Sunday, September 29, 2013

Another California crown puts Young in state of bliss

Posing with the winner's check of $7,200 in the inaugural Napa Valley Challenger
are (left to right) Napa Valley Country Club general manager Todd Meginness,
tournament director Chris Arns, champion Donald Young and tournament
chairman Kevin Crossland. Photos by Paul Bauman
   NAPA, Calif. -- The question caught Donald Young off-guard.
   "Red or white?" Chris Arns, the tournament director of the $50,000 Napa Valley Challenger, asked Young in a postmatch interview on the court today.
   "You mean wine (preference)?" Young responded. "I don't really drink. I tried red once, so I guess I'll go with that."
   The 24-year-old Atlanta resident felt at home in wine country anyway, defeating Matthew Ebden 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 to win the inaugural tournament at the Napa Valley Country Club. Ebden, a 25-year-old Australian, led by a service break in the second set.
   Five of Young's seven Challenger singles titles (all on hardcourt) have come in California. After breaking through in Aptos in 2007, he won Sacramento in 2008, Calabasas in 2009 and Carson in 2010.
   "The weather's good. It's calm," Young said of the Golden State. "I like it out here, to be honest. Can't tell you. I just like California."
   So much so that Young is thinking of buying a house in the Los Angeles area.
   "That's where most of the hitting and players are," he reasoned.
   Both Young and Ebden are scheduled to play in the Sacramento Challenger next week and the Tiburon Challenger, in the San Francisco Bay Area, the week after that.
   This is the first time in Young's 10-year professional career -- yes, the former child prodigy turned pro at 14 -- that he has won two Challengers in one year. He also triumphed in Leon, Mexico, in April.
   Once projected as the next great American, Young has never won a title on the ATP World Tour, the major leagues of men's tennis. But after struggling for years, the undersized left-hander appeared to be reaching his potential in 2011.
   Young reached the third round at Indian Wells as a qualifier, stunning then-No. 5 Andy Murray along the way, in March and gained the semifinals at Washington, D.C., in August. Then in consecutive tournaments, Young advanced to the fourth round of the U.S. Open and the final in Bangkok, losing to Murray each time.
   Young attained a career-high No. 38 in the world rankings in February 2012 but then went into a tailspin. He lost in the first round of 16 consecutive tournaments from February to August and went 5-24 for the year at the top level of men's tennis. 
   "It was mental," Young reflected. "I got (to No. 38); I thought some things might happen that didn't happen; you're not working as hard as you were to get there; I switched rackets, which wasn't a good idea. A lot of things happened, it spirals, and it takes you a while to get back, but now I feel I'm coming back."
   When pressed on what "things" happened after he reached No. 38, Young said: "I was the fourth-ranked American and maybe thought a few things would come with that, but they didn't. I don't want to get too into it because we're good now."
   Young probably was referring to the USTA. In any case, he has rebounded since plunging to No. 202 in February. By winning the Napa title, Young jumped 17 places to No. 125.
Matthew Ebden settled for the runner-up
trophy after leading by a set and a break
in the final.
   When Ebden broke for 3-2 in the second set, it appeared he was on his way to the title. Young immediately broke back, though, and broke again for the set with a backhand, cross-court passing shot on Ebden's high-kicking first serve.
   "It was close to being over," conceded Young, seeded sixth. "I started to play freer. I wasn't as free in the beginning as I wanted to be, but he was playing well. He was mixing it up, giving me a lot of different looks. It wasn't a lot of pace; I had to generate a lot. It was tough. So I just focused and started hitting out, and it started working a little bit."
   In the third set, both players held serve as Young took a 3-2 lead. Then Ebden, seeded eighth, mysteriously fell apart. He lost his serve at love -- double-faulting twice, including on break point -- to trail 4-2 and double-faulted again on Young's second championship point.
   Ebden, who won the Australian Open mixed doubles title with Slovakian-born Australian Jarmila Gajdosova in January, cited changing conditions for his downfall. After a week of sun, the final was played in partly cloudy, breezy weather with a high of 74 degrees (23 Celsius).       
   "I was up a set and a break," noted Ebden, who improved eight notches to No. 114 after reaching a career-high No. 61 last October. "I was playing quite well, and it was a little bit different suddenly. It was quite windy, and Donald is a left-hander. It's a bit different.
   "To play without the sun today was a little bit different. (The conditions) got really dead and slow, and Donald defended really well. Then he hit some good shots and a lot of lines when he needed to."
   Ebden also blamed the weather for his late double faults.
   "I didn't feel too comfortable with the racket," said Ebden, whose only other double fault game in his first service game. "The tension in the strings feels a lot different when it gets hot, and then it's cold and windy. It's not always that easy.
(Left to right) Meginness, doubles champions John-Patrick Smith and Bobby
Reynolds, Arns, runners-up Steve Johnson and Tim Smyczek, and Crossland.
   "It's one of those things. One or two doubles in the match came at the wrong time, I guess."
   In the doubles final, Bobby Reynolds and John-Patrick Smith defeated Steve Johnson and Tim Smyczek 6-4, 7-6 (2). All but Smith, an Australian, are Americans. Both teams were unseeded.
   Following are links to the completed singles and doubles draws in the Napa Valley Challenger:
   http://assets.usta.com/assets/1/15/singles_draw287.PDF
   http://assets.usta.com/assets/1/15/doubles_draw288.PDF
   Here are links to the singles qualifying draw, singles and doubles main draws and Monday's schedule in the $100,000 Sacramento Pro Circuit Challenger at the Natomas Racquet Club:
   http://assets.usta.com/assets/1/15/qualifying_draw289.PDF
   http://assets.usta.com/assets/1/15/singles_draw291.PDF
   http://assets.usta.com/assets/1/15/doubles_draw292.PDF
   http://assets.usta.com/assets/1/15/schedule292.PDF

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Ebden, Young set up intriguing Napa Challenger final

Eighth-seeded Donald Young, shown in the Aptos Challenger
in July, ousted No. 2 seed Tim Smyczek to reach the final of
the Napa Valley Challenger. Photo by Paul Bauman
   The first Napa Valley Challenger final looks enticing.
   Sixth-seeded Matthew Ebden and eighth-seeded Donald Young, both trying to return to the top 100 in the world, have rolled through the draw in the inaugural $50,000 tournament at the Napa Valley Country Club.
   Young, ranked No. 142, ousted No. 2 seed Tim Smyczek of Tampa, Fla., 6-3, 6-2 in today's first semifinal. Ebden, ranked No. 122, dominated fourth-seeded Alex Kuznetsov of Tampa, Fla., 6-2, 6-0.
   In the recent U.S. Open, the 5-foot-9 (1.75-meter) Smyczek (pronounced SMEE-chek) reached the third round as a wild card and Young the second round as a qualifier. Ebden fell in the first round of qualifying at Flushing Meadows.
   Neither Young, a 24-year-old left-hander from Atlanta, nor Ebden, 25, of Australia, has lost a set in four matches in Napa. In Friday's quarterfinals, Ebden toppled No. 1 seed Denis Kudla of Arlington, Va., and Young dispatched No. 3 seed Rhyne Williams of Knoxville, Tenn.
   Sunday's final will be the first meeting between Young, who reached a career-high No. 38 in February 2012, and Ebden, who climbed as high as No. 61 last October.  
   Both players have won one singles title in one final this year.
   Ebden triumphed on grass in the Nottingham (England) Challenger in June. He also won the Australian Open mixed doubles title with Jarmila Gajdosova, a Slovakian-born Australian, in January.
   Young prevailed on hardcourt in the Leon (Mexico) Challenger in April.
   Here are links to the Napa singles and doubles draws and Sunday's schedule:
   http://assets.usta.com/assets/1/15/singles_draw287.PDF
   http://assets.usta.com/assets/1/15/doubles_draw288.PDF
   http://assets.usta.com/assets/1/15/schedule288.PDF
   Following are links to Sunday's qualifying schedule and the singles main draw in the $100,000 Sacramento Pro Circuit Challenger:
   http://assets.usta.com/assets/1/15/singles_draw291.PDF
   http://assets.usta.com/assets/1/15/schedule292.PDF

Friday, September 27, 2013

Top seed eliminated in Napa Challenger

   Sixth-seeded Matthew Ebden of Australia beat top-seeded Denis Kudla of Arlington, Va., 6-3, 7-5 today in the quarterfinals of the $50,000 Napa Valley Challenger at the Napa Valley Country Club.
   It was the first meeting between Ebden, a 25-year-old South Africa native, and the 21-year-old Kudla, who moved from his native Ukraine to Fairfax, Va., on his first birthday.
   Ebden is ranked No. 122 in the world after reaching a career-high No. 61 last October. He and Jarmila Gajdosova, a Slovakian-born Australian, won the Australian Open mixed doubles title this year as wild cards. Ebden also has won three doubles titles on the ATP World Tour, the major leagues of men's tennis.
   Kudla, ranked No. 99, was the only top-100 player in the Napa singles field.
   Ebden will meet fourth-seeded Alex Kuznetsov of Tampa, Fla., in Saturday's second semifinal. Kuznetsov, ranked No. 130, topped unseeded Michael Venus of New Zealand 6-2, 7-6 (3).
   Ebden and Kuznetsov have split two matches against each other. Kuzentsov won the last meeting, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 in the first round of the $100,000 Dallas Challenger in February.
   In Saturday's first semifinal at 11:30 a.m., second-seeded Tim Smyczek of Tampa will face eighth-seeded Donald Young of Atlanta.
   Smyczek, who reached the third round of the recent U.S. Open, topped fifth-seeded Bradley Klahn 1-6, 6-1, 6-2. Klahn was playing 81 miles (130 kilometers) north of Stanford, where he starred from 2009 to 2012.
   Young, who climbed to a career-high No. 38 in February 2012, eliminated No. 3 seed Rhyne Williams of Knoxville, Tenn., 6-2, 7-5. 
   Young is 6-3 against Smyczek. However, Smyczek has won the last two meetings, most recently 7-5, 7-6 (3) in the third round of qualifying at Atlanta on the ATP World Tour in July.
   Here are links to the singles and doubles draws and Saturday's schedule:
   http://assets.usta.com/assets/1/15/singles_draw287.PDF
   http://assets.usta.com/assets/1/15/doubles_draw288.PDF
   http://assets.usta.com/assets/1/15/schedule288.PDF
   Here are links to the qualifying draw for the $100,000 Sacramento Pro Circuit Challenger at the Natomas Racquet Club and Saturday's schedule:
   http://assets.usta.com/assets/1/15/qualifying_draw289.PDF
   http://assets.usta.com/assets/1/15/schedule292.PDF

