Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Two NorCal boys gain quarters in Winter Nationals

   William Griffith of Fresno and Logan Staggs of Tracy reached the boys 18 quarterfinals in the USTA National Winter Championships in Scottsdale, Ariz., on Monday.
   The third-seeded Griffth, who's headed to Cal, dispatched unseeded Oliver Sec of New York 6-1, 6-2. The fifth-seeded Staggs -- a 5-foot-7 (1.70-meter), 135-pound (61.2-kilogram) left-hander who will attend Northwestern -- topped ninth-seeded McClain Kessler of Calhoun, Ga., 7-5, 4-6, 6-1.
   Today, Griffith will face seventh-seeded Aron Hiltzik of Wilmette, Ill., and Staggs will meet 15th-seeded Walker Duncan of Atlanta.
   In the boys 14 quarterfinals in Tucson, Ariz., top-seeded Patrick Kypson of Greenville, N.C., dominated 16th-seeded Keenan Mayo of Roseville 6-3, 6-1.
   Ninth-seeded Randy Cory of Salinas and Andrew Ton of Milpitas reached the boys 14 doubles semifinals, and unseeded Isabella Harvison of Cardiff and Katie Volynets of Walnut Creek advanced to the girls doubles semis.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

New rankings, 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, 32 years old, Sacramento Capitals of World TeamTennis (2012-13) -- No. 374 in singles (no change), No. 125 in doubles (no change).
   Bradley Klahn, 23 years old, 2010 NCAA singles champion and 2011 NCAA doubles runner-up from Stanford -- Career-high No. 97 in singles (no change), No. 147 in doubles (no change).
   Scott Lipsky, 32 years old, 2002 NCAA doubles runner-up from Stanford -- No. 31 in doubles (no change), unranked in singles.
   Sam Querrey, 26 years old, San Francisco native, Capitals (2012-13) -- No. 46 in singles (no change), No. 216 in doubles (no change).
   Ryan Sweeting, 26 years old, Capitals (2012-13) -- No. 666 in singles (-1), No. 1,109 in doubles (-3).
   Dmitry Tursunov, 31 years old, trains at Gorin Tennis Academy in Sacramento suburb of Granite Bay -- No. 29 in singles (no change), No. 138 in doubles (no change).
Women
   Mallory Burdette, 22 years old, NCAA singles runner-up in 2012 and NCAA doubles champion in 2011 and 2012 from Stanford -- No. 140 in singles (no change), No. 688 in doubles (-9).
   Nicole Gibbs, 20 years old, NCAA singles champion in 2012 and 2013 and NCAA doubles champion in 2012 from Stanford -- No. 185 in singles (-1), No. 437 in doubles (-6).
   Macall Harkins, Redding resident -- No. 286 in doubles (-7), No. 694 in singles (-7).
   Raquel Kops-Jones, 31 years old, 2003 NCAA doubles champion from Cal -- No. 23 in doubles (no change), unranked in singles.
   Megan Moulton-Levy, 28 years old, Capitals (2013) -- No. 56 in doubles (no change), unranked in singles.
   Maria Sanchez, 24 years old, Modesto product -- No. 144 in doubles (no change), No. 175 in singles (no change).
   Taylor Townsend, 17 years old, Capitals (2013) -- No. 196 in doubles (-4), No. 362 in singles (-1).
TV SCHEDULE
  No tournaments scheduled.
CALENDAR
   Friday-Jan. 1 -- USTA National Winter Championships, boys and girls 14s and 12s, Tucson, Ariz., http://tennislink.usta.com/tournaments/TournamentHome/Tournament.aspx?T=122724.  
   Friday-Jan. 2 -- USTA National Winter Championships, boys and girls 18s and 16s, Scottsdale, Ariz.,  http://tennislink.usta.com/tournaments/TournamentHome/Tournament.aspx?T=122192
   Jan. 13-26, 2014 -- AUSTRALIAN OPEN, Melbourne, www.australianopen.com. 2013 champions: Novak Djokovic, Victoria Azarenka, Bob Bryan-Mike Bryan, Sara Errani-Roberta Vinci, Jarmila Gajdosova-Matthew Ebden.
   Jan. 14 -- College spring season begins. Pacific men at Stanford, 1:30 p.m. 
   Jan. 31-Feb. 2 -- Davis Cup, first round, Great Britain vs. United States in San Diego, www.daviscup.com.
   Feb. 8-9 -- Fed Cup, first round, defending champion Italy vs. United States in Cleveland, www.fedcupcom.
   Feb. 26 -- Champions Shootout (Pete Sampras, John McEnroe, Jim Courier, James Blake), 7 p.m., Sleep Train Arena, Sacramento, Calif., www.powersharesseries.com.
   March 3-16 -- BNP Paribas Open, Indian Wells, Calif., www.bnpparibasopen.com. 2013 champions: Rafael Nadal, Maria Sharapova, Bob Bryan-Mike Bryan, Ekaterina Makarova-Elena Vesnina.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Note to readers: E-mail problem solved

Dear readers,

Because of a technical problem, I have not received any e-mails for the past few weeks. The issue has been resolved, though, and my account is working fine.

I apologize for missing any e-mails that you might have sent. Please feel free to reach me at norcaltennisczar@gmail.com.

Thank you for reading NorCal Tennis Czar.

