or seven games of that match, I had game point or break point, and I just couldn't make it.
   "It was like something really bad was happening. I was down 6-0, 3-0, and I was only thinking about one thing -- just to make one game, and it didn't happen. It was really bad."
   Recalling that match, Radwanska said: "Didn't really expect that, especially in the final. She was playing great matches in Sydney, and then suddenly I think she was a little bit too nervous in the final.
   "And then game by game, she was getting (frustrated) too much. But I don't think she's the kind of player what can do that again."
   Radwanska, ranked fourth, seeks her 13th career WTA singles title and third this year. She won Auckland and Sydney in her first two tournaments of the year.
   Cibulkova, ranked 25th, hopes to win her third career title and first in 2013. She captured Moscow in 2011 and Carlsbad last year.
BANK OF THE WEST CLASSIC
At Stanford
Singles semifinals
   Dominika Cibulkova (3), Slovakia, def. Sorana Cirstea (5), Romania, 6-4, 6-0.
   Agnieszka Radwanska (1), Poland, def. Jamie Hampton (4), United States, 6-3, 6-2.
Doubles semifinals
   Julia Goerges, Germany, and Darija Jurak (2), Croatia, def. Hao-Ching Chan, Taiwan, and Vera Dushevina (4), Russia, 6-4, 6-4.
   Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears (1), United States, def. Daniela Hantuchova, Slovakia, and Lisa Raymond (3), United States, 7-5, 6-2. 
Today's schedule
Stadium
(Starting at 3 p.m. PDT)
   Agnieszka Radwanska (1), Poland, vs. Dominika Cibulkova (3), Slovakia.
   Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears (1), United States, vs. Julia Goerges, Germany, and Darija Jurak (2), Croatia.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Radwanska rallies to reach Stanford semis

   Agnieszka Radwanska looks -- and sounds -- highly vulnerable in the Bank of the West Classic.
   The No. 1 seed from Poland outlasted sixth-seeded Varvara Lepchenko, an American citizen from Uzbekistan, 7-6 (2), 3-6, 6-3 Friday night at Stanford's Taube Family Tennis Stadium.
   Radwanska rallied from a break down twice in the third set to prevail in 2 hours, 14 minutes.
   "This is my first tournament back on hardcourts, so I'm struggling with a few things," the fourth-ranked Radwanska told reporters. "I wasn't feeling the ball at all. I really wanted to win that match, and I'm happy I did, but I still went out and practiced a little bit afterwards because I really didn't play my best tennis tonight."
   Radwanska will face fourth-seeded Jamie Hampton of Atlanta tonight at 7 (ESPN2) in the second semifinal. Hampton dismissed Russian qualifier Vera Dushevina 6-4, 6-3.
   "I definitely felt better about my game today," said Hampton, who, like Radwanska, played only her second match since Wimbledon. "The ball's coming off nicely -- much, much cleaner -- and I served better, too. It's not where I'd like to be, but it's certainly an improvement."
   Radwanska leads the head-to-head series 4-1, but Hampton won the last meeting 7-6 (2), 6-2 in the first round at Eastbourne on grass about a month ago.
   Hampton, 23, has soared from No. 68 in the world to No. 29 in the past two months and will rise even higher when the new rankings are released on Monday. During that time, she has reached three Premier-level semifinals -- Brussels, Eastbourne and Stanford -- and the fourth round of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time in the French Open. 
   In today's first semifinal (Tennis Channel, 3 p.m.), third-seeded Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia will meet fifth-seeded Sorana Cirstea of Romania.
   The 5-foot-3 (1.61-meter) Cibulkova downed seventh-seeded Urszula Radwanska, Agnieszka's younger sister, 7-5, 6-3 to reach the Bank of the West semifinals for the second time in three years. Cirstea dismissed Olga Govortsova of Belgium 6-3, 6-2 to advance to the semis at Stanford for the second consecutive year.
   The Bank of the West Classic, in its 43rd year, is the longest-running women's professional tennis tournament in the world and the first stop on the road to the U.S. Open in late August. 
BANK OF THE WEST CLASSIC
At Stanford
Singles quarterfinals
   Sorana Cirstea (5), Romania, def. Olga Govortsova, Belarus, 6-3, 6-2.
   Dominika Cibulkova (3), Slovakia, def. Urszula Radwanska (7), Poland, 7-5, 6-3.
   Jamie Hampton (4), United States, def. Vera Dushevina, Russia, 6-4, 6-3.
   Agnieszka Radwanska (1), Poland, def. Varvara Lepchenko (6), United States, 7-6 (2), 3-6, 6-3.
Doubles quarterfinals
   Hao-Ching Chan, Taiwan, and Vera Dushevina (4), Russia, def. Olga Govortsova, Belarus, and Alla Kudryavtseva, Russia, 1-6, 6-3, 1-0 (10-5).
   Daniela Hantuchova, Slovakia, and Lisa Raymond (3), United States, def. Asia Muhammad and Allie Will, United States, 6-3, 5-7, 1-0 (14-12).
Today's schedule
Stadium
(Starting at 12:30 p.m.)
   Hao-Ching Chan, Taiwan, and Vera Dushevina (4), Russia, vs. Julia Goerges, Germany, and Darija Jurak (2), Croatia.
 (Not before 3 p.m.)
   Dominika Cibulkova (3), Slovakia, vs. Sorana Cirstea (5), Romania.
(Not before 7 p.m.)
   Agnieszka Radwanska (1), Poland, vs. Jamie Hampton (4), United States.
   Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears (1), United States, vs. Daniela Hantuchova, Slovakia, and Lisa Raymond (3), United States.
Awaiting Hampton in the semis is No.1 seed Agnieszka Radwanska, who won a thriller against No.6 seed Varvara Lepchenko in the night match, surviving a flurry of forehand winners and twice coming back from a break down in the third set to prevail in a two-hour, 14-minute nail-biter, 76(2) 36 63.
"This is my first tournament back on hardcourts so I'm struggling with a few things," Radwanska said afterwards. "I wasn't feeling the ball at all. I really wanted to win that match, and I'm happy I did, but I still went out and practiced a little bit afterwards because I really didn't play my best tennis tonight.
"It was a weird match. There were a lot of ups and downs for both of us. But I fought until the end."
The match numbers were Lepchenko-heavy, though Radwanska's numbers were a bit cleaner - the American hit 37 winners to 51 unforced errors (-14), the Pole 16 winners to just 24 unforced errors (-8).
Lepchenko can take solace in the fact that she actually won one more point in the match - 96 to 95.
Radwanska leads Hampton in their head-to-head series, 4-1, but there's a big asterisk there - after losing their first four meetings, Hampton actually won the pair's last meeting in the first round of Eastbourne about a month ago, qualifying and then upsetting the World No.4 in her opener, 76(2) 62.
- See more at: http://www.wtatennis.com/news/article/3329126/title/hampton-sets-up-radwanska-rematch#sthash.jmxrI3Na.dpuf
Awaiting Hampton in the semis is No.1 seed Agnieszka Radwanska, who won a thriller against No.6 seed Varvara Lepchenko in the night match, surviving a flurry of forehand winners and twice coming back from a break down in the third set to prevail in a two-hour, 14-minute nail-biter, 76(2) 36 63.
"This is my first tournament back on hardcourts so I'm struggling with a few things," Radwanska said afterwards. "I wasn't feeling the ball at all. I really wanted to win that match, and I'm happy I did, but I still went out and practiced a little bit afterwards because I really didn't play my best tennis tonight.
"It was a weird match. There were a lot of ups and downs for both of us. But I fought until the end."
The match numbers were Lepchenko-heavy, though Radwanska's numbers were a bit cleaner - the American hit 37 winners to 51 unforced errors (-14), the Pole 16 winners to just 24 unforced errors (-8).
Lepchenko can take solace in the fact that she actually won one more point in the match - 96 to 95.
Radwanska leads Hampton in their head-to-head series, 4-1, but there's a big asterisk there - after losing their first four meetings, Hampton actually won the pair's last meeting in the first round of Eastbourne about a month ago, qualifying and then upsetting the World No.4 in her opener, 76(2) 62.
- See more at: http://www.wtatennis.com/news/article/3329126/title/hampton-sets-up-radwanska-rematch#sthash.jmxrI3Na.dpuf
Awaiting Hampton in the semis is No.1 seed Agnieszka Radwanska, who won a thriller against No.6 seed Varvara Lepchenko in the night match, surviving a flurry of forehand winners and twice coming back from a break down in the third set to prevail in a two-hour, 14-minute nail-biter, 76(2) 36 63.
"This is my first tournament back on hardcourts so I'm struggling with a few things," Radwanska said afterwards. "I wasn't feeling the ball at all. I really wanted to win that match, and I'm happy I did, but I still went out and practiced a little bit afterwards because I really didn't play my best tennis tonight.
"It was a weird match. There were a lot of ups and downs for both of us. But I fought until the end."
The match numbers were Lepchenko-heavy, though Radwanska's numbers were a bit cleaner - the American hit 37 winners to 51 unforced errors (-14), the Pole 16 winners to just 24 unforced errors (-8).
Lepchenko can take solace in the fact that she actually won one more point in the match - 96 to 95.
Radwanska leads Hampton in their head-to-head series, 4-1, but there's a big asterisk there - after losing their first four meetings, Hampton actually won the pair's last meeting in the first round of Eastbourne about a month ago, qualifying and then upsetting the World No.4 in her opener, 76(2) 62.
- See more at: http://www.wtatennis.com/news/article/3329126/title/hampton-sets-up-radwanska-rematch#sthash.jmxrI3Na.dpuf
Awaiting Hampton in the semis is No.1 seed Agnieszka Radwanska, who won a thriller against No.6 seed Varvara Lepchenko in the night match, surviving a flurry of forehand winners and twice coming back from a break down in the third set to prevail in a two-hour, 14-minute nail-biter, 76(2) 36 63.
"This is my first tournament back on hardcourts so I'm struggling with a few things," Radwanska said afterwards. "I wasn't feeling the ball at all. I really wanted to win that match, and I'm happy I did, but I still went out and practiced a little bit afterwards because I really didn't play my best tennis tonight.
"It was a weird match. There were a lot of ups and downs for both of us. But I fought until the end."
The match numbers were Lepchenko-heavy, though Radwanska's numbers were a bit cleaner - the American hit 37 winners to 51 unforced errors (-14), the Pole 16 winners to just 24 unforced errors (-8).
Lepchenko can take solace in the fact that she actually won one more point in the match - 96 to 95.
Radwanska leads Hampton in their head-to-head series, 4-1, but there's a big asterisk there - after losing their first four meetings, Hampton actually won the pair's last meeting in the first round of Eastbourne about a month ago, qualifying and then upsetting the World No.4 in her opener, 76(2) 62.
- See more at: http://www.wtatennis.com/news/article/3329126/title/hampton-sets-up-radwanska-rematch#sthash.jmxrI3Na.dpuf
Awaiting Hampton in the semis is No.1 seed Agnieszka Radwanska, who won a thriller against No.6 seed Varvara Lepchenko in the night match, surviving a flurry of forehand winners and twice coming back from a break down in the third set to prevail in a two-hour, 14-minute nail-biter, 76(2) 36 63.
"This is my first tournament back on hardcourts so I'm struggling with a few things," Radwanska said afterwards. "I wasn't feeling the ball at all. I really wanted to win that match, and I'm happy I did, but I still went out and practiced a little bit afterwards because I really didn't play my best tennis tonight.
"It was a weird match. There were a lot of ups and downs for both of us. But I fought until the end."
The match numbers were Lepchenko-heavy, though Radwanska's numbers were a bit cleaner - the American hit 37 winners to 51 unforced errors (-14), the Pole 16 winners to just 24 unforced errors (-8).
Lepchenko can take solace in the fact that she actually won one more point in the match - 96 to 95.
Radwanska leads Hampton in their head-to-head series, 4-1, but there's a big asterisk there - after losing their first four meetings, Hampton actually won the pair's last meeting in the first round of Eastbourne about a month ago, qualifying and then upsetting the World No.4 in her opener, 76(2) 62.
- See more at: http://www.wtatennis.com/news/article/3329126/title/hampton-sets-up-radwanska-rematch#sthash.jmxrI3Na.dpuf