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Michael Venus scores upset again in Napa

   Michael Venus pulled off his second consecutive upset in the inaugural Napa Valley Challenger.
   The 25-year-old New Zealander nipped Robby Ginepri of Kennesaw, Ga., 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (6) today in the second round of the $50,000 tournament at the Napa Valley Country Club.
   Venus, the only unseeded player in the quarterfinals, and Ginepri, who also was unseeded, are ranked No. 364 and No. 229 in the world, respectively. Ginepri had won their only previous meeting 6-2, 6-2 in the first round of the Binghamton (N.Y.) Challenger last year.
  Ginepri, 30, is the only active U.S. man to have reached a Grand Slam singles semifinal, losing to Andre Agassi in five sets in 2005.
   Ginepri has reached the fourth round or better at all four Grand Slam tournaments and won three titles on the ATP World Tour, the major leagues of men's tennis. The right-hander climbed to a career-high No. 15 in the world in 2006 but broke his left elbow in September 2010 when he fell off his bicycle trying to avoid a squirrel. He missed 10 months.
   Venus, a former LSU All-American who surprised seventh-seeded Steve Johnson of Orange, Calif., in the first round, will meet fourth-seeded Alex Kuznetsov of Tampa, Fla., on Friday at 1 p.m. on Court 6.
   The other quarterfinal matchups, in order on the Stadium Court beginning at 11:30 a.m., are No. 3 Rhyne Williams of Knoxville, Tenn., against No 8 Donald Young of Atlanta, No. 1 Denis Kudla of Arlington, Va., vs. sixth-seeded Matthew Ebden of Australia and No. 2 Tim Smyczek of Tampa against No. 5 Bradley Klahn of Poway in the San Diego area.
   Neither Kudla nor Smyczek (pronounced SMEE-chek) has lost more than two games in a set in his two matches at Napa. The 5-foot-11 (1.80-meter) Kudla, ranked No. 99, is the only top-100 player in the singles draw. Smyczek, only 5-foot-9 (1.75 meters), gained the third round of the recent U.S. Open.
   Klahn is playing 81 miles (130 kilometers) north of Stanford, where he starred from 2009 to 2012. He won the 2010 NCAA singles title as a sophomore, underwent surgery for a herniated disc as a junior and graduated in economics last year. In his last three years, Klahn reached the quarterfinals or better in NCAA singles and doubles.
   Here are links to the singles and doubles draws and Friday's schedule:
   http://assets.usta.com/assets/1/15/singles_draw287.PDF
   http://assets.usta.com/assets/1/15/doubles_draw288.PDF
   http://assets.usta.com/assets/1/15/schedule288.PDF

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

New rankings, TV schedule, calendar

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. 356 in singles (+3), No. 128 in doubles (+2).
   Bradley Klahn, 23 years old, 2010 NCAA singles champion and 2011 NCAA doubles runner-up from Stanford -- No. 134 in singles (-1), No. 185 in doubles (-5).
   Scott Lipsky, 32 years old, 2002 NCAA doubles runner-up from Stanford -- No. 29 in doubles (no change), unranked in singles.
   Sam Querrey, 25 years old, San Francisco native, Capitals (2012-13) -- No. 31 in singles (no change), No. 173 in doubles (-3).
   Ryan Sweeting, 26 years old, Capitals (2012-13) -- No. 532 in singles (-7), No. 874 in doubles (-1).
   Dmitry Tursunov, 30 years old, trains at Gorin Tennis Academy in Sacramento suburb of Granite Bay -- No. 36 in singles (-2), No. 158 in doubles (+40).
Women
   Mallory Burdette, 22 years old, NCAA singles runner-up in 2012 and NCAA doubles champion in 2011 and 2012 from Stanford -- No. 122 in singles (-1), No. 435 in doubles (-2).
   Nicole Gibbs, 20 years old, NCAA singles champion in 2012 and 2013 and NCAA doubles champion in 2012 from Stanford -- No. 207 in singles (+3), No. 553 in doubles (+4).
   Macall Harkins, Redding resident -- No. 275 in doubles (-31), No. 776 in singles (-19).
   Raquel Kops-Jones, 30 years old, 2003 NCAA doubles champion from Cal -- No. 17 in doubles (-1), unranked in singles.
   Megan Moulton-Levy, 28 years old, Capitals (2013) -- No. 53 in doubles (no change), unranked in singles.
   Maria Sanchez, 23 years old, Modesto product -- No. 142 in singles (-27), No. 141 in doubles (-13).
   Taylor Townsend, 17 years old, Capitals (2013) -- No. 278 in singles (-1), No. 227 in doubles (+68).
TV SCHEDULE
(All Times PDT)
Thursday
   Tokyo (women), quarterfinals, Tennis Channel, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. (delay), 5:30-11:30 p.m. (repeat). 
   Tokyo (women), semifinals, Tennis Channel, 11:30 p.m.-3:30 a.m. Friday (live).
Friday
   Tokyo (women), semifinals, Tennis Channel, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. and 5-9 p.m. (repeat).      
   Kuala Lumpur (men), quarterfinals, Tennis Channel, 1-5 p.m. (delay).
   Tokyo (women), final, Tennis Channel, 9-11 p.m. (live).
Saturday
   Tokyo (women), final, Tennis Channel, 9-11 a.m. (replay).
   Kuala Lumpur (men), semifinals, Tennis Channel, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. (delay), 7-9 p.m. (repeat).
   Bangkok (men), semifinals, Tennis Channel, 3-7 p.m. (delay).
Sunday
   Kuala Lumpur (men), final, Tennis Channel, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. (delay), 7-9 p.m. (repeat).
   Bangkok (men), final, Tennis Channel, 1-3 p.m. (delay), 5-7 p.m. (repeat). 
CALENDAR
   Thru Sunday -- $50,000 Napa Valley Challenger (men), Napa Valley Country Club, 3385 Hagen Road, Napa, Calif., 94558, www.napavalleychallenger.com, (707) 252-2299. 2012 champions -- Inaugural tournament.
   Monday-Oct. 6 -- $100,000 Natomas Challenger (men), Natomas Racquet Club, 2450 Natomas Park Drive, Sacramento, Calif., 95833, www.natomaschallenger.com, (916) 649-0909. Qualifying begins Saturday at 9 a.m., main draw Monday at 10 a.m. 2012 champions: James Blake, Tennys Sandgren-Rhyne Williams.
   Oct. 7-13 -- $100,000 First Republic Bank Tiburon Challenger (men), Tiburon Peninsula Club, 1600 Mar West Street, Tiburon, Calif., 94920, (415) 789-7900, www.tiburonchallenger.com. Qualifying begins Oct. 5 at 10 a.m., main draw Oct. 7 not before 11:30 a.m. 2012 champions: Jack Sock, Rik de Voest-Chris Guccione.
   Oct. 19-Nov. 3 -- Sacramento Clay Court League, Ben Combs' house, 8582 Westin Lane, Orangevale, Calif., 95662, registration deadline Oct. 4, www.sacramentoclaycourtleague.com.

Ex-Stanford star survives another challenge in Napa

Former Stanford star Bradley Klahn, seeded fifth, will meet
fellow American Tim Smyczek, seeded second, on Friday
in the quarterfinals at Napa. 2012 photo by Paul Bauman
   Bradley Klahn already has had a tough draw in the inaugural Napa Valley Challenger.
   It's about to get tougher.
   The former Stanford All-American, seeded fifth, turned back 17-year-old qualifier Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 today to reach the quarterfinals of the $50,000 tournament at the Napa Valley Country Club.
   Kokkinakis reached the boys singles final of the Australian Open and U.S. Open and won the boys doubles title at Wimbledon this year.
   Klahn, a 23-year-old left-hander from Poway in the San Diego area, outlasted Daniel Evans of Great Britain 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 in the first round at Napa. Evans, also 23, advanced to the third round of the recent U.S. Open as a qualifier.
   Klahn will face another player who reached the third round at Flushing Meadows, second-seeded Tim Smyczek of Tampa, Fla., in Friday's quarterfinals. The 5-foot-9 (1.75-meter) Smyczek (pronounced SMEE-chek), 25, has lost only six games in his two Napa matches.
   Klahn won the 2010 NCAA singles title as a sophomore, underwent surgery for a herniated disc as a junior (but reached the NCAA singles quarterfinals and doubles final), and graduated in economics last year.
   He is 3-2 against Smyzcek, including 1-1 this year. In their last meeting, also on hardcourt, Klahn won 6-3, 7-5 in the quarterfinals of the $50,000 Winnetka (Ill.) Challenger in July. 
   In the other quarterfinal in the bottom half of the Napa draw, third-seeded Rhyne Williams will meet fellow American and eighth seed Donald Young for the first time. Young dismissed Australian Samuel Groth, who owns the world's fastest serve (163.4 mph or 263 kph), 6-3, 6-1.
   An American is guaranteed to play in Sunday's final. The quarterfinalists in the top half of the draw will be determined today, with one American playing in each of the four matches.
   All four doubles seeds lost in the first round. Eliminated were No. 1 Groth and countryman Chris Guccione, No. 2 Tennys Sandgren of the United States and Williams, No. 3 Klahn and New Zealand's Michael Venus, and No. 4 Denys Molchanov of Ukraine and Matt Reid of Australia.
   Here are links to the singles and doubles draws and Thursday's schedule:
   http://assets.usta.com/assets/1/15/singles_draw287.PDF
   http://assets.usta.com/assets/1/15/doubles_draw288.PDF
   http://assets.usta.com/assets/1/15/schedule288.PDF

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Klahn outlasts Evans in rematch of Aptos final