Happy holidays,
Paul Bauman

Top 10 stories: Bryans highlight incredible NorCal year

Mike, left, and Bob Bryan of the visiting Texas Wild and their
father, Sacramento Capitals coach Wayne Bryan, watch
players warm up before a World TeamTennis match in July.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   The debate rages.
   Are Bob and Mike Bryan the greatest men's doubles team of all time?
   The identical twins and former Stanford stars had the best year of their illustrious career in 2013 at 35 years old, coming within two match victories of a calendar-year Grand Slam. That has been accomplished only once in men's doubles, by Australians Ken McGregor and Frank Sedgman in 1951.
   The Bryans' Australian Open title in January broke the career record of 12 Grand Slam crowns in men's doubles by Aussies John Newcombe and Tony Roche from 1965 through 1976. So that makes the Bryans, who highlighted an incredible year in Northern California tennis (see below for the top 10 stories), the best men's doubles team ever, right?
   Not according to former partners John McEnroe and Peter Fleming.
   "What people forget is that we played 10 Grand Slam doubles (finals), and we won seven (1979-84)," McEnroe told Peter Bodo of Tennis magazine in May. "Before they start telling everyone how great the Bryan brothers are, look at some of those numbers. It's like people think we'd be afraid to go out there with them. That's what's weird about it."
   McEnroe and Fleming won four Wimbledon and three U.S. Open crowns. Top players generally didn't compete in the Australian Open during their era because it was played in December.
   The Bryans, meanwhile, have won 15 of their 26 (.577) Grand Slam men's doubles finals, collecting six Australian Open, two French Open, three Wimbledon and four U.S. Open titles. They have said they'll play through the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
   McEnroe and Fleming also contend that they faced tougher competition, such as former No. 1 singles players Stan Smith and Newcombe.
   “I hear 'the greatest doubles players of all time -- the Bryan brothers,' and it’s, ‘Excuse me?’ Fleming said on tennis.com earlier this month. "I find that comment unbelievable.”
   Bob Bryan, in an exclusive interview with NorCal Tennis Czar in July, countered that he and Mike are 5-3 against Roger Federer and 4-0 against Rafael Nadal separately in doubles.
    "They're great players, but singles and doubles are two different sports," Bob Bryan said. "They need a completely different skill set. They need different types of returns; they need different types of serves, quick hands; and the fast feet at the net are something the singles players don't really have a chance to get used to unless they're doing a lot of it.
   "We like our chances (against Federer and Nadal in doubles). We obviously have a lot of respect for those guys. They're two of our heroes, and what they do on and off the court is really breathtaking. It would be nice to have an exhibition one day, but I doubt we're going to see that (encounter) in a tour-level match anytime soon."
   Federer and Nadal rarely play doubles, but Federer won the 2008 Olympic gold medal with Swiss teammate Stanislas Wawrinka, and Nadal has captured Indian Wells twice with fellow Spaniard Marc Lopez.
   Here are the top 10 stories of the year in NorCal tennis as determined by a highly scientific survey (consisting of my deliberating for a few minutes):
   1. Bryans break career Grand Slam men's doubles record. http://norcaltennisczar.blogspot.com/2013/01/bryans-break-grand-slam-mens-doubles.html
   2. Bryans come close to calendar-year Grand Slam in men's doubles. http://norcaltennisczar.blogspot.com/2013/09/bryans-bid-for-grand-slam-ends.html
   3. Three juniors from Sacramento academy win national titles. On back-to-back days in August, Collin Altamirano and Jenson Brooksby of the JMG Tennis Academy won singles titles in the USTA National Championships in the boys 18s in Kalamazoo, Mich., and the boys 12s in Little Rock, Ark., respectively. Altamirano, 17, became the first unseeded player in the 71-year history of the boys 18s to win the crown. In October, 8-year-old Priya Nelson took the girls 8 title at the Little Mo Nationals in Austin, Texas. http://norcaltennisczar.blogspot.com/2013/10/sacramento-academy-bags-another.html
   4. Freshman with artificial arm plays for Division I college. New Zealand's Thomas Alexander Hunt plays No. 6 singles for Saint Mary's in the San Francisco Bay Area suburb of Moraga.
http://norcaltennisczar.blogspot.com/2013/04/with-artificial-arm-hunt-plays-for-div.html
http://norcaltennisczar.blogspot.com/2013/04/player-with-prosthetic-arm.html
   5. Former world No. 20 returns from cancer. Alisa Kleybanova of Russia reaches the quarterfinals of the $50,000 FSP Gold River Women's Challenger as a qualifier in the third tournament of her comeback from cancer. http://norcaltennisczar.blogspot.com/2013/07/kleybanova-bounces-back-from-cancer.html
   6. Raonic makes history in last SAP Open. Milos Raonic of Canada becomes the first man since Tony Trabert (1953-55) to win three straight titles in the San Francisco Bay Area tournament. The SAP Open in San Jose will move to Memphis, which lost its tournament to Rio de Janeiro, in February after 125 years in Northern California. http://norcaltennisczar.blogspot.com/2013/02/raonic-makes-history-in-last-sap-open.html
   7. Cibulkova avenges shutout loss for title. After losing to Agnieszka Radwanska 6-0, 6-0 in the Sydney final in January, Dominika Cibulkova stuns the Polish star 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 to win the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford. http://norcaltennisczar.blogspot.com/2013/07/cibulkova-avenges-shutout-loss-for.html
   8. Ahn lifts Stanford women to NCAA title. Junior Kristie Ahn wins the deciding match in three sets as No. 12 Stanford edges No. 3 Texas A&M 4-3 to become the lowest seed to capture the NCAA women's title. http://norcaltennisczar.blogspot.com/2013/05/ahn-lifts-stanford-women-to-ncaa-title.html
   9. Stanford's Gibbs repeats as NCAA singles champ. Nicole Gibbs becomes the first woman to win two straight NCAA singles titles since the Cardinal's Amber Liu in 1993 and 1994. http://norcaltennisczar.blogspot.com/2013/05/stanfords-gibbs-repeats-as-ncaa-singles.html
   10. Ex-Stanford star enters collegiate Hall of Fame. Paul Goldstein, who starred on four NCAA championship teams at Stanford (1995-98), is inducted in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Men's Hall of Fame. http://norcaltennisczar.blogspot.com/2013/06/ex-stanford-star-goldstein-enters.html
   Honorable mention -- Dmitry Tursunov, a Russian based in the Sacramento suburb of Granite Bay, returns to the top 30 in the world for the first time in more than four years. http://norcaltennisczar.blogspot.com/2013/10/tursunov-returns-to-top-30-after-long.html
   --Mackenzie McDonald, 18, of Piedmont in the Bay Area becomes the first unranked teenager to qualify for an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament, the highest level for men besides the Grand Slams. http://norcaltennisczar.blogspot.com/2013/08/mcdonald-18-pulls-off-unprecedented-feat.html
  --Atherton's CiCi Bellis, who turned 14 on April 8, wins singles titles in the Easter Bowl girls 16s, USTA National Clay Court 16s and USTA National Grass Court 18s. http://norcaltennisczar.blogspot.com/2013/04/bellis-wins-easter-bowl-girls-16.html
   --Adriana Perez of Venezuela saves two match points in the first round and three in the second round en route to the title in the $25,000 Redding Women's Challenger. http://norcaltennisczar.blogspot.com/2013/09/perez-completes-unlikely-run-to-redding.html
   --Mayo Hibi, a 17-year-old Irvine resident who plays for her native Japan, defeats Madison Brengle to win the Gold River Challenger after trailing 4-0 and 5-1 and saving nine set points in the first set. http://norcaltennisczar.blogspot.com/2013/07/hibi-17-stages-amazing-comeback-for.html 
   --Jessica Lawrence's three-set victory over Yasmin Schack of Elk Grove in the Sacramento area in the second round of qualifying for the Gold River Challenger begins with 18 consecutive service breaks and features 25 total. http://norcaltennisczar.blogspot.com/2013/06/give-me-break-lawrence-19-wins-bizarre.html
   --The Stanford men lose in the first round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in their 35 appearances. http://norcaltennisczar.blogspot.com/2013/05/gasp-stanford-men-drop-ncaa-opener.html 

