Friday, October 30, 2015

Bellis, 16, to return from shoulder injury soon

CiCi Bellis, shown in the Sacramento
Challenger in July, has recovered from
shoulder bursitis. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Sixteen-year-old sensation CiCi Bellis of Atherton in the San Francisco Bay Area has recovered from shoulder bursitis and plans to return to competition late next month in the $125,000 Carlsbad Classic in the San Diego area.
   Bellis has been sidelined since losing to 18-year-old Latvian Jelena Ostapenko, last year's Wimbledon girls singles champion, in the final round of qualifying at the U.S. Open in early September.
   Bellis has tumbled from a career-high No. 152 in the world in July to No. 247.
   In the 2014 U.S. Open, Bellis stunned 12th-seeded Dominika Cibulkova, the Australian Open runner-up that year, in the first round. Bellis ended the season as the youngest No. 1 junior in the world since 2006.
   Entries in the Nov. 22-29 Carlsbad Classic also include:
   --Ukraine's Elina Svitolina, ranked 20th.
   --Americans Christina McHale, Lauren Davis and Nicole Gibbs, a former two-time NCAA singles champion from Stanford.
   --Belgium's Yanina Wickmayer, a 2009 U.S. Open semifinalist.
   --Darya Kasatkina, an 18-year-old Russian who reached the third round of this year's U.S. Open and won last year's French Open girls title. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Kops-Jones ousted from doubles in WTA Finals

Raquel Kops-Jones, above, and Abigail Spears fell to 0-2
in round-robin doubles in the WTA Finals in Singapore.
2012 photo by Paul Bauman
   Sixth-seeded Raquel Kops-Jones, a former Cal star living in San Jose, and Abigail Spears today were eliminated from contention for the doubles title in the WTA Finals in Singapore.
   Kops-Jones, who will turn 33 in December, and Spears, a 34-year-old San Diego native, lost to fourth-seeded Timea Babos of Hungary and Kristina Mladenovic of France 7-6 (5), 6-2 to fall to 0-2 in round-robin play in the eight-team event.
   Kops-Jones and Spears lost to top-seeded Martina Hingis of Switzerland and Sania Mirza of India 6-4, 6-2 on Monday.
   It was the second appearance in the WTA Finals for doubles specialists Kops-Jones and Spears. They fell to eventual champions Cara Black of Zimbabwe and Hingis 6-3, 2-6 [12-10] in the quarterfinals of last year's eight-team, single-elimination event in Singapore.
   Kops-Jones won the 2003 NCAA doubles title with Sacramento native Christina Fusano, who retired from professional tennis in 2011.   

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Stanford's Davidson sweeps in Northwest Regionals

Stanford's Taylor Davidson won two titles today in
the USTA/ITA Northwest Regional Championships.
File photo by Tri Nguyen/TriNguyenPhotography.com
   Playing at home, Stanford's Taylor Davidson won two titles today in the USTA/ITA Northwest Regional Championships.
   The junior from Statesville, N.C., seeded first, defeated ninth-seeded Maier Sherif Ahmed of Fresno State 7-5, 2-6, 6-1 for her first collegiate singles crown. Top-seeded Davidson and Caroline Doyle, a junior from San Francisco, then beat third-seeded Klara Fabikova and Olivia Hauger of Cal 7-5, 6-3.
   Davidson and Doyle, All-Americans in doubles last season, were playing their first tournament together, according to Stanford's web site. They earned a berth in the USTA/ITA Naitonal Indoor Championships in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., in two weeks.
   Davidson became the sixth consecutive Cardinal to win the Northwest Regional singles title, following Carol Zhao (2014), Kristie Ahn (2013 and 2010), Krista Hardebeck (2012) and Nicole Gibbs (2011). Zhao, now a junior from Canada, beat Davidson in last year's final.
   It was the second doubles title in the Northwest Regionals for Davidson, who triumphed with Ellen Tsay two years ago.  
   The ITA's Northwest Region consists of Stanford, Cal, Cal Poly, Eastern Washington, Fresno State, Gonzaga, Oregon, Pacific, Portland, Portland State, Sacramento State, Saint Mary's, San Francisco, San Jose State, Santa Clara, Seattle, UC Davis, Washington and Washington State.

Rankings mover of the week: Neal Skupski (up)

Neal Skupski, playing for the California Dream of World
TeamTennis in July, returned to the top 100 in the world
in doubles. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Neal Skupski, who starred for the Sacramento-based California Dream during their inaugural World TeamTennis season in July, returned to the top 100 in doubles this week.
   The 25-year-old Englishman rose nine places to No. 98 by reaching the final of the $117,517 Brest (France) Challenger with his older brother, Ken. The Skupskis  lost to Dutchmen Wesley Koolhof and Matwe Middelkoop 3-6, 6-4 [10-6].
   It was the second straight week that Neal Skupski lost to Koolhof and Middelkoop 10-6 in a match tiebreaker in a French Challenger. Skupski and Fabrice Martin of France fell 6-4, 3-6 [10-6] in the Rennes semifinals.
   Skupski climbed to a career-high No. 69 in March 2014. The former LSU All-American and Anabel Medina Garrigues of Spain led WTT in mixed doubles for the Dream, which lost to the Austin Aces in the Western Conference final.
   Skupski, a last-minute substitute this season, was named the WTT Male Rookie of the Year. Medina Garrigues was honored as the Co-Female MVP with Anastasia Rodionova of the Washington Kastles, who won their fifth straight league title and sixth in seven years.
WORLD RANKINGS
   Players with Northern California ties ranked in the top 1,000 in the world (change from last week in parentheses):
Men
   Collin Altamirano, 19-year-old Sacramentan -- No. 813 in singles (-1), 962 in doubles (-15).
   Bob Bryan, 36-year-old former Stanford star, part-time member of Sacramento-based California Dream in World TeamTennis in 2015 -- Career-high No. 1 in doubles (no change), unranked in singles.
   Mike Bryan, 37-year-old former Stanford star, part-time member of Dream in 2015 -- Career-high No. 1 in doubles (no change), unranked in singles.
   Bradley Klahn, 25-year-old former Stanford star -- No. 315 in singles (+2), No. 453 in doubles (-6).
   Scott Lipsky, 34-year-old former Stanford star -- No. 44 in doubles (+1).
   Mackenzie McDonald, 20-year-old Piedmont resident -- No. 460 in singles (-1), No. 541 in doubles (-6).
   Dennis Novikov, 21-year-old Milpitas resident in San Francisco Bay Area -- Career-high No. 142 in singles (+2), No. 181 in doubles (-13).
   Sam Querrey, 28-year-old San Francisco native -- No. 50 in singles (+1), No. 37 in doubles (no change).
   Tennys Sandgren, 24-year-old member of Dream -- No. 240 in singles (-2), No. 217 in doubles (+4).
   Matt Seeberger, 31-year-old San Francisco native and former UC Santa Cruz star -- No. 171 in doubles (+1).
   Neal Skupski, 25-year-old member of California Dream -- No. 98 in doubles (+9).
Women
   Kristie Ahn, 23-year-old former Stanford star -- Career-high No. 223 in singles (+1), No. 628 in doubles (+2).
   CiCi Bellis, 16-year-old resident of Atherton in San Francisco Bay Area -- No. 247 in singles (-38).
   Alexandra Facey, 22-year-old product of Cameron Park in Sacramento area -- No. 614 in doubles (-4).
   Kat Facey, 22-year-old product of Cameron Park in Sacramento area -- No. 614 in doubles (-4).
   Jarmila Gajdosova, 28-year-old member of California Dream (2015) -- No. 102 in singles (no change), No. 138 in doubles (+1).
   Anabel Medina Garrigues, 33-year-old member of California Dream (2015) -- No. 32 (+1) in doubles.
   Nicole Gibbs, 22-year-old former Stanford star -- No. 130 in singles (-1), No. 247 in doubles (-1).
   Michaela Gordon, 16-year-old resident of Saratoga in San Francisco Bay Area -- No. 730 in singles (-36).
   Raquel Kops-Jones, 32-year-old San Jose resident and former Cal star -- No. 16 in doubles (-2).
   Maegan Manasse, 20-year-old Cal junior -- No. 510 in doubles (+1), No. 749 in singles (-3).
   Maria Sanchez, 25-year-old Modesto product -- No. 83 in doubles (+2), No. 178 in singles (+2).
   Carol Zhao, 20-year-old Stanford junior -- No. 201 in doubles (+1), No. 399 in singles (+51).