Bradley Klahn, a former Stanford star, beat Daniel Evans of
Great Britain in a tight match in Northern California for the
second month in a row. 2012 photo by Paul Bauman
   The match lived up to expectations.
   In a battle of 23-year-olds, fifth-seeded Bradley Klahn topped Daniel Evans 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 today in the first round of the inaugural Napa Valley Challenger at the Napa Valley Country Club.
   Klahn, a former Stanford star from Poway in the San Diego area, also outlasted Evans of Great Britain 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4 last month in Aptos, Calif., for his first Challenger title. Evans lost after holding one or more championship points for the second straight week. He had one against Klahn and three the previous week against Vasek Pospisil of Canada in the Vancouver Challenger.
   Evans reached the third round of the recent U.S. Open as a qualifier, stunning 11th-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan and 2011 Wimbledon quarterfinalist Bernard Tomic. Evans lost to 19th-seeded Tommy Robredo, who then eliminated five-time champion Roger Federer in straight sets before falling to eventual champion Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals.
   Klahn, a wild card at Flushing Meadows, advanced to the second round for the second consecutive year. He defeated 6-foot-8 (2.03-meter) Kenny De Schepper of France but lost to 23rd-seeded Feliciano Lopez of Spain. All three players are left-handed.
   Klahn will meet Thanasi Kokkinakis, a 17-year-old qualifier from Australia, on Wednesday in the second round of the $50,000 Napa tournament. Kokkinakis, the U.S. Open and Australian boys runner-up and Wimblebon boys doubles champion this year, edged 30-year-old qualifier Jesse Witten of Naples, Fla., 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (4) in 2 hours, 42 minutes.
   Witten reached the third round of the 2009 U.S. Open as a qualifier before falling to Novak Djokovic.
   Robby Ginepri, the only active American man to have reached a Grand Slam singles semifinal, thrashed Nicolas Barrientos of Colombia 6-1, 6-1.
   Ginepri, who lost to Andre Agassi in five sets in the 2005 U.S. Open semis, will face Michael Venus of New Zealand of Thursday. Venus, a former LSU All-American, upset seventh-seeded Steve Johnson of Orange, Calif., in the opening round.
   Here are links to the singles and doubles draws and Wednesday's schedule:
   http://assets.usta.com/assets/1/15/singles_draw287.PDF
   http://assets.usta.com/assets/1/15/doubles_draw288.PDF
   http://assets.usta.com/assets/1/15/schedule288.PDF

Monday, September 23, 2013

No. 7 seed Johnson falls in Napa Challenger

Seventh-seeded Steve Johnson lost to Michael Venus of New
Zealand in the first round of the Napa Valley Challenger.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Michael Venus of New Zealand upset seventh-seeded Steve Johnson of Orange, Calif., 7-6 (4), 6-4 today in the first round of the $50,000 Napa Valley Challenger at the Napa Valley Country Club.
   Johnson, who won two NCAA singles and four team titles at USC from 2009 to 2012, had beaten Venus 6-1, 6-4 in the second round of the $50,000 Winnetka (Ill.) Challenger in July in their only previous meeting.
   Venus, a 25-year-old former LSU All-American, will meet the winner of Tuesday's match between Robby Ginepri of Kennesaw, Ga., and Nicolas Barrientos of Colombia.
   Ginepri, 30, is the only active U.S. man to have reached a Grand Slam singles semifinal, losing to Andre Agassi in five sets in 2005.
   Ginepri, who climbed to a career-high No. 15 in the world in 2006, has plunged to No. 229. The right-hander broke his left elbow in September 2010 when he fell off his bicycle trying to avoid a squirrel and missed 10 months.
   The top three seeds in the Napa Valley Challenger -- Americans Denis Kudla, Tim Smyczek and Rhyne Williams, respectively -- won easily in the first round. Williams dispatched Collin Altamirano, a 17-year-old wild card from Elk Grove in the Sacramento area, 6-2, 6-2.
   In the final round of qualifying, former Sacramento State star Kiryl Harbatsiuk lost to third-seeded Jesse Witten of Naples, Fla., 6-4, 6-1. Witten avenged a 2-6, 6-2, 6-4 loss to Harbatsiuk, a native of Minsk, Belarus, living in Sacramento, 2-6, 6-2, 6-4 in the final round of qualifying in the 2010 Tiburon Challenger.
   Here are links to the Napa singles, doubles and qualifying draws and Tuesday's schedule:
   http://assets.usta.com/assets/1/15/singles_draw265.PDF
   http://assets.usta.com/assets/1/15/doubles_draw288.PDF
   http://assets.usta.com/assets/1/15/qualifying_draw285.PDF
   http://assets.usta.com/assets/1/15/schedule288.PDF   

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Ex-Sac State star advances in Napa qualifying

   Wild card Kiryl Harbatsiuk of Sacramento defeated seventh-seeded Chris Wettengel of Las Vegas 7-6 (4), 6-4 Sunday to reach the final round of qualifying in the $50,000 Napa Valley Challenger at the Napa Valley Country Club.
   Harbatsiuk, a 25-year-old native of Minsk, Belarus, was named the Big Sky Conference MVP for three consecutive years (2009-11) at Sacramento State. He will play third-seeded Jesse Witten, 30, of Naples, Fla., on Monday.
   Witten, who reached the third round of the 2009 U.S. Open as a qualifier, beat Dane Webb, a junior at the University of Oklahoma from Richardson, Texas, 3-6, 7-6 (2), 6-1.
   The top three seeds in the main draw -- Americans Denis Kudla, Tim Smyczek and Rhyne Williams, respectively -- will play on Monday in the first round. Williams will face wild card Collin Altamirano, 17, of Elk Grove in the Sacramento area.
   Altamirano won the USTA Boys 18 National Championships in Kalamazoo, Mich., last month to earn an automatic wild card at the U.S. Open in the main draw of men's singles. He lost to 22nd-seeded Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany in the first round but reached the boys singles quarterfinals.
   Harbatsiuk is 1-0 against Witten, winning 2-6, 6-2, 6-4 in the final round of qualifying for the 2010 Tiburon Challenger. Harbatsiuk then lost to second-seeded Donald Young of Atlanta 6-1, 6-0 in the first round of the main draw.
   Two other Northern California wild cards, Anthony Tsodikov and Matt Seeberger, lost in the second round of qualifying in the Napa Valley Challenger.
   Fifth-seeded Alex Blumenberg of Brazil edged Tsodikov, a Stanford sophomore from San Francisco, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.
   Sixth-seeded Greg Ouellette of Ormond Beach, Fla., held off Seeberger, an ex-UC Santa Cruz star, 7-5, 2-6, 6-3. Seeberger won a record eight NCAA Division III titles (two team, three singles and three doubles).
   Ouellette, a former All-American at the University of Florida, will play Mico Santiago of Corvallis, Ore. Santiago, 19, knocked off top seed Daniel Smethurst of Great Britain 7-5, 6-1.
   Here are links to the singles, doubles and qualifying draws and Monday's schedule:
   http://assets.usta.com/assets/1/15/singles_draw287.PDF
   http://assets.usta.com/assets/1/15/doubles_draw288.PDF
   http://assets.usta.com/assets/1/15/qualifying_draw285.PDF
   http://assets.usta.com/assets/1/15/schedule288.PDF

Aptos finalists to meet in first round at Napa

Bradley Klahn, far right, beat Daniel Evans, far left, in the final of the $100,000
  Comerica Bank Challenger in Aptos, Calif., last month.
    Last month, Bradley Klahn saved a championship point and defeated Daniel Evans in Aptos, Calif., for his first Challenger title.
   Early next week, they will meet in the first round of the $50,000 Napa Valley Challenger at the Napa Valley Country Club.
   The draw for the inaugural tournament was held Saturday. Monday's schedule will be released today.
   Klahn, a 2012 Stanford graduate from the San Diego suburb of Poway, is seeded fifth with a world ranking of No. 133. Evans, from Great Britain, is unseeded at No. 152. Both players are 23 years old.
   Evans reached the third round of the recent U.S. Open, stunning 11th-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan and 2011 Wimbledon quarterfinalist Bernard Tomic, to earn $93,000. Klahn advanced to the second round at Flushing Meadows for the second consecutive year, pocketing $53,000.
   Americans Denis Kudla and Tim Smyczek are seeded first and second, repectively, in Napa. Kudla, ranked 95th, will face No. 345 Edward Corrie of Great Britain. Smyczek, ranked 104th, will meet No. 446 Vijayant Malik of India.
   Two wild cards with Northern California ties will play seeds from the United States in the first round. Collin Altamirano, 17, of Elk Grove in the Sacramento area will take on third-seeded Rhyne Williams. Ben McLachlan, a senior at Cal from New Zealand, will go against fourth-seeded Alex Kuznetsov.
   In an intriguing first-round qualifying match on Saturday, Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia subdued Mitchell Frank of Annandale, Va., 4-6, 6-1, 6-4.
    Kokkinakis, 17, reached the boys singles final at this year's U.S. Open and Australian Open and won the boys doubles title at Wimbledon with countryman Nick Kyrgios in July.
   Frank returned to the University of Virginia for his junior year after giving the Cavaliers  4-3 victory over UCLA in May for their first NCAA team title in tennis. Frank overcame a championship point to win the decisive match at No. 3 singles.
   In a matchup of wild cards from Stanford, sophomore Anthony Tsodikov of San Francisco dismissed senior Jamin Ball of Palo Alto 6-3, 6-2.
   Matt Seeberger, a former UC Santa Cruz star, coasted past fellow wild card Robert Stineman, a Stanford junior from Winnetka, Ill., 6-1, 6-2.
   Here are links to the main draw, qualifying draw and Sunday's schedule:
   http://assets.usta.com/assets/1/15/singles_draw287.PDF
   http://assets.usta.com/assets/1/15/qualifying_draw285.PDF
   http://assets.usta.com/assets/1/15/schedule288.PDF  