Roseville's Riffice falls in Junior Orange Bowl

   Ninth-seeded Sam Riffice of Roseville in the Sacramento area lost to second-seeded Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia 6-4, 6-4 Saturday in the boys 14 quarterfinals at the Junior Orange Bowl in Coral Gables, Fla.
   Riffice reached the boys 12 singles and doubles final in last year's USTA Winter National Championships in Tucson, Ariz., losing in three sets both times.
   Riffice is not entered in this year's Winter Nationals, which begin Friday, but many other Northern California juniors are. Boys and girls 18s and 16s will be played in Scottsdale, Ariz., and boys and girls 14s and 12s will be in Tucson.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Roseville's Riffice gains quarters in Jr. Orange Bowl

   Sam Riffice of Roseville in the Sacramento area reached the boys 14 quarterfinals in the prestigious Junior Orange Bowl in Coral Gables, Fla.
   Riffice, seeded ninth, topped 17th seeded Rudolf Molleker of Germany 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-1 on Friday to set up today's match against second-seeded Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia.
   Jessi Muljat, a wild card from the Sacramento suburb of Gold River, lost to fourth-seeded Amanda Anisimova of Hallandale Beach, Fla., 6-1, 6-3 in the girls 12 round of 16.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Schnack reflects on Slams, hellish tourney, 'stinky feet'

About two months after playing mixed doubles together in
the U.S. Open, Eric Roberson and Yasmin Schnack won the
mixed title in the Sacramento Clay Court League.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Playing in front of family and friends at the U.S. Open.
   Competing at Wimbledon with her best friend.
   A tournament that should have been heavenly but instead was hellish.
   And, of course, the "stinky feet" episode.
   Those were some of the highs and lows of Yasmin Schnack's two-plus years as a professional tennis player.
   Burdened by loneliness, financial struggles and family issues, the Sacramento-area resident retired last year at 24. The 5-foot-10 (1.77-meter) Schnack considered a comeback after playing mixed doubles in the U.S. Open as a wild card last August but decided to start nursing school in Phoenix next month.
   "I got really hyped up after the U.S. Open and really inspired to play again," said Schnack, whose father is a retired family doctor. "But I didn't fare well in Redding (in September), and my ranking has dropped so much. I'm not afraid of working hard, but I knew it would take a year or two to get my ranking back up.
   "I applied to different schools and found I could get in and start really soon. I weighed the pros and cons, my family supported me, and I decided to go to nursing school. I'm happy with my decision. It's something I've thought about off and on since college.
   "I'm glad I'm taking the step. I delayed because I was afraid to lose tennis, which has been such a huge part of my life. Once I was able to get over that fear, I was able to let go. This is a really good decision. It's a new direction, a new path."
   Schnack played on UCLA's national championship team as a sophomore in 2008 and was named the Pacific-10 Conference Women's Player of the Year as a senior in 2010. As a pro, she won 11 doubles and two singles titles and reached career highs of No. 140 and No. 371, respectively.
   Schnack might be too nice for the cutthroat world of pro tennis. She recently reflected on her career, providing a behind-the-scenes look at life on the tour and a glimpse of her warm personality.
   Most memorable match -- "Playing Madison Brengle in my first World TeamTennis season (2011), for the Sacramento Capitals. One of the big reasons -- or only reason -- I was drafted was Vania King (Schnack's best friend and the 2009 WTT Female MVP for the Springfield Lasers before being traded to Sacramento) pushed for me to be on the team. She said, 'I won't play if my friend Yasmin doesn't.' I owe her a lot for being drafted that first year.
   "I played some of my best tennis that night (against Brengle) and beat her 5-0 in front of a really big crowd (in Kansas City), all basically rooting against me, but I had my supportive teammates there. It was a great victory for me. I was able to earn respect not only from my teammates and coach but everyone in World TeamTennis."
   Biggest thrill -- "Playing U.S. Open mixed doubles this past August with Eric Roberson (of Sacramento). We've played mixed doubles together for a long, long time. When we won the wild card into mixed (by emerging from a national playoff), we were so happy. We actually came pretty close [in a 6-4, 7-6 (3) loss to Slovakians Janette Husarova and Filip Polasek in the first round].
   "What was nice was our families and friends were there. To experience that with them was definitely my biggest thrill."
   Biggest disappointment -- "I played a $50,000 tournament in Carson, California, in 2011 with (Sacramento native and doubles specialist) Christina Fusano. We played a lot of matches together. We won some tough matches to get to the final, and we ended up losing 6-2, 6-3 (to Americans Alexandra Mueller and Asia Muhammad). Neither of us played that well.
   "After the match, she gave a speech, and her whole family was there. I didn't know it beforehand, but she said she was retiring. I came off so disappointed in how I performed. I wanted her career to end with a victory. I definitely could have done a lot more, tried harder, just done something different."
   Toughest singles opponent -- "I played Jarmila Gajdosova [a 5-foot-7 (1.71-meter) Slovakia-born Australian] my first year I turned pro (in 2010). I think it was my fourth tournament. I played a 100K in Taipei, and I went through the qualifying, played really well, and bam, I got the first seed in the first round of the main draw.
   "I was nervous and really excited to play someone in the top 30. I lost 6-2, 6-3. It was indoors, so she had an advantage with serves and the fast pace of the court. She overpowered me, and not many people can do that. I'm pretty strong. I can handle difficult, hard shots."
   Toughest doubles opponent -- "Asia Muhammad and I played (Modesto native) Maria Sanchez and Irina Falconi in a $75,000 tournament in Albuquerque (last year). We had just lost in the final of World TeamTennis in Charleston (S.C.).
   "It's tough (in Albuquerque) with the altitude. Sometimes you have no idea what shot is going to come off your strings, and we had this epic doubles match against them. They were ranked 130 spots ahead of us, and we won 12-10 in the (match) tiebreaker. We were really lucky to sneak away with the 'W.' "
   Favorite tournament -- "Playing Wimbledon (last year) with (2010 women's doubles champion) Vania King, my best friend. When she asked me to play, I was beyond happy. Wimbledon has a lot of history, and there's something about playing on the grass courts. That's where it all started."
   (King and Schnack lost to eighth-seeded Czechs Iveta Benesova and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova 6-4, 6-1 in the first round.)
   Least favorite tournament -- "I played a 100K in the Bahamas (last year). I went there thinking, Oh, it's the Bahamas. There's (the) beach. It's going to be fun. Unfortunately, it ended up being really unorganized, and ... no one got paid."
  (Schnack lost in the second round of singles qualifying to eighth-seeded Valeria Solovyeva of Russia 6-1, 6-3 and in the first round of doubles with Sanchez to fourth-seeded Jill Craybas of Huntington Beach, Calif., and Anastasia Rodionova of Australia 3-6, 6-3, 10-8 match tiebreaker. Schnack would have earned $570.)
   Best friend -- "Vania. We've known each other since she was 11 and I was 12. We were on a USTA trip to Costa Rica and Panama for ITF tournaments. It was my first time playing international tournaments, and I was really excited.
   "We roomed together that first week, and we were instant friends. We get along really well. She's my pseudo-sister, and her family is my second family."
   Funniest moment -- "Elizabeth Lumpkin, a former UCLA teammate of mine, and I roomed together at a $50,000 tournament in Raleigh (N.C.). We get back from practice, and we're sitting on the bed trying to figure out who's going to take a shower first. So she takes off her shoes and socks and goes, 'Oh, man, my feet are really stinky.' I'm like, 'Well, I can't smell anything, so it's not that bad.' She proceeds to tell me, 'Oh, no, they smell like rotten eggs,' and Jason, her husband, says the same thing, like, 'Keep your shoes on or take them outside, because if they're in the house, the whole house will be really smelly.'
   "It was hilarious. She's telling me this and looking at me, seeing the look on my face, and we just burst out laughing."
   Best thing about being a pro tennis player -- "Traveling. Staying with really awesome housing parents, as we call them. I traveled mainly in the U.S., but every place I went to, there are really no negatives. There's always something cool to see about this city, and the tennis community is really close. Everyone was just wonderful."
   Favorite destination -- "My first tournament as a professional, I went to Mazatlan (Mexico). It was just a small $10,000 tournament. I traveled with Ivana King, Vania's sister. We're also really close. We won doubles, and I lost in the final of singles. It was a fun trip because we went parasailing, we went to the beach ... We were able to do all these really fun off-court things, shopping ... It was a fun tournament."
   Worst thing about being a pro tennis player -- "Traveling alone for weeks and months on end. That's really hard. Coming out of UCLA, I had all these girls, my teammates. We used each other for support, so it was a transition to go from a team environment to traveling alone. No coach, no family. You'd meet up with the girls (on the tour), but it's a competitive environment. They're not there to pat you on the back or feed you balls. That was really tough for me."