TV schedule, calendar

TV SCHEDULE
(Broadcasts on Tennis Channel unless otherwise noted; all times in California) 
  Wednesday
   WTA Finals, Singapore, round robin, midnight-2 a.m., 4:30-8 a.m., 10-11:30 p.m. (live).
   Basel (men), early rounds, 5-9 p.m. (delay).
Thursday
   WTA Finals, Singapore, round robin, midnight-2 a.m., 4:30-8 a.m., 8:30-10 p.m., 11 p.m.-4:30 a.m. Friday (live).
   Basel (men), early rounds, 5-9 p.m. (delay).
Friday
   Basel (men), quarterfinals, 5-9 p.m. (delay).
   WTA Finals, Singapore, singles and doubles semifinals, 9:30-11 p.m. (live).
Saturday
   WTA Finals, Singapore, singles and doubles semifinals, midnight-2 a.m., 3:30-6:30 a.m. (live).
   Basel (men), semifinals, 1-9 p.m. (delay).
   WTA Finals, Singapore, doubles final, 11:30 p.m.-1 a.m. Sunday (live).
Sunday
   WTA Finals, Singapore, singles final, ESPN2, 2:30-4:30 a.m. (live), 8:30-10 a.m. and 5-7 p.m. (delay).   
   Basel (men), final, 12:30-3 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. (delay).
   Valencia (men), final, 3-5 p.m. (delay).
CALENDAR
   Through Sunday -- WTA Finals, Singapore. 2014 champions: Serena Williams, Cara Black/Sania Mirza. wtafinals.com
   Saturday-Sunday -- Sacramento Clay Court League semifinals and finals, 8582 Westin Lane, Orangevale, Calif. sacclay.com
   Nov. 14-15 -- Fed Cup final, Russia at Czech Republic. fedcup.com
   Nov. 15-22 -- ATP World Tour Finals, London. 2014 champions: Novak Djokovic, Bob Bryan/Mike Bryan. http://www.barclaysatpworldtourfinals.com/en
   Nov. 27-29 -- Davis Cup final, Great Britain at Belgium. daviscup.com
   Dec. 7-13 -- Orange Bowl, boys and girls 18 and 16 singles and doubles, Plantation, Fla. orangebowltennis.org
   Dec. 13-22 -- Junior Orange Bowl, boys and girls 14 and 12 singles, Coral Gables, Fla. jrorangebowl.com
   Dec. 27-Jan. 2, 2016 -- USTA National Winter Championships, boys and girls 18 and 16 singles and doubles, Scottsdale, Ariz. http://tennislink.usta.com/Tournaments/TournamentHome/Tournament.aspx?T=153926
   Dec. 27-Jan. 2, 2016 -- USTA National Winter Championships, boys and girls 14 and 12 singles and doubles, Tucson, Ariz. http://tennislink.usta.com/tournaments/TournamentHome/Tournament.aspx?T=153758
   Jan. 18  (Jan. 17 in United States)-Jan. 31, 2016 -- AUSTRALIAN OPEN. 2015 champions: Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams, Simone Bolelli/Fabio Fognini, Bethanie Mattek-Sands/Lucie Safarova, Martina Hingis/Leander Paes. ausopen.com

Catching up: Fritz, Hibino, colleges, juniors

Taylor Fritz, shown en route to the title in the
recent Fairfield Challenger, lost in the second
round in Las Vegas. That ended his winning
streak at 17 matches. Photo by Paul Bauman
   U.S. phenom Taylor Fritz's winning streak ended at 17 matches last week when he lost in the second round of the $50,000 Las Vegas Challenger.
   Fritz, the world's top-ranked junior, fell to Grega Zemlja of Slovenia 6-7 (6), 6-2, 6-2. Zemlja advanced to the final, losing to Thiemo de Bakker of the Netherlands. Both Zemlja, 29, and de Bakker, 27, are former top-50 players.
   Fritz, who will turn 18 on Wednesday, won three straight titles after turning pro in August. He triumphed in the U.S. Open boys tournament, the $100,000 Sacramento Challenger and the $50,000 Fairfield Challenger.
   The latter two titles came in Fritz's home state of California. He lives in Rancho Santa Fe in the San Diego area.
   WTA tour -- Nao Hibino, who won the inaugural $50,000 Stockton Challenger in July, beat Donna Vekic of Croatia 6-2, 6-2 recently in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, for her first WTA tour title.
   Hibino, 20, of Japan did not face a seed or drop a set in the tournament. She defeated Ukraine's Anhelina Kalinina, the champion of the $50,000 Sacramento Challenger the week after Stockton, in the first round in Tashkent.
   Only 5-foot-4 (1.6 meters) and 132 pounds (60 kilograms), Hibino has soared from No. 177 in the world before Stockton to No. 79.
   USTA/ITA All-American Championships -- Cal's Andre Goransson and Maegan Manasse and Stanford's Tom Fawcett reached the semifinals of this month's USTA/ITA All-American Championships.
    Goransson, a junior from Sweden, lost to fourth-seeded Dominik Koepfer of Tulane 6-4, 6-4 in Tulsa, Okla. Fawcett, a 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) sophomore from Winnetka, Ill., fell to third-seeded Thai-Son Kwiatkowski of NCAA champion Virginia 6-3, 6-2.
Nao Hibino, playing in the Sacramento Challenger in July,
recently won her first WTA tour title. Photo by Mal Taam 
   Both Goransson and Fawcett were seeded 9-16. Kwiatkowski won the title.
   Manasse, a junior from Redondo Beach, lost to seventh seed and eventual champion Danielle Collins of Virginia 7-6 (7), 6-3 in Pacific Palisades. Collins won last year's NCAA singles title.
   Second-seeded Manasse and Denise Starr, a junior from Brooklyn, N.Y., won the doubles title with a 6-1, 6-4 victory over unseeded Hayley Carter and Whitney Kay of North Carolina 6-1, 6-4.
   USTA/ITA Northwest Regional Championships -- Stanford's David Wilczynski, a sophomore from Richboro, Pa., topped Mitch Stewart of Washington 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 on Monday in Seattle for the USTA/ITA Men's Northwest Regional title.
   USF's Vasco Valverde and Nils Skajaa took the doubles title, outclassing Stanford's Nolan Paige and Maciek Romanowicz 6-2, 6-2.
   Top-seeded Taylor Davidson of Stanford is scheduled to face ninth-seeded Mayar Ahmed of Fresno State today in the final of the Women's Northwest Regional Championships at Stanford.
   In the doubles final, top-seeded Davidson and Caroline Doyle, from San Francisco, will take on third-seeded Klara Fabikova and Olivia Hauger of Cal.
   USTA National Selection Tournament -- Top-seeded Sara Choy of Palo Alto routed third-seeded Jessi Muljat of Sacramento 6-1, 6-2 to win the girls 16 title in this month's USTA National Selection Tournament at the University of the Pacific in Stockton.
   In the doubles final, unseeded Michelle Deng of Temple City and Rena Lin of Northridge beat top-seeded Choy and Niluka Madurawe of Sunnyvale 8-6.
   Eighth-seeded Jenson Brooksby of Carmichael reached the boys 16 singles semifinals, falling to unseeded Jake Sands of Pacific Palisades 6-1, 6-0. Sands then lost to sixth-seeded Govind Nanda of Redlands.
   Third-seeded Brooksby and Randy Cory of Salinas won the doubles title, beating fourth-seeded Nanda and Sands 8-4 in the final.
   The 16s was the only age group in the tournament.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Tursunov wins Moscow doubles after long layoff

Dmitry Tursunov practices his serve during
the 2014 BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells.
Photo by Paul Bauman
    It didn't take long for Dmitry Tursunov to regain his doubles form after his latest injury layoff.
   Singles is another matter.
   Playing his first tournament in more than a year, the Northern California-based Tursunov teamed with Andrey Rublev to win the Kremlin Cup on the ATP World Tour in their native Moscow.
   Wild cards Tursunov and Rublev, the world's top junior last year, beat unseeded Radu Albot of Moldova and Frantisek Cermak of the Czech Republic 2-6, 6-1 [10-6] on Sunday to split $38,600.
   Tursunov, who will turn 33 in December, and Rublev, 18, were playing their first tournament together.
   "It's a very good start for my first tournament back," Tursunov, who trains in Granite Bay in the Sacramento area, said on atpworldtour.com. "I'm very happy. It's going to be a long way back in singles, but it's definitely good to get a few matches under my belt -- especially matches where there's a lot of seesaw action. It gives you a good taste of that nervousness. That's going to translate into the singles matches as well."
   It was Tursunov's seventh ATP doubles title overall and third in Moscow. He triumphed with Marat Safin, also a Moscow native, in 2007 and Igor Kunitsyn, from Vladivostok, Russia, in 2010. Safin, the 2000 U.S. Open and 2005 Australian Open singles champion, was nominated for the International Tennis Hall of Fame on Friday.
Andrey Rublev, 18, hits a return during his first-round loss to
Tommy Haas in Aptos, Calif., in August. Photo by Paul Bauman
   "Dmitry can do everything well," said Rublev, who played in his first ATP World Tour final. "He returned and served perfectly. If I play a bad point, I know he will make a good shot. This is what it's all about. In the important moments, he plays so good."
    Tursunov, though, lost in the second round of singles qualifying in Moscow to top-seeded Dusan Lajovic of Serbia.
   Tursunov, who reached a career-high No. 20 in singles in 2006, was playing in his first tournament since falling in the first round of the 2014 U.S. Open to Alejandro Gonzalez of Colombia and only his second since bowing out of Wimbledon last year in the opening round to Denis Istomin.
   Tursunov sat out with plantar fasciitis in his left foot and pain in his left ankle, which was operated on twice in 2009 (to remove bone spurs and then a chip).
   Rublev lost to former world No. 2 Tommy Haas 6-4, 6-3 in the first round of the $100,000 Comerica Bank Challenger in Aptos, Calif., in August.
   After the match, the 37-year-old Haas said of Rublev, 6-foot-2 (1.88 meters) and only 144 pounds (65 kilograms): "I feel like he could be the next big Russian they're waiting for after (Yevgeny) Kafelnikov and Safin. It's nice to see. He has some similarities to those guys -- his forehand and backhand.
   "He has a bright future. He's not afraid of really cracking the ball. If he keeps going like that, finds confidence and gets stronger, watch out."