Friday, July 26, 2013

Naked truth: Radwanska leads Polish surge

Top-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska beat Francesca Schiavone,
the 2010 French Open champion, in the second round of the
Bank of the West Classic at Stanford. Photo by Paul Bauman
   STANFORD, Calif. -- For decades, Poland struggled in professional tennis.
   Jadwiga Jedrzejowska reached three Grand Slam singles finals in the 1930s, and Wojtek Fibak climbed into the top 10 in singles and doubles in the late 1970s. That was about it. No Poles have been inducted in the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
   Poland still isn't exactly the center of the tennis universe, but the Central European nation of 38.5 million people has been making big news lately -- on and off the court.
   Agnieszka Radwanska got the tennis ball rolling by advancing to the Wimbledon women's singles final last year. Two Polish men gained the Wimbledon quarterfinals for the first time this year, as Jerzy Janowicz defeated countryman Lukasz Kubot to give Poland its first male semifinalist at the tournament. Radwanska also reached the Wimbledon semis.
   Radwanska, 24, and her 22-year-old sister, Urszula, both reached today's quarterfinals in the Bank of the West Classic at Taube Family Tennis Stadium. Agnieszka is seeded first with a world ranking of No. 4, and Urszula is seeded seventh at No. 42.
    In addition, former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark, Wimbledon runner-up Sabine Lisicki of Germany and top-10 player Angelique Kerber of Germany have Polish parents or grandparents and speak fluent Polish. On the men's side, top-10 player Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland has Polish ancestry.
Schiavone lines up her trademark topspin
backhand. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Radwanska also made news this month by appearing nude in ESPN the Magazine's body issue. Although she was shown in only one modest photo, it created an uproar in Poland, which is 90 percent Catholic. Radwanska is pictured from the side sitting  in a chair by a pool with her right arm strategically positioned.
   Radwanska beat 33-year-old Italian Francesca Schiavone, the 2010 French Open champion, 6-4, 6-3 Wednesday night in a highly entertaining second-round encounter in the hardcourt Bank of the West Classic. It was the first match since Wimbledon on grass for Radwanska, who had received a first-round bye.
   The Bank of the West Classic, in its 43rd year, is the oldest women's professional tennis tournament in the world and the first stop on the road to the U.S. Open in late August.
   After dispatching Schiavone, Radwanska discussed Poland's rise.
   "Definitely, tennis is much bigger than a few years ago," said Radwanska, who will play sixth-seeded Varvara Lepchenko of the United States in tonight's featured match at 8. "It's hard to say what's behind it. I was always practicing even without hardcourt or the great facilities in the U.S. (It was) a lot of work. (Now) kids from Poland believe they can also play good tennis." 
   One factor could be the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Players from Poland, a former Soviet satellite, then were free to travel for training and tournaments. Radwanska was born in 1989.
   Serbian stars Novak Djokovic, Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic are fond of telling how they practiced in an empty pool in bitter cold as youths in their war-torn country. Radwanska said she has "a lot of stories" about harsh conditions in Poland, such as practicing before school in an unheated building in the winter.
Radwanska was criticized in her native Poland for posing nude
in ESPN the Magazine's body issue. Photo by Paul Bauman
   "It was minus 15 or minus 20 outside," Radwanska recalled. "There was ice on the top, everywhere. I had my jacket on, my hat, everything. It was around 4 degrees in the beginning of the practice. When we were finishing, it was maybe 9 or 10, so we were still playing with jackets.
   "It was like this for so many years. It was typical conditions in Poland. Now I can really appreciate (better conditions)."
   Has Radwanska considered training outside of Poland?
   "That would be no life," she said. "I feel normal when I go home."
   Suddenly, however, Radwanska is a controversial figure in Poland. After she posed for ESPN the Magazine, a catholic youth group dropped her from its campaign.
   "It's a shame that someone who has declared their love for Jesus is now promoting the mentality of men looking at a woman as a thing rather than a child of God worthy of respect and love," Father Marek Dziewiecki, a senior Catholic priest, told the Telegraph of London. "If she meets a man who she can truly love and establish a happy family and raise Catholic children, then she would probably have to hide these pictures from relatives."
   Radwanska,  who's listed at 5-foot-8 (1.72 meters) and 123 pounds (56 kilograms), was surprised by the reaction.
   "I wasn't really expecting that huge thing about it," Radwanska,told reporters earlier in the week. "I'm still happy I did it."
   Radwanska elaborated on her Facebook page.
   "For those that are not familiar with the magazine, ESPN The Body Issue is a celebration of the beauty of the bodies of the best athletes in the world. It includes both men and women of all ages and all shapes and sizes," Radwanksa wrote. "Other athletes photographed include San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick, 77-year-old golf legend Gary Player, and Olympic volleyball gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings -- during and after her pregnancy. My tennis colleagues Serena Williams, Daniela Hantuchova and Vera Zvonareva have all participated in the past.
   "The pictures are certainly not meant to cause offense, and to brand them as immoral clearly does not take into account the context of the magazine. Moreover, they do not contain any explicit imagery whatsoever. I train extremely hard to keep my body in shape and that's what the article and the magazine is all about. If you read the interview, it only discusses my job as an athlete and what I have to do physically to be participate at the highest level of the sport."
   Radwanska added that she was not paid for the photo shoot.
   "I agreed to participate to help encourage young people, and especially girls, to exercise, stay in shape and be healthy," Radwanska wrote.
BANK OF THE WEST CLASSIC
At Stanford
Second-round singles
   Dominika Cibulkova (3), Slovakia, def. Stefanie Voegele, Switzerland, 7-5, 7-6 (3).
   Jamie Hampton (4), United States, def. Nicole Gibbs, United States, 7-5, 6-7 (5), 6-3.
   Urszula Radwanska (7), Poland, def. Daniela Hantuchova, Slovakia, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (3).
   Vera Dushevina, Russia, def. Madison Keys, United States, 7-6 (0), 6-2.
Doubles quarterfinals
   Julia Goerges, Germany, and Darija Jurak (2), Croatia, def. Natalie Grandin, South Africa, and Alicja Rosolska, Poland, 0-6, 6-2, 1-0 (10-5).
   Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears (1), United States, def. Jacqueline Cako and Natalie Pluskota, United States, 6-3, 6-2.
Today's schedule
Stadium
(Starting at noon)
   Sorana Cirstea (5), Romania, vs. Olga Govortsova, Belarus.
   Urszula Radwanska (7), Poland, vs. Dominika Cibulkova (3), Slovakia.
   Jamie Hampton (4), United States, vs. Vera Dushevina, Russia.
(Not before 8 p.m.)
   Agnieszka Radwanska (1), Poland, vs. Varvara Lepchenko (6), United States.
   Daniela Hantuchova, Slovakia, and Lisa Raymond (3), United States, vs. Asia Muhammad and Allie Will, United States.
Court 6
(Not before 4:30 p.m.)
   Olga Govortsova, Belarus, and Alla Kudryavtseva, Russia, vs. Hao-Ching Chan, Taiwan, and Vera Dushevina (4), Russia.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Bank of the West TV schedule, pro rankings, calendar

TV SCHEDULE
(All times PDT)
   Today
   Stanford (women), second round, Tennis Channel, 2-6 p.m., 7-9 p.m. (live).
Friday
   Gstaad (men), quarterfinals, Tennis Channel, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. (delay), 8-10 p.m. (repeat).
   Atlanta (men), quarterfinals, ESPN2, 1-3 p.m. and 4-6 p.m. (live).
   Atlanta (men), quarterfinals, Tennis Channel, 6-8 p.m. (live).
   Umag (men), quarterfinals, Tennis Channel, 2-6 p.m. (delay).
   Stanford (women), quarterfinals, ESPN2, 8-10 p.m. (live).
Saturday
   Baku (women), semifinals, Tennis Channel, 7-11 a.m. (delay).
   Gstaad (men), semifinals, Tennis Channel, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. (delay).
   Atlanta (men), semifinals, ESPN2, 1-3 p.m. (live).
   Stanford (women), semifinals, Tennis Channel, 3-5 p.m. (live).
   Atlanta (men), semifinals, Tennis Channel, 5-7 p.m. (live).
   Stanford (women), semifinals, ESPN2, 7-9 p.m. (live).
   Sunday 
   Atlanta (men), final, ESPN2, noon-2 p.m. (live).
   Baku (women), final, Tennis Channel, 1-3 p.m. (delay).
   Stanford (women), final, ESPN2, 2-4 p.m. (live).
   Gstaad (men), final, Tennis Channel, 3-5 p.m. (delay).
   Atlanta (men), final, Tennis Channel, 5-7 p.m. (repeat).
   Umag (men), final, Tennis Channel, 7-9 p.m. (delay).
 PRO RANKINGS
   Following are this week's world rankings of professional players with Northern California ties (change from last week in parentheses):
Men
   Bob Bryan, 35 years old, 1998 NCAA doubles champion from Stanford -- Career-high No. 1 in doubles (no change), unranked in singles.
   Mike Bryan, 35 years old, 1998 NCAA doubles champion from Stanford -- Career-high No. 1 in doubles (no change), unranked in singles.
   Mardy Fish, 31 years old, Sacramento Capitals of World TeamTennis (2012-13) -- No. 63 in singles (-1), No. 339 in doubles (+1).
   Bradley Klahn, 22 years old, 2010 NCAA singles champion and 2011 NCAA doubles runner-up from Stanford -- Career-high No. 154 in singles (+7), career-high No. 225 in doubles (+71).
   Scott Lipsky, 31 years old, 2002 NCAA doubles runner-up from Stanford -- No. 27 in doubles (-1), unranked in singles.
   Sam Querrey, 25 years old, San Francisco native, Capitals (2012-13) -- No. 20 in singles (-1), No. 97 in doubles (-2).
   Ryan Sweeting, 26 years old, Capitals (2012-13) -- No. 521 in singles (+4), No. 858 in doubles (-1).
   Dmitry Tursunov, 30 years old, Folsom resident from Russia -- No. 61 in singles (+7), No. 195 in doubles (+5).
Women
   Mallory Burdette, 22 years old, NCAA singles runner-up in 2012 and NCAA doubles champion in 2011 and 2012 from Stanford -- No. 76 in singles (+2), No. 354 in doubles (-5). 
   Raquel Kops-Jones, 30 years old, 2003 NCAA doubles champion from Cal -- No. 22 in doubles (-5), unranked in singles.
   Megan Moulton-Levy, 28 years old, Capitals (2013) -- Career-high No. 50 in doubles (+2), unranked in singles.
   Maria Sanchez, 23 years old, Modesto product -- Career-high No. 108 in singles (+2), No. 113 in doubles (+2).
   Taylor Townsend, 17 years old, Capitals (2013) -- No. 340 in singles (-2), No. 539 in doubles (+3).
 CALENDAR
   Through Sunday -- Bank of the West Classic, Stanford, www.bankofthewestclassic.com. 2012 champions: Serena Williams, Marina Erakovic-Heather Watson. 
   Aug. 5-11 -- $100,000 Comerica Bank Challenger, Seascape Sports Club, Aptos, Calif., www.seascapesportsclub.com/challenger, (831) 688-1993. 2012 champions: Steve Johnson, Rik de Voest-John Peers.
   Aug. 26-Sept. 9 -- U.S. OPEN, Flushing Meadows, N.Y., www.usopen.org. 2012 champions: Andy Murray, Serena Williams, Bob Bryan-Mike Bryan, Sara Errani-Roberta Vinci.
   Sept. 10-15 -- $25,000 Sun Oaks Challenger of Redding, Sun Oaks Tennis and Fitness, 3452 Argyle Road, Redding, Calif., (530) 221-4405. 2012 champions: Chelsey Gullickson, Jacqueline Cako-Sanaz Marand.

   Sept. 23-29 -- $50,000 Napa Valley Challenger, Napa Valley Country Club, 3385 Hagen Road, Napa, Calif., 94558, www.napavalleychallenger.com, (707) 252-2299. 2012 champions -- Inaugural tournament.
   Sept. 30-Oct. 6 -- $100,000 RelyAid Natomas Challenger, Natomas Racquet Club, 2450 Natomas Park Drive, Sacramento, Calif., 95833, www.natomaschallenger.com, (916) 649-0909. 2012 champions: James Blake, Tennys Sandgren-Rhyne Williams.
   Oct. 7-13 -- $100,000 First Republic Bank Tiburon Challenger, Tiburon Peninsula Club, 1600 Mar West Street, Tiburon, Calif., 94920, (415) 789-7900, www.tiburonchallenger.com. 2012 champions: Jack Sock, Rik de Voest-Chris Guccione.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Townsend, 17, courts greatness with 'unique' style

Taylor Townsend is built like Serena Williams and models her
game after Martina Navratilova's. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Tired of cookie-cutter pros?
   You know the ones. Tall and lean. No strategy. Just bash the ball and hope it goes in. No plan B if it doesn't.
    Then there's promising Taylor Townsend. Built like Serena Williams but models her game after Martina Navratilova's.
    Townsend, 17, of the Sacramento Capitals in World TeamTennis describes herself as "an aggressive, all-court player. I look to use my serve and forehand to come to the net. I use my variety to my advantage -- slices, drop shots, a lot of different lefty spins to make my opponent uncomfortable."
   Eugenie Bouchard, a 19-year-old Canadian who won the Wimbledon junior girls doubles title with Townsend last year, said Townsend's game is "really unique. She tries to mix it up and come to the net. She serves-and-volleys sometimes. It's refreshing to see that. She's really talented, and lefty as well -- that helps her a lot."
   In 2012, Townsend became the first American in 30 years to hold the year-end No. 1 world ranking in junior girls singles. She concluded her first WTT season tonight in a 22-18 loss to the Texas Wild in Dallas. Townsend helped Sacramento rank fourth in women's singles, third in women's doubles and fifth in mixed doubles in the eight-team league. In contrast, the Capitals rank last in men's singles and seventh in men's doubles.
   Townsend's life has almost paralleled Donald Young's, but U.S. fans hope Townsend's career turns out better. Both are supremely talented African-American left-handers who were born in Chicago, moved to Atlanta to train as youths and enjoyed stellar junior careers. Young's parents, Donald Young Sr. and Alona, coached Townsend in snowy Chicago and persuaded her family to follow theirs to warmer Atlanta.
   Donald Sr. and Alona taught Townsend to play an all-court game.
Townsend and Olga Govortsova of the Sacramento Capitals
watch a wheelchair exhibition during intermission of a World
TeamTennis match last week in Citrus Heights, Calif. Govort-
sova upset No. 2 seed Samantha Stosur on Tuesday in the
Bank of the West Classic at Stanford. Photo by Paul Bauman
   "We always did volleys, and I learned to come to the net," Townsend said. "That was first nature for me. Then I tried to look for some players that did that a lot, and that I really liked, and Navratilova was the one I thought did it the best."
   Townsend watched YouTube clips of Navratilova and adopted the left-handed legend as her idol.
   "I love the way that she played," Townsend said. "She was very crafty, and she was lefty. I like the way she was aggressive and coming forward. I try to emulate my net game and approaching game like hers."
   Donald Young, once regarded as the future of U.S. men's tennis, turned pro at 14 and debuted on the ATP World Tour at 15 in San Jose in 2005. But Young has failed to live up to expectations for various possible reasons. They include turning pro and accepting ATP wild cards too early, having insufficient size and power at 6 feet (1.83 meters) and 160 pounds (73 kilograms), relying on his talent and not working hard enough, being tutored by his parents instead of more accomplished coaches and having a low frustration level.
   It's much too early to say whether players such as Townsend and 18-year-olds Madison Keys, who's playing in this week's Bank of the West Classic at Stanford on the elite WTA tour, and Samantha Crawford will continue the United States' rich tradition in women's tennis. Early indications for Townsend are encouraging, but there are danger signs, too.
   At 15, Townsend teamed with Jessica Pegula, who's two years older, to reach the third round of women's doubles at the 2011 U.S. Open. In the 2012 Australian Open, Townsend became the first American to sweep the junior singles and doubles titles at a Grand Slam tournament since Lindsay Davenport 20 years earlier. Then came the 2012 Wimbledon and U.S. Open junior doubles crowns.
   Townsend turned pro in January. In her WTA main-draw debut at 16 in March at Indian Wells, she knocked off world No. 57 Lucie Hradecka of the Czech Republic before losing to former world No. 1 Ana Ivanovic in the second round.      
   Capitals coach Wayne Bryan said Townsend compares "pretty favorably" to Serena Williams, who ranks sixth all-time with 16 Grand Slam singles titles, at the same age.
   "Both athletic, both big, both strong," said Bryan, who has known Williams, 31, since she was 6. "Both hit a big ball, both have a lot of guts, both compete. Both are winners."
   Both are also stocky. Townsend, at 5-foot-6 (1.68 meters), is two inches (5 centimeters) shorter than Williams.
   When asked if Townsend is in good enough shape, Bryan said: "Nobody's in good enough shape. Lindsay Davenport early in her career wasn't in great shape. Serena wasn't in great shape from time to time. ... That will get better and better, just like her game will get better and better."
   Townsend's weight, though, has been an issue. USTA officials tried to discourage her from playing last year's U.S. Open junior tournament, declining to pick up her expenses, because they felt she was out of shape. After her mother paid her way, Townsend reached the quarterfinals in girls singles as the top seed before losing to No. 12 Anett Kontaveit of Estonia.  
   Townsend said the U.S. Open controversy "doesn't really matter anymore. It's in the past. I really don't want to answer any more questions about that. It's a whole new year, the U.S. Open is (four) weeks away, and that was a year ago.
   "I've done a lot more this year, and we should talk about things this year. We're all moving forward; we're all on the same page. I'm happy with them, and they're happy with me, so I can't complain." 
   After Ana Konjuh of Croatia beat Townsend in three sets in the semifinals of the prestigious Orange Bowl junior tournament in Plantation, Fla., last December, Konjuh criticized Townsend's fitness. The tournament was played on clay, not Townsend's best surface.
   "She's very talented and smart and plays great like that," Konjuh, who turned 15 a few days after the match, told the New York Times. "But if she wants to be a pro, she has to lose some weight. In the second set, I felt she couldn't run as much. If she gets fit, she can be a really, really good player."
   Capitals set dubious record -- Sacramento finished 5-9, the worst record in the team's 28-year history. They finished 6-8 in 1991, 2009 and 2010. Sacramento has won a record six WTT titles, most recently in 2007.
TEXAS 22, CAPITALS 18
In Dallas
   Men's doubles -- Mark Knowles and Sam Querrey (Capitals) def. Alex Bogomolov Jr. and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi, 5-3.
   Women's doubles -- Megan Moulton-Levy and Taylor Townsend (Capitals) def. Tara Snyder and Eugenie Bouchard, 5-4.
   Men's singles -- Bogomolov (Wild) def. Querrey, 5-2.
   Women's singles -- Bouchard (Wild) def. Townsend, 5-4.
   Mixed doubles -- Qureshi and Bouchard (Wild) def. Knowles and Townsend, 5-2.