New rankings, 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, 32 years old, Sacramento Capitals of World TeamTennis (2012-13) -- No. 374 in singles (+6), No. 125 in doubles (+1).
   Bradley Klahn, 23 years old, 2010 NCAA singles champion and 2011 NCAA doubles runner-up from Stanford -- Career-high No. 97 in singles (no change), No. 147 in doubles (-1).
   Scott Lipsky, 32 years old, 2002 NCAA doubles runner-up from Stanford -- No. 31 in doubles (no change), unranked in singles.
   Sam Querrey, 26 years old, San Francisco native, Capitals (2012-13) -- No. 46 in singles (no change), No. 216 in doubles (no change).
   Ryan Sweeting, 26 years old, Capitals (2012-13) -- No. 665 in singles (-1), No. 1,106 in doubles (no change).
   Dmitry Tursunov, 31 years old, trains at Gorin Tennis Academy in Sacramento suburb of Granite Bay -- No. 29 in singles (no change), No. 138 in doubles (no change).
Women
   Mallory Burdette, 22 years old, NCAA singles runner-up in 2012 and NCAA doubles champion in 2011 and 2012 from Stanford -- No. 140 in singles (-1), No. 679 in doubles (-1).
   Nicole Gibbs, 20 years old, NCAA singles champion in 2012 and 2013 and NCAA doubles champion in 2012 from Stanford -- No. 184 in singles (no change), No. 431 in doubles (-3).
   Macall Harkins, Redding resident -- No. 279 in doubles (no change), No. 687 in singles (-11).
   Raquel Kops-Jones, 31 years old, 2003 NCAA doubles champion from Cal -- No. 23 in doubles (no change), unranked in singles.
   Megan Moulton-Levy, 28 years old, Capitals (2013) -- No. 56 in doubles (no change), unranked in singles.
   Maria Sanchez, 24 years old, Modesto product -- No. 144 in doubles (no change), No. 175 in singles (no change).
   Taylor Townsend, 17 years old, Capitals (2013) -- No. 192 in doubles (no change), No. 361 in singles (-7).
TV SCHEDULE
  No tournaments scheduled.
CALENDAR
   Through Monday --  Junior Orange Bowl, boys and girls 14s and 12s, Coral Gables, Fla., www.juniororangebowl.org.
   Dec. 27-Jan. 1 -- USTA National Winter Championships, boys and girls 14s and 12s, Tucson, Ariz., http://tennislink.usta.com/tournaments/TournamentHome/Tournament.aspx?T=122724.  
   Dec. 27-Jan. 2 -- USTA National Winter Championships, boys and girls 18s and 16s, Scottsdale, Ariz.,  http://tennislink.usta.com/tournaments/TournamentHome/Tournament.aspx?T=122192
   Jan. 13-26, 2014 -- AUSTRALIAN OPEN, Melbourne, www.australianopen.com. 2013 champions: Novak Djokovic, Victoria Azarenka, Bob Bryan-Mike Bryan, Sara Errani-Roberta Vinci, Jarmila Gajdosova-Matthew Ebden.
   Jan. 14 -- College spring season begins. Pacific men at Stanford, 1:30 p.m. 
   Jan. 31-Feb. 2 -- Davis Cup, first round, Great Britain vs. United States in San Diego, www.daviscup.com.
   Feb. 8-9 -- Fed Cup, first round, defending champion Italy vs. United States in Cleveland, www.fedcupcom.
   Feb. 26 -- Champions Shootout (Pete Sampras, John McEnroe, Jim Courier, James Blake), 7 p.m., Sleep Train Arena, Sacramento, Calif., www.powersharesseries.com.
   March 3-16 -- BNP Paribas Open, Indian Wells, Calif., www.bnpparibasopen.com. 2013 champions: Rafael Nadal, Maria Sharapova, Bob Bryan-Mike Bryan, Ekaterina Makarova-Elena Vesnina.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Bellis falls in doubles quarters at Orange Bowl