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Players could face wrath of Klahn again in January

Ex-Stanford star Bradley Klahn, rehabbing from
back surgery, hits balls tossed by his coach,
Stanford Boster, during the recent Sacramento
Challenger. Photo by Paul Bauman
   A surprise guest stopped by the recent $100,000 Sacramento Challenger at the Natomas Racquet Club.
   Touring pro and former Stanford star Bradley Klahn lightly hit balls tossed to him by his coach, the appropriately named Stanford Boster, and visited with his colleagues while rehabbing from his second operation for a herniated disc.
   Klahn had his latest surgery at the end of February in Los Angeles.
   "I feel good," said Klahn, who won the 2010 NCAA title as a sophomore, underwent his first disc operation in 2011 and graduated in 2012 in economics. "The surgery was successful. There's no reason I can't progress back to full health and get back out (on the circuit)."
   The 25-year-old left-hander hopes to return to competition in January in a Futures or Challenger tournament.
   "The most important thing for me coming back is to get matches in at any level," said Klahn, who has plunged from a career-high No. 63 in March 2014 to No. 317. "By the time I come back, it will be almost a year out of competition, so there certainly are going to be some rough spots. I'm not going to come back and win right away. If I do, that's great, but I have to be patient and just appreciate being back out there.
Klahn visits with Irish player James McGee during the
Sacramento Challenger. Photo by Paul Bauman
   "It's a total cliche that you don't understand how great it is until it's taken away from you. It's pretty special to play tennis for a living and travel around. I'm eager to get back out there and continue doing what I love."
   During his layoff, Klahn has visited his family in Poway in the San Diego area, spent time with his girlfriend in Los Angeles, taken online classes in finance and accounting, and read extensively.
   Klahn, who lives with a family in Westwood near UCLA, particularly enjoyed reading "The Big Short" by Michael Lewis of "Moneyball" fame on the 2008 financial crisis in the United States.
   "It really opened my eyes," Klahn said. "I didn't know a whole lot about that. It's fun for me to delve into new topics and broaden my horizons."

Friday, October 23, 2015

Rankings, TV schedule, calendar

WORLD RANKINGS
   Players with Northern California ties ranked in the top 1,000 in the world (change from last week in parentheses):
Men
   Collin Altamirano, 19-year-old Sacramentan -- No. 812 in singles (-1), 947 in doubles (-4).
   Bob Bryan, 36-year-old former Stanford star -- Career-high No. 1 in doubles (no change), unranked in singles.
   Mike Bryan, 37-year-old former Stanford star -- Career-high No. 1 in doubles (no change), unranked in singles.
   Bradley Klahn, 25-year-old former Stanford star -- No. 317 in singles (-2), No. 447 in doubles (-8).
   Scott Lipsky, 34-year-old former Stanford star -- No. 45 in doubles (+2).
   Mackenzie McDonald, 20-year-old Piedmont resident -- No. 459 in singles (-2), No. 535 in doubles (-4).
   Dennis Novikov, 21-year-old Milpitas resident in San Francisco Bay Area -- No. 147 in singles (+2), No. 168 in doubles (-6).
   Sam Querrey, 28-year-old San Francisco native -- No. 51 in singles (+1), No. 37 in doubles (+2).
   Tennys Sandgren, 24-year-old member of Sacramento-based California Dream in World TeamTennis -- No. 238 in singles (-4), No. 221 in doubles (+17).
   Matt Seeberger, 31-year-old San Francisco native and former UC Santa Cruz star -- No. 172 in doubles (-3).
   Neal Skupski, 25-year-old member of California Dream -- No. 107 in doubles (+3).
Women
   Kristie Ahn, 23-year-old former Stanford star -- No. 224 in singles (-1), No. 630 in doubles (-2).
   CiCi Bellis, 16-year-old resident of Atherton in San Francisco Bay Area -- No. 209 in singles (-32).
   Alexandra Facey, 22-year-old product of Cameron Park in Sacramento area -- No. 610 in doubles (-2).
   Kat Facey, 22-year-old product of Cameron Park in Sacramento area -- No. 610 in doubles (-2).
   Jarmila Gajdosova, 28-year-old member of California Dream (2015) -- No. 102 in singles (-2), No. 139 in doubles (+1).
   Anabel Medina Garrigues, 33-year-old member of California Dream (2015) -- No. 33 (no change) in doubles.
   Nicole Gibbs, 22-year-old former Stanford star -- No. 129 in singles (no change), career-high No. 246 in doubles (+1).
   Michaela Gordon, 16-year-old resident of Saratoga in San Francisco Bay Area -- No. 694 in singles (no change).
   Raquel Kops-Jones, 32-year-old San Jose resident and former Cal star -- No. 14 in doubles (+1).
   Maegan Manasse, 20-year-old Cal junior -- No. 511 in doubles (-1), No. 746 in singles (-1).
   Maria Sanchez, 25-year-old Modesto product -- No. 85 in doubles (-6), No. 180 in singles (+2).
   Carol Zhao, 20-year-old Stanford junior -- No. 202 in doubles (no change), No. 450 in singles (+4).
TV SCHEDULE
(All broadcasts on Tennis Channel; all times in California) 
  Saturday
   Vienna, Luxembourg, Stockholm, Moscow (men/women), semifinals, 3-10:30 a.m. (live).
   Moscow (women), final, 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m. (delay).
   Stockholm (men), semifinals, 1-3 p.m. (delay).
   Luxembourg (women), semifinals, 3-5 p.m. (delay).
   Vienna (men), semifinals, 5-8 p.m. (delay).
   WTA Finals, Singapore, round robin, 8-9:30 p.m. (live).
Sunday
   WTA Finals, Singapore, round robin, midnight-4 a.m. (live).
   Vienna, Luxembourg, Stockholm, Moscow (men/women), finals, 4-9  a.m. (live).
   Stockholm (men), final, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. (delay).
   WTA Finals, Singapore, round robin, 2-5 p.m. (delay).
   Vienna (men), final, 5-7 p.m. (delay).
   Luxembourg (women), final, 7-9 p.m. (delay).
CALENDAR
   Sunday (Saturday night in United States)-Nov. 1 -- WTA Finals, Singapore. 2014 champions: Serena Williams, Cara Black/Sania Mirza. wtafinals.com
   Oct. 31-Nov. 1 -- Sacramento Clay Court League semifinals and finals, 8582 Westin Lane, Orangevale, Calif. sacclay.com
   Nov. 14-15 -- Fed Cup final, Russia at Czech Republic. fedcup.com
   Nov. 15-22 -- ATP World Tour Finals, London. 2014 champions: Novak Djokovic, Bob Bryan/Mike Bryan. http://www.barclaysatpworldtourfinals.com/en
   Nov. 27-29 -- Davis Cup final, Great Britain at Belgium. daviscup.com
   Dec. 7-13 -- Orange Bowl, boys and girls 18 and 16 singles and doubles, Plantation, Fla. orangebowltennis.org
   Dec. 13-22 -- Junior Orange Bowl, boys and girls 14 and 12 singles, Coral Gables, Fla. jrorangebowl.com
   Dec. 27-Jan. 2, 2016 -- USTA National Winter Championships, boys and girls 18 and 16 singles and doubles, Scottsdale, Ariz. http://tennislink.usta.com/Tournaments/TournamentHome/Tournament.aspx?T=153926
   Dec. 27-Jan. 2, 2016 -- USTA National Winter Championships, boys and girls 14 and 12 singles and doubles, Tucson, Ariz. http://tennislink.usta.com/tournaments/TournamentHome/Tournament.aspx?T=153758
   Jan. 18  (Jan. 17 in United States)-Jan. 31, 2016 -- AUSTRALIAN OPEN. 2015 champions: Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams, Simone Bolelli/Fabio Fognini, Bethanie Mattek-Sands/Lucie Safarova, Martina Hingis/Leander Paes. ausopen.com