Friday, September 20, 2013

College, junior stars to meet in Napa qualifying

   Mitchell Frank will face Thanasi Kokkinakis on Saturday in a matchup of top young players in the first round of qualifying for the inaugural $50,000 Napa Valley Challenger at the Napa Valley Country Club.
   The match will follow the 10 a.m. encounter between wild cards Robert Stineman of Stanford and Matt Seeberger, a former UC Santa Cruz star, on the Stadium Court.
   Frank gave the University of Virginia its first NCAA team title in tennis last May. Now a junior, the Annandale, Va., resident saved a championship point in a 0-6, 6-4, 7-5 victory over Adrien Puget of UCLA at No. 3 singles.
   Kokkinakis, 17, of Australia this year reached the boys singles final in the Australian Open and U.S. Open and won the boys doubles title at Wimbledon with countryman Nick Kyrgios.
   Frank's teammate, sophomore Mac Styslinger, will play in the next match on the Stadium Court. Styslinger, who won the NCAA doubles title with Jarmere Jenkins, will play wild card Philip Holbrook of Napa.
   At 10 a.m. on Court 7, Stanford teammates Jamin Ball and Anthony Tsodikov will meet. Both are wild cards.
   Seeberger won a record eight NCAA Division III titles (two team, three singles and three doubles) at UC Santa Cruz.
   Here are links to the qualifying draw and Saturday's schedule:
   http://assets.usta.com/assets/1/15/qualifying_draw285.PDF
   http://assets.usta.com/assets/1/15/schedule288.PDF

        
     

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Follow me on Twitter

   I recently started a Twitter account. Please follow me at @norcaltenczar for news, quips, links to current posts, notification of upcoming stories, etc. Thank you.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Schnack ends retirement on trial basis

Yasmin Schnack, 25, of Elk Grove returned to the
pro circuit last week on a six-month trial basis. She
retired at the end of last year. Photo by Paul Bauman 
   SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- It began with a spark last month at the $12,500 Macys.com Women's Tennis Open in San Rafael, Calif.
   A flame rose the next week at the U.S. Open National Playoffs in New Haven, Conn.
   And a raging fire erupted the following week at the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows.
   At that point, Yasmin Schnack was overcome by a desire to return to professional tennis.
   The 25-year-old resident of Elk Grove in the Sacramento area ended her nine-month retirement last week at the $25,000 The Ascension Project Women's Challenger in Redding, Calif. The former UCLA All-American, who reached career highs of No. 140 in the world in doubles and No. 371 in singles last year, plans to put off nursing school and play on a six-month trial basis.
   Schnack, 5-foot-10 (1.78 meters), competed only in doubles in Redding. She and Ksenia Pervak of Russia received a walkover in the first round, then lost in the quarterfinals to fourth-seeded Americans Macall Harkins and Sanaz Marand.
   Schnack won the Redding doubles title with Sacramento native Christina Fusano in 2010 and Modesto native Maria Sanchez in 2011. Marand captured it last year with Jacqueline Cako.
   At the Macys.com tournament in Brad Gilbert's hometown, Schnack won the singles and doubles titles.
   Seeded second in singles, Schnack beat seventh-seeded Katsyarina Zheltova 6-3, 6-4 in the final. Zheltova, a former All-American at Sacramento State from Belarus, had ousted Jana Juricova, the top seed and 2011 NCAA champion from Cal, 6-2, 6-3 in the semifinals. Schnack and Zheltova, seeded first in doubles, demolished Lejla Hodzic and Juricova 6-1, 6-0 for the title.
   "I played well in the Macys Open in singles and doubles," Schnack said in a recent interview. "Katya is an incredible player. I felt every match I was playing well, hitting well and mentally fresh."
   In New Haven, Schnack and Eric Roberson of Sacramento won the mixed doubles title to earn an automatic berth in the main draw at the U.S. Open. The playoffs were held in conjunction with the New Haven Open on the WTA tour, the major leagues of women's tennis.
   "Being in that atmosphere, seeing (the WTA players') work ethic and training, they're so professional," marveled Schnack, who had played almost exclusively in tennis' minor leagues in her two-plus years as a professional. "To be around that atmosphere was transforming for me. It renewed my energy. I wanted to go out there and practice."
   At the U.S. Open, Schnack and Roberson lost in the first round to Slovakians Janette Husarova and Filip Polasek 6-4, 7-6 (3). Husarova, 39, reached No. 3 in the world in women's doubles in 2003. Polasek, 28, climbed to No. 20 in January 2012.
  "Playing in the Open was even more eye-opening," Schnack said. "I'm in the gym surrounded by (Rafael) Nadal and (Tommy) Robredo. They're lifting, stretching ... it's inspiring, infectious. You can't help but want to train. Eric had the same feeling: 'I want to be back here.'
   "I was bummed after our first-round loss, but Vania (King) said: 'Great playing. Your level is right here. Go for it if you want to.' It's going to take a lot of work -- my ranking has dropped so much -- but I'm not afraid of a challenge."
   King, who won the Wimbledon and U.S. Open women's doubles titles in 2010 with Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan, is Schnack's best friend. They lost in the first round of women's doubles at Wimbledon last year to eighth-seeded Iveta Benesova and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova of the Czech Republic in Schnack's only other appearance in a Grand Slam tournament as an adult.
   King said in March that Schnack "is more talented than I am. She has very clean strokes. She has a great body, great physical ability and an all-court game. She has all the tools. The game came naturally to her."
   Schnack was named after Yasmin Azir, played by Sophia Loren in the 1966 movie "Arabesque."
   As a sophomore at UCLA in 2008, Schnack helped the Bruins win their only NCAA women's team title. In 2010, she was named the Pacific-10 Conference Women's Player of the Year and graduated in sociology.
   Schnack has won 11 doubles and two singles titles on the ITF Women's Circuit. She also played for Sacramento in World TeamTennis in 2011 and 2012, helping the Capitals advance to the WTT Finals in her second year.
   Citing loneliness, financial struggles and her father's declining health, Schnack left the pro circuit at the end of last year. William Schnack is a retired physician.
   Yasmin has been teaching at the Rio del Oro Racquet Club in Sacramento, applying to nursing schools and playing open tournaments in Northern California. She was accepted at Roseman University in the Las Vegas suburb of Henderson, Nev. Meanwhile, her world rankings have plunged to No. 438 in doubles and No. 958 in singles.
   Schnack hopes to play singles and doubles in the $50,000 Party Rock Open in Las Vegas next week. After competing in mixed doubles with Roberson in the Sacramento Clay Court League in October, she plans to play one or two pro tournaments in November and full-time at the beginning of next year.
   "There's no pressure," Schnack said. "I can go out and have fun. I don't have to pay the bills. I can still go to school."

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Kudla, other top Americans enter NorCal Challengers

   Denis Kudla heads a strong American contingent in the upcoming Napa, Sacramento and Tiburon Challengers.
   At No. 95 in the world this week, Kudla is the fourth-ranked American and only top-100 player entered in any of the tournaments. Next are fellow Americans Tim Smyzcek (No. 104), Rajeev Ram (No. 118), Rhyne Williams (No. 125), Alex Kuznetsov (No. 128) and Bradley Klahn (No. 133).
Qualifier Tim Smyczek signs autographs after beating fifth seed
and 2010 champion Fernando Verdasco in the first round of the
SAP Open in San Jose in February.  Smyczek and Daniel Evans,
below, reached the third round of the recent U.S. Open to earn
$93,000 each. Photos by Paul Bauman
   All except Ram are scheduled to play in each of the three tournaments. Ram is entered only in Sacramento and Tiburon.
   Smyczek and Great Britain's Daniel Evans, who also is entered in all three tournaments, reached the third round of the recent U.S. Open.
   The $50,000 Napa Valley Challenger, $100,000 Sacramento Pro Circuit Challenger and $100,000 First Republic Bank Tiburon Challenger will be held in consecutive weeks beginning Monday.
   The Napa tournament, at the Napa Valley Country Club, will be staged for the first time. Sacramento has been played annually since 2005, at the Sutter Lawn Tennis Club for the first four years and the Natomas Racquet Club since then. Tiburon has been contested since 2003 with a break from 2005 through 2008.
   Last year's singles champions in Sacramento and Tiburon -- James Blake and Jack Sock, respectively -- are not scheduled to return. Blake, who reached a career-high No. 4 in 2006, retired after the recent U.S. Open. Sock, ranked No. 88, plays primarily on the elite ATP World Tour. 
   Kudla, a 21-year-old Ukraine native who moved to Fairfax, Va., on his first birthday, played in the singles main draw of three Grand Slam tournaments this year. As a qualifier, he lost in the first round of the French Open on clay and reached the second round at Wimbledon on grass. Kudla earned direct acceptance into the U.S. Open on hardcourts and advanced to the second round, facing two of the top four Czechs.
   Kudla, a 5-foot-11 (1.80-meter) right-hander, beat Jiri Vesely, a 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) left-hander, at Flushing Meadows before losing to fifth-seeded Tomas Berdych. Vesely, 20, climbed to No. 1 in the world junior rankings in January 2011.
   Kudla also reached the quarterfinals at Queen's Club, a Wimbledon tuneup tournament in London on the ATP World Tour, before losing to fourth-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
   Smyczek, only 5-foot-9 (1.75 meters), was the last American left in men's singles at the U.S. Open. John Isner and Sock also reached the third round. That was worth $93,000 for each player.
Evans gained the final of the Aptos Challenger
in July, losing to former Stanford star Bradley
Klahn after holding a championship point.
   Evans, also 5-9, held a championship point before losing to Klahn in the final of the $100,000 Aptos Challenger in July. As a qualifier at Flushing Meadows, Evans stunned 11th-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan and 2011 Wimbledon quarterfinalist Bernard Tomic of Australia.
   Evans then fell to 19th-seeded Tommy Robredo of Spain. Robredo ousted five-time champion Roger Federer in the fourth round before losing to eventual winner Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals.
   Also scheduled to make the NorCal swing are 30-year-old American Robby Ginepri, a U.S. Open semifinalist in 2005, and Australian Samuel Groth, who holds the record for the world's fastest serve (163.4 mph or 263 kph).
   Ram, 29, gained the second round of the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open this year. At Flushing Meadows, he routed 16th-seeded Fabio Fognini of Italy 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 in the opening round.
   Williams, 22, lost in the first round of the Australian Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open. He reached the semifinals on clay in Houston in April for his best result on the ATP Tour and won last year's doubles title in Sacramento with former University of Tennessee teammate Tennys Sandgren.
   Kuznetsov, a Sacramento semifinalist in 2011 and 2006, qualified for Wimbledon in June before losing to Igor Sijsling of the Netherlands in the opening round.               
   Klahn, the 2010 NCAA champion as a sophomore at Stanford, reached the second round of the U.S. Open for the second consecutive year. The 2012 Stanford graduate won his first Challenger title two months ago in Aptos. 
   Brian Baker, one of the greatest comeback stories of all time in any sport, is entered in Sacramento and Tiburon. The 28-year-old American missed six years while undergoing five operations, including the Tommy John (elbow ligament replacement) procedure dreaded by baseball pitchers.
   Baker returned in 2011 and, as a qualifier, advanced to the final at Nice on clay on the ATP World Tour and the round of 16 at Wimbledon last year.
   Disaster struck again in January, when Baker tore the lateral meniscus in his right knee in the second round of the Australian Open. He underwent surgery on Jan. 21 and returned the competition in Aptos. 
   Here are links to the Napa, Sacramento and Tiburon entry lists:
   http://assets.usta.com/assets/1/15/Napa.pdf
   http://assets.usta.com/assets/1/15/Sacramento_CH.pdf
   http://assets.usta.com/assets/1/15/Tiburon.pdf
   Aggie Pro Am -- The Sixth Annual UC Davis Aggie Pro-Am is scheduled for Saturday at 9 a.m. at the Marya Welch Tennis Center.
   Lunch, side events for prizes and T-shirts are included in a $100 donation to UC Davis women’s and men’s tennis programs. To enter or help sponsor the event, call Ashley Williams at (530) 754-2593.
   Clay Court League -- The registration deadline for the Sacramento Clay Court League at Ben Combs' house in the suburb of Orangevale is Oct. 4. The season is scheduled for Oct. 19 through Nov. 3.
   For more information, visit www.sacramentoclaycourtleague.com.