   CiCi Bellis, the last remaining Northern Californian in the prestigious Orange Bowl junior tournament, was eliminated on Saturday in the doubles quarterfinals of the girls 18 division.
   Bellis, 14, of Atherton in the San Francisco Bay Area and Katerina Stewart of Miami lost to top-seeded Varvara Flink of Russia and Ivana Jorovic of Serbia 7-5, 2-6 [10-4] on clay in Plantation, Fla.
   The match had been suspended at 5-5 in the first set on Friday.
   The Junior Orange Bowl, for boys and girls 14s and 12s, is scheduled for Tuesday through Dec. 23 in Coral Gables, Fla.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Bellis' doubles quarterfinal in Orange Bowl suspended

   CiCi Bellis' doubles quarterfinal against the top seeds in the girls 18s at the Orange Bowl was suspended at 5-5 on Friday.
   Bellis, 14, of Atherton and Katerina Stewart of Miami are scheduled to resume their match against Varvara Flink of Russia and Ivana Jorovic of Serbia today in the prestigious junior tournament on clay in Plantation, Fala.
   Of the three Northern Californians entered in the Orange Bowl, Bellis is the only one remaining. She and Michaela Gordon, 14, of Los Altos Hills lost in the first round of girls 18 singles, and Lane Leschly, 15, of Atherton fell in the opening round of boys 16 singles.
  Gordon and Anna Bondar of Hungary lost in the second round of girls 18 doubles to Flink and Jorovic. Leschly, the grandson of former Danish Davis Cup veteran Jan Leschly, did not play doubles.
   Atherton and Los Altos Hills are located near Stanford University in the San Francisco Bay Area. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Bellis, 14, gains doubles quarters in Orange Bowl

   Northern California has one player left in the Orange Bowl.
   And she might not last much longer in the prestigious junior tournament.
   CiCi Bellis, 14, of Atherton and Katerina Stewart of Miami trounced Gabriella Castaneda of Miramar, Fla., and Lana Rush of Great Britain 6-2, 6-1 Thursday to reach the doubles quarterfinals of the girls 18s on clay in Plantation, Fla.
   Bellis and Stewart will meet top-seeded Varvara Flink of Russia and Ivana Jorovic of Serbia today. Flink and Jorovic advanced with a 4-6, 6-3 [10-4] victory over Michaela Gordon of Los Altos Hills and Anna Bondar of Hungary.
   Atherton and Los Altos Hills are located near Stanford University in the San Francisco Bay Area.
   The Orange Bowl features many of the world's top juniors. The tournament was played on clay from 1947 through 1997 and hardcourt from 1998 through 2010 before returning to clay.
   Past champions include Chris Evert (1969-70), Bjorn Borg (1972), John McEnroe (1976), Gabriela Sabatini (1984), Roger Federer (1998) and Caroline Wozniacki (2005). 
   The Junior Orange Bowl, for boys and girls 14s and 12s, is scheduled for Saturday through Dec. 23 in Coral Gables, Fla.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Hacker heaven: Playing recently retired touring pro

Former touring professional Yasmin Schnack
follows through on a backhand during a recent
match against one of her pupils, Paul Bauman.
Photo by Dave Goldschmidt
   SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- For one fleeting moment, I felt as if I had just won Wimbledon.
   Or at least the Gerry Weber Open, a Wimbledon tuneup tournament in Halle, Germany. (By the way, who the hell is Gerry Weber? As a former newspaper colleague of mine used to say about any so-called bigwig, "Where did he ever tend bar?")
   I was playing Yasmin Schnack, my tennis teacher for the last six months and a recently retired professional player, on a chilly morning last week at the Rio del Oro Racquet Club.
   Late in the second set, I ripped a topspin cross-court passing shot with my one-handed backhand. My timing was perfect, for a change, and I hit a rocket a few inches over the net that left Schnack flat-footed. She had no chance.
   A wave of euphoria swept over me -- for a few seconds, anyway. It was the best I've ever felt on a tennis court, and at 58, I've been playing a long time.
   The rest of the match did not, um, go as well. I lost 6-0, 6-0. Not that that was any surprise.
   I'm a 4.0 player who didn't even play on my high school team. I got interested in tennis at the advanced age of 15, about the time of the Civil War, and I've played recreationally ever since.
   Schnack, meanwhile, played mixed doubles in the U.S. Open less than four months ago and women's doubles at Wimbledon last year. She lost in the first round each time and reached career highs of No. 140 in the world in doubles and No. 371 in singles before retiring last year at 24. (Schnack won a national playoff with Eric Roberson, a fellow pro at Rio del Oro, to earn a wild card into U.S. Open mixed doubles.)
   Schnack, 5-foot-10 (1.78 meters) and lean, won 11 doubles and two singles titles on the ITF circuit, the minor leagues in women's tennis.
   The daughter of a retired family doctor, Schnack will begin nursing school in Phoenix next month after having considered a return to pro tennis. Had she stayed on the tour, she almost certainly would have cracked the top 100 in the world in doubles.
   "I've always thought she had amazing potential from when we were little," 5-foot-5 (1.65-meter) Vania King -- Schnack's best friend, her partner at Wimbledon and a two-time Grand Slam champion in women's doubles -- said in March. "She never had proper coaching or support. She's more talented than I am."
   At UCLA, Schnack helped the Bruins win the 2008 NCAA title as a sophomore and was named the 2010 Pacific-10 Conference Women's Player of the Year.
   "She has great athletic ability," Stella Sampras Webster, Pete's older sister and the UCLA women's coach, told The Sacramento Bee in 2010. "She's a shotmaker. She has a lot of weapons and can dominate a lot of players with big groundstrokes. She's powerful but also very graceful. She moves very well. ... Her (two-handed) backhand is one of the prettiest you'll ever see." 
As Schnack has been telling me during my lessons, I need
to snap my wrist more on my serve. Maybe that's why it
lacked pop during our match. Photo by Dave Goldschmidt
   Schnack, who was born four months before my son at the same hospital in Reno, is by far the best player I've ever faced in a match. She is not, however, the best player with whom I've ever hit. I rallied with Bjorn Borg for five minutes almost exactly 24 years ago -- on Dec. 5, 1989 -- in Tokyo. I was working at an English-language newspaper there at the time, and he made a promotional appearance for his fashion company.
   Here's what I wrote in my journal about the session with Borg: "I was a little nervous. He told me I was taking my racket back late. I hit some good shots, and I don't think he missed one." 
   Schnack, in turn, used to hit with Pete Sampras at UCLA. She commented to The Bee in 2010: "At first, it was nerve-wracking and scary. I must have said "Sorry" about a hundred times. His shots have so much pace and weight -- every ball is deep -- that it's hard to control."
   I felt similarly against Schnack.
   The question wasn't whether I'd win any games. It was whether I'd win any points. There was a distinct possibility of Schnack pulling off at least one golden set -- winning all 24 points.
   That has happened only twice at the top level of men's or women's tennis. American Bill Scanlon destroyed Marcos Hocevar of Brazil 6-2, 6-0 in the first round at Delray Beach, Fla., in 1983, and 5-foot-11 (1.80-meter) Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan drubbed 5-foot-4 1/2 (1.64-meter) Sara Errani of Italy 6-0, 6-4 in the third round at Wimbledon last year.
   Shvedova and King won the women's doubles title at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 2010.
   And Errani is no slouch. Ranked No. 10 in the world at the time, she's now No. 7 in singles and No. 1 in doubles with countrywoman Roberta Vinci.
   So at least I was in good company if I suffered the same fate. That's how it was looking for a while.
   Schnack reeled off the first 19 points. Finally, at 4-0, 40-0, I hit a decent first serve to Schnack's backhand that she returned wide.
   Schnack also double-faulted at 5-0, 30-0 for my only other point of the first set, which lasted all of 15 minutes, 37 seconds.
   In the second set, I managed to win five points -- a veritable bonanza as Schnack probably let down.
   Overall in the match, I reached 30 in a game only once and led in a game only once, 15-0 late in the second set.
   Basically, it was 33 minutes of target practice for Schnack, who's an inch taller than I am. She pounced on my weak first serve and took immediate control of almost every point with her impeccable groundstrokes. I spent most of the time watching passing shots whiz by, scrambling to get a racket on shots to the corners or hitting feeble replies that Schnack put away at the net.
   Most of all, Schnack is an incredible volleyer with textbook form. Twice when she was at the net, I blasted forehands at her shoetops only to watch her counter with effortless, amazing drop volleys for winners.
   Given Schnack's height and athleticism, I didn't want to lob her. But sometimes I had no choice, and I paid the price.
   With nothing to lose, I did want to play aggressively. But that's not my nature, and Schnack gave me little chance. The match was over before I knew it.
   I was fortunate to win seven points. Schnack struggled on her serve, the weakest part of her game. Her first-serve percentage was low, especially in the opening set, and although she placed her second serve well to my backhand, I usually was able to return it.
   That's more than I can say about facing Schnack's other strokes, but I've never had so much fun getting my butt kicked. It was an honor to be on the court with such a skilled player.
   And I'll always have that topspin backhand passing shot.
   Coming soon -- Schnack reflects on the highs and lows of her pro career.        