Monday, October 19, 2015

Fritz, 17, coasts to second straight Challenger title

Taylor Fritz earned $7,200 for winning the singles title in the
$50,000 Fairfield (Calif.) Challenger. Photo by Paul Bauman
    FAIRFIELD, Calif. -- There was no drama this time, just a clinic by Taylor Fritz.
   Playing sensationally, the 17-year-old American whiz disposed of flashy veteran Dustin Brown 6-3, 6-4 in 57 minutes on Sunday to win the $50,000 Fairfield Men's Pro Challenger at In Shape: Fairfield Rancho Solano.
   Fritz, who turned pro in August before the U.S. Open, captured his second Challenger title in two weeks and extended his winning streak to 16 matches. He won the U.S. Open junior title last month and the $100,000 Sacramento Challenger the week before Fairfield.
   Fritz saved three match points in a 6-7 (3), 7-6 (5), 7-6 (9) victory over Brown in the second round in Sacramento. The match, the first between the players, lasted 2 hours, 25 minutes.
   This time, Fritz served, returned and pounded groundstrokes brilliantly. He broke serve once in each set and saved all three break points he faced.
Runner-up Dustin Brown addresses the crowd
as tournament director Scott McCulloch watch-
es. Brown also lost in the doubles final. He earn-
ed $4,240 in singles and $900 in doubles.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   "I made a lot more returns, made him play a lot more volleys, passed a lot better and served a lot better," said Fritz, who has skyrocketed from No. 694 in the world to No. 232 in the past two weeks. "This is the best match I've played in the whole two weeks. It's what I had to do to win today."
   Fritz, the world's top junior, repeatedly returned the 6-foot-5 (1.96-meter) Brown's booming serve to his feet at the net for winners.
   "The court might be a bit slower here than in Sacramento," explained Fritz, who at 6-foot-4 (1.93 meters) also has a big serve. "Sacramento has pretty fast courts. Also, because I saw his serve a lot last week, I was a little more adjusted to it. More than anything, I think just played really well. That's the main reason I did so much better."
   The final was the unseeded Fritz's closest match in the tournament. He knocked off seeds in his last four matches: No. 1 Tim Smyczek of Tampa, Fla., No. 8 Blaz Kavcic and No. 4 Blaz Rola of Slovenia, and No. 3 Brown of Germany. Fritz was broken only once, against Rola, who won the 2013 NCAA singles champion as an Ohio State junior. The 6-foot-4 (1.93-meter) left-hander then turned pro.
   Fritz joined Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Juan Martin del Potro, Tomas Berdych, Bernard Tomic and Richard Gasquet as players who have won multiple Challengers before age 18. Fritz, from Rancho Santa Fe in the San Diego area, will turn 18 on Oct. 28.  
Fritz celebrates after winning champion-
ship point. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Brown shocked Nadal on Centre Court at Wimbledon in the second round this year to improve to 2-0 lifetime against the 14-time Grand Slam champion. Both wins have come on grass.     
   "I want to thank Taylor for kicking my ass twice in two weeks," the 30-year-old Brown, who improved four spots to No. 106, told the crowd during the awards presentation. "He's a great player. We actually practiced (together) at the Open."
   Not only is Brown one of the few serve-and-volleyers in tennis, he even comes in on his second serve. Fritz said he's not surprised that Brown volleys so much.
   "That's how he plays. That's what he does best, and that's why he's beaten Nadal twice," Fritz said. 
   Both players have unusual family backgrounds.
   Fritz's mother (Kathy May), father (Guy Fritz) and uncle (Harry Fritz) all played professionally. May climbed to No. 10 in the world and played in three Grand Slam quarterfinals. Guy is one of Taylor's coaches.
   Brown has a German mother and Jamaican father.
   Nicknamed "Dreddy," Brown has dreadlocks that cascade down his back almost to his waist. He wears sleeveless shirts and sports a tattoo of his father on the side of his stomach.
Brown makes one of his frequent forays to the net.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Fritz and Brown could meet again in the second round of this week's $50,000 Las Vegas Challenger.
   Brown also lost in the Fairfield doubles final. He and Australia's Carsten Ball, the No. 1 seeds, fell to No. 2 Johan Brunstrom of Sweden and Frederik Nielsen of Denmark 3-6, 7-5 [10-5].
   Brunstrom and Nielsen avenged a 6-2, 7-6 (9) loss to Brown and countryman Daniel Brands in the Sacramento semifinals. Brands and Brown then lost to Kavcic and countryman Grega Zemlja.
   Brunstrom and Nielsen also won the $100,000 Tiburon Challenger the week before Sacramento.
   In 2012, Nielsen and Jonathan Marray of Great Britain became the only wild cards to capture the Wimbledon men's doubles title.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Fritz, Brown to meet in rematch of Sacramento thriller

No. 3 seed Dustin Brown of Germany volleys during his three-set
win over 17-year-old U.S. phenom Frances Tiafoe on Saturday
in the semifinals of the Fairfield (Calif.) Challenger.
Photo by Paul Bauman
    FAIRFIELD, Calif. -- If today's match between Dustin Brown and Taylor Fritz is anywhere near as dramatic as their last one, local fans are in for a treat.
   One week after meeting in the second round of the $100,000 Sacramento Challenger, Brown and Fritz today reached the final of the Fairfield $50,000 Men's Pro Challenger at In Shape: Fairfield Rancho Solano. It will be Brown's second straight match against a 17-year-old American phenom.
   The third-seeded Brown, a 30-year-old German, overpowered Frances Tiafoe 7-5, 3-6, 6-2 in a highly entertaining match.
   Fritz, from Rancho Santa Fe in the San Diego area, dispatched fourth-seeded Blaz Rola of Slovenia 6-3, 6-3. It was the most games the 6-foot-4 (1.93-meter) Fritz, who extended his Challenger winning streak to nine matches, has lost in the tournament.
   Fritz, the reigning U.S. Open boys champion and No. 1 junior in the world, overcame a sore shoulder and three match points to stun Brown 6-7 (3), 7-6 (5), 7-6 (7) in 2 hours, 25 minutes in Sacramento en route to his first Challenger title. He had lost in the first round at Aptos, Calif., in August in his only previous Challenger.     
Taylor Fritz, another 17-year-old U.S. sensation, will play Brown in today's
Fairfield final. Fritz is shown in Friday's quarterfinals. Photo by Paul Bauman
   That was Fritz's last tournament as an amateur. He turned pro before the U.S. Open.
   Fritz's mother (Kathy May), father (Guy Fritz) and uncle (Harry Fritz) all played professionally.  May climbed to No. 10 in the world and played in three Grand Slam quarterfinals. Guy is one of Taylor's coaches.
   Brown has a German mother and Jamaican father. Dustin was born in Germany and lived there until 1996, when he moved to Jamaica to begin his pro career. His parents bought him a camper van that he used to travel to tournaments in Europe from 2004 to 2007.
   Nicknamed "Dreddy," Brown has dreadlocks that cascade down his back almost to his waist. He wears sleeveless shirts and sports a tattoo of his father on the side of his stomach.
   Brown shocked Rafael Nadal on Centre Court at Wimbledon in the second round this year to improve to 2-0 lifetime against the 14-time Grand Slam champion.
Tiafoe rips a backhand against Brown on Saturday.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   The match between the 110th-ranked Brown and No. 255 Tiafoe had it all -- except long rallies. Brown, pencil thin at 6-foot-5 (1.96 meters) and 172 pounds (78 kilograms), has a massive serve and takes advantage of it by, in a rarity these days, serve-and-volleying frequently (even on his second serve). Tiafoe, a sculpted 6-foot-2 (1.88 meters), is no slouch in the serving department himself. 
   Brown hammered 16 aces at up to 129 mph (207.6 kph) on a speed gun that appeared to be slow. He won one game in the first set at love on four aces, the last two on second serves registering 126 and 124 mph (202.8 and 199.6 kph).
   Taifoe had 10 aces and one double fault.
   The athletic Brown slugged leaping, swinging volleys (some that even went in), sliced fiendish drop shots, skidded to stops on the hardcourt as if on clay back home and occasionally did the splits.
   After Brown held for 1-1 in the second set on a backhand stop volley with severe backspin, he smiled widely at Tiafoe, who yelled in frustration, "I hate him!" Responded Brown sweetly, "You know you love me."
   After saving two break points at 2-2 in the third set, Brown retrieved a lob by hitting a "tweener" and followed with a spectacular running forehand cross-court passing shot. He reacted by simultaneously leaping in the air, pumping his fist and roaring in triumph.
   Tiafoe never won another game but had his own highlight-reel shots in the match. In the first set,  he swatted a running forehand cross-court passing shot that left Brown shaking his head in amazement.
   Tiafoe also displayed an impressive return, often lacing winners at Brown's feet at the net.
   Brown complained repeatedly about line calls, as usual, and about a fan at one corner of the court  applauding his mistakes and allegedly saying "Good shot, Frances" after Brown errors. Even Tiafoe eventually got annoyed at the man and told him to be quiet.
FAIRFIELD $50,000 MEN'S PRO CHALLENGER
At In Shape: Fairfield Rancho Solano
Singles semifinals
   Dustin Brown (3), Germany, def. Frances Tiafoe, United States, 7-5, 3-6, 6-2.
   Taylor Fritz, United States, def. Blaz Rola (4), Slovenia, 6-3, 6-3.
   Doubles semifinal
   Carsten Ball, Australia, and Dustin Brown, Germany, def. Mitchell Krueger and Tennys Sandgren (4), United States, 3-6, 6-3 [10-8].
Today's schedule
Stadium Court
(Starting at noon)
   Dustin Brown (3), Germany, vs. Taylor Fritz, United States.
   Carsten Ball, Australia, and Dustin Brown (1), Germany, vs. Johan Brunstrom, Sweden, and Frederik Nielsen (2), Denmark.