Monday, September 16, 2013

New rankings, TV schedule, calendar

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. 359 in singles (no change), No. 126 in doubles (-2).
   Bradley Klahn, 23 years old, 2010 NCAA singles champion and 2011 NCAA doubles runner-up from Stanford -- No. 133 in singles (-1), No. 180 in doubles (no change).
   Scott Lipsky, 32 years old, 2002 NCAA doubles runner-up from Stanford -- No. 29 in doubles (no change), unranked in singles.
   Sam Querrey, 25 years old, San Francisco native, Capitals (2012-13) -- No. 31 in singles (no change), No. 170 in doubles (no change).
   Ryan Sweeting, 26 years old, Capitals (2012-13) -- No. 525 in singles (+3), No. 873 in doubles (-3).
   Dmitry Tursunov, 30 years old, trains at Gorin Tennis Academy in Sacramento suburb of Granite Bay -- No. 34 in singles (-2), No. 198 in doubles (+2).
Women
   Mallory Burdette, 22 years old, NCAA singles runner-up in 2012 and NCAA doubles champion in 2011 and 2012 from Stanford -- No. 121 in singles (+1), No. 433 in doubles (-1).
   Nicole Gibbs, 20 years old, NCAA singles champion in 2012 and 2013 and NCAA doubles champion in 2012 from Stanford -- No. 210 in singles (no change), No. 557 in doubles (-5).
   Macall Harkins, Redding resident -- No. 244 in doubles (+5), No. 757 in singles (+4).
   Raquel Kops-Jones, 30 years old, 2003 NCAA doubles champion from Cal -- No. 16 in doubles (no change), unranked in singles.
   Megan Moulton-Levy, 28 years old, Capitals (2013) -- No. 53 in doubles (+1), unranked in singles.
   Maria Sanchez, 23 years old, Modesto product -- No. 115 in singles (+1), No. 128 in doubles (+1).
   Yasmin Schnack, 25 years old, Elk Grove resident -- No. 438 in doubles (-1), No. 958 in singles (+2.
   Taylor Townsend, 17 years old, Capitals (2013) -- No. 277 in singles (-3), No. 295 in doubles (-3).
TV SCHEDULE
(All Times PDT)
Tuesday
   Metz (men), early rounds, Tennis Channel, 4-10 p.m. (delay).
Wednesday
   Metz (men), early rounds, Tennis Channel, 4-10 p.m. (delay).
Thursday
   Metz (men), early rounds, Tennis Channel, 5-9 a.m., 4-8 p.m. (delay). 
   Guangzhou (women), quarterfinals, noon-4 p.m., 8-10 p.m. (delay).
Friday
   Guangzhou (women), semifinals, Tennis Channel, noon-4 p.m. (delay).      
    Metz (men), quarterfinals, Tennis Channel, 4-8 p.m. (delay).
   St. Petersburg (men), quarterfinals, Tennis Channel, 8-10 p.m. (delay).
Saturday
   Guangzhou (women), final, Tennis Channel, 10 a.m.-noon (delay), 8-10 p.m. (replay).
   St. Petersburg (men), semifinals, Tennis Channel, noon-4 p.m. (delay).
   Metz (men), semifinals, Tennis Channel, 4-8 p.m. (delay).
Sunday
   Seoul (women), final, Tennis Channel, noon-2 p.m. (delay), 7-9 p.m. (replay).
   St. Petersburg (men), final, Tennis Channel, 2-4 p.m. (delay), 9-11 p.m. (repeat).
   Metz (men), final, Tennis Channel, 5-7 p.m. (delay). 
CALENDAR
   Saturday -- Sixth annual UC Davis Aggie Pro Am, Marya Welch Tennis Center, tennis at 9 a.m., lunch ($25) at 11:30 a.m.
   Monday-Sept. 29 -- $50,000 Napa Valley Challenger (men), Napa Valley Country Club, 3385 Hagen Road, Napa, Calif., 94558, www.napavalleychallenger.com, (707) 252-2299. Qualifying begins Saturday at 9 a.m., main draw Monday not before 11:30 a.m. 2012 champions -- Inaugural tournament.
   Sept. 30-Oct. 6 -- $100,000 Natomas Challenger (men), Natomas Racquet Club, 2450 Natomas Park Drive, Sacramento, Calif., 95833, www.natomaschallenger.com, (916) 649-0909. Qualifying begins Sept. 28 at 9 a.m., main draw Sept. 30 at 10 a.m. 2012 champions: James Blake, Tennys Sandgren-Rhyne Williams.
   Oct. 7-13 -- $100,000 First Republic Bank Tiburon Challenger (men), Tiburon Peninsula Club, 1600 Mar West Street, Tiburon, Calif., 94920, (415) 789-7900, www.tiburonchallenger.com. Qualifying begins Oct. 5 at 10 a.m., main draw Oct. 7 not before 11:30 a.m. 2012 champions: Jack Sock, Rik de Voest-Chris Guccione.
   Oct. 19-Nov. 3 -- Sacramento Clay Court League, Ben Combs' house, 8582 Westin Lane, Orangevale, Calif., 95662, registration deadline Oct. 4, www.sacramentoclaycourtleague.com.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Perez completes amazing run to Redding title

Adriana Perez, left, beat Robin Anderson, right, to win the Redding Challenger.
In the middle is Sun Oaks director of tennis Jeremiah Walsh. Photo by Paul Bauman
   REDDING, Calif. -- Adriana Perez pulled off the most improbable run to a title in memory this week in The Ascension Project Women's Challenger.
   The fifth-seeded Perez survived two match points in the first round. Then she escaped three match points in the second round. Then she blanked the top seed 6-0 in the third set in the quarterfinals.
   After coasting in Saturday's semifinals, Perez wore down unseeded Robin Anderson 2-6, 6-2, 6-1 today to win the $25,000 tournament at Sun Oaks Tennis & Fitness.
   "I (almost) lost in the first round, and (to) win the tournament is unbelievable," the Venezuelan marveled in broken English. "All change (in) my week. I'm here talking to you, and I (almost) lost in the first round. In the second round, too. It's the first time that happened to me in my life. It's incredible."
   Anderson was coming off a nearly three-hour semifinal in 94-degree (34.4 Celsius) heat and took a medical timeout for a strained left thigh muscle after the second set of the final. She declined to use either as an excuse, though, saying Perez outplayed her.   
   Perez ended a streak of four American champions in the 11-year-old Redding Challenger. Former Stanford star Laura Granville won in 2009, Jamie Hampton in 2010, Julia Boserup in 2011 and qualifier Chelsey Gullickson last year. Hampton is now ranked No. 25 in the world.
   Anderson, from Matawan, N.J., would have made it five Americans in a row.     
   Perez earned $3,919 for her second career Challenger singles title. Already the top Venezuelan, she will jump from No. 237 in the world to a career high of about No. 208.
   Anderson, who will begin her junior year at UCLA later this month, can accept only expenses from the runner-up prize money of $2,901. She will soar from No. 624 to about No. 470 after reaching her first Challenger singles final.
   Anderson did pick up her first Challenger doubles crown, teaming with Lauren Embree to edge Jacqueline Cako and Allie Kiick 4-6, 7-5 [10-7] in a battle of unseeded American teams. Cako won last year's title with American Sanaz Marand.
   Today's singles final matched diminutive 20-year-olds on a breezy, 86-degree (30 Celsius) day, mercifully down from 105 (40.6 Celsius) earlier in the week.
   Perez, 5-foot-4 (1.63 meters), and Anderson 5-3 (1.61), showed great athleticism in their first career meeting. They pounded groundstrokes into the corners, dug out low balls, slugged high ones, ran down apparent winners and occasionally ventured to the net. In the end, Perez had a bit more firepower with her hard, flat forehand.
   "She hits a really heavy ball that I kind of struggled with," conceded Anderson, who reached the singles round of 16 and doubles final in the NCAA Championships in May. 
   After Perez lost the last four games of the first set, she raised her game in the last two sets.
   "She was ripping through her forehands and serving really well," Anderson said. "I didn't play as aggressively as I wanted to play today, and I wasn't making as many balls, either."
   Said Perez, "I just started fighting more."
   Of Perez's many assets -- including her punishing forehand, steady two-handed backhand, high-kicking serve and deft volleying -- one of the most impressive is her poise. In addition to saving the five match points in the early rounds, she had two opportunities to implode in the final but refused.
   With Perez facing set point on her serve in the first set, Anderson slugged a forehand that appeared long but was called good. Perez hit a short reply, and Anderson nailed a forehand cross-court passing shot for the set.
   Walking to her chair, Perez held her thumb and index finger half an inch apart toward the umpire to indicate how much she thought Anderson's shot was long. Perez, however, didn't utter a word.
   "You cannot do (anything) about it, so why get mad?" she said. " ... Just keep playing and try (not to dwell) on it."
   Trying to serve out the second set, Perez double-faulted twice in a row. However, she quickly regained her form and converted her fifth set point.
   Perez, who turned pro at 17, said she's always calm on the court.
   "This is a hard sport," Perez reasoned. "If you get mad one moment, one second, one minute, you probably lost the match because of that."
   Even Perez's post-match celebration was restrained. After smacking a runaround forehand winner on her first match point, she just grinned broadly and pumped her fist.
   Anderson was much more emotional during the match, though never out of control. After misses, she shrieked, slapped her thigh or bent over in dismay. Perez, meanwhile, was stoical throughout the match.
   Maybe Perez was destined to win the title of The Ascension Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to the development of local youth and collegiate and professional athletes through a team approach. After all, Perez's initials are the same as the project's.