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

New rankings, 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, 32 years old, Sacramento Capitals of World TeamTennis (2012-13) -- No. 380 in singles (-1), No. 126 in doubles (+1).
   Bradley Klahn, 23 years old, 2010 NCAA singles champion and 2011 NCAA doubles runner-up from Stanford -- Career-high No. 97 in singles (no change), No. 147 in doubles (-1).
   Scott Lipsky, 32 years old, 2002 NCAA doubles runner-up from Stanford -- No. 31 in doubles (no change), unranked in singles.
   Sam Querrey, 26 years old, San Francisco native, Capitals (2012-13) -- No. 46 in singles (no change), No. 216 in doubles (no change).
   Ryan Sweeting, 26 years old, Capitals (2012-13) -- No. 664 in singles (-2), No. 1,106 in doubles (-7).
   Dmitry Tursunov, 31 years old tomorrow, trains at Gorin Tennis Academy in Sacramento suburb of Granite Bay -- No. 29 in singles (no change), No. 138 in doubles (no change).
Women
   Mallory Burdette, 22 years old, NCAA singles runner-up in 2012 and NCAA doubles champion in 2011 and 2012 from Stanford -- No. 139 in singles (no change), No. 678 in doubles (-5).
   Nicole Gibbs, 20 years old, NCAA singles champion in 2012 and 2013 and NCAA doubles champion in 2012 from Stanford -- No. 184 in singles (no change), No. 428 in doubles (-1).
   Macall Harkins, Redding resident -- No. 279 in doubles (no change), No. 676 in singles (no change).
   Raquel Kops-Jones, 31 years old, 2003 NCAA doubles champion from Cal -- No. 23 in doubles (no change), unranked in singles.
   Megan Moulton-Levy, 28 years old, Capitals (2013) -- No. 56 in doubles (no change), unranked in singles.
   Maria Sanchez, 24 years old, Modesto product -- No. 175 in singles (no change), No. 144 in doubles (no change).
   Taylor Townsend, 17 years old, Capitals (2013) -- No. 192 in doubles (+1), No. 354 in singles (+1).
TV SCHEDULE
  No tournaments scheduled.
CALENDAR
   Through Sunday -- Orange Bowl, boys and girls 18s and 16s, Plantation, Fla., www.orangebowltennis.org
   Dec. 17-23 --  Junior Orange Bowl, boys and girls 14s and 12s, Coral Gables, Fla., www.juniororangebowl.org.
   Dec. 27-Jan. 1 -- USTA National Winter Championships, boys and girls 14s and 12s, Tucson, Ariz., http://tennislink.usta.com/tournaments/TournamentHome/Tournament.aspx?T=122724.  
   Dec. 27-Jan. 2 -- USTA National Winter Championships, boys and girls 18s and 16s, Scottsdale, Ariz.,  http://tennislink.usta.com/tournaments/TournamentHome/Tournament.aspx?T=122192
   Jan. 13-26, 2014 -- AUSTRALIAN OPEN, Melbourne, www.australianopen.com. Defending champions: Novak Djokovic, Victoria Azarenka, Bob Bryan-Mike Bryan, Sara Errani-Roberta Vinci, Jarmila Gajdosova-Matthew Ebden.
   Jan. 14 -- College spring season begins. Pacific men at Stanford, 1:30 p.m. 
   Jan. 31-Feb. 2 -- Davis Cup, first round, Great Britain vs. United States in San Diego, www.daviscup.com.
   Feb. 8-9 -- Fed Cup, first round, defending champion Italy vs. United States in Cleveland, www.fedcupcom.
   Feb. 26, 2014 -- Champions Shootout (Pete Sampras, John McEnroe, Jim Courier, James Blake), 7 p.m., Sleep Train Arena, Sacramento, Calif., www.powersharesseries.com.
   March 3-16, 2014 -- BNP Paribas Open, Indian Wells, Calif., www.bnpparibasopen.com. Defending champions: Rafael Nadal, Maria Sharapova, Bob Bryan-Mike Bryan, Ekaterina Makarova-Elena Vesnina.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