Friday, October 16, 2015

U.S. phenoms, 17, reach Fairfield Challenger semis

Frances Tiafoe outlasted Darian King in a grueling match.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   FAIRFIELD, Calif. -- Of the United States' many top men's prospects, 17-year-olds Frances Tiafoe and Taylor Fritz might be the best.
   Both reached the semifinals of the Fairfield $50,000 Men's Pro Challenger but in contrasting fashion today at In Shape: Fairfield Rancho Solano.
   Tiafoe, a Washington, D.C.-area product, outlasted longtime friend Darian King of Barbados 6-4, 6-7 (6), 6-4 in a grueling, 2-hour, 36-minute battle in 81-degree (27.2 Celsius) heat.
   Fritz, from Rancho Santa Fe in the San Diego area, dismissed eighth-seeded Blaz Kavcic of Slovenia 6-4, 6-1 in 1 hour, 10 minutes to extend his Challenger winning streak to eight matches.
   Fritz, who won last week's $100,000 Sacramento Challenger, has lost only five games in each of his three matches in Fairfield.
   Tiafoe will face third-seeded Dustin Brown, who defeated friend and fellow German Daniel Brands, seeded seventh, 7-6 (5), 3-6, 6-1. Brown is 2-0 lifetime against Rafael Nadal, winning both times, on grass, and Brands is 1-1 against Roger Federer.
   Fritz will meet fourth-seeded Blaz Rola, a Slovenian who routed fifth-seeded Jared Donaldson, 19, of Irvine, Calif., 6-1, 6-2 in 57 minutes. Donaldson lost to Fritz in the Sacramento final.
  The 6-foot-4 (1.93-meter) Fritz saved all three break points he faced against Kavcic, who double-faulted eight times.
Taylor Fritz extended his Challenger winning streak
to eight matches. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Rola, a 6-foot-4 (1.88-meter) left-hander, turned pro after winning the 2013 NCAA singles title as a junior at Ohio State. He won 23 of 25 points (92 percent) on his first serve and faced no break points against Donaldson.
   Both semifinals will be first-time matchups.
   Tiafoe improved to 4-0 against King. All of the matches have come this year, and all have gone to three sets.
   King beat the No. 2 seed in the first round in Sacramento (Kyle Edmund of Great Britain) and Fairfield (Ryan Harrison). At 23, he is six years older than Tiafoe and ranked two spots higher at No. 253.
   Today, Tiafoe pounded shots into the corners with his whipping forehand and laser backhand, yet  the dogged King retrieved most of them.
   "Damian is a great player," said Tiafoe, who won the Orange Bowl at 15 in 2013 to become the youngest champion in the prestigious junior tournament's 67-year history. "He's been playing really well the last couple of weeks, going for his shots, and obviously he's one of the steadiest players you can possibly play.
   "I'm definitely happy to get to the semis. I haven't been doing too well in Challengers lately. I've been losing in the first and second round, but I've still been working hard. I'm happy the work finally is paying off and I'm going deep. I'm playing well, and hopefully I can keep doing it."
   After King held serve in the first game of the third set on Tiafoe's loose backhand into the bottom of the net, Tiafoe muttered, "I'm done. I'm done."
   "That was just me being an idiot," Tiafoe explained. "I wasn't going anywhere. I was going to keep competing no matter what. That was just me being immature."
King said he became "too defensive" in the third set. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Gaining a second wind, Tiafoe broke King twice to lead 5-2 in the third set. He then was broken at love, and King held for 4-5.
   Tiafoe, serving for the match again, double-faulted on the first point but won the next four points to end the tense affair. On the last two points, the 6-foot-2 (1.88-meter) Tiafoe blasted an ace and a service winner.
   "He attacked me (in the third set)," said King, who has known Tiafoe for 11 years. "I got a little too defensive. On the big points, I doubted myself. That's something for me to go back and work on. But he played well. He has great weapons."
   Tiafoe's first service break in the third set gave him a 2-1 lead. From deuce, King double-faulted, then missed his first serve and slugged a forehand long.
   King conceded that his serve let him down in the game.
   "As I always tell my coach (King's brother, Chris), something goes bad for me every time I go deep in a tournament," King lamented. "But every match is a learning experience. There's nothing to be down about. Just back to practice and work on it."
  The 30-year-old Brown spent exactly one hour less on the court than Tiafoe but got off it four hours later.
  Brown and Brands, both 6-foot-5 (1.96 meters), combined for 32 aces and 16 double faults. Brown had 21 and 10, respectively.
   Brown must improve his ranking about 10 places from No. 110 to ensure a berth in the main draw of the Australian Open in January.
   "I've never even hit with Dustin," Tiafoe said. "I'm good friends with him. He's a crazy player. You never know what shot he's going to hit, but he's a big server. The next round is going to be tough."
FAIRFIELD $50,000 MEN'S PRO CHALLENGER
At In Shape: Fairfield Rancho Solano
Singles quarterfinals
   Blaz Rola (4), Slovenia, def. Jared Donaldson (5), United States, 6-1, 6-2.  
   Frances Tiafoe, United States, def. Darian King, Barbados, 6-4, 6-7 (6), 6-4.
   Taylor Fritz, United States, def. Blaz Kavcic (8), Slovenia, 6-4, 6-1. 
   Dustin Brown (3), Germany, def. Daniel Brands (7), Germany, 7-6 (5), 3-6, 6-1.  
Doubles semifinal
    Johan Brunstrom, Sweden, and Frederik Nielsen (2), Denmark, def. Dean O'Brien and Ruan Roelofse (3), South Africa, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (5) [10-4].
Saturday's schedule
Stadium Court
(Starting at noon)
   Dustin Brown (3), Germany, vs. Frances Tiafoe, United States.
   Blaz Rola (4), Slovenia, vs. Taylor Fritz, United States.
   Carsten Ball, Australia, and Dustin Brown (1), Germany, vs. Mitchell Krueger and Tennys Sandgren (4), United States.