Vandeweghe, 2012 runner-up, ousted at Stanford

   STANFORD, Calif. -- Fifth-seeded Sorana Cirstea of Romania defeated qualifier and 2012 runner-up CoCo Vandeweghe 6-3, 6-3 today to reach the quarterfinals of the Bank of the West Classic.
   Vandeweghe advanced to last year's final, in which she held a set point in a 7-5, 6-3 loss to Serena Williams, despite losing in the last round of qualifying. Vandeweghe had advanced to the main draw because of a withdrawal. Williams did not return this year.
   Cirstea -- who trains in Las Vegas with her idol, Steffi Graf -- will meet unseeded Olga Govortsova of Belarus on Friday in a bid for her second straight berth in the Bank of the West semifinals. Govortsova shocked second-seeded Samantha Stosur, the 2011 U.S. Open champion, 6-2, 6-4 Tuesday night in the second round.
    Also advancing to the quarterfinals was sixth-seeded Varvara Lepchenko, an American citizen from Uzbekistan who beat Tamira Paszek of Austria 6-4, 6-4. Lepchecko, a 27-year-old left-hander, lost her serve at 5-3 in the second set and squandered three match points while serving at 5-4 before finally putting away Paszek.
   Lepchenko is playing in the main draw of the Bank of the West Classic for the first year. She lost in the second round of qualifying in 2005.
   The fifth-ranked American at No. 40 in the world, Lepchenko will play top-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland. Radwanska defeated Francesca Schiavone, a 33-year-old Italian who won the 2010 French Open, 6-4, 6-3 in tonight's featured match.
   The Bank of the West Classic, in its 43rd year, is the longest-running women's professional tennis tournament in the world.
BANK OF THE WEST CLASSIC
In Stanford, Calif.
Second-round singles
   Varvara Lepchenko (6), United States, def. Tamira Paszek, Austria, 6-4, 6-4.
   Sorana Cirstea (5), Romania, vs. CoCo Vandeweghe, United States, 6-3, 6-3.
   Agnieszka Radwanska (1), Poland, def. Francesca Schiavone, Italy, 6-4, 6-3.
First-round doubles
   Julia Goerges, Germany, and Darija Jurak (2), Croatia, def. Dominika Cibulkova, Slovakia, and Monica Niculescu, Romania, 4-6, 6-4, 1-0 (10-8).
   Olga Govortsova, Belarus, and Alla Kudryavtseva, Russia, def. Miki Miyamura, Japan, and Olga Puchkova, Russia, 6-3, 6-1.
   Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears, United States, def. Christina McHale, United States, and Tamira Paszek, Austria, 4-6, 6-3, 1-0 (10-8).
   Daniela Hantuchova, Slovakia, and Lisa Raymond (3), United States, def. Mallory Burdette, United States, and Sorana Cirstea, Romania, 2-6, 6-3, 1-0 (10-8).
Thursday's schedule
Stadium
(Starting at noon)
   Stefanie Voegele, Switzerland, vs. Dominika Cibulkova (3), Slovakia.
   Jamie Hampton (4), United States, vs. Nicole Gibbs, United States.
   Urszula Radwanska (7), Poland, vs. Daniela Hantuchova, Slovakia.
(Not before 7 p.m.)
   Vera Dushevina, Russia, vs. Madison Keys, United States.
   Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears (1), United States, vs. Jacqueline Cako and Natalia Pluskota, United States.
Court 6
(Not before 4:30 p.m.; possible court change)
   Natalie Grandin, South Africa, and Alicja Rosolska, Poland, vs. Julia Goerges, Germany, and Darija Jurak (2), Croatia.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Capitals' Govortsova shocks Stosur at Stanford

Olga Govortsova upset second-seeded Samantha Stosur
6-2, 6-4 in the second round of the Bank of the West Classic.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   STANFORD -- Taylor Townsend's injury turned out to be a lucky break for Olga Govortsova.
   It helped the 24-year-old Belarusian stun second-seeded Samantha Stosur 6-2, 6-4 tonight in the second round of the 43rd Bank of the West Classic, the longest-running women's professional tennis tournament in the world.
   The Sacramento Capitals of World TeamTennis signed Govortsova for four matches last week after Townsend, 17, strained an abdominal muscle. Then Govortsova beat Julia Goerges of Germany 7-6 (2), 6-2 on Monday in the first round of the Bank of the West Classic.
   Stosur, meanwhile, played in her first match since falling to eventual runner-up Sabine Lisicki in the third round at Wimbledon in the last week of June. Stosur, the 2011 U.S. Open champion, received a first-round bye at Stanford.
   "I played really well today," Govortsova, ranked 83rd after reaching a career-high 35th at 19 years old in 2008, said after her first meeting with Stosur. "I think it helped that I had the extra match yesterday, and (playing WTT) was a really good warmup for the hardcourt season."
    Initially, Govortsova wasn't going to play WTT, in which eight teams spread across the United States play 14 matches in a three-week regular season. After Townsend's injury, Govortsova agreed to play two matches in California. She ended up playing in Springfield, Mo., and the Boston area, too.
Stosur, the 2011 U.S. Open champion, committed 10 double-
faults in tonight's match. Photo by Paul Bauman
   "(WTT) is kind of tough with a lot of traveling, but I was in (Los Angeles), and Sacramento asked me to play in California. They had a private jet, so I couldn't say no," Govortsova said with a laugh. "But I really enjoyed it. Next year, I would love to play for them."
   The victory over Stosur, ranked 13th, was one of the biggest of Govortsova's career. She beat Agnieszka Radwanska, Marion Bartoli and Daniela Hantuchova when they were No. 2, No. 11 and No. 12, respectively. But Radwanska retired from that match with a shoulder injury, and the win over Bartoli came on clay.   
   "I actually didn't think today what is her ranking," Govortsova said of Stosur. "I felt really good yesterday and today in the warmup. I was feeling the ball really well."
   Govortsova, who will meet the winner of Wednesday's match between fifth-seeded Sorana Cirstea and 2012 runner-up CoCo Vandeweghe, was the last direct acceptance in the tournament. If she had been ranked any lower, she would have had to play in the qualifying event.
   Stosur returned to Australia after Wimbledon, took a week off, then practiced for a week. The winner of the 2010 WTA Diamond Aces award for doing the most to promote the game on and off the court, she was cordial as usual after her loss.
   "It is what it is," Stosur said of her layoff. "I certainly needed to take a break after Wimbledon, and that's what I've done every single year. It would be nice to start off better in your first tournament back."
Govortsova said playing for the Sacramento
Capitals in World TeamTennis helped her
beat Stosur. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Stosur, a semifinalist at Stanford in 2009 and 2010, became the latest big name to exit the tournament. Serena Williams, who has won the last two titles, did not return. Four-time Grand Slam singles champion Maria Sharapova, reigning Wimbledon champ Bartoli and Lisicki withdrew before the Bank of the West with injuries.
   The only headliners left, Radwanska and 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone, meet on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the second round.
   But there is an outside chance of Radwanska facing her younger sister, seventh-seeded Urszula Radwanska, in the final. Urszula coasted past American Christina McHale 6-1, 6-3 in tonight's late match. McHale has plunged from a career-high No. 24 last August to No. 94 after being diagnosed with mononucleosis last September.
   In a matchup of past Bank of the West semifinalists, Daniela Hantuchova, 30, of Slovakia eliminated Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium 6-2, 4-6, 6-0 in the first round. Hantuchova, a former top-five player who owns a career Grand Slam in mixed doubles, reached the semis at Stanford in 2007. Wickmayer, a U.S. Open semifinalist in 2009, advanced to the final four in last year's Bank of the West Classic.  
    Stosur trailed 4-0 and 5-1 in both sets against Govortsova. Stosur won three straight games to pull within 5-4 in the second set, but Govortsova converted her third match point with a service winner.
   "She had nothing to lose," Govortsova said of Stosur's rally. "She started going for shots, and she started making more. I got a little nervous. It was kind of the same situation as the French Open. I had two match points against Bartoli (in the first round). I lost, and she won Wimbledon."
Stosur said double-faulting so often in the match
was "inexcusable." Photo by Paul Bauman
   Stosur committed 10 double faults in the match, including three in each of her first two service games.
   When asked why she double-faulted so often, Stosur said with a laugh: "I wish I had that answer. The way I serve and how reliable my second serve is, it's kind of inexcusable to hit that many in one match. There's certainly a lot of (issues) I've got to work out."
   Govortsova is reminiscent of former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka, right down to jerking her head slightly before serving to get her ponytail out of the way. Both are powerful at 6 feet (1.83 meters), grunt loudly and reside in Minsk. They grew up together in the juniors and won the Wimbledon girls doubles title in 2004. 
   "I'm happy she's from Belarus and doing well, but I have my own career," Govortsova said.
   At the moment, it's looking pretty good.
BANK OF THE WEST CLASSIC
At Stanford
First-round singles
   Varvara Lepchenko (6), United States, def. Michelle Larcher de Brito, Portugal, 6-2, 6-4.
   Tamira Paszek, Austria, def. Alla Kudryavtseva, Russia, 6-1, 6-7 (4), 3-0, retired.
   CoCo Vandeweghe, United States, def. Monica Niculescu, Romania, 6-0, 6-3.
   Vera Dushevina, Russia, def. Marina Erakovic, New Zealand, 6-2, 6-1.
   Daniela Hantuchova, Slovakia, def. Yanina Wickmayer, Belgium, 6-2, 4-6, 6-0.
   Olga Govortsova, Belarus, def. Samantha Stosur (2), Australia, 6-2, 6-4.
   Urszula Radwanska (7), Poland, vs. Christina McHale, United States, late.
First-round doubles
   Jacqueline Cako and Natalie Pluskota, United States, def. Nuria Llagostera Vives, Spain, and Francesca Schiavone, Italy, walkover.
   Natalie Grandin, South Africa, and Alicja Rosolska, Poland, def. Varvara Lepchenko, United States, and Ajla Tomljanovic, Croatia, 4-6, 7-5, 1-0 (10-6).
   Asia Muhammad and Allie Will, United States, def. Nicole Gibbs and CoCo Vandeweghe, United States, 7-5, 6-3.
   Hao-Ching Chan, Taiwan, and Vera Dushevina (4), Russia, def. Gabriela Dabrowski and Sharon Fichman, Canada, 6-4, 6-0.
Wednesday's schedule
Stadium
(Starting at 11 a.m.)
   Dominika Cibulkova, Slovakia, and Monica Niculescu, Romania, vs. Julia Goerges, Germany, and Darja Jurak (2), Croatia.
   Tamira Paszek, Austria, vs. Varvara Lepchenko (6), United States.
   Sorana Cirstea (5), Romania, vs. CoCo Vandeweghe, United States.
   Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears (1), United States, vs. Christina McHale, United States, and Tamira Paszek, Austria.
(Not before 7 p.m.)
   Agnieszka Radwanska (1), Poland, vs. Francesca Schiavone, Italy.
   Daniela Hantuchova, Slovakia, and Lisa Raymond (3), United States, vs. Mallory Burdette, United States, and Sorana Cirstea, Romania.
Court 6
(Starting at 1 p.m.)
   Olga Govortsova, Belarus, and Alla Kudryavtseva, Russia, vs. Miki Miyamura, Japan, and Olga Puchkova, Russia.
SPRINGFIELD 22, CAPITALS 17
In Springfield, Mo.
   Men's singles -- Rik de Voest (Springfield) def. Sam Querrey, 5-2.
   Mixed doubles -- Jean-Julien Rojer and Vania King (Springfield) def. Mark Knowles and Taylor Townsend, 5-4.
   Men's doubles -- Rojer and de Voest (Springfield) def. Knowles and Querrey, 5-3.
   Women's singles -- Townsend (Capitals) def. Alisa Kleybanova, 5-2.
   Women's doubles -- King and Kleybanova (Springfield) def. Megan Moulton-Levy and Townsend, 5-3.   
   Team records -- Springfield 9-4, Capitals 5-8. The Lasers will host Texas in the Western Conference finals on Thursday. Sacramento, which has one regular-season match remaining, was eliminated from playoff contention on Monday.

Teen prospects Keys, Townsend star in NorCal

   Madison Keys and Taylor Townsend, perhaps the top two prospects in American women's tennis, starred 133 miles (214 kilometers) apart in Northern California on Monday night.
   Keys, 18, debuted in the $795,707 Bank of the West Classic at Stanford and dismissed eighth-seeded Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia 6-2, 6-2 in the first round.
   Townsend, 17, teamed with American veteran Megan Moulton-Levy to win 5-0 in women's doubles and lead the host Sacramento Capitals to a 21-16 victory over the Orange County Breakers in a World TeamTennis match. However, Sacramento (5-7) was eliminated from playoff contention with two regular-season matches remaining.
   Keys, prototypically tall (5-foot-10, 1.78 meters) and slim (145 pounds, 66 kilograms), is the youngest player in the top 50 in the world at No. 44. She recorded her first victory over a top-five player when she beat No. 5 Li Na, the 2011 French Open champion, on clay in the first round at Madrid in May. Keys turned pro on her 14th birthday in 2009.
   Townsend, a stocky 5-foot-6 (1.68-meter) left-hander, is ranked No. 340 after turning pro in January. In her WTA main-draw debut at 16 in March, she knocked off No. 57 Lucie Hradecka of the Czech Republic at Indian Wells. 
   Both Keys and Townsend train in Boca Raton, Fla.
   After Keys' victory in the first night match, former Stanford star Nicole Gibbs downed 67th-ranked Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands 6-4, 6-1. Gibbs turned pro last month after winning her second straight NCAA singles title as a junior.
   Gibbs' former teammate at Stanford, Mallory Burdette, lost to 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone, 33, of Italy 7-5, 6-3 in the opening round.
   Burdette turned pro last September, also forgoing her senior year. She won NCAA doubles crowns in 2011 (with Hilary Barte) and 2012 (with Gibbs) and reached the 2012 NCAA singles final, losing to Gibbs.
   Romania's Sorana Cirstea, the fifth seed and a Bank of the West semifinalist last year, and Belarus' Olga Govortsova, who played for the Capitals last week, advanced to the second round. Govortsova will face second-seeded Samantha Stosur, the 2011 U.S. Open champion, tonight at 7.
   Former Capitals CoCo Vandeweghe and Michelle Larcher de Brito moved into the main draw with straight-set wins in the final round of qualifying.
   Vandeweghe, 21, of Rancho Santa Fe in the San Diego area, reached last year's Bank of the West final as a lucky loser. She held a set point against Serena Williams in the title match before losing 7-5, 6-3.
   It's just too bad that CoCo won't be playing Kiki. Vandweghe, by the way, has an uncle named Kiki who starred in the NBA during his 13-year career (1980-93).
   Larcher de Brito, 20, of Portugal stunned second-ranked Maria Sharapova in the second round as a qualifier at Wimbledon last month and helped the Capitals win the 2007 WTT title at 14 years old. 
BANK OF THE WEST CLASSIC
At Stanford
Final-round qualifying
   Vera Dushevina (5), Russia, def. Olga Puchkova (1), Russia, 6-4, 6-4.
   Michelle Larcher de Brito (2), Portugal, def. Natalie Grandin, South Africa, 6-3, 6-2.
   Alla Kudryavtseva (4), Russia, def. Sacha Jones (6), Australia, 6-2, 7-5.
   CoCo Vandeweghe, United States, def. Sharon Fichman (3), Canada, 6-4, 6-3.
First-round singles
   Olga Govortsova, Belarus, def. Julia Goerges, Germany, 7-6 (2), 6-2.
   Francesca Schiavone, Italy, def. Mallory Burdette, United States, 7-5, 6-3.
   Sorana Cirstea (5), Romania, def. Ayumi Morita, Japan, 6-2, 6-2.
   Stefanie Voegele, Switzerland, def. Ajla Tomljanovic, Croatia, 6-4, 6-0.
   Madison Keys, United States, def. Magdalena Rybarikova (8), Slovakia, 6-2, 6-2.
   Nicole Gibbs, United States, def. Kiki Bertens, Netherlands, 6-4, 6-1.
Today's schedule
Stadium
(Starting at 11 a.m.)
   Michelle Larcher de Brito, Portugal, vs. Varvara Lepchenko (6), United States.
   CoCo Vandeweghe, United States, vs. Monica Niculescu, Romania.
   Yanina Wickmayer, Belgium, vs. Daniela Hantuchova, Slovakia.
   Nicole Gibbs and CoCo Vandeweghe, United States, vs. Asia Muhammad and Allie Will, United States.
 (Not before 7 p.m.)
   Olga Govortsova, Belarus, vs. Samantha Stosur (2), Australia.
   Urszula Radwanska (7), Poland, vs. Christina McHale, United States.
Court 6
(Starting at 11 a.m.)
   Alla Kudryavtseva, Russia, vs. Tamira Paszek, Austria.
   Vera Dushevina, Russia, vs. Marina Erakovic, New Zealand.
(Not before 1 p.m.)
   Nuria Llagostera Vives, Spain, and Francesca Schiavone, Italy, vs. Jacqueline Cako and Natalie Pluskota, United States.
   Varvara Lepchenko, United States, and Ajla Tomljanovic, Croatia, vs. Natalie Grandin, South Africa, and Alicja Rosolska, Poland.
   Gabriela Dabrowski and Sharon Fichman, Canada, vs. Hao-Ching Chan, Taiwan, and Vera Dushevina (4), Russia.
CAPITALS 21, ORANGE COUNTY 16
In Citrus Heights, Calif.
   Mixed doubles -- Mark Knowles and Taylor Townsend (Capitals) def. Treat Huey and Liga Dekmeijere, 5-4.
   Women's singles -- Dekmeijere (Orange County) def. Townsend, 5-2.
   Men's doubles -- Huey and Steve Johnson (Orange County) def. Knowles and Sam Querrey, 5-4.
   Women's doubles -- Megan Moulton-Levy and Townsend (Capitals) def. Maria Elena Camerin and Dekmeijere, 5-0.

   Men's singles -- Querrey (Capitals) def. Johnson, 5-2. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Townsend, Querrey help Capitals end skid

   Taylor Townsend returned from an injury, and Sam Querrey made his season debut.
   Not coincidentally, the Sacramento Capitals ended their losing streak at seven matches. 
   Thanks largely to Townsend and Querrey, the Capitals defeated the Orange County Breakers 21-16 Sunday in a World TeamTennis match in Irvine.
   Of course, it didn't hurt Sacramento (4-7) that Orange County (6-6) was missing former Capital CoCo Vandeweghe, who ranks second in WTT women's singles behind newly minted International Tennis Hall of Famer Martina Hingis.
   Vandeweghe is playing in the qualifying event of the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford after reaching the final of last year's tournament as a qualifier, falling to Serena Williams.  
   Townsend, the runner-up in Wimbledon junior girls singles three weeks ago, won her two sets by a combined score of 10-3 after missing five matches with an strained abdominal muscle. The 17-year-old American blitzed Maria Elena Camerin 5-0 in women's singles and paired with Megan Moulton-Levy to down Camerin and Liga Dekmeijere 5-3 in women's doubles. 
   Townsend ranks third in women's singles with a game record of 21-16  (.568). Dekmeijere substituted for Vandeweghe (43-23, .652).
   Querrey, the top-ranked U.S. man at No. 20 in the world, lost 5-2 with Mark Knowles to Treat Huey and Steve Johnson in men's doubles but defeated Johnson 5-3 in men's singles.
   The Capitals, last in the four-team Western Conference, must win their three remaining regular-season matches to retain their faint playoff hopes. The top two teams in the conference advance to the playoffs, Thursday through Sunday.
   Sacramento will end its regular-season home schedule tonight at 7:35 against Orange County at Sunrise Mall in Citrus Heights, Calif. The Capitals will visit first-place Springfield (7-4) on Tuesday and conclude their regular season at second-place Texas (7-5) on Wednesday. Barring injury, Townsend and Querrey will play in all three matches.  
   Bank of the West -- Vandeweghe, a 21-year-old San Diego-area resident, defeated seventh-seeded Gabriela Dabrowski of Canada 6-4, 6-1 in the second round of qualifying.
   Vandeweghe will face another Canadian, third-seeded Sharon Fichman, today for a berth in the main draw.
   Fichman beat Alexandra Stevenson, a 1999 Wimbledon semifinalist, 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-2. That prevented a matchup between 6-foot-1 (1.85-meter) players with former NBA stars in the family. Stevenson's father is Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer Julius Erving. Vandeweghe's uncle is Kiki Vandeweghe.
   In the main draw, second-seeded Samantha Stosur of Australia will open against Olga Govortsova of Belarus on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the second round. Stosur, 29, won the 2011 U.S. Open. Govortsova, 24, played for the Capitals last week.
   Top-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland will begin play on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the second round against the winner of today's match between Francesca Schiavone of Italy and former Stanford star Mallory Burdette of Jackson, Ga.
   Radwanska reached last year's Wimbledon final, losing to Serena Williams, and this year's semifinals at the All England Club. Schiavone, 33, won the 2010 French Open. Burdette, 22, captured NCAA doubles titles in 2011 and 2012 and advanced to last year's NCAA singles final, falling to Cardinal teammate Nicole Gibbs. 
   The top four seeds -- Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia is No. 3, and Jamie Hampton of Atlanta is No. 4 -- received first-round byes.
   Gibbs, a wild card, will meet Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands tonight after the 7 p.m. match between Madison Keys, 18, of Boca Raton, Fla., and eighth-seeded Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia.
CAPITALS 21, ORANGE COUNTY 16
In Irvine, Calif.
   Mixed doubles -- Treat Huey and Liga Dekmeijere (Orange County) def. Mark Knowles and Megan Moulton-Levy, 5-4.
   Women's singles -- Taylor Townsend (Capitals) def. Maria Elena Camerin, 5-0.
   Men's doubles -- Huey and Steve Johnson (Orange County) def. Knowles and Sam Querrey, 5-2.
   Women's doubles -- Moulton-Levy and Townsend (Capitals) def. Camerin and Dekmeijere, 5-3.
   Men's singles -- Querrey (Capitals) def. Johnson, 5-3.
BANK OF THE WEST CLASSIC
At Stanford
Second-round qualifying
   Michelle Larcher de Brito (2), Portugal, def. Julia Boserup, United States, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.
   Olga Puchkova (1), Russia, def. Petra Rampre, Slovenia, 6-2, 6-1.
   Vera Dushevina (5), Russia, def. Kristie Ahn, United States, 6-1, 6-3.
   Alla Kudryavtseva (4), Russia, def. Ivana Lisjak, Croatia, 6-4, 6-2.
   Sharon Fichman (3), Canada, def. Alexandra Stevenson, United States, 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-2.
   Natalie Grandin, South Africa, def. Sachie Ishizu (8), Japan, 6-4, 6-7 (7), 7-5.
   Sacha Jones (6), Australia, def. Allie Will, United States, 6-4, 6-1.
   CoCo Vandeweghe, United States, def. Gabriela Dabrowski, Canada, 6-4, 6-1.
Today's schedule
Stadium
(Starting at 10 a.m.)
   Olga Puchkova (1), Russia, vs. Vera Dushevina (5), Russia (final-round qualifying).
   Julia Goerges, Germany, vs. Olga Govortsova, Belarus.
   Mallory Burdette, United States, vs. Francesca Schiavone, Italy.
   Sorana Cirstea (5), Romania, vs. Ayumi Morita, Japan.
   Stefanie Voegele, Switzerland, vs. Ajla Tomljanovic, Croatia.
(Not before 7 p.m.)
   Madison Keys, United States, vs. Magdalena Rybarikova, Slovakia.
   Kiki Bertens, Netherlands, vs. Nicole Gibbs, United States.
Court 6
(Starting at 10 a.m.)
   Michelle Larcher de Brito (2), Portugal, vs. Natalia Grandin, South Africa (final-round qualifying).
   Alla Kudryavtseva (4), Russia, vs. Sacha Jones (6), Australia  (final-round qualifying).
   Sharon Fichman (3), Canada, vs. CoCo Vandeweghe, United States  (final-round qualifying).  

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Vandeweghe, 2012 runner-up, wins in Stanford qualies

Despite reaching the 2012 final at Stanford, CoCo Van-
deweghe was relegated to qualifying again this year.
2012 photo by Paul Bauman
   How can this be?
   CoCo Vandeweghe reached the final of last year's Bank of the West Classic at Stanford as a lucky loser, yet she's back in qualifying in this year's tournament. And she's not even seeded.
   Vandeweghe, 21, defeated fellow American Raquel Kops-Jones, a doubles specialist, 6-4, 6-1 Saturday in the first round of qualifying. Kops-Jones, 30, starred at Cal across San Francisco Bay in the early 2000s. She won the NCAA doubles title 10 years ago with Sacramento native Christina Fusano.
   Two factors caused Vandeweghe, the 6-foot-1 (1.85-meter) niece of former NBA star Kiki Vandeweghe, to plummet from No. 96 in the world to No. 243 and force her to return to qualifying at Stanford.
   First, Vandeweghe lost in the second round on grass at Nottingham last month after reaching the final there as a qualifier last year. The rankings are based on a 52-week revolving system, so a player's results in a given week replace her results from the corresponding week the previous year.
   Second, last year's Bank of the West Classic was moved up to July 9-15 because of the Summer Olympics in London. Therefore, the ranking points Vandeweghe earned for advancing to the Bank of the West final, in which she held a set point in a 7-5, 6-3 loss to Serena Williams, have dropped off the computer. 
   Vandeweghe didn't receive one of the two wild cards, either. Those went to former Stanford star Nicole Gibbs and Ajla Tomljanovic of Croatia.  
   The bright side for Vandeweghe, who will face seventh-seeded Gabriela Dabrowski of Canada today in the second round of qualifying, is she doesn't face the pressure of defending her Bank of the West points. They're already gone.
   Also, if Vandeweghe advances to the main draw, she won't have to play Williams, who did not enter this year's tournament. Futhermore, former Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova and reigning Wimbledon champ Marion Bartoli withdrew with injuries. That left fourth-ranked Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland as the top seed.
   Meanwhile, three members of Stanford's NCAA championship team played in the first round of qualifying. Kristie Ahn advanced, but Krista Hardebeck and Stacey Tan fell.
   The leader of that team, two-time NCAA singles champion Nicole Gibbs, received a wild card into the main draw. Gibbs, who turned pro last month after her junior year, will face 66th-ranked Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands in the first round. The winner of that match will play Atlanta resident Jamie Hampton, seeded fourth and ranked 29th.
   Mallory Burdette, who turned pro last September after her junior year at Stanford, has a tough draw. The 2012 NCAA singles runner-up and 2011 and 2012 NCAA doubles champion will meet Italy's Francesca Schiavone, the 2010 French Open champion, in the first round. But Schiavone has plunged to No. 59 in the world at 33 years old. The survivor of that match will take on Radwanska.
BANK OF THE WEST CLASSIC
At Stanford
First-round qualifying
   Petra Rampre, Slovenia, def. Krista Hardebeck, United States, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2.
   Kristie Ahn, United States, def. Abigail Spears, United States, 1-6, 6-4, 6-1.
   Julia Boserup, United States, def. Alicia Rosolska, Poland, 6-0, 6-2.
   Natalie Grandin, South Africa, def. Miki Miyamura, Japan, 7-5, 6-4.
   Sachie Ishizu (8), Japan, def. Stacey Tan, United States, 6-1, 6-3.
   Alexandra Stevenson, United States, def. Asia Muhammad, United States,  6-3, 6-4.
   CoCo Vandeweghe, United States, def. Raquel Kops-Jones, United States,  6-4, 6-1.
   Gabriela Dabrowski, Canada, def. Tori Kinard, United States, 6-4, 2-6, 7-5.
   Ivana Lisjak, Croatia, def. Sachia Vickery, United States, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4.
   Allie Will, United States, def. Jelena Pandzic, Croatia, 7-5, 6-2.
Today's schedule
(Beginning at 10 a.m.)
Stadium
   Michelle Larcher de Brito (2), Portugal, vs. Julia Boserup, United States.
   Kristie Ahn, United States, vs. Vera Dushevina (5), Russia.
   Sharon Fichman (3), Canada, vs. Alexandra Stevenson, United States.
   CoCo Vandeweghe, United States, vs. Gabriela Dabrowski (7), Canada.
 Court 6
   Olga Puchkova (1), Russia, vs. Petra Rampre, Slovenia.
   Alla Kudryavtseva (4), Russia, vs. Ivana Lisjak, Croatia.
   Natalie Grandin, South Africa, vs. Sachie Ishizu (8), Japan.
   Allie Will, United States, vs. Sacha Jones (6), Australia.  

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Capitals start slowly, lose seventh straight

   This one was over by intermission.
   The Sacramento Capitals got off to a terrible start and lost to the host Boston Lobsters 19-15 in overtime in a World TeamTennis match on Friday.
   The Capitals (3-7) have lost seven consecutive matches, leaving them on the verge of elimination from playoff contention. They have four regular-season matches left, three on the road.
   Sacramento trailed 15-5 at intermission, a virtually impossible deficit to overcome. The Capitals rallied to pull within 18-15 after regulation, but former Capital Eric Butorac and Amir Weintraub won the first game of overtime for the victory.
   The match went into overtime because Sacramento's Mark Knowles and Ryan Sweeting won the last set. To prevent late sets from being meaningless, league rules state that the team leading after four sets must win the final set to end the match. Otherwise, it continues until 1) the trailing team ties the match, in which case it goes to a Supertiebreaker, or 2) the leading team wins one game.
   Taylor Townsend, 17, is scheduled to return to action in Sacramento's next match, Sunday at Orange County (6-4). Townsend, the runner-up in Wimbledon junior girls singles two weeks ago, has missed the Capitals' past five matches with a strained abdominal muscle.
   Hibi upsets top seed -- Mayo Hibi upset top-seeded Lauren Davis 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 earlier this week in the first round of the Women's $50,000 Oregon Challenger in Portland.
   Hibi, a 17-year-old amateur, won the $50,000 FSP Gold River Women's Challenger in the Sacramento area two weeks ago. Davis, a 5-foot-2 (1.57-meter) American, is ranked 88th in the world. It was Hibi's first match against a top-100 player.
   Hibi, an Irvine, Calif., resident who plays for her native Japan, lost to seventh-seeded Grace Min of Lawrenceville, Ga.,  4-6, 6-1, 6-3 in the quarterfinals of the Oregon Challenger.
BOSTON 19, CAPITALS 15 (OT)
In Manchester, Mass.
   Men's singles -- Amir Weintraub (Boston) def. Ryan Sweeting, 5-2.
   Women's singles -- Jill Craybas (Boston) def. Olga Govortsova, 5-1.
   Mixed doubles -- Eric Butorac and Katalin Marosi (Boston) def. Mark Knowles and Megan Moulton-Levy, 5-2.
   Women's doubles -- Govortsova and Moulton-Levy (Capitals) def. Craybas and Marosi, 5-2.
   Men's doubles -- Knowles and Sweeting (Capitals) def. Butorac and Weintraub, 5-1.
   Overtime -- Butorac and Weintraub (Boston) def. Knowles and Sweeting, 1-0.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Bartoli out of Stanford; Capitals lose heartbreaker

Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli withdrew from next
week's Bank of the West Classic because of a hamstring
strain. 2012 photo by Paul Bauman
   The Bank of the West Classic lost another big name.
   Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli announced Thursday that she has withdrawn from next week's tournament at Stanford because of a hamstring strain.
   Bartoli, 28, of France has played in the Bank of the West Classic every year since 2003, winning the title in 2009 and reaching the final in 2008 and 2011.
   "It's one of my favorite tournaments," the seventh-ranked Bartoli told the Associated Press.
   Second-ranked Maria Sharapova pulled out of the Bank of the West Classic earlier this week with a left hip injury, and Wimbledon runner-up Sabine Lisicki opted out last week because of a wrist problem.
   Headlining the Bank of the West Classic are Wimbledon semifinalists Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland and Kristen Flipkens of Belgium and 2011 U.S. Open champion Samantha Stosur.
   Former Stanford stars Mallory Burdette and Nicole Gibbs have received wild cards.
   Capitals lose heartbreaker -- In a roller-coaster match, the visiting Sacramento Capitals lost to the Springfield (Mo.) Lasers 20-19 in a Supertiebreaker. All the more galling for Sacramento, ex-Capital Vania King played a key role for Springfield.
   The Capitals have lost six straight matches after winning their first three. They likely must win their five remaining regular-season matches to keep their faint playoff hopes alive.
   Sacramento's Olga Govortsova and Megan Moulton-Levy served for the match at 19-17 in women's doubles, but King and Alisa Kleybanova broke serve to tie the set 4-4. That forced a tiebreaker, which the Springfield duo won 5-1 to send the match to a Supertiebreaker.
   King and Kleybanova prevailed 7-2 as Springfield improved to 6-3 and remained tied for first place with Orange County in the Western Conference.
   King, a two-time Grand Slam champion in women's doubles, played all of part of the past three seasons for Sacramento after being named the 2009 WTT Female MVP for Springfield.
   Kleybanova, who reached No. 20 in the world in singles in 2011, returned to competition in May after battling Hodgkin's lymphoma for two years. 
   Sacramento trailed 10-5 after men's doubles and mixed doubles but rallied in men's singles and women's singles to lead 15-14. Ryan Sweeting won in singles for the first time in six attempts, beating Rik de Voest 5-3, and Govortsova routed Kleybanova 5-1.
SPRINGFIELD 20, CAPITALS 19 (Supertiebreaker)
In Springfield, Mo.
   Men's doubles -- Jean Julien-Rojer and Rik de Voest (Springfield) def. Mark Knowles and Ryan Sweeting, 5-2.
   Mixed doubles -- Alisa Kleybanova and Rojer (Springfield) def. Olga Govortsova and Sweeting, 5-3.
   Men's singles -- Sweeting (Capitals) def. de Voest, 5-3.
   Women's singles -- Govortsova (Capitals) def. Kleybanova, 5-1.
   Women's doubles -- Kleybanova and Vania King (Springfield) def. Govortsova and Megan Moulton-Levy, 5-4.
   Supertiebreaker -- Kleybanova and King (Springfield) def. Govortsova and Moulton-Levy, 7-2.  

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Russia's Kleybanova bounces back from cancer

Alisa Kleybanova was diagnosed with Hodgkin's
lymphoma three months after reaching a career-high
No. 20 in the world in 2011. Photo by Paul Bauman
   She still has the powerful serve and laser-like groundstrokes that carried her to No. 20 in the world in 2011.
   But something is different about Alisa Kleybanova.
   She smiles during matches, which is very rare in the cutthroat world of professional tennis.
   "She'll miss a ball, and she'll still smile," marveled Diana Ospina, who lost to Kleybanova 6-3, 6-2 in the first round of qualifying for the recent $50,000 FSP Gold River Women's Challenger in the Sacramento area. "That doesn't happen."
   With no ballboys or ballgirls for many matches in tennis' minor leagues, Kleybanova picks up balls for her opponent, which is even rarer.
   "She even crossed the net and gave me the ball," Ospina, an American who reached a career-high No. 231 in the world 10 years ago, said a few days before her 34th birthday. "I'm used to doing that. I'm not used to people doing that to me." 
   And -- perhaps the biggest shocker of all -- Kleybanova gladly gives a one-hour interview. Most pros would rather get food poisoning than spend an hour with a reporter.
   A long bout with cancer tends to change one's perspective.
   "I try to enjoy (tennis) more," Kleybanova, a Russian who turned 24 on Monday, said during the Gold River Challenger. "When something goes wrong, I try to keep in my mind that it's great to be back and not make a drama out of it because it's nothing compared to real drama in your life that can happen. It's a game at the end of the day.
   "Yeah, (pro tennis) is a lot of responsibility (with) a very, very high stress factor and a very tough thing to do mentally and physically. You break down your body and your mind, but the worst thing that can happen is you lose. So what? You have next week, and it's the next tournament. You try to get ready and try to be better."
   Kleybanova left the elite WTA tour in May 2011 after being diagnosed in Paris with Hodgkin's lymphoma (cancer of the immune system). Except for an aborted comeback last year in Miami, where she reached the second round, she missed two years.
   Kleybanova has played three tournaments since returning in May. Having dropped out of the world rankings, she started at the bottom -- qualifying in a $10,000 hardcourt tournament in Landisville, Pa. Her first opponent was ranked No. 1,147.  It wasn't exactly like playing Venus Williams at Wimbledon, which Kleybanova has done twice (losing in straight sets each time).
   The 5-foot-11 (1.81-meter), 159-pound (72-kilogram) Kleybanova went on to win the Landisville title, saving seven match points in the semifinals. She reached the final of a $10,000 clay-court tournament in Buffalo, N.Y., last month and the quarterfinals on hardcourts in the Gold River Challenger earlier this month.
   Playing her sixth match in six days in 100-degree-plus (37.8-plus Celsius) heat, Kleybanova finally wilted in Gold River. She fell to hard-hitting Croat Ivana Lisjak, a former top-100 player who had played only two tournaments in more than two years because of a lower back injury, 0-6, 6-2, 7-6 (2) in 2 hours, 20 minutes in the afternoon as the temperature soared to 108 degrees (42 Celsius).
   After beating Ospina, Kleybanova said of her fitness: "I'm still not at my peak yet. It's going to take a while to get to that level when I can play really tough matches and perform great. Right now, I'm trying to get there step by step." 
   Ospina, a teaching pro in the Detroit area and volunteer assistant coach at the University of Detroit Mercy, has no doubt that Kleybanova eventually will return to the top 20.
   "She can pull out some amazing shots," Ospina said. "Once you've been there, you know you can go back, but I cannot imagine what she has gone through. It's indescribable.
   "But to come here or go to a ($10,000 tournament) and play qualies, that's someone special. That is someone who loves the game of tennis, who is willing to do whatever it takes to get back to where she belongs. There is no accident when you get to be top 20 in the world. You earned that right."
   During the traditional postmatch handshake at the net, Ospina told Kleybanova that it was an honor to play her. Kleybanova's response?
   " 'The pleasure's mine. Thank you, thank you very much. That means a lot,' " Ospina said. "And you could tell she really meant it. It wasn't like (a perfunctory handshake). No, no, no, no, no. This was eye-to-eye contact. This was not dropping the eyes down low. This was face-to-face. I appreciate that. ... I wish her all the best."
* * * 
  Kleybanova achieved various career bests in each of her first four years on the WTA tour. Fourth round of Wimbledon in 2008 at 18 years old. Fourth round of the Australian Open in 2009. No. 10 in the world in doubles in 2010. No. 20 in singles in 2011.
   But through it all, something was wrong.
   "I was constantly getting sick," Kleybanova lamented. "I played through it because I thought it's nothing serious. That's what all the doctors told me as well. Nobody really took it seriously. Nobody could figure out what's happening until it really went bad."
   At Indian Wells and Miami in March 2011, her lymph nodes began to swell in two places, but Kleybanova declined to say where.
   "I went to the doctor there, and they just gave me antibiotics again and said, 'Just keep playing. Nothing is wrong. Everything is going to be fine,' " Kleybanova said. "I played Miami, I played Charleston, I went back to Europe, I played Estoril, I played Madrid (and Rome), and it kept getting bigger and bigger. I always felt bad, but I could perform."
   Until May, when Kleybanova and her coach, Julian Vespan, flew to Paris for the French Open.    
   "It was three or four days before the tournament started, but I didn't get better anymore," Kleybanova said. "We went to the tournament and said, 'We have to do something because it doesn't look like a regular sickness anymore. It's been more than a week that I feel terrible and I'm not getting any better.'
   "Then my coach really pushed the doctors to do more tests. We got to the right specialist, everything was clear, and I pulled out of tournaments straight away, flew back to Italy and started my treatment."
   Kleybanova reacted calmly to the diagnosis, according to Vespan.
   "It was, 'OK, bad luck. What we have to do?' That's it,' " Vespan said from Arizona, where he has been helping Russian star Vera Zvonareva train for her comeback from shoulder surgery. "It's a fact of life. It's tough, but she's a strong girl."
   Kleybanova was treated in Italy because she has a training base and close friends there and because the hospital in Perugia specializes in Hodgkin's lymphoma.  
   "When I went to the hospital there, I saw from the first step (when) I walked in that they really want to help me out," said Kleybanova, who's fluent in Italian as well as Russian and English. "Everybody was very excited to help me win that battle and be back on the court.
   "Everybody knew I was a professional athlete, and many people from there saw me on television. It was a big challenge for them, too, because it's not every day that they get people like that for treatment. We made a great team."
   Kleybanova's chemotherapy and radiation treatments exhausted her.
   "You don't think to go for a walk," she said. "You just try to stay in bed all the time. The first couple days especially are exhausting after the treatments."
   Kleybanova didn't fear for her life, though. The survival rate for Hodgkin's lymphoma is very high.
   "I never really thought about it," she said. "I'm always positive about things. I didn't take it as a battle for my life. I took it as a very difficult match, a very difficult challenge. I felt like I have an opponent to beat, but the opponent was in my body. The No. 1 thing was to beat the disease and to be healthy. No. 2 was to be back on the court."
   But Kleybanova's parents, Mikhail and Natalia, did fear for their only child's life. 
   "They took it a lot worse than I did," Kleybanova said. "I had to support them."
   Kleybanova's parents were especially concerned because her paternal grandmother, Zhanna, died of brain cancer last year at 76.
   "She was my lucky charm in tennis," Kleybanova said wistfully. "She was always there when I was playing tournaments in Russia, cheering for me. When I was away (in Italy), I was always calling her at home and talking to her.
   "She was the most important person in my family. I could always talk to her about everything. She always gave me great advice. She always was there for me no matter if I won, if I lost, if I did something good, if something went bad.
   "So it was very hard to lose her -- and hard for my dad as well because for him it was amazing. The daughter has this; the mom has this. It was a very tough time for my family the last couple years."
   Being a pro athlete helped Kleybanova recover, though.
   "For sure," Kleybanova said. "You build life skills, as well. It's not just running on the court and hitting balls. It's the ability to overcome the stress factor, to overcome difficult moments, to (make) decisions very quickly, to focus, to go over your limits when you need to. We do that all the time."
   Kleybanova has faced plenty of adversity during her career, though nothing like cancer.
   "It's not like I had a very fluid road from the best junior to newcoming pro and at the age of 17 I was top 10," she said. "For me, the road was always full of difficulties, tough losses and periods that I was really not playing good tennis and I was struggling with putting my game together, finding the right people to work with, organizing my training process ...
   "Going through all that and still achieving what I achieved, if I can put things together better this time, I can do that again. That gives me a lot of confidence and mental energy to go through tough times now."
   Most of all, Kleybanova missed the thrill of competing in big matches during her extended layoff.
   "I don't get pleasure just being on the court," she conceded. "For me, it's to be in front of the crowd, to participate in something big. Those are emotions you get when you play on center court at big tournaments. It's amazing. I really want to feel it again. I really look forward to come back to that level, because I really, really miss those emotions and the whole feeling of something big going on."
   Kleybanova was gratified by the tennis community's response to her ordeal. Among those who sent her e-mails was Corina Morariu, an American who reached No. 1 in the world in doubles at 22 years old in 2000, was diagnosed with leukemia the following year and returned to the tour the year after that.
   "Everybody was very supportive," Kleybanova said. "It was nice that she wrote me and many other people did. It was nice to feel that basically the whole tennis world supported me and missed me while I was off tour. I couldn't wish any more than that."
   Kleybanova, in turn, wrote an e-mail of support to Ross Hutchins, an Englishman who climbed to a career-high No. 26 in the world in doubles in May last year and was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma last December.
* * *
   Kleybanova is halfway through her first season of World TeamTennis. She and former Sacramento Capital Vania King lead the league in women's doubles for Springfield (Mo.), who are tied for first place in the Western Conference. King, the 2009 WTT Female MVP, plays women's singles for the Lasers. The WTT Finals are scheduled for July 28.
   Now ranked No. 594, Kleybanova plans to use her protected ranking of No. 26, where she stood when she left the tour in 2011, to play in the $2.216 million Rogers Cup in Toronto on the WTA tour early next month.
   Direct entry into tournaments is based on a player's ranking. The more prize money a tournament offers, the more popular it is among players and the higher the ranking is needed to earn a berth.
   Toronto will be the first WTA tournament of Kleybanova's comeback. She reached the semifinals there in 2009, beating Jelena Jankovic in the quarterfinals before falling to countrywoman Maria Sharapova 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 in the semifinals. Jankovic was ranked No. 4 at the time after reaching No. 1 in 2008.
   Kleybanova can use her protected ranking for eight tournaments of her choosing, including one Grand Slam, until next May. She is deciding between the U.S. Open, which begins Aug. 26, and the Australian Open in January for the Grand Slam spot and hopes to receive a wild card in the other one.
   Her goal this year is to "get as close to the top 100 as possible." That would help her get into WTA tournaments without having to use her protected ranking or play in qualifying events.
   As for long-range goals, Kleybanova said, "I don't really look very far ahead because I'm just starting, and it's hard to (predict) what's going to happen."
   Kleybanova looks forward to finding out.
   "I'm very curious to challenge myself on a higher level, play year-round and see how (being healthy) changes everything," she said. "Most of my career so far, I was struggling to be healthy. So few times I was at 100 percent. I'm really curious how it's going to be out there and not getting sick so much anymore, to be able to prepare better for my tournaments and program things the right way. I'm very excited about that right now."