NorCal hopes rest in Orange Bowl doubles

CiCi Bellis, 14, of Atherton lost in the
first round of girls 18 singles in the
Orange Bowl. 2012 photo
by Paul Bauman
   All Northern California juniors have been eliminated after the first round of singles in the prestigious Orange Bowl.
   But two NorCal players remain alive in doubles in the clay-court tournament in Plantation, Fla.
   Wild card CiCi Bellis of Atherton fell to qualifier Katherine Sebov of Canada 6-3, 7-6 (3) today in the girls 18s. Both players are 14 years old.
   Bellis won the USTA National Grass Court 18s and Clay Court 16s and the Easter Bowl 16s this year.
   The other two NorCal representatives in the Orange Bowl -- Michaela Gordon, 14, of Los Altos Hills in the girls 18s and Lane Leschly, 15, of Atherton in the boys 16s -- lost on Monday.
   Atherton and Los Altos Hills are located near Stanford University in the San Francisco Bay Area.
   Bellis and Gordon, meanwhile, won their first-round doubles matches today. Bellis and Katerina Stewart of Miami topped Asiya Dair of Kazakhstan and Anastasiya Rychagova of Russia 7-5, 6-2. Gordon and Anna Bondar of Hungary edged Sabrina Faybyshev of Morganville, N.J., and Julia Grabher of Austria 3-6, 6-0 [11-9].
   Bondar and Gordon will take on top-seeded Varvara Flink of Russia and Ivana Jorovic of Serbia. Bellis and Stewart will meet Gabriella Castaneda of Miramar, Fla., and Lana Rush of Great Britain. Both second-round matches are scheduled for Thursday.
    The Orange Bowl features many of the world's top juniors. The tournament was played on clay from 1947 through 1997 and hardcourt from 1998 through 2010 before returning to clay.
   Past champions include Chris Evert (1969-70), Bjorn Borg (1972), John McEnroe (1976), Gabriela Sabatini (1984), Roger Federer (1998) and Caroline Wozniacki (2005).    
   The Junior Orange Bowl, for boys and girls 14s and 12s, is scheduled for Saturday through Dec. 23 in Coral Gables, Fla.

Gordon, Leschly ousted in Orange Bowl openers

   Both Northern Californians in action Monday lost to seeds in the first round of the Orange Bowl on clay in Plantation, Fla.
   Michaela Gordon, 14, of Los Altos Hills fell to sixth-seeded Ioana Ducu of Romania 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 in the girls 18s.
   Lane Leschly, a 15-year-old Atherton resident, dropped a 6-4, 6-1 decision to eighth-seeded Soon Woo Kwon of South Korea in the boys 16s. Leschly's grandfather, Jan Leschly, played Davis Cup for Denmark.
   Los Altos Hills and Atherton are located near Stanford University in the San Francisco Bay Area.
   The only other NorCal player in the Orange Bowl, wild card CiCi Bellis of Atherton, is scheduled to face qualifier Katherine Sebov of Canada today in the opening round of the girls 18s. Both players are 14.
   Bellis has won the USTA National Grass Court 18s and Clay Court 16s and the Easter Bowl 16s this year. She and Gordon also will play separately in the first round of doubles today. Leschly is not entered in doubles.
   The Orange Bowl features many of the world's top juniors. It was played on clay from 1947 through 1997 and hardcourt from 1998 through 2010 before returning to clay.
   Past champions include Chris Evert (1969-70), Bjorn Borg (1972), John McEnroe (1976), Gabriela Sabatini (1984), Roger Federer (1998) and Caroline Wozniacki (2005).

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Bay Area juniors to play in elite Orange Bowl

Lane Leschly of Atherton is scheduled
to play in the first round of boys 16
singles in the Orange Bowl on Monday.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Three San Francisco Bay Area juniors are scheduled to compete in the Orange Bowl, one of the top junior tournaments in the world, this coming week.
   CiCi Bellis and Michaela Gordon, both 14, are entered in girls 18 singles, and Lane Leschly, 15, will play in boys 16 singles.
   The clay-court tournament is set for Monday through next Sunday in Plantation, Fla.
   Gordon, from Los Altos Hills, and Leschly, a resident of Atherton, will challenge seeds on Monday.
   Gordon will face No. 6 Ioana Ducu of Romania. Leschly, the grandson of former Danish Davis Cup veteran Jan Leschly, will meet No. 8 Soon Woo Kwon of South Korea.
   Bellis, a wild card from Atherton, will play qualifier Katherine Sebov, also 14, of Canada on Tuesday.
   The Orange Bowl was played on clay from 1947 through 1997 and hardcourt from 1998 through 2010 before returning to clay.
   Past winners include Chris Evert (1969-70), Bjorn Borg (1972), John McEnroe (1976), Gabriela Sabatini (1984), Roger Federer (1998) and Caroline Wozniacki (2005).

San Jose's Motevassel upset in National 40s

   Top seed and two-time defending champion Oren Motevassel of San Jose lost to fourth-seeded Tony Bujan of San Clemente 6-3, 7-5 in the semifinals of the USTA National 40 Hard Court Championships in La Jolla.
   Bujan will meet fifth-seeded Michael Chang -- no, not that Michael Chang -- of Anaheim today for the title. Chang beat second-seeded Julien Heine of Laguna Beach 6-3, 7-5.
   In the women's final, top-seeded Sophie Woorons-Johnston of Anderson, S.C., routed fourth-seeded Ros (Fairbank) Nideffer of San Diego 6-3, 6-1.
   Woorons-Johnston, a former Clemson All-American, became eligible to play in the tournament after turning 40 on Sept. 4.
   Nideffer, a 53-year-old former touring professional originally from South Africa, reached career highs of No. 12 in the world in doubles in 1986 and No. 15 in singles in 1990.
   She won the French Open women's doubles title in 1981 with Tanya Harford of South Africa and in 1983 with Candy Reynolds of the United States.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