Fritz, 17, outclasses top seed in Fairfield Challenger

Taylor Fritz, 17, shown en route to the Sacramento title
last week, beat No. 1 seed Tim Smyczek 6-2, 6-3 to gain
the quarterfinals of the $50,000 Fairfield Challenger.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Taylor Fritz took another big step in his promising career on Thursday.
   Playing in his home state, the 17-year-old resident of Rancho Santa Fe in the San Diego area dismissed No. 1 seed Tim Smyczek of Tampa, Fla., 6-2, 6-3 to reach the quarterfinals of the Fairfield $50,000 Men's Pro Challenger at beautiful In Shape: Fairfield Rancho Solano.
   The 6-foot-4 (1.93-meter) Fritz won 27 of 32 points (84 percent) on his first serve and 11 of 17 points (64 percent) on his second delivery. He had six aces and no double faults, saved both break points against him and converted all three break points against the 100th-ranked Smyzcek, who's 10 years older than Fritz.
   It was Fritz's second career victory over a top-100 player. He beat then-No. 66 Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain in the first round at Nottingham, England, on grass on the elite ATP World Tour in June.
   Fritz, who will turn 18 on Oct. 28, turned pro in August before the U.S. Open. He took the boys singles title at Flushing Meadows and won last week's $100,000 Sacramento Challenger in only his second tournament at that level.
   Fritz is scheduled to play eighth-seeded Blaz Kavcic of Slovenia today. Kavcic defeated Jason Jung, a native of Torrance in the Los Angeles area who plays for Taiwan, 7-5, 6-3.
   Two other American teenagers advanced to the quarterfinals on Wednesday. No. 4 seed Jared Donaldson, 19, will face No. 5 Blaz Rola of Slovenia, and Frances Tiafoe, 17, will meet Darian King of Barbados.
   Rola, a 6-foot-4 left-hander, turned pro after winning the 2013 NCAA singles title as a junior at Ohio State.
   Today's featured match at 4 p.m. will be a matchup of 6-foot-5 (1.96-meter) Germans. No. 3 Dustin Brown, who has a German mother and Jamaican father, will play No. 7 Daniel Brands.
   Both Brown, 30, and Brands, 28, have had success at Wimbledon. Brown stunned Rafael Nadal on Centre Court in the second round this year to improve to 2-0 lifetime against the 14-time Grand Slam singles champion. Brands reached the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2010.
FAIRFIELD $50,000 MEN'S PRO CHALLENGER
At In Shape: Fairfield Rancho Solano
Second-round singles
   Dustin Brown (3), Germany, def. Tommy Paul, United States, 6-2, 7-6 (5).
   Daniel Brands (7), Germany, def. Alex Kuznetsov, United States, 7-5, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (7).
   Blaz Kavcic (8), Slovenia, def. Jason Jung, Taiwan, 7-5, 6-3.
   Taylor Fritz, United States, def. Tim Smyczek (1), United States, 6-2, 6-3.
Doubles quarterfinals
   Mitchell Krueger and Tennys Sandgren, United States, def. Philip Bester and Peter Polansky, Canada, 3-6, 6-4 [11-9].
   Johan Brunstrom, Sweden, and Frederik Nielsen (2), Denmark, def. Sekou Bangoura, United States, and Jose Statham, New Zealand, 6-3, 6-2.
   Carsten Ball, Australia, and Dustin Brown (1), Germany, def. Frank Dancevic, Canada, and Henri Laaksonen, Switzerland,6-3, 3-6 [10-6].
Today's schedule
Stadium Court
(Starting at 11 a.m.)
   Frances Tiafoe, United States, vs. Darian King, Barbados.
   Blaz Kavcic (8), Slovenia, vs. Taylor Fritz, United States.
(Not before 4 p.m.)
   Dustin Brown (3), Germany, vs. Daniel Brands (7), Germany.
Court 1
(Starting at noon)
   Jared Donaldson (5), United States, vs. Blaz Rola (4), Slovenia. 
(Not before 2 p.m.; may be moved to Stadium Court)
   Johan Brunstrom, Sweden, and Frederik Nielsen (2), Denmark, vs. Dean O'Brien and Ruan Roelofse (3), South Africa.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Fairfield top seed dominates suspended match

Top seed Tim Smyczek volleys against Mitchell
Krueger in the Fairfield (Calif.) Challenger. Smy-
czek won all five games in 19 minutes to finish
a suspended match. Photo by Paul Bauman
   FAIRFIELD, Calif. -- If anyone deserves the benefit of the doubt regarding sportsmanship, it's Tim Smyczek.
   In the first round of the Fairfield $50,000 Men's Pro Challenger, the top-seeded Smyczek (pronounced SMEE-check) trailed fellow American Mitchell Krueger by a service break early in the third set on Tuesday evening.
   Smyczek asked for play to be suspended at 6:41 p.m. because the lights at In Shape: Fairfield Rancho Solano were inadequate, and USTA supervisor Keith Crossland agreed.
   "It wasn't a tactic or anything," the 5-foot-9 (1.75-meter) Smyczek said today after completing a 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-3 victory over Krueger. "I have a little trouble playing under the lights to begin with. I don't have very good eyes. The lights just aren't up to regulations, so the later it got, the harder it was to see the ball. The chair umpires told me the same thing -- they were having trouble seeing the ball. It was a bit lucky for me that it came at a time when I was down a break.
   "Frankly, we probably should have visited the idea of stopping after the second set, but I was on a bit of a roll and didn't even think of it. It was definitely not a tactic. It did work out in my favor, though."
   Smyczek gained worldwide fame in January for his sportsmanlike gesture late in a 6-2, 3-6, 6-7 (2), 6-4, 7-5 loss to Rafael Nadal, who was suffering from nausea and dizziness, in the second round of the Australian Open.
   With Nadal serving at 6-5, 30-0, a fan yelled as Nadal tossed the ball on his first delivery and distracted him. The serve sailed long, but Smyczek allowed Nadal to take another first serve.
   In today's featured match, 17-year-old U.S. phenom Frances Tiafoe eliminated eighth-seeded James McGee of Ireland 6-3, 7-5. The 6-foot-2 (1.88-meter) Tiafoe won 32 of 34 points (94 percent) on his first serve.
   After a McGee serve was called an ace on game point for 4-4 in the second set, the volatile Tiafoe slammed his racket on the court, complained vociferously and asked to see Crossland. Chair umpire Christian Preston refused to summon Crossland and told Tiafoe to play, and Tiafoe calmed down for the rest of the match. 
Krueger said Smyczek "definitely stepped
it up from (Tuesday) night." Photo by
Paul Bauman
   Tiafoe won the prestigious Orange Bowl at 15 in 2013 to become the youngest champion in the tournament's 67-year history. He learned to play at the Junior Tennis Champions Center, a facility in College Park, Md., where his father, an immigrant from Sierra Leone in Africa, worked as a custodian.
   Two Fairfield quarterfinals were set today.
   In the top half of the draw, No. 4 seed Blaz Rola of Slovenia will face No. 5 Jared Donaldson, 19, of Irvine, Calif. Rola, a 6-foot-4 (1.93-meter) left-hander, won the 2013 NCAA singles title as a junior at Ohio State and then turned pro.
   In the bottom half, Tiafoe will play Darian King of Barbados. King upset second-seeded Ryan Harrison of Austin, Texas, in the first round. 
   Krueger, who at 21 is six years younger than Smyczek, led 7-6 (5), 2-6, 3-1 when play was suspended on Tuesday. Smyczek reeled off five straight games in 19 minutes, winning 20 of 25 points, to complete the match.    
   "It was the type of (finish) I was hoping for," said the 100th-ranked Smyczek, a Milwaukee product who trains in Tampa, Fla. "I came out ready to go from the first point. I made sure I had a full sweat going before I got out there. I was taking care of my side of the net from the first point."
   Krueger, meanwhile, repeatedly made errors.
   "He did a good job of maybe changing up his game plan, and I came out a little flat," said the 230th-ranked Krueger, who grew up near Fort Worth, Texas, in Aledo and trains in Boca Raton, Fla. "But credit to him. He definitely stepped it up from (Tuesday) night in the five games we played today.
   "He was definitely a lot more aggressive but not giving me a lot of free points. He was still being really solid. I still had my chances, but I gave the break back to him in my first service game. Then it's back even. It's tough. I never really got myself going."
Frances Tiafoe, a 17-year-old U.S. phenom, beat eighth-seeded
James McGee of Ireland 6-3, 7-5. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Krueger did not blame Smyczek for asking Crossland to suspend the match on Tuesday evening.
   "I would have gladly kept playing, but the lights were definitely not great," Krueger said. "It's 100 percent (Smyczek's) right to voice his opinion, and it's up to the supervisor to make the decision.
   "It's not like (Smyczek) did it on purpose. It's completely within the rules. My argument was if we started the third set, you know it's going to run into this problem, and we might as well finish."
   Given that the lights at the club did not meet Challenger regulations, would it have been better to suspend the match after two sets?
   "Yes, in retrospect it might have been," Crossland said, "but the general philosophy I carry is if players are willing to play, I'm willing to let them play. It's a very delicate decision about whether you go stop a match when players prefer to continue to play versus going out there, as I did four games into the third set, and then stop."
   The featured match began at 4:30 p.m., Crossland said, "so sponsors and people who work during the day have the opportunity to come out and watch. It didn't work out as well as it could have."
   The featured match subsequently was moved to 4 p.m. Smyczek will meet another 17-year-old U.S. sensation, Taylor Fritz, on Thursday at that time.
   Fritz, the world's top-ranked junior, dispatched qualifier Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland 6-2, 6-3 on Tuesday in the first round. He turned pro in August before the U.S. Open, captured the boys singles title at Flushing Meadows and won his first Challenger title last week in Sacramento in only his second attempt.
   "I haven't gotten to see him play much," said Smyczek, whose strengths are consistency, quickness and mental toughness. "I don't know a whole lot about him, but obviously he's playing very well. He won last week, and he won relatively easy in the first round (in Fairfield).
   "It'll be tough. I'll probably do a little homework and see what I'm up against, but it's kind of the same thing as always -- just taking care of my side of the court. I feel like if I focus on the things I do well, the results take care of themselves."
   Sacramento doubles champions Blaz Kavcic and Grega Zemlja of Slovenia lost in the first round to top-seeded Carsten Ball of Australia and Dustin Brown of Germany 6-2, 6-1. Kavcic and Zemlja beat Brown and countryman Daniel Brands 6-1, 3-6 [10-3] in the Sacramento final.    
FAIRFIELD $50,000 MEN'S PRO CHALLENGER
At In Shape: Fairfield Rancho Solano
First-round singles
   Tim Smyczek (1), United States, def. Mitchell Krueger, United States, 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-3.
Second-round singles
   Jared Donaldson (5), United States, def. Frank Dancevic, Canada, 2-6, 6-2, 6-3.
   Blaz Rola (4), Slovenia, def. Liam Broady, Great Britain, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.
   Frances Tiafoe, United States, def. James McGee (8), Ireland, 6-3, 7-5.
   Darian King, Barbados, def. Peter Polansky, Canada, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2.
First-round doubles
   Carsten Ball, Australia, and Dustin Brown (1), Germany, def. Blaz Kavcic and Grega Zemlja, Slovenia, 6-2, 6-1.
   Johan Brunstom, Sweden, and Frederik Nielsen (2), Denmark, def. Jason Jung, Taiwan, and Connor Smith, United States, 6-4, 6-2.
   Dean O'Brien and Ruan Roelofse (3), South Africa, def. Ariel Behar, Uruguay, and Ruben Gonzales, Philippines, 4-6, 6-3 [10-6].
   Frank Dancevic, Canada, and Henri Laaksonen, Switzerland, def. Jean-Yves Aubone and Taylor Fritz, United States, 6-4, 6-2.
   Mitchell Krueger and Tennys Sandgren (4), United States, def. Nicolas Barrientos, Colombia, and Darian King, Barbados, 7-5, 6-4.
Thursday's schedule
Stadium Court
(Starting at 11 a.m.)
   Dustin Brown (3), Germany, vs. Tommy Paul, United States.
   Daniel Brands (7), Germany, vs. Alex Kuznetsov, United States.
(Not before 4 p.m.)
   Tim Smyczek (1), United States, vs. Taylor Fritz, United States.
Court 1
(Starting at 11 a.m.)
   Mitchell Krueger and Tennys Sandgren, United States, vs. Philip Bester and Peter Polansky, Canada.
   Blaz Kavcic (8), Slovenia, vs. Jason Jung, Taiwan.
(Not before 2 p.m.)
   Johan Brunstrom, Sweden, and Frederik Nielsen (2), Denmark, vs. Sekou Bangoura, United States, and Jose Statham, New Zealand.
(Not before 3 p.m.)
   Carsten Ball, Australia, and Dustin Brown (1), Germany, vs. Frank Dancevic, Canada, and Henri Laaksonen, Switzerland.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Smyczek, Fairfield top seed, trails in suspended match

Mitchell Krueger, playing last week in Sacramento, leads top
seed Tim Smyczek 7-6 (5), 2-6, 3-1 in the first round of the
$50,000 Fairfield (Calif.) Challenger. Photo by Paul Bauman
   The second seed is gone, and the top seed is in trouble.
   In an all-American battle, Mitchell Krueger led No. 1 Tim Smyczek 7-6 (5), 2-6, 3-1 today in the first round of the Fairfield (Calif.) $50,000 Men's Pro Challenger at In Shape: Fairfield Rancho Solano when play was suspended by inadequate lighting.
   The match is scheduled to be completed Wednesday.
   Darian King of Barbados ousted the No. 2 seed in the first round for the second straight week on Monday. He upset Ryan Harrison 6-4, 7-5 after surprising Kyle Edmund of Great Britain last week in the $100,000 Sacramento Challenger.
   The other four seeds in action today -- No. 3 Dustin Brown of Germany, No. 5 Jared Donaldson of Irvine, Calif., No. 6 Blaz Kavic of Slovenia and No. 7 Daniel Brands of Germany -- coasted into the second round. None lost more than five games.
   Kavcic, coming off the Sacramento doubles title with countryman Grega Zemlja, dismissed 16-year-old Connor Hance of Torrance, Calif., 6-0, 6-1 in 36 minutes.
Smyczek, shown last week in Sacramento, will try
to avoid joining No. 2 seed Ryan Harrison on the
sideline. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Hance played Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf's son in a 2004 Genworth Financial television commercial co-starring Taylor Dent, now Donaldson's coach.
   Also advancing easily today was 17-year-old Taylor Fritz, who beat Donaldson in the Sacramento final for his first Challenger title. Fritz, the world's top-ranked junior, will face the winner of the Smyczek-Krueger match on Thursday.
   In a matchup of 18-year-olds, wild card Tommy Paul of Boca Raton, Fla., defeated Quentin Halys of France 6-4, 7-6 (5).
   Paul this year joined John McEnroe (1977) and Bjorn Fratangelo (2011) as the only Americans to win the French Open boys singles title.
   Halys reached the U.S. Open boys final last year and the semifinals of the $100,000 Tiburon Challenger two weeks ago.
   Fairfield, located 48 miles (77 kilometers) north of San Francisco, replaced the $50,000 Napa Challenger on the calendar. Napa tournament director Chris Arns said recently that he was unable to secure enough sponsorship to hold the Challenger for the third year.       
FAIRFIELD $50,000 MEN'S PRO CHALLENGER
At In Shape: Fairfield Rancho Solano
First-round singles
   Blaz Kavcic (6), Slovenia, def. Connor Hance, United States, 6-0, 6-1.
   Dustin Brown (3), Germany, def. Connor Smith, United States, 6-0, 7-5.
   Taylor Fritz, United States, def. Henri Laaksonen, Switzerland, 6-2, 6-3.

   Peter Polansky, Canada, def. Tennys Sandgren, United States, 6-4, 6-1.
   Jared Donaldson (5), United States, def. Philip Bester, Canada, 6-2, 6-3.
   Alex Kuznetsov, United States, def. Nicolas Barrientos, Colombia, 6-4, 7-6 (6).
   Daniel Brands (7), Germany, def. Sem Verbeek, Netherlands, 6-4, 6-0.
   Liam Broady, Great Britain. def. Grega Zemlja, Slovenia, 6-4, 6-1.
   Tommy Paul, United States, def. Quentin Halys, France, 6-4, 7-6 (5).
   Jason Jung, Taiwan. def. Sekou Bangoura, United States, 6-4, 7-6 (3).
   Mitchell Krueger, United States, leads Tim Smyczek (1), United States, 7-6 (5), 2-6, 3-1, suspended by darkness. 
First-round doubles
   Philip Bester and Peter Polansky, Canada, def. Marcos Giron and Tommy Paul, United States, 6-3, 6-2.
Wednesday's schedule
Stadium Court
(Starting at 11 a.m.)
   Jared Donaldson (5), United States, vs. Frank Dancevic, Canada.
   Tim Smyczek (1), United States, vs. Mitchell Krueger, United States (completion of suspended match).
   Blaz Rola (4), Slovenia, vs. Liam Broady, Great Britain.
   James McGee (8), Ireland, vs. Frances Tiafoe, United States.
Court 1
(Starting at 11 a.m.)
   Darian King, Barbados, vs. Peter Polansky, Canada.
   Carsten Ball, Australia, and Dustin Brown (1), Germany, vs. Blaz Kavcic and Grega Zemlja, Slovenia.
(Not before 2 p.m.)
   Johan Brunstom, Sweden, and Frederik Nielsen (2), Denmark, vs. Jason Jung, Taiwan, and Connor Smith, United States (may be moved to Stadium Court).
(Not before 3 p.m.)
   Dean O'Brien and Ruan Roelofse (3), South Africa, vs. Ariel Behar, Uruguay, and Ruben Gonzales, Philippines.
Court 3
(Starting at 2 p.m.)
   Frank Dancevic, Canada, and Henri Laaksonen, Switzerland, vs. Jean-Yves Aubone and Taylor Fritz, United States.
   Mitchell Krueger and Tennys Sandgren (4), United States, vs. Nicolas Barrientos, Colombia, and Darian King, Barbados.

Darian King upsets No. 2 seed for second week in row

Darian King, playing in Sacramento last week, beat second-
seeded Ryan Harrison on Monday in the first round of the
$50,000 Fairfield Challenger. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Darian King's upset win in Sacramento last week was no fluke.
   King, 23, of Barbados shocked the No. 2 seed in the opening round for the second consecutive week, defeating Ryan Harrison of Austin, Texas, 6-4, 7-5 on Monday in the Fairfield $50,000 Men's Pro Challenger at In Shape: Fairfield Rancho Solano.
   King surprised Kyle Edmund of Great Britain in the $100,000 Sacramento Challenger before losing to qualifier Nicolas Meister in the second round. Edmund did not enter Fairfield.
   King, ranked No. 253, will meet the winner of today's match between Tennys Sandgren of Wesley Chapel, Fla., and qualifier Peter Polansky of Canada.
   Meanwhile, 17-year-old sensation Frances Tiafoe of Boca Raton, Fla., dispatched Marek Michalicka of the Czech Republic 6-2, 6-3.
   Michalicka, a former University of Wisconsin star, stunned the fifth-seeded Harrison in the second round of the $100,000 Tiburon Challenger two weeks ago. Harrison, 23, was coming off runner-up finishes to Dennis Novikov of Milpitas in the San Francisco Bay Area in the two previous weeks.
   Harrison, 23, is ranked No. 104 after reaching a career-high No. 43 in 2012.
   First-round matches continue today. The schedule features No. 1 seed Tim Smyczek of Tampa, Fla., No. 3 Dustin Brown of Germany and Sacramento champion Taylor Fritz, 17, of Rancho Santa Fe in the San Diego area.
   Brown, 30, stunned Rafael Nadal on Center Court in the second round at Wimbledon this year to improve to 2-0 against the 14-time Grand Slam singles champion.
   Fritz turned pro in August before the U.S. Open and won the boys singles title at Flushing Meadows. He is ranked No. 1 in the world in the juniors.
   Smyczek, 27, and Fritz could meet for the first time in the second round.
   Fairfield replaced the $50,000 Napa Challenger on the calendar. Napa tournament director Chris Arns said recently that he was unable to secure enough sponsorship to hold the Challenger for the third year.  
FAIRFIELD $50,000 MEN'S PRO CHALLENGER
At In Shape: Fairfield Rancho Solano
Final-round qualifying
   Henri Laaksonen (1), Switzerland, def. Jean-Yves Aubone, United States, 6-4, 6-4.
   Alex Kuznetsov (2), United States, def. Jose Statham, New Zealand.
   Sekou Bangoura (6), United States, def. Dennis Nevolo, United States, 3-6, 7-5, 6-0.
   Peter Polansky, Canada, def. Dimitar Kutrovsky (4), Bulgaria, 6-1, 6-3.
First-round singles
   Blaz Rola (4), Slovenia, def. Alexander Sarkissian, United States, 4-6, 6-3, 6-0.
   Frank Dancevic, Canada, def. Marcos Giron, United States, 4-6, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (2).
   James McGee (8), Ireland, def. Frederik Nielsen, Denmark, 7-6 (4), 6-3.
   Frances Tiafoe, United States, def. Marek Michalicka, Czech Republic, 6-2, 6-3.
   Darian King, Barbados, def. Ryan Harrison (2), United States, 6-4, 7-5.
First-round doubles
   Ariel Behar, Uruguay, and Ruben Gonzales, Philippines, def. Andrew Carter, United States, and Michael Kwong, Australia, 6-3, 6-4.
   Dean O'Brien and Ruan Roelofse (3), South Africa, def. Jeremy Hunter Nicholas and Matt Seeberger, United States, 6-4, 6-4.
   Sekou Bangoura, United States, and Jose Statham, New Zealand, def. Damon Gooch, South Africa, and Ben McLachlan, New Zealand, 7-5, 6-4.
Today's schedule
Stadium Court
(Starting at 10 a.m.)
   Blaz Kavcic (6), Slovenia, vs. Connor Hance, United States.
   Dustin Brown (3), Germany, vs. Connor Smith, United States.
   Taylor Fritz, United States, vs. Henri Laaksonen, Switzerland.
(Not before 4:30 p.m.)
   Tim Smyczek (1), United States, vs. Mitchell Krueger, United States.
Court 1
(Starting at 10 a.m.)
   Tennys Sandgren, United States, vs. Peter Polansky, Canada.
   Jared Donaldson (5), United States, vs. Philip Bester, Canada.
   Alex Kuznetsov, United States, vs. Nicolas Barrientos, Colombia.
   Daniel Brands (7), Germany, vs. Sem Verbeek, Netherlands.
Court 3
(Starting at 10 a.m.)
   Grega Zemlja, Slovenia, vs. Liam Broady, Great Britain.
   Tommy Paul, United States, vs. Quentin Halys, France.
   Sekou Bangoura, United States, vs. Jason Jung, Taiwan.
(Not before 3:30 p.m.)
   Marcos Giron and Tommy Paul, United States, vs. Philip Bester and Peter Polansky, Canada. 

Monday, October 12, 2015

Fritz wins first Challenger title in battle of U.S. teens

Taylor Fritz, a 17-year-old wild card, beat seventh-seeded Jared Don-
aldson, 19, to win the Sacramento Challenger. Photo by Paul Bauman
   SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Power and poise could take Taylor Fritz a long way in professional tennis.
   Perhaps all the way to the top.
   In a battle of American teenagers, Fritz outlasted seventh-seeded Jared Donaldson 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 on Sunday to win the $100,000 Sacramento Challenger at the Natomas Racquet Club.
   Fritz, the top-ranked junior in the world, joined Nick Kyrgios of Australia and Alexander Zverev of Germany as 17-year-olds to win a Challenger in recent years. Kyrgios, now 20, is ranked 32nd among men, and the 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) Zverev, 18, is 80th.
   "It's an honor, but the main thing is not to let it get to my head and not to think that I've made it," Fritz, who will turn 18 on Oct. 28, told Mike Cation in an interview for atpworldtour.com. "I'm not sure where this win puts me (in the rankings). Maybe 350 (actually No. 335, up from No. 694).
   "By no means does that mean I've made it," Fritz added with a chuckle. "I've got a lot of work to do, and I know that. Hopefully, if I keep working, I can be compared more next to those guys."
   Fritz was playing in only his second Challenger. He lost to Mischa Zverev, a 28-year-old left-hander from Germany formerly ranked in the top 50, in the first round of the $100,000 Comerica Bank Challenger in Aptos, Calif., in August.
Donaldson said Fritz "played the big points better than I did."
Photo by Paul Bauman

   That was Fritz's last tournament before turning pro. He then won the U.S. Open boys singles title.
   At 6-foot-4 (1.93 meters), Fritz has a big serve and groundstrokes and moves well. He lives in Rancho Santa Fe in the San Diego area and trains in Carson, near Los Angeles.
   Fritz's mother (Kathy May), father (Guy Fritz) and uncle (Harry Fritz) all played professionally. Kathy reached No. 10 in the world and played in three Grand Slam quarterfinals. Guy is one of Taylor's coaches.
   Taylor, a wild card in Sacramento, almost lost in the second round. He survived three match points in a 6-7 (3), 7-6 (5), 7-6 (7) victory over Dustin Brown, 30, of Germany.
   Brown, who has a German mother and Jamaican father, stunned Rafael Nadal on Centre Court in the second round at Wimbledon this year to improve to 2-0 against the 14-time Grand Slam singles champion.
   Fritz saved 13 of 14 break points against Brown and 15 of 16 against Donaldson.
   "It shows I need to not get myself in so many tight situations, but I think it shows that I play the big points really well," said Fritz, who suffered a quadriceps or groin injury late in the second set against Donaldson. "I compete pretty hard, and I'm pretty mentally strong in tight situations."
(Left to right) Doubles runners-up Dustin Brown and Daniel Brands of Germany
pose with champions Blaz Kavcic and Grega Zemlja of Slovenia and tournament
director Brian Martinez. Photo by Paul Bauman
   As Donaldson, 19, told the crowd after the final, "He played the big points better than I did."
   Donaldson, a Providence, R.I., product who trains in Irvine, Calif., ousted top-seeded Denis Kudla, 23, of Tampa, Fla., in the semifinals. Donaldson had little pressure in that match as the lower-ranked and younger player, but the situation was reversed against Fritz.
   The pressure on the 6-foot-2 (1.88-meter) Donaldson showed as he was broken in the first game of the match at love and in the last game. Donaldson, who has devastating groundstrokes, sent a routine forehand long on Fritz's first championship point.
   Fritz collected $14,400. Donaldson, who turned pro in August 2014, received $8,480 and improved nine spots in the world rankings to No. 144.
   How will Fritz, who is scheduled to play a qualifier in the first round of the $50,000 Fairfield (Calif.) Men's Pro Challenger on Tuesday, celebrate his first Challenger title?
   "I think the best thing to do is go to In-N-Out," Fritz said of the popular fast-food hamburger chain. "I'm disappointed to hear what some of my colleagues say about it, but I'm a pretty firm supporter that nothing comes close, so that's probably where I'll be tonight."
   In the doubles final, Blaz Kavcic and Grega Zemlja of Slovenia defeated Daniel Brands of Germany and Brown 6-1, 3-6 [10-3]. Both teams were unseeded.
   Kavcic and Zemlja split $6,200, and Brands and Brown divided $3,600.