Little women: Perez, Anderson reach Redding final

No. 5 seed Adriana Perez of Venezuela volleys during her
2-6, 6-2, 7-6 (2) victory over Catherine Harrison on Thurs-
day in the second round of the $25,000 Redding Challenger.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Professional tennis isn't just the land of the giants, although it sometimes seems that way.
   Petite Adriana Perez of Venezuela and tiny Robin Anderson of Matawan, N.J., will meet today at 12:30 p.m. for the title of the $25,000 The Ascension Project Women's Challenger at Sun Oaks Tennis & Fitness in Redding, Calif.
   Perez, seeded fifth, dismissed seventh-seeded Allie Kiick of Plantation, Fla., 6-3, 6-3 in Saturday's semifinals. Kiick, 18, is the daughter of Jim Kiick, the fifth-leading rusher in Miami Dolphins history.
   Anderson, 5-foot-3 (1.61 meters), topped 5-11 (1.80-meter) Julia Boserup of Newport Beach 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 in a matchup of unseeded players. Boserup, who turned 22 on Monday, won the 2011 Redding title but missed the first six months of this year with a bulging disc.
   Perez and Anderson, both 20, will face each other for the first time. Perez, ranked No. 237 in the world, seeks her second Challenger title in her third final. Anderson, a UCLA junior ranked No. 624, will play in her first Challenger final.
Unseeded Robin Anderson, shown in the second
round on Thursday, beat Julia Boserup in the semi-
finals after trailing 4-6, 3-5. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Both players survived close calls en route to the final.
   Perez edged unseeded Catherine Harrison, Anderson's teammate at UCLA, 2-6, 6-2, 7-6 (6) in the second round. The No. 1 Venezuelan then beat top-seeded Olivia Rogowska of Australia 7-6 (4), 5-7, 6-0 in the quarterfinals.
   Anderson, who reached the singles round of 16 and doubles final in the NCAA Championships in May, trailed Boserup 5-3 in the second set. Boserup double-faulted nine times in the match, and Anderson converted five of 16 break points.
   Anderson also will play in the doubles final, which follows the singles. In an all-American encounter, Anderson and Lauren Embree will face Jacqueline Cako and Kiick. Both teams are unseeded. Cako (pronounced CAY-ko) won last year's doubles title with American Sanaz Marand.
   Cako graduated in three years from Arizona State in biological sciences in May and was named the Pacific-12 Conference Women's Scholar-Athlete of the Year. She plans to attend medical school after her pro tennis career.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Top three seeds ousted in Redding Challenger

Fifth-seeded Adriana Perez, a Venezuelan shown
on Thursday, beat top-seeded Olivia Rogowska
of Australia in the Redding quarterfinals.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   The top three seeds lost on Friday in the quarterfinals of the $25,000 The Ascension Project Women's Challenger at Sun Oaks Tennis & Fitness in Redding, Calif.
   Fifth-seeded Adriana Perez of Venezuela knocked off top-seeded Olivia Rogowska of Australia 7-6 (4), 5-7, 6-0.
   Second-seeded Ksenia Pervak of Russia retired with a back injury while trailing unseeded Julia Boserup, the 2011 champion from Newport Beach, 6-4, 2-2.
   And seventh-seeded Allie Kick, 18, of Plantation, Fla., ousted third-seeded Chanel Simmonds of South Africa 6-4, 6-4.
  The only quarterfinal that held form was unseeded Robin Anderson of Matawan, N.J., beating Christina Makarova, a 17-year-old qualifier from San Diego, 6-1, 7-5.
   Rogowska eached the second round of last year's Australian Open in her hometown of Melbourne. She's ranked No. 138 in the world.
   Pervak climbed to a career-high No. 37 in 2011 after advancing to the fourth round at Wimbledon and winning the title in Tashkent on the WTA tour, the major leagues of women's tennis. Hampered by injuries this year, the 22-year-old left-hander has fallen to No. 142.
   In today's first semifinal at 11 a.m., Boserup will face Anderson for the first time.
Unseeded Julia Boserup, shown on Thursday,
advanced when No. 2 seed Ksenia Pervak retired
with a back injury. Boserup, the 2011 Redding
champion, led 6-4, 2-2 at the time. Photo by
Paul Bauman 
   Boserup, a hard hitter at 5-foot-11 (1.80 meters), missed the first six months of the year with a bulging disc. She did not have surgery.
   Anderson, only 5-foot-3 (1.61 meters), reached the round of 16 in singles and the final in doubles at the NCAA Championships in May as a UCLA sophomore.
   After the Boserup-Anderson match, Perez will take on Kiick. They have met once, with Kiick winning 7-6 (10), 6-2 on a hardcourt in the first round of the $25,000 Rock Hill (S.C.) Challenger last October. The Redding Challenger also is played on hardcourts.
   Kiick's father, Jim, was the starting halfback on the 1972 Miami Dolphins, the only team in NFL history to go undefeated. Jim Kiick and his '72 teammates were honored last month at the White House.
   Macall Harkins, who moved from the Los Angeles area to Redding in March, lost in the doubles semifinals. Unseeded Jacqueline Cako and Kiick topped fourth-seeded Harkins and Sanaz Marand 6-4, 7-6 (4) in an all-American matchup.
   Cako and Kiick will meet unseeded Anderson and Lauren Embree of Marco Island, Fla., in Sunday's final. Cako and Marand won last year's title.
   The Ascension Project is a non-profit organization dedicated to the development of local youth, collegiate and professional athletes through a team approach.
   Here are links to the singles and doubles draws:
   http://assets.usta.com/assets/1/15/singles_draw283.PDF
   http://assets.usta.com/assets/1/15/doubles_draw284.PDF

Friday, September 13, 2013

Veteran Harkins makes unusual career move

Macall Harkins moved from the Los Angeles
area to Redding to train under Jeremiah Walsh
and Jo Campbell. Photo by Paul Bauman
    REDDING, Calif. -- Every September for three years, Macall Harkins made the eight-hour drive up Interstate 5 from her home in the Los Angeles area to Redding for the women's Challenger.
   Even though both cities are in California, Harkins might as well have been traveling to a different planet.
   With a population of more than 13 million, sprawling Los Angeles is the second-largest metropolitan area in the United States behind New York. L.A. is known for freeways, smog, Hollywood, Disneyland, the Dodgers and the Lakers.
   Harkins, 27, grew up in the suburb of Palos Verdes and played at the Jack Kramer Club, the former home of Tracy Austin, Pete Sampras and Lindsay Davenport.
   Redding is (choose one):
   a. A city of 92,000 people.
   b. A furnace in the summer.
   c. An outdoor paradise.
   d. All of the above.
   If you chose "d," you win a brand new Mercedes-Benz, as Sacramento Capitals coach Wayne Bryan often jokes with players at his clinics.
   Harkins, though, doesn't have to make the trek anymore. She and her husband moved to Redding in March, Harkins said Thursday after losing to No. 2 seed Ksenia Pervak of Russia 6-2, 6-3 in the second round of the $25,000 The Ascension Project Women's Challenger at Sun Oaks Tennis & Fitness.
   Say what? Move from a tennis mecca to remote Redding?
Ksenia Pervak reached No. 37 in the world
in 2011. Photo by Paul Bauman
   At last year's Challenger, Harkins met Jeremiah Walsh and Jo Campbell, the director of tennis and tennis coordinator at Sun Oaks, respectively.
   "I believe they can take my game to the next level (so I can) play at the WTA level," Harkins explained. "We moved here so I can get more one-on-one time with (Walsh)."
   Walsh serves as Harkins' tennis coach and Campbell as her mental coach.
   Whereas Harkins was a classic small fish in a big pond in Palos Verdes, the opposite is true in Redding. And let's face it -- the cost of housing in Redding is a fraction of that in Los Angeles.
   Harkins was accorded rock-star status during her match against Pervak. A crowd of about 100 fans -- an excellent turnout for a second-round Challenger match at 10 a.m. on a weekday -- erupted with cheers for her winners and groaned after her misses.
   Despite the one-sided score, Harkins put up a good fight, engaging Pervak in many hard-hitting rallies. Unfortunately for Harkins, Pervak won most of them.
   "Her defense was incredible," Harkins said. "She got to a lot of balls that I thought were going to be unreturnable or I would get a weak ball, but she managed to get a lot of balls back. So it made me hit more and more. That was really good on her part."
   Pervak, a 5-foot-7 (1.70-meter) left-hander, climbed to a career-high No. 37 in the world in 2011 after advancing to the fourth round at Wimbledon and winning a WTA tournament in Tashkent. Hampered by injuries this year, the 22-year-old Pervak has fallen to No. 142.
   Harkins, who played at the University of Illinois and Texas Christian University, is ranked No. 249 in doubles with nine career minor-league titles and No. 761 in singles with three career minor-league crowns. She needs to crack the top 100 to play regularly on the WTA tour, the major leagues of women's tennis.
   Like Pervak, Harkins is left-handed. Plus, she's 6 feet (1.84 meters) tall. That gives her two enormous advantages, and Walsh calls her "a tremendous ball-striker."
   So what's the problem? Basically, impatience and shot selection.
   "It's at a place of decision-making," Walsh said. "We're at a place where (she's) learning how to make choices in milliseconds and process and let go of feelings and stick to plans and return to plans.
   "You watched her match? She's not far off. That gal was 37 in the world, and you can see why. The opportunities did present themselves. It's just a matter of learning how to get deeper into a match (when) things might open up for you. Some players have a hard time with that. We're getting to the place where Macall is going to recognize opportunities even if it takes a set and half to get to them."
   Harkins, added Walsh, "has spent a career hitting hard and flat. You get to a certain level, and that doesn't get you through anymore. She's learning to recognize when to change the flight patterns and how to adjust to a difficult ball.
   "Sometimes her old instinct is, 'Oh, no, I'm in trouble; I better hit this hard,' instead of, 'I'm in trouble; I better work my way out of this spot.' It's not such a panic decision. That's what I mean by decision-making in that millisecond."
   Why doesn't hitting hard and flat work?
   "Cuz there's a net, and it's three feet high," Walsh quipped. " ... You don't just get to hit hard and flat cuz you want. If the ball is low, if the ball is difficult, you may not be able to create the right trajectory with pace."
   Harkins got a measure of revenge against Pervak later Thursday. The fourth-seeded team of Harkins and American Sanaz Marand, another left-hander, defeated Pervak and Yasmin Schnack of Elk Grove in the Sacramento area 6-4, 6-4 in the doubles quarterfinals.
   Harkins reached last year's doubles final with Chieh-Yu Hsu. They fell to Jacqueline Cako and Marand 7-6 (5), 7-5 in an All-American battle.
   The 25-year-old Schnack launched a comeback in Redding, where she won the doubles title in 2010 and 2011, after leaving the tour last fall. She is deferring her acceptance to nursing school for at least six months. The 2010 UCLA graduate reached career highs of No. 140 in doubles and No. 371 in singles last year.
   Unseeded Robin Anderson, who advanced to the NCAA doubles final as a UCLA sophomore in May, beat fourth-seeded Veronica Cepede Royg of Paraguay 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 to reach the singles quarterfinals at Sun Oaks.
   Christina Makarova, a 17-year-old qualifier from San Diego, outlasted Cako 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 to gain her first Challenger quarterfinal.
   Top-seeded Olivia Rogowska of Australia and unseeded Julia Boserup, the 2011 Redding champion, each won 6-2, 6-0. In two matches, Boserup has lost only four games and Rogowska six.
   Boserup, who turned 22 on Monday, missed the first six months of the year with a bulging disc.
   Here are links to the singles and doubles draws and today's schedule:
   http://assets.usta.com/assets/1/15/singles_draw283.PDF
   http://assets.usta.com/assets/1/15/doubles_draw284.PDF
   http://assets.usta.com/assets/1/15/schedule284.PDF

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Redding top seed bounces back from shutout loss

Top seed Olivia Rogowska serves during her 6-4, 6-0
victory over Montserrat Gonzalez, 19, of Paraguay
in the first round of the Redding Challenger.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   REDDING, Calif. -- It took a few days, but Olivia Rogowska overcame the trauma.
   The 22-year-old Australian recently endured a tennis player's worst nightmare, a 6-0, 6-0 loss.
   Futhermore, the humiliation wasn't hidden from public view in Azerbaijan on an outside court at 10 a.m.
   No, it occurred at the U.S. Open. In Louis Armstrong Stadium. On television. In prime time.
   Ouch.
   On the bright side, Rogowska had survived qualifying to earn a berth in the main draw and a guaranteed $31,455, and the perpetrator, Sara Errani of Italy, was ranked fifth in the world.
   "I was really upset after the match, but every player has to have a tough loss to learn from," the top-seeded Rogowska said after beating Montserrat Gonzalez, 19, of Paraguay 6-4, 6-0 today in the first round of the $25,000 The Ascension Project Women's Challenger at Sun Oaks Tennis & Fitness. "It was a good experience now that I look back on it."
   It was the first time Rogowska, now ranked 138th in the world, had been shut out since she turned pro in June 2007.
   Rogowska described Errani, last year's French Open runner-up to Maria Sharapova, as "the best in the world at not missing, getting every single ball back. She's the most solid player in the world. I just have to work on attacking in the right moments and smarter shot selection against her. There were a lot of close games, and she just seemed to win the tighter points, just being a bit smarter and more solid."
   After slinking away from New York, Rogowska spent a week training at the Chris Evert Academy in Boca Raton, Fla. Evert, though, was still commentating at the U.S. Open for ESPN.
   Rogowska was not particularly pleased with her performance against Gonzalez, who has won four $10,000 tournaments (three on clay) this year.                    
   "I guess the first match is always the toughest at a tournament, just getting used to the conditions, the court," said Rogowska, who reached the second round of last year's Australian Open in her hometown of Melbourne. "The first set, I was just a bit nervous, but once I settled down, once I won the first set, I thought I started playing a bit better.
   "I started making more balls, and she started missing a bit more. Once that started, I felt like I got a bit more aggressive and a bit more dominant. I felt like I played some pretty good tennis at the end."
   Rogowska's biggest strength is her mobility.
   "I like to get a lot of balls back," said Rogowska, who's rail thin at 5-foot-9 (1.75 meters) and 125 pounds (58 kilograms). "I like to change direction sometimes. That puts my opponents off -- they don't really know where I'm hitting it.   "I feel like my serve has improved a lot. I don't think I got broken today, so I feel like my serve really helped me win that first set and in the end win the match."
   Both players grew up on clay, even though Australia is known more for hardcourts and formerly grass. Rogowska's affinity for clay showed at Sun Oaks as she often slid into shots, her shoes screeching against the hardcourt.
   "Sliding to me is pretty natural," Rogowska said. "Sometimes it's a bad habit. You shouldn't really do it all the time on hard, but it's just the way I move and feel comfortable. We have a lot of clay courts in Melbourne."
   Several times during the match, the chair umpire referred to Rogowska as "Radwanska," confusing the Aussie with Polish star Agnieszka Radwanska.
   "I actually get that quite a lot," said Rogowska, whose parents moved from Poland to Australia two years before she was born. "They struggle with my surname here in the States. It should be pronounced Ro-GOFF-ska, but I've had so many mispronunciations, I'm used to it."
   Speaking of name problems, third-seeded Chanel Simmonds narrowly avoided an upset by winning the last four games to beat qualifier Michelle Sammons 6-4, 5-7, 7-5 in a battle of South Africans.
   Sammons served for the match at 5-4 in the third set, but the 26-year-old former Texas A&M and Purdue standout choked big-time and was broken at love. She double-faulted twice to trail 0-30, hit a backhand that clipped the tape and bounced back, then double-faulted.
   In addition to facing Simmonds, Sammons later lost in doubles with American Sianna Simmons. Seriously. Unfortunately, forward John Salmons of the Sacramento Kings in the NBA didn't make the 2 1/2-hour drive up Interstate 5 for the matches.
   One seed fell for the second straight day as qualifier Anamika Bhargava knocked off fellow American Samantha Crawford, the sixth seed and last year's U.S. Open junior girls champion, 7-6 (2), 6-4. American Sanaz Marand, seeded eighth, lost to 17-year-old qualifier Christina Makarova of San Diego on Tuesday.
   Unseeded Julia Boserup, the 2011 champion, advanced easily with her laser-like groundstrokes. The Newport Beach resident, who turned 22 on Monday, missed the first six months of the year with a bulging disc.
   However, the back problems of 2005 runner-up Ivana Lisjak flared up. She retired against fifth-seeded Adriana Perez of Venezuela with the match tied 1-1 in the third set. Lisjak, a 26-year-old Croat who lives in Las Vegas, returned to the tour in July after missing almost all of a 2 1/2-year stretch with a lower-back injury.
$25,000 THE ASCENSION PROJECT WOMEN'S CHALLENGER
In Redding, Calif.
First-round singles
   Macall Harkins, United States, def. Maria-Fernanda Alves, Brazil, 6-1, 6-1.
   Chanel Simmonds (3), South Africa, def. Michelle Sammons, South Africa, 6-4, 5-7, 7-5.
   Olivia Rogowska (1), Australia, def. Montserrat Gonzalez, Paraguay, 6-4, 6-0.
   Adriana Perez (5), Venezuela, def. Ivana Lisjak, Croatia, 5-7, 7-6 (5), 1-1, retired (back injury).
   Catherine Harrison, United States, def. Angelina Gabueva, Russia, 6-4, 6-2.
   Julia Boserup, United States, def. Ulrikke Eikeri, Norway, 6-0, 6-2.
   Anamika Bhargava, United States, def. Samantha Crawford (6), United States, 7-6 (2), 6-4.
   Beatrice Capra, United States, def. Caitlin Whoriskey, United States, 6-2, 6-1.
First-round doubles
   Robin Anderson and Lauren Embree, United States, def. Roxanne Ellison and Sierra A. Ellison, United States, 6-1, 6-4.
   Ksenia Pervak, Russia, and Yasmin Schnack, Elk Grove, def. Angelina Gabueva, Russia, and Ivana Lisjak, Croatia, walkover (Lisjak back injury).
  Macall Harkins and Sanaz Marand (4), United States, vs. Michelle Sammons, South Africa, and Sianna Simmons, United States, late.
   Anamika Bhargava and Ashley Weinhold, United States, vs. Ulrikke Eikeri, Norway, and Chanel Simmonds (3), South Africa, late.
Thursday's schedule
(Starting at 10 a.m.)
Court 2
   Macall Harkins, United States, vs. Ksenia Pervak (2), Russia.
   Robin Anderson, United States, vs. Veronica Cepede Royg (4), Paraguay.
   Olivia Rogowska (1), Australia, vs. Lauren Embree, United States.
   Emily Harman and Elizabeth Lumpkin, United States, vs. Jacqueline Cako and Allie Kiick, United States.
Court 1
   Anamika Bhargava, United States, vs. Julia Boserup, United States.
   Christina Makarova, United States, vs. Jacqueline Cako, United States.
   Chanel Simmonds (3), South Africa, vs. Beatrice Capra, United States.
   Robin Anderson and Lauren Embree, United States, vs. Anamika Bhargava and Ashley Weinhold, United States.
Court 3
   Despina Papamichail, Greece, vs. Allie Kiick (7), United States.
   Catherine Harrison, United States, vs. Adriana Perez (5), Venezuela.
   Macall Harkins and Sanaz Marand (4), United States, vs. Ksenia Pervak, Russia, and Yasmin Schnack, Elk Grove.
   Erin Clark, United States, and Despina Papamichail, Greece, vs. Veronica Cepede Royg, Paraguay, and Adriana Perez (2), Venezuela.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Kiick, daughter of ex-NFL star, tackles pro tennis

Allie Kiick, the 18-year-old daughter of former
Miami Dolphins running back Jim Kiick, turned
pro in April. Photo by Paul Bauman
   REDDING, Calif. -- Watching the television news in her New York hotel room on Aug. 20, Allie Kiick was shocked when her father appeared on the screen.
   Jim Kiick was among nearly three dozen members of the 1972 Miami Dolphins, the only undefeated team in NFL history, being honored by President Barack Obama at the White House.
   "I got on the phone, and I'm like, 'Dad, did you want to tell me you went to the White House?' " Allie, 18, of Plantation, Fla., cracked today after winning her first-round singles and doubles matches in the $25,000 The Ascension Project Women's Challenger. "He was just telling me all about it, and he's like, '(Obama's) a great guy.' (The team members) really enjoyed getting together because they don't usually do that."
   The Dolphins went 17-0 in 1972, including three postseason games culminating in a 14-7 victory over the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl VII in Los Angeles. Kiick, the starting running back, scored Miami's decisive touchdown on a one-yard run.
   Championship teams routinely are honored at the White House today, but that was not the case then. Also, President Richard Nixon was preoccupied with the Watergate scandal. Finally, the legendary Dolphins team was recognized. 
   "I know that some people may be asking why we are doing this after all these years," Obama deadpanned at the time. "My answer is simple: I wanted to be the young guy up here for once."
   Kiick traveled to New York last month for the U.S. Open. She lost in the first round of singles qualifying to 17-year-old Mayo Hibi, who won the $50,000 Sacramento Challenger in July, and in the opening round of women's doubles in her Grand Slam main-draw debut.
   Kiick and Sachia Vickery of Miramar, Fla., had earned a wild card in women's doubles at the U.S. Open by winning the title in the USTA Girls 18 National Championships in San Diego in early August. Vickery defeated Kiick in the singles final in three sets. 
   Seeded seventh in the Ascension P:roject Challenger, Kiick ended a five-match losing streak by holding off 17-year-old qualifier Anne-Liz Jeukeng of Boca Raton, Fla., 7-5, 7-6 (1) at Sun Oaks Tennis & Fitness. Kiick came away with mixed feelings, though.
   "I got the win, which is always good, but I didn't feel I was playing my best tennis, unfortunately," lamented Kiick, who's ranked No. 297 in the world after turning pro in April. "It's tough getting used to the California conditions. The air is a lot thinner, so the ball will fly a lot. I was really having a hard time finding my strokes today."
   Kiick also struggled in the heat, which soared to 105 degrees (40.6 Celsius). Her match mercifully began at 10 a.m., but she said Northern California's dry heat is different than the heat and humidity in Florida.
   "When I don't sweat, I don't drink as much as I should, so that throws me off a bit. I kind of miss my humidity," Kiick said with a laugh. "Also the fact that we're playing on hardcourts (rather than clay) adds like another 15 degrees on the court, so it's like a sauna out here."
   Kiick will meet Despina Papamichail of Greece on Thursday in the second round. Papamichail, 19, outlasted Jelena Pandzic, 30, of Croatia 7-5, 2-6, 7-5. Pandzic lost to Jamie Hampton, now ranked 25th, in the 2010 final.   
   Another 17-year-old qualifier, Christina Makarova of San Diego, had more success than Jeukeng. Makarova knocked off eighth-seeded Sanaz Marand 6-3, 6-4. Marand reached the quarterfinals last year and won the doubles title with fellow American Jacqueline Cako, Kiick's partner this year.   
   Robin Anderson routed Krista Hardebeck 6-1, 6-1 in a matchup of Pacific-12 Conference stars last season. Anderson reached the NCAA doubles as a sophomore at UCLA, and Hardebeck helped Stanford win the NCAA team title.
   In doubles, Americans Elizabeth Lumpkin and Emily Harman surprised top-seeded Maria-Fernanda Alves of Brazil and Olivia Rogowska of Australia, 6-3, 6-3. Rogowska, also seeded first in singles, will open against Montserrat Gonzalez, 19, of Paraguay on Wednesday.
   Kiick has watched clips of her father, the fifth-leading career rusher in Dolphins history, on YouTube.
   "It's very funny to see his little hairdo and everything," Allie said of Jim's bushy hair and beard. "Gosh, I couldn't imagine him being like that. But yeah, I saw him play. I saw him score a touchdown in the Super Bowl or something like that, so it is really neat to see, actually."
   Naturally, Allie and her parents are avid NFL fans. Jim and Mary, who are divorced, actually favor the New York Giants because they grew up in New Jersey. Allie, tired of the Dolphins' losing ways, reluctantly converted to the Giants. 
   "When the Giants play, we are all glued to the TV," Allie said. "I'm not really a Giants fan, but since the Dolphins aren't very good and my parents love the Giants, I kind of go with them."
   Allie, 5-foot-7 (1.70 meters) and 135 pounds (61 kilograms), inherited considerable athletic ability not only from her father but her mother, who played professional softball. Allie wanted to compete in an individual sport "where if I win, I get all the credit." She tried swimming but didn't like it. Next was tennis, the 8-year-old was hooked.
   Jim taught Allie to throw a football, which she still does because the motion is similar to serving.
   Allie also inherited her parents' competitiveness.
   "My whole family is (intense), which is a good and a bad thing," Kiick said. "When we play sports together, it usually ends in an argument. Even if it's a card game, we all just want to win. It kind of ruins the purpose of having fun."
   "I'm a very competitive person. That's not necessarily a good thing. When I'm out of the court and I miss a few shots, I get mad. I want to be a perfectionist. I just want to beat everybody so badly, and that creates a bad attitude."
   Jim Kiick, the macho former pro football player, couldn't handle it when his 11-year-old daughter beat him 8-0 in tennis, so he quit playing. Nor does he attend Allie's matches much anymore because he gets too emotional.
   "He would scream at me when I was on the court, and I'd be like, 'Shut up, Dad.' " Allie said. "He'd yell back at me, and we'd have like a conversation arguing back and forth, and my mom would be like, 'Jim, stop!' "
   Mary now is married to Curtis Johnson, an ear, nose and throat doctor who financed Allie's tennis exploits until she turned pro.
   "He's awesome," Kiick said. "Without him, I probably wouldn't be where I am today."
   Kiick verbally committed to the University of Florida, the 2011 and 2012 NCAA champion, but changed her mind after a strong start this year. She qualified for the Sony Open in Miami on the WTA tour in March and reached the semifinals and final of two clay-court Challengers in the southern United States in April.
   "The deal with my parents was that if I turn pro, I have to pay for everything myself," Kiick said. "I kind of took a risk, but I'm doing pretty well right now."   
$25,000 THE ASCENSION PROJECT WOMEN'S CHALLENGER
At Sun Oaks Tennis & Fitness
In Redding Calif.
First-round singles
   Jacqueline Cako, United States, def. Denise Muresan, United States, 6-2, 6-2.
   Allie Kiick, United States, def. Anne-Liz Jeukeng, United States, 7-5, 7-6 (1).
   Veronica Cepede Royg (4), Paraguay, def. Elizabeth Lumpkin, United States, 6-4, 6-3.
   Ksenia Pervak (2), Russia, def. Rosalia Alda, United States, 6-2, 6-0.
   Robin Anderson, United States, def. Krista Hardebeck, United States, 6-1, 6-1.
   Christina Makarova, United States, def. Sanaz Marand (8), United States, 6-3, 6-4.
   Despina Papamichail, Greece, def. Jelena Pandzic, Croatia, 7-5, 2-6, 7-5. 
   Lauren Embree, United States, def. Ashley Weinhold, United States, 6-2, 7-5.
First-round doubles
   Emily Harman and Elizabeth Lumpkin, United States, def. Maria-Fernanda Alves, Brazil, and Olivia Rogowska (1), Australia, 6-3, 6-3.
   Veronica Cepede Royg, Paraguay, and Adriana Perez (2), Venezuela, def. Denise Muresan and Caitlin Whoriskey, United States, 6-4, 6-0.
   Jacqueline Cako and Allie Kiick, United States, def. Rosalia Alda, United States, and Montserrat Gonzalez, Paraguay, 7-6 (7), 6-3.
    Erin Clark, United States, and Despina Papamichail, Greece, def. Jessica Perez and Katelyn Ross, United States,  6-2, 6-4.
Wednesday's schedule
(Starting at 10 a.m.)
Court 2
   Macall Harkins, United States, vs. Maria-Fernanda Alves, Brazil.
   Chanel Simmonds (3), South Africa, vs. Michelle Sammons, South Africa.
   Olivia Rogowska (1), Australia, vs. Montserrat Gonzalez, Paraguay.
   Macall Harkins and Sanaz Marand (4), United States, vs. Michelle Sammons, South Africa, and Sianna Simmons, United States.
Court 1
   Ivana Lisjak, Croatia, vs. Adriana Perez (5), Venezuela.
   Catherine Harrison, United States, vs. Angelina Gabueva, Russia.
   Robin Anderson and Lauren Embree, United States, vs. Roxanne Ellison and Sierra A. Ellison, United States.
   Anamika Bhargava and Ashley Weinhold, United States, vs. Ulrikke Eikeri, Norway, and Chanel Simmonds (3), South Africa.
Court 3
   Julia Boserup, United States, vs. Ulrikke Eikeri, Norway.
   Samantha Crawford (6), United States, vs. Anamika Bhargava, United States.
   Beatrice Capra, United States, vs. Caitlin Whoriskey, United States.
   Angelina Gabueva, Russia, and Ivana Lisjak, Croatia, vs. Ksenia Pervak, Russia, and Yasmin Schnack, United States.