New rankings, 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. 379 in singles (-3), No. 127 in doubles (no change).
   Bradley Klahn, 23 years old, 2010 NCAA singles champion and 2011 NCAA doubles runner-up from Stanford -- Career-high No. 97 in singles (no change), No. 146 in doubles (no change).
   Scott Lipsky, 32 years old, 2002 NCAA doubles runner-up from Stanford -- No. 31 in doubles (no change), unranked in singles.
   Sam Querrey, 26 years old, San Francisco native, Capitals (2012-13) -- No. 46 in singles (no change), No. 216 in doubles (+2).
   Ryan Sweeting, 26 years old, Capitals (2012-13) -- No. 662 in singles (-2), No. 1,099 in doubles (-8).
   Dmitry Tursunov, 30 years old, trains at Gorin Tennis Academy in Sacramento suburb of Granite Bay -- No. 29 in singles (no change), No. 138 in doubles (no change).
Women
   Mallory Burdette, 22 years old, NCAA singles runner-up in 2012 and NCAA doubles champion in 2011 and 2012 from Stanford -- No. 139 in singles (no change), No. 673 in doubles (-2).
   Nicole Gibbs, 20 years old, NCAA singles champion in 2012 and 2013 and NCAA doubles champion in 2012 from Stanford -- No. 185 in singles (no change), No. 427 in doubles (+1).
   Macall Harkins, Redding resident -- No. 279 in doubles (no change), No. 676 in singles (-4).
   Raquel Kops-Jones, 30 years old, 2003 NCAA doubles champion from Cal -- No. 23 in doubles (no change), unranked in singles.
   Megan Moulton-Levy, 28 years old, Capitals (2013) -- No. 56 in doubles (no change), unranked in singles.
   Maria Sanchez, 24 years old, Modesto product -- No. 175 in singles (+1), No. 144 in doubles (no change).
   Taylor Townsend, 17 years old, Capitals (2013) -- No. 193 in doubles (-1), No. 355 in singles (no change).
TV SCHEDULE
  No tournaments scheduled.
CALENDAR
   Monday-Dec. 15 -- Orange Bowl International Tennis Championships, boys and girls 18s and 16s, Plantation, Fla., www.orangebowltennis.org
   Dec. 17-23 --  Junior Orange Bowl International Tennis Championship, boys and girls 14s and 12s, Coral Gables, Fla., www.juniororangebowl.org.
   Dec. 27-Jan. 1 -- USTA National Winter Championships, boys and girls 14s and 12s, Tucson, Ariz., http://tennislink.usta.com/tournaments/TournamentHome/Tournament.aspx?T=122724.  
   Dec. 27-Jan. 2 -- USTA National Winter Championships, boys and girls 18s and 16s, Scottsdale, Ariz.,  http://tennislink.usta.com/tournaments/TournamentHome/Tournament.aspx?T=122192
   Jan. 13-26, 2014 -- AUSTRALIAN OPEN, Melbourne, www.australianopen.com. Defending champions: Novak Djokovic, Victoria Azarenka, Bob Bryan-Mike Bryan, Sara Errani-Roberta Vinci, Jarmila Gajdosova-Matthew Ebden.
   Jan. 14 -- College spring season begins. Pacific men at Stanford, 1:30 p.m. 
   Jan. 31-Feb. 2 -- Davis Cup, first round, Great Britain vs. United States in San Diego, www.daviscup.com.
   Feb. 8-9 -- Fed Cup, first round, defending champion Italy vs. United States in Cleveland, www.fedcupcom.
   Feb. 26, 2014 -- Champions Shootout (Pete Sampras, John McEnroe, Jim Courier, James Blake), 7 p.m., Sleep Train Arena, Sacramento, Calif., www.powersharesseries.com.
   March 3-16, 2014 -- BNP Paribas Open, Indian Wells, Calif., www.bnpparibasopen.com. Defending champions: Rafael Nadal, Maria Sharapova, Bob Bryan-Mike Bryan, Ekaterina Makarova-Elena Vesnina.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Capitals' Sweeting to marry TV star on Dec. 31

Ryan Sweeting practices his serve before playing for
the Sacramento Capitals of World TeamTemmis in July.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   While Kaley Cuoco's career takes off, Ryan Sweeting's is in free fall.
   The television star and professional tennis player will wed on New Year's Eve in Southern California, US Weekly reported.
   Cuoco, who turned 28 on Saturday, plays Penny on the hit comedy "The Big Bang Theory."
   Sweeting, 26, has plunged to No. 660 in the world after reaching a career-high No. 64 in 2011. Playing for the Sacramento Capitals in World TeamTennis in July, the 6-foot-5 (1.96-meter) American finished last in men's singles and next to last in men's doubles. He reportedly underwent back surgery in August.
   Sweeting and Cuoco announced their engagement in September after dating for only three months.
   "I know that it seems a little crazy on paper, but it's what works for us," Cuoco told Entertainment Tonight.
   Efforts to reach Sweeting were unsuccessful.
   The 2005 U.S. Open junior champion, Sweeting won his only ATP World Tour title in the 2011 U.S. Clay Court Championships in Houston.
   Cuoco has ties to tennis, according to si.com. She was ranked in the Southern California juniors and is a friend of Bob and Mike Bryan.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Spaniard banned for two years after positive test

   Nuria Llagostera Vives has had better weeks.
   The former top-five doubles player from Spain was set to return to the WTA tour in the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford in July after undergoing wrist surgery in March.
   Not only did Llagostera Vives fail to get on the court, she tested positive for methamphetamine.
   The doubles specialist was notified of the positive test on Aug. 28, two days after the U.S. Open began, and the International Tennis Federation announced it last month.
   The ITF suspended Llagostera Vives, 33, for two years in a move that could end her career.
   Llagostera Vives and Francesca Schiavone defaulted their first-round match at Stanford after the Italian fell ill. Llagostera Vives instead returned the following week, reaching the second round at Carlsbad in the San Diego area with American Liezel Huber.
   Llagostera Vives played four more tournaments, all with Huber, through a third-round appearance in the U.S. Open. She was allowed to keep her prize money of more than $30,000 after Stanford.
   Only 5-foot-1 (1.56 meters) and 117 pounds (53 kilograms), Llagostera Vives has won two singles and 16 doubles titles on the WTA tour.
   Llagostera Vives reached career highs of No. 35 in singles in 2005 and No. 5 in doubles in 2009. She advanced to the fourth round of singles in the 2005 French Open and the doubles semifinals of the French Open in 2010 and 2012 and the U.S. Open last year.
   In addition, Llagostera Vives won the doubles title in the 2009 WTA Championships with countrywoman Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez.