Monday, September 25, 2017

Mmoh mauls Rubin in matchup of U.S. prospects

Michael Mmoh, shown in last year's Tiburon final, coasted to a 6-1, 6-2 victory
over Noah Rubin today. Photo by Getty Images
   Michael Mmoh had little trouble with Noah Rubin this time.
   In a matchup of top U.S. prospects, the fourth-seeded Mmoh routed Noah Rubin 6-1, 6-2 in 1 hour, 6 minutes today in the first round of the $100,000 Tiburon (Calif.) Challenger.
   Mmoh, last year's runner-up to Darian King of Barbados, won all 20 points on his first serve against Rubin, 21, at the Tiburon Peninsula Club in the San Francisco Bay Area.
   Rubin, the 2014 Wimbledon boys champion, defeated Mmoh 6-2, 6-3 in the semifinals of last year's $100,000 Stockton (Calif.) Challenger in their only previous meeting. Mmoh aggravated an abdominal strain at 2-2 in the first set. Rubin, only 5-foot-9 (1.75 meters) and 150 pounds (68 kilograms), went on to lose to U.S. phenom Frances Tiafoe in the final.
   Mmoh, the 19-year-old son of former journeyman pro Tony Mmoh, will play Tobias Kamke, the 2010 Tiburon champion, on Wednesday in the second round. Kamke, a 31-year-old German, dismissed Christian Garin of Chile 6-3, 6-1 in one hour.
   Meanwhile, Mitchell Krueger of Orlando, Fla., defeated Sam Groth of Australia 6-4, 7-5. Groth, unofficially the world's fastest server, had eight aces and five double faults.
   In the final round of qualifying, Sekou Bangoura of Bradenton, Fla., defeated 2015 champion Tim Smyczek of Tampa, Fla., 6-2, 2-6, 6-2.
   However, Smyczek (pronounced SMEE-check) advanced to the main draw as a lucky loser when Dennis Novikov of Milpitas in the San Francisco Bay Area withdrew with an ankle injury.
   Smyczek will play fellow American and friend Denis Kudla on Tuesday in a rematch of the 2015 final, a thriller won by Smyczek.
   Here are the singles qualifying draw, singles and doubles main draws, and Tuesday's schedule.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

U.S. prospects Mmoh, Rubin to meet in Tiburon

   Two of the United States' top men's prospects will meet on Monday in the first round of the $100,000 Tiburon (Calif.) Challenger.
   Fourth-seeded Michael Mmoh, 19, will face Noah Rubin, 21, for the second time not before 3 p.m. at the Tiburon Peninsula Club in the San Francisco Bay Area.
   Rubin won 6-2, 6-3 in the semifinals of last year's $100,000 Stockton Challenger as Mmoh aggravated an abdominal strain at 2-2 in the first set. Rubin, only 5-foot-9 (1.75 meters) and 150 pounds (68 kilograms), went on to lose to U.S. phenom Frances Tiafoe in the final.
   Mmoh, the 6-foot-1 (1.85-meter) son of former journeyman pro Tony Mmoh, was the runner-up to Darian King at Tiburon last year as a qualifier.
   Rubin reached the second round of the Australian Open as a qualifier in January, losing to eventual champion Roger Federer 7-5, 6-3, 7-6 (3). As a junior, Rubin played at the John McEnroe Tennis Academy in New York and won the 2014 Wimbledon boys title.
   Mmoh is ranked No. 142 to Rubin's No. 195.
   Also on Monday, 2010 Tiburon champion Tobias Kamke of Germany will play Christian Garin of Chile. 
   In today's second round of qualifying, top seed and 2015 champion Tim Smyczek beat Greg Jones of Australia 6-4, 6-1.
   Smyczek will play fellow American Sekou Bangoura, who defeated former Cal star Andre Goransson of Sweden 6-2, 6-4, for a berth in the main draw.
   Here are the singles qualifying draw, the singles and doubles main draws, and Monday's schedule.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Top seed Bemelmans to face Stanford star in Tiburon

   Top-seeded Ruben Bemelmans of Belgium will face wild card Tom Fawcett, a Stanford senior from Winnetka, Ill., on Monday or Tuesday in the first round of the Tiburon (Calif.) Challenger.
   The singles draw for the $100,000 tournament at the Tiburon Peninsula Club, across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, was held today.
   Bemelmans, a 29-year-old left-hander, reached the third round of Wimbledon as a qualifier in July. He is ranked No. 92 in the world. Fawcett, 6-foot-5 (1.96 meters), is No. 8 in the college preseason rankings.
   Second-seeded Tennys Sandgren of Gallatin, Tenn., will meet Dennis Novikov of Milpitas in the San Francisco Bay Area. Sandgren, who lost in the first round of the French Open and U.S. Open this year in his first two Grand Slam main-draw appearances, is ranked No. 100.
   Sixth seed and defending champion Darian King of Barbados will play Mackenzie McDonald, who grew up in Piedmont in the Bay Area.
   Fourth-seeded Michael Mmoh, last year's runner-up, will take on Noah Rubin, the 2014 Wimbledon boys champion, in a matchup of top American prospects.
   In the first round of qualifying today, top seed and 2015 champion Tim Smyczek of Tampa, Fla., beat Christopher O'Connell of Australia 6-4, 5-7, 6-2.
   Smyczek, 29, will face another Australian, Greg Jones, on Sunday after a 10 a.m. match on Center Court.
   Andre Goransson of Sweden defeated Bernardo Saraiva of Portugal 6-4, 6-3 in a matchup of former Cal and USF standouts, respectively.
   Falling were wild cards Florian Lakat of France, John Lamble of Saratoga in the Bay Area and Stevie Gould of nearby Corte Madera. Lakat played with Goransson at Cal, and Lamble starred at Santa Clara. Gould is ranked No. 1 in the Northern California 18s.
   Here are the singles main draw, singles qualifying draw and Sunday's schedule.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Ex-champ Smyczek seeded first in Tiburon qualies

   Two years is an eternity in pro tennis.
   Just ask Tim Smyczek.
   The American veteran, who won the $100,000 Tiburon (Calif.) Challenger in 2015, is seeded first in qualifying for this year's tournament.
   Smyczek (pronounced SMEE-check), a 29-year-old Milwaukee native now based in Tampa, Fla., is scheduled to play Christopher O'Connell, a 23-year-old Australian, on Saturday not before 1 p.m. at the Tiburon Peninsula Club. Play begins at 10 a.m.
   The 5-foot-9 (1.75-meter) Smyczek is ranked No. 189 after reaching a career-high No. 68 in April 2015. O'Connell is No. 311.
   Smyczek, a consummate pro, is best known for his sportsmanlike gesture in a five-set loss to Rafael Nadal in the second round of the 2015 Australian Open. With Nadal, suffering from stomach cramps and dizziness, serving for the match at 6-5, 30-0 in the fifth set, Smyczek allowed the Spaniard another first serve after a fan yelled during his toss to cause a fault.
   The Tiburon qualifying draw also features former San Francisco Bay Area college stars Andre Goransson and Florian Lakat (both Cal), Bernardo Saraiva (USF) and John Lamble (Santa Clara), as well as Stevie Gould, ranked No. 1 in the Northern California 18s, of nearby Corte Madera.
   The main draw begins Monday.
   Here are the singles qualifying draw and Saturday's schedule.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Tursunov, 34, will continue playing 'for now'

   Dmitry Tursunov isn't ready to retire.
   "I'll try to play for now," the 34-year-old Russian, who owns a townhouse in the Sacramento suburb of Folsom, texted recently.
   Tursunov has been unable to complete his last two matches, in the first round of the U.S. Open and the second round of qualifying for the $50,000 Atlantic Tire Championships in Cary, N.C., because of injuries. He returned to competition in July at Wimbledon after missing almost one year for the same reason.
   In fact, the 582nd-ranked Tursunov has been hampered by leg injuries for most of his career. During a rare period of good health, he climbed to a career-high No. 20 in 2006.
   Tursunov has won two singles matches in seven tournaments this year, and one of the victories was by walkover. He moved from his native Moscow to the San Francisco Bay Area at 12 to train and to the Sacramento area at 18.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Anderson upsets another seed for Redding title

   Nobody can say Robin Anderson backed into the singles title of the $25,000 Ascension Project Women's Challenger.
   The unseeded Anderson, a 24-year-old former UCLA star from Matawan, N.J., upset four seeds to earn the second and biggest crown of her career.
   In today's final, the 5-foot-3 (1.61-meter) Anderson defeated No. 6 seed Chanel Simmonds of South Africa 6-1, 6-4. Anderson also knocked off No. 2 Ulrikke Eikeri of Norway in the first round, No. 5 Karman Kaur Thandi of India in the quarterfinals and No. 4 Jovana Jaksic, a Serbian living in Sacramento, in the semifinals.
   While Anderson had a tough road to the final, Simmonds' hardly could have been easier. After two straight-set victories, she received a walkover in the quarterfinals and a retirement at 4-1 in the semifinals.
   Anderson, the 2013 runner-up to Adriana Perez of Venezuela as a UCLA junior-to-be, pocketed $3,919 for the championship. Her other singles title came in a $10,000 hardcourt tournament in Landisville, Pa., in 2011.
   Simmonds, 25, collected $2.901. The 5-foot-5 (1.65-meter) left-hander was seeking her 17th singles crown and fourth in a $25,000 tournament. Her other titles came in smaller events.
   Both finalists will rise to about No. 302 in the Sept. 24 rankings, Anderson from No. 369 and Simmonds from No. 330. They have been ranked as high as No. 183 and No. 158, respectively.
   Unseeded players also won the doubles title as Daneika Borthwick of Great Britain and Ana Veselinovic of Montenegro beat third-seeded Harriet Dart of Great Britain and Maria Sanchez of the United States 6-3, 6-4.
   Veselinovic stunned top-seeded Sofya Zhuk, the 2015 Wimbledon girls champion at age 15, in the first round of singles en route to the quarterfinals. Sanchez, a 27-year-old Modesto product, won the 2011 Redding doubles title with since-retired Yasmin Schnack of Sacramento.
   Here are the complete singles and doubles draws.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Anderson beats Sacramento's Jaksic in Redding

   Robin Anderson will play for the singles title in Redding, Calif., again.
   The unseeded former UCLA star from Matawan, N.J., beat fourth-seeded Jovana Jaksic, a Serbian living in Sacramento, 6-4, 6-3 today in the $25,000 Ascension Project Women's Challenger at Sun Oaks Tennis & Fitness.
   The 24-year-old Anderson, only 5-foot-3 (1.61 meters), had eight aces and no double faults as she upset a seed for the third time in the tournament. She knocked off No. 2 Ulrikke Eikeri of Norway in the first round and No. 5 Karman Kaur Thandi of India in the quarterfinals.
   Anderson, the 2013 runner-up to Adriana Perez of Venezuela, will try to make it four seeds when she meets No. 6 Chanel Simmonds of South Africa on Sunday after the 1 p.m. doubles final.
   Simmonds, a 25-year-old left-hander, has played only 19 minutes total in the last two rounds. She led 4-1 today when eighth-seeded Katie Swan of Great Britain retired with an upper-leg injury. Qualifier Urszula Radwanska, the younger sister of 11th-ranked Agnieszka Radwanska, withdrew from her quarterfinal against Simmonds with foot blisters.
   Simmonds, 5-foot-5 (1.65 meters), and Anderson have met once. Simmonds won 6-1, 1-6, 7-5 in the first round of qualifying for the $50,000 Lexington (Ky.) Challenger on a hardcourt in 2015.
   In Sunday's doubles final, third-seeded Harriet Dart of Great Britain and Maria Sanchez from Modesto will play unseeded Daneika Borthwick of Great Britain and Ana Veselinovic of Montenegro. Sanchez won the 2011 doubles title with since-retired Yasmin Schnack of Sacramento.
   Admission to the tournament is free. Here are the singles and doubles draws and Sunday's schedule.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Sacramento's Jaksic reaches semis in 25K Redding

   Fourth-seeded Jovana Jaksic, a Serbian living in Sacramento, subdued unseeded American Caitlin Whoriskey 5-7, 6-2, 7-5 in 2 hours, 40 minutes today in the quarterfinals of the $25,000 Ascension Project Women's Challenger in Redding, Calif.
   Sacramento is a 2 1/2-hour drive south of Redding.
   Jaksic, 23, will face unseeded Robin Anderson, a 5-foot-3 (1.61-meter) American, for the first time in Saturday's second semifinal at Sun Oaks Tennis & Fitness.
   Anderson, the 2013 singles runner-up and doubles champion (with Lauren Embree), outlasted fifth-seeded Karman Kaur Thandi of India 6-7 (6), 6-1, 6-3 in 2 hours, 51 minutes.
   In the first semifinal at 4 p.m., No. 6 seed Chanel Simmonds of South Africa will meet No. 8 Katie Swan of Great Britain for the first time.
   Simmonds, a 25-year-old left-hander, advanced when qualifier Urszula Radwanska, a former top-30 player, withdrew with foot blisters. Radwanska, the younger sister of 11th-ranked Agnieszka Radwanska, needed 3 hours, 28 minutes to beat third-seeded Harriet Dart of Great Britain 7-6 (2), 1-6, 7-6 (5) on Thursday.
   Swan, 18, dispatched Ana Veselinovic of Montenegro 6-3, 6-3. Veselinovic, a 29-year-old left-hander, ousted top-seeded Sofya Zhuk, the 2015 Wimbledon junior girls champion at age 15, in the opening round.
   Maria Sanchez, a 27-year-old Modesto product, reached the doubles final with Dart. The third seeds outclassed second-seeded Jaksic and Simmonds 6-3, 6-1. Dart and Sanchez, who won the 2011 title with since-retired Yasmin Schnack of Sacramento, will play unseeded Daneika Borthwick of Great Britain and Veselinovic on Sunday.
   Admission to the tournament is free. Here are the singles and doubles draws and Saturday's schedule.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Urszula Radwanska edges No. 3 seed in marathon

   Qualifier Urszula Radwanska, a former top-30 player from Poland, edged third-seeded Harriet Dart of Great Britain 7-6 (2), 1-6, 7-6 (5) in 3 hours, 28 minutes today to reach the quarterfinals of the $25,000 Ascension Project Women's Challenger in Redding, Calif.
   The match was one of three marathons at Sun Oaks Tennis & Fitness.
   Eighth-seeded Katie Swan of Great Britain outlasted qualifier Lauren Marker, a former University of Arizona star from Rancho Mirage, Calif., 7-6 (3), 4-6, 6-4 in 3 hours, 18 minutes in the featured evening singles match.
   Also, Ana Veselinovic of Montenegro held off Quinn Gleason, an ex-Notre Dame standout from Mendon, N.Y., 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 in 2 hours, 58 minutes.
   Veselinovic committed 15 double faults, bringing her total to 25 in two tournament matches. The 29-year-old left-hander ousted top-seeded Sofya Zhuk, the 2015 Wimbledon junior champion at 15 years old, 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 in the first round.
   Swan will face Veselinovic and Radwanska will meet sixth-seeded Chanel Simmonds of South Africa in the top half of the draw.
   Fourth-seeded Jovana Jaksic, a Serbian living in Sacramento, will take on American Caitlin Whoriskey and fifth-seeded Karman Kaur Thandi of India will play American Robin Anderson, the 2013 runner-up to Adriana Perez of Venezuela, in the bottom half.
   Here are the singles and doubles draws and Friday's schedule.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Younger Radwanska: From big time to bush leagues

Urszula Radwanska eyes a forehand during her victory over Veronica Mirosh-
nichenko, 19, today in the first round of the $25,000 Redding (Calif.) Chal-
lenger. Radwanska has tumbled from No. 29 in the world in 2012 to No. 716
because of injuries and illness. Photo by Paul Bauman
   REDDING, Calif. -- Urszula Radwanska climbed to the top 30 in the world five years ago.
   The younger sister of star Agnieszka Radwanska has beaten former No. 1s Venus Williams, Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic, as well as Grand Slam champions Svetlana Kuznetsova and Francesca Schiavone.
   Urszula Radwanska has reached the second round of all four Grand Slam tournaments a combined nine times, the same stage of the 2012 Olympics in London while representing Poland and the doubles quarterfinals of the 2009 French Open.
   She has earned $1.88 million in career prize money.
   But now Radwanska finds herself battling a bunch of college kids and other hopefuls in front of about 50 fans in the $25,000 Ascension Project Women's Challenger at Sun Oaks Tennis & Fitness. The singles winner will receive a whopping $3,919 compared with the $3.7 million that Sloane Stephens pocketed for winning the recent U.S. Open.
   Adding to the indignity, Radwanska had to qualify for the tournament with a ranking of No. 716.
   It's like going from Broadway to summer stock in Poughkeepsie.
   "It's very, very tough to get the motivation again because I was playing in the big moments on the big courts with big-name stars, so coming here to a 25 is not easy where there are no ballboys," Radwanska, 26, conceded after defeating Russian Veronica Miroshnichenko, an incoming freshman at Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles, 7-6 (4), 6-1 in the first round in tonight's featured match. "There wasn't even an umpire for my first match of qualies, so it's a completely different world for me.
   "It's tough because I know I don't belong here. I know my level is much higher. I just need to play a couple more matches, a couple more tournaments, and I'm sure I'm going to be back where I was."
   What happened? Three major operations and a debilitating illness.
   First came spine surgery for a stress fracture at age 19, when she already was ranked 66th in the world. That knocked her out for six months, but Radwanska rebounded to attain a career-high ranking of No. 29 in 2012.
   A few years later came shoulder surgery that kept her out for four months. Again, she bounced back to crack the top 100.
   Last February, Radwanska had surgery for two torn ankle ligaments and missed three months. After playing for two months, she contracted mononucleosis. Radwanska tried to come back in February this year but was still weak.
   This is the third tournament of Radwanska's latest comeback. She lost in qualifying in $25,000 and $60,000 clay-court tournaments in Hungary.
   "So, yeah, I've been a little big unlucky with injuries and mononucleosis," Radwanska said with a laugh, " but I'm still fighting. I'm happy to be back and happy to be healthy. I'm trying to get back where I was."
   Against Miroshnichenko, Radwanska saved three set points serving at 4-5 in the first set and held for 5-5 amid a flurry of unforced errors by the 19-year-old left-hander. Radwanska bolted to a 5-0 lead in the tiebreaker and held on for the set.
   In the second set, Miroshnichenko was broken for 1-3 on a double fault and 1-5 on a backhand volley that sailed long.
   "It was tough," Radwanska said of the match. "She was lefty, so that's always not easy to play against. I couldn't get my rhythm because she was playing sometimes soft, sometimes strong. That was tough, but I'm happy I found a way to win."
   Radwanska's experience helped her pull out the first set.
   "At 5-all, I could see she's shaking a little bit, so I took advantage of her and won the first set," Radwanska said.
Lorraine Guillermo
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Another player with extensive Grand Slam experience, at least in doubles, was upset in the opening round. Seventh-seeded Maria Sanchez, a 27-year-old Modesto product, fell to little Lorraine Guillermo, a 24-year-old wild card from Walnut in Southern California, 2-6, 6-4, 6-2.
   Sanchez, the only American singles seed this year, won the 2011 Redding doubles title with since-retired Yasmin Schnack of Sacramento.
   Sanchez, 5-foot-10 (1.78 meters), had dominated Guillermo, only 5-foot-4 (1.63 meters) and 125 pounds (56.7 kilograms), 6-2, 6-2 in the last round of qualifying for the $25,000 Rancho Santa Fe Challenger in the San Diego area in February. It was their only previous meeting.
   "I think I've improved since then," mused Guillermo, a former Pepperdine All-American ranked No. 970. "I hope I would have improved in seven months. I think I played a bit more aggressive and focused on what I needed to do. She serves-and-volleys, which is kind of intimidating to play against, so I just focused on hitting my own shot."
   Guillermo rallied from a set and a break down against Sanchez, ranked No. 353 in singles after reaching a career-high No. 107 in 2013.
   "I wasn't really focusing on the score," Guillermo said. "I was really just focused on what was in front of me, like playing that point at that moment. Of course, the score is in play, but I just really had to focus on what I needed to do right then and there."
   Sanchez never held serve the rest of the way.
   Two qualifiers with Northern California connections also lost.
   Kat Facey, 24, of Placerville (near Sacramento) fell to American Caitlin Whoriskey 60, 6-3. Both players have an unusual stroke. Whoriskey, who won the 2015 Redding doubles title with compatriot Ashley Weinhold, is one of the few women with a one-handed backhand. Even more rare, Facey uses two hands on both sides. She and her fraternal twin sister, Alexandra, were the doubles runners-up in Redding in 2014.
   Olivia Hauger, a Cal junior, succumbed to Japan's Kana Daniel, another qualifier, 7-6 (3), 6-0.
   Urszula Radwanska, 5-foot-10 (1.77 meters),  and her 28-year-old sister, 5-foot-8 (1.73 meters), have different games.
   "I'm more aggressive on the court," Urszula said. "She's more tricky and waiting for opponents' mistakes."
   Urszula admits she's tired of being compared to Agnieszka, who rose to a career-high No. 2 in 2012 but has dropped to No. 11.
   "It's not easy," Urszula said. "A lot of people are asking me when I'm going to be as good as my sister, but like I said, I was a little bit unlucky. I had those surgeries which stopped me, so I'm just going a different way. Maybe it will take me more time to be a top player, but I believe I'm going to be there."
   Here are The Ascension Project singles and doubles draws and Thursday's schedule.

Journeywoman stuns top seed in 25K Redding

Ana Veselinovic
Photo by Paul Bauman
   REDDING, Calif. -- It shaped up as a colossal mismatch.
   Sofya Zhuk, the Wimbledon junior girls champion two years ago at 15, faced Ana Veselinovic, a 29-year-old journeywoman, on Tuesday in the first round of the $25,000 Ascension Project Women's Challenger.
   Zhuk, a 17-year-old Russian based in Bradenton, Fla., was seeded first at No. 143 in the world. Veselinovic, a native of tiny Montenegro ("Black mountain" in English) across the Adriatic Sea from Italy, is ranked No. 441. She has never been higher than No. 329, and that was 10 years ago before she earned a college degree in the United States.
   Zhuk was coming off her first appearance in the main draw of a Grand Slam tournament, falling to 50th-ranked Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan in the first round of the U.S. Open as a qualifier. Veselinovic has never even played in the qualifying event at a Slam.
   None of it mattered. Veselinovic, a 5-foot-8 (1.73-meter) left-hander, outslugged Zhuk 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 in 2 hours, 13 minutes on a scorching afternoon at Sun Oaks Tennis & Fitness. Veselinovic overcame 10 double faults with clutch serving and pinpoint groundstrokes.
   "She's a great player, she's young, and it was my first time playing against her," Veselinovic said. "My ranking right now is low -- I had some injuries -- so I didn't really have the opportunity to show my potential and play a lot of matches.
   "But I believe that ranking doesn't tell all. Anybody can beat everybody. It's not about what's written on the paper. You go on the court, and you put your heart (into it), and it can only work out good for you."
   Indeed, Veselinovic exhibited much better body language than Zhuk, who was not available to comment on the match. While Zhuk moped around the court between points, Veselinovic ran in place despite the 100-degree (37.8 Celsius) heat.
   In the evening singles match, the second seed also lost. Ulrikke Eikeri of Norway fell to American Robin Anderson, a former UCLA star, 2-6, 6-4, 6-1 in a matchup of 24-year-olds. But unlike Veselinovic's victory, Anderson's was not a big surprise.
   First, Eikeri does not have Zhuk's credentials. Eikeri is ranked considerably lower at No. 279 (second in Norway behind No. 265 Melanie Stokke).
   Also, the 5-foot-3 (1.61-meter) Anderson was the singles runner-up and doubles champion four years ago in Redding.
   Finally, Anderson had beaten Eikeri in three sets in their only previous meeting. That came last year in the first round of a $25,000 clay-court tournament in Jackson, Miss.
   Fourth-seeded Jovana Jaksic of Serbia avoided an upset, topping Sandra Samir of Egypt 5-7, 6-2, 6-1 in a match featuring many long, grueling rallies. But the heat didn't faze Jaksic, who moved from Las Vegas to Sacramento last December. Shortly after her match, she practiced briefly under the guidance of her new coach, John Rodrigues of Sacramento. Jaksic's Serbian boyfriend, Vuja Jovic, is a real estate broker in Sacramento.
   In the longest match of the day, wild card Anna Bright, a Cal freshman, outlasted fellow American Shelby Talcott 6-4, 1-6, 7-5 in 2 hours, 56 minutes.
   When Veselinovic found out she had drawn the top seed, she took it in stride, according to her coach.
   "She was OK," Igor Tomasevic said. "She's been around. It's not like a little girl crying. She was thinking, bad luck, because there's such a big difference between the ranking of the first seed and all the other girls. But on the other side, the underdog always has a chance."
   A case of nerves cost Veselinovic the first set.
   "The first round is always tough," she said. "You want to (get going); you want to play. Your emotions carry you away, and you can't do that against good players because you lose a game or two, you lose a set, and that's what happened with me. You've got to be there from the beginning until the end because there are no easy points."
   Once Veselinovic calmed down, she took the second set. There were no service breaks in the third set until Zhuk served at 4-4. Then both players inevitably got tight, resulting in three consecutive breaks. Given a second chance to serve for the match, Veselinovic held at love.
   "It's great to get her confidence back because this year is not so great for her," Tomasevic said of the victory. "Her expectation was higher, her ranking was solid, but things didn't happen quite well this year. It's a great win to have a new start of the year practically in September. It can lift her up."
   Veselinovic hopes to crack the top 400 this year, eventually reach the top 100 and stay there for a couple of years.
   "I have my goals, and I'm motivated," she said. "Nothing has changed. I'm still the same as when I was just out of college. I haven't really showed all I can do, my potential. With everything I've been through, I still believe. I have my dream. I love this. I'll just keep going until my body gives up."
   Veselinovic has battled two herniated discs in her back since she led Auburn University-Montgomery (Ala.) to its eighth NAIA (small college) title in nine years in 2012.
   "I've been able to work around it," said Veselinovic, who has not had surgery. "It's not easy, but I've learned how to cope with the pain and with some limitations that I have. When you love what you do -- and love means everything -- you've got to ignore (the pain and limitations) and be positive."  
   It would be easy to consider Veselinovic the ultimate underdog, but she doesn't buy it.
   "I don't think being injured, (my) small country or the (college) division I played makes me an underdog," Veselinovic said. "I don't feel like that. I feel good where I am."
   Here are The Ascension Project singles and doubles draws and Wednesday's schedule.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Teen phenom Zhuk heads 25K Redding field

   A teenage phenom, a former top-30 player and a Northern California product highlight the field in the Ascension Project Women's Challenger in Redding, Calif.
   The $25,000 tournament is scheduled for Tuesday through Sunday at Sun Oaks Tennis & Fitness.
   Top-seeded Sofya Zhuk, a 17-year-old Russian ranked 143rd in the world, will meet Ana Veselinovic, a 29-year-old left-hander from Montenegro, on Tuesday at 11:30 a.m.
   Zhuk won the Wimbledon girls singles title two years ago and qualified for the women's main draw of the recent U.S. Open before falling to 50th-ranked Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan 7-6 (3), 6-3 in the first round.
   Zhuk has won three singles titles in the minor leagues of women's tennis this year and withdrew from the final of another.
   Qualifier Urszula Radwanska, who reached No. 29 in the world in 2012 before injuries derailed her career, will play Veronica Miroshnichenko, a 19-year-old left-hander from Russia, on Wednesday.
   Radwanska, 26, is the younger sister of Agnieszka Radwanska, who's ranked 11th after climbing as high as second in 2012.
   Seventh-seeded Maria Sanchez, a 27-year-old Modesto native, will face wild card Lorraine Guillermo, a 24-year-old American, on Wednesday.
   Sanchez, the only seeded American in the draw, won the 2011 Redding doubles title with since-retired Yasmin Schnack of Sacramento.
   Redding alumni include former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, current doubles world No. 1 Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic, and current top-70 singles players Lauren Davis (No. 38) and Jennifer Brady (No. 65), both of Boca Raton, Fla. Twelve years ago, Safarova won the Redding singles title at age 18, and Azarenka reached the quarterfinals at 15.
   The Redding-based Ascension Project develops athletes into leaders.
   Here are the singles and doubles draws and Tuesday's schedule.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Nadal dominates Anderson for 16th major title

Rafael Nadal, playing at Indian Wells in March, beat Kevin Anderson
6-3, 6-3, 6-4 today for his third U.S. Open title. Photo by Mal Taam
   It had all the suspense of a trip to the dry cleaner.
   Top-ranked Rafael Nadal coasted past 28th-seeded Kevin Anderson 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 today in the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., for his second Grand Slam singles title of the year and 16th overall. Nadal, 31, ranks second behind 36-year-old Roger Federer, who has 19 Slams.
   It was Nadal's third U.S. Open title and first since 2013. Because of injuries, he failed to advance past the quarterfinals of 10 consecutive majors from Wimbledon in 2014 through last year's U.S. Open.
   "Of course, after a couple of years without competing at this very high, high level," Nadal told reporters, "very happy to be back."
   Anderson, a 31-year-old South African, capitalized on a depleted draw to become the tallest Grand Slam finalist in history at 6-foot-8 (2.03 meters. The top five players in the 2006 year-end rankings -- Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Milos Raonic, Stan Wawrinka and Kei Nishikori -- missed the tournament with injuries.
   At No. 32, Anderson was the lowest-ranked U.S. Open men's finalist since the ATP computer rankings began in 1973.
   Anderson has played extensively in Northern California, beginning with his NCAA doubles title in the 2006 tournament at Stanford as an Illinois junior. The following year, he reached the final of a $15,000 Futures tournament in Loomis in the Sacramento area, losing to since-retired American Scoville Jenkins.
   In 2012, Anderson advanced to the quarterfinals of the SAP Open in his only appearance in San Jose and played part-time for the Sacramento Capitals in World TeamTennis. The SAP Open and Capitals folded after the 2013 season.
   Junior girls -- Not only did the United States sweep the women's semifinal berths, two Americans met in the girls singles final.
   Fourth-seeded Amanda Anisimova overpowered unseeded Cori Gauff 6-0, 6-2 in a matchup of 16- and 13-year-old potential superstars, respectively.
   Anisimova, 5-foot-10 (1.83 meters), won the $60,000 Sacramento Challenger in July for her first professional title. She turned pro last September shortly after turning 15.
   Anisimova was born in Freehold Township, N.J., to Russians Konstantin Anisimov and Olga Anisimova. Amanda speaks Russian at home in Aventura, Fla., but has never been to her parents' homeland.
   Junior boys -- No. 2 Yibing Wu of China beat No. 1 Axel Geller, a Stanford freshman from Argentina, 6-4, 6-4 for the title. Geller also was the runner-up at Wimbledon in July.

Poised Stephens routs Keys for U.S. Open title

Sloane Stephens, playing at Indian Wells last year, won the U.S. Open only
nine months after undergoing foot surgery. Photo by Mal Taam
   The occasion got to Madison Keys but not Sloane Stephens.
   Showing remarkable poise in the first Grand Slam final for both players, Stephens routed her close friend 6-3, 6-0 in 61 minutes on Saturday in the U.S. Open.
   It was the first all-American women's final at Flushing Meadows since Serena Williams defeated Venus Williams in 2002 and the most lopsided since Kim Clijsters trounced Vera Zvonareva 6-2, 6-1 in 2010.
   Stephens, who grew up in Fresno and still has relatives there, made a remarkable comeback from January foot surgery. She became only the second unseeded woman to win the U.S. championships in the Open Era, which began in 1968, and the first American woman not named Williams to capture the title since Lindsay Davenport in 1968.
   "There are no words to describe how I got here -- the process it took or anything like that," the 24-year-old Stephens, who was born in Plantation, Fla., told reporters, "because if you told someone this story, they'd be like, 'That's insane.' "
   Keys committed 30 unforced errors to Stephens' six.
   "I definitely think my play today came down to nerves and all of that," said the 22-year-old Keys, who won the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford last month, "and I just don't think I handled the occasion perfectly."
   Keys, a right-hander with a two-handed backhand, had surgery on her left wrist in November and again in June.
   For the first time in the Open Era, two unseeded women won a Grand Slam singles title in a calendar year. Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia captured the French Open two days after her 20th birthday.
   Stephens began playing tennis at the advanced age of 9 in Fresno. She moved to Boca Raton, Fla., two years later to train at the Evert Tennis Academy.
   Stephens' father, John Stephens, was named the 1988 NFL Offensive Player of the Year as a running back for the New England Patriots, and her mother, Sybil Smith, was Boston University's first All-American in women's swimming. John Stephens died in a one-car accident in his native Louisiana in 2009, days before Sloane played in her first U.S. Open match.
   Junior boys -- Top-seeded Axel Geller, a Stanford freshman from Argentina, beat Timofey Skatov of Russia 6-1, 7-6 (7) to reach his second consecutive Grand Slam final.
   Geller, who lost to Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain at Wimbledon, will face second-seeded Yibing Wu of China. Wu edged Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4).
   Men's Collegiate Invitational -- Tom Fawcett, a Stanford senior, topped Michael Redlicki, who completed his eligibility at Arkansas in May, 7-6 (4), 6-7 (5), 6-4 for the title. None of the eight players in the event were seeded.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Anderson, with NorCal ties, to face Nadal in final

Rafael Nadal, right, shakes hands after losing to Roger Federer in the fourth
round at Indian Wells in March. Photo by Mal Taam 
   Alexis Castorri, a Florida sports psychologist, has helped Kevin Anderson become more positive on the court.
   But what's she going to tell him about facing Rafael Nadal in the U.S. Open final?
   Good luck? Pray a lot? You're on your own, buddy?
   Nadal is heavily favored to beat Anderson, who has played extensively in Northern California, when they meet on Sunday. ESPN will televise the match beginning at 1 p.m. PDT.
   In Friday's semifinals, a revitalized Nadal dismantled 2009 champion Juan Martin del Potro 4-6, 6-0, 6-3, 6-2, and Anderson defeated Pablo Carreno Busta 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4.
   Nadal and Anderson are both 31 (Anderson is two weeks older), but that's where the similarity ends.
   Nadal is a 6-foot-1 (1.85-meter) left-hander from Spain. Anderson is a 6-foot-8 (2.03-meter) right-hander from South Africa, making him the tallest Grand Slam finalist in history.
   Nadal is seeded first and Anderson 28th. That makes Anderson the lowest-seeded U.S. Open finalist since the ATP's computer rankings began in 1973.
   Nadal has won 15 Grand Slam singles titles, second in history behind Roger Federer's 19. Anderson will play in his first major final, thanks largely to the injury absences of Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka.
   "It's nice that some of them gave us a bit of a shot to make a run at this tournament," Anderson quipped to reporters.  
   Anderson is 0-4 against Nadal but does have one advantage. The pressure will be on Nadal. Anderson, with nothing to lose, can hit out on his shots.
   Anderson won the NCAA doubles title in the 2006 tournament at Stanford as an Illinois junior. The following year, he reached the final of a $15,000 Futures tournament in Loomis in the Sacramento area, losing to since-retired American Scoville Jenkins.
   In 2012, Anderson advanced to the quarterfinals of the SAP Open in his only appearance in San Jose and played part-time for the Sacramento Capitals in World TeamTennis. The SAP Open and Capitals folded after the 2013 season.
   Girls singles -- Cori Gauff, a 13-year-old phenom from Atlanta, defeated Katie Volynets, 15, of Walnut Creek in the San Francisco Bay Area, 6-3, 6-2 in a quarterfinal matchup of unseeded players.
   In the semifinals, Gauff will meet unseeded Maria Lourdes Carle of Argentina , and fourth-seeded Amanda Anisimova of Hallandale Beach, Fla., will play unseeded Emiliana Arango of Colombia.
   Anisimova, 16, won the $60,000 Sacramento Challenger in July for her first professional title.
   Men's Collegiate Invitational  -- Tom Fawcett, a Stanford senior, routed Alfredo Perez, a Florida junior, 6-1, 6-2 to reach the final of the eight-player event.
   Fawcett will face Michael Redlicki, who completed his eligibility at Arkansas in the spring. Redlicki topped Brandon Holt, a USC sophomore and the son of International Tennis Hall of Famer Tracy Austin, 4-6, 6-0, 6-3.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Stephens survives, Keys coasts in U.S. Open semis

Madison Keys serves in last month's Bank of the West Classic at Stanford.
Photo by Mal Taam
   Sloane Stephens, who grew up in Fresno, and Madison Keys, who won the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford last month, reached the U.S. Open final in contrasting fashion on Thursday.
   The unseeded Stephens came within two points of losing before pulling out a 6-1, 0-6, 7-5 victory over ninth-seeded Venus Williams in Flushing Meadows, N.Y. Stephens, hitting fearlessly, won the last three games as the 37-year-old Williams wilted under the pressure.
   "I have a lot of grit," Stephens, 24, told reporters. "I don't give up. Like, I'm not going to give it to someone. I'm not just going to let them take it from me."
   Keys, seeded 15th, then needed only 1 hour, 6 minutes to dispatch CoCo Vandeweghe, seeded 20th, 6-1, 6-2 in a rematch of the Bank of the West final. The match would have lasted less than an hour except that Keys left the court at 4-1 in the second set to have her right thigh taped.
   "I think I played pretty well tonight," deadpanned Keys, 22.
   Stephens and Keys, who are close friends, will meet on Saturday in the first Grand Slam final for both and the first all-American women's final at Flushing Meadows since Serena Williams defeated Venus Williams in 2002. ESPN will televise the match at 1 p.m. PDT.
   Stephens and Keys have played each other only once. Stephens won 6-4, 6-2 on a hardcourt in the second round in Miami in 2015, but that could have been a function of age.
   The U.S. Open finalists have made astonishing recoveries from surgery.
   Keys, a right-hander with a two-handed backhand, had procedures on her left wrist in November and June. Stephens underwent surgery on her left foot in January. Ranked as high as No. 11 in 2013, she dropped out of the top 900.
   Meanwhile, Bob and Mike Bryan's Grand Slam title drought in men's doubles continues. Seeded fifth, the 39-year-old former Stanford stars lost to 11th-seeded Feliciano Lopez and Marc Lopez (no relation) of Spain 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. The Bryans won the last of their record 16 majors in the 2014 U.S. Open.
   Stanford senior Tom Fawcett defeated Thai-Son Kwiatkowski, who won the NCAA singles title as a Virginia senior in May, 7-6 (5), 6-4 in the first round of the eight-player Men's Collegiate Invitational.
   Katie Volynets, 15, of Walnut Creek in the San Francisco Bay Area, beat Anastasia Kharitonova of Russia 6-3, 7-6 (4) to reach the girls quarterfinals. Volynets will play 13-year-old U.S. sensation Cori Gauff.
   Sam Riffice, an 18-year-old Sacramento native now based in Orlando, Fla., lost to Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 in the third round of the boys event.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

CoCo upsets No. 1 Pliskova; it's all-U.S. semis

CoCo Vandeweghe reacts during the recent Bank of
the West Classic final at Stanford. Photo by Mal Taam
   Not long ago, pundits were lamenting the state of U.S. women's tennis after Serena Williams.
   Venus Williams went into a tailspin after being diagnosed with Sjogren's Syndrome, a chronic disease that saps energy and causes joint pain, in 2011.
   Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys slumped after reaching the Australian Open semifinals at 19 in 2013 and 2015, respectively.
   CoCo Vandeweghe was volatile and erratic.
   As it turns out, U.S. women's tennis is doing just fine.
   Vandeweghe and Keys, who met in the Bank of the West Classic final at Stanford last month, completed an all-American semifinals with straight-set victories today in the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.
   The 20th-seeded Vandeweghe upset top-ranked Karolina Pliskova 7-6 (4), 6-3, and the 15th-seeded Keys dominated qualifier Kaia Kanepi, a former top-15 player from Estonia, 6-3, 6-3.
   Ninth-seeded Venus Williams will face Stephens, a Fresno product, on Thursday at 4 p.m. PDT (ESPN), followed by Keys against Vandeweghe.
   Stephens defeated Williams 7-6 (5), 6-1 in the first round of the 2015 French Open in their only meeting to date. Keys is 2-0 against Vandeweghe, and both matches have come in the last five weeks on hardcourts.
   This is the first time four American women have reached the semifinals of a Grand Slam tournament since Wimbledon in 1985 (Chris Evert, Czech-born Martina Navratilova, Zina Garrison and Kathy Rinaldi) and the first time it has happened in the U.S. Open since 1981 (Evert, Navratilova, Tracy Austin and Barbara Potter).
   It's also the first time an American woman other than Serena Williams will capture a Grand Slam singles title since Venus Williams won Wimbledon in 2008. The last U.S. woman other than Venus or Serena Williams to win a major singles crown was Jennifer Capriati at the 2002 Australian Open.
   Serena Williams delivered her first child on Friday. She and her fiance, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, reportedly will move to San Francisco, where the social news website is based, after the wedding.
   The distant future looks bright for U.S. women's tennis, too, with promising teenagers CiCi Bellis (18) from Atherton in the San Francisco Bay Area, Sofia Kenin (18), Kayla Day (17), Claire Liu (17), Amanda Anisimova (15) and Cori Gauff (13).
   Vandeweghe, 25, defeated the No. 1 player en route to a Grand Slam semifinal for the second time this year. She knocked off Angelique Kerber in the round of 16 at the Australian Open.
   The loss by Pliskova, last year's runner-up to Kerber at Flushing Meadows, means Garbine Muguruza will ascend to No. 1 for the first time.
   Keys defeated Vandeweghe 7-6 (4), 6-4 for the Stanford title. Vandeweghe also was the runner-up in the 2012 Bank of the West Classic. She lost to Serena Williams after entering the main draw as a lucky loser.
   Pliskova reached the 2015 final at Stanford, falling to Kerber.
   Vandeweghe won the U.S. Open girls singles title at 16 in 2008 and played for the now-defunct Sacramento Capitals in World TeamTennis in 2009 and 2012.
   Venus Williams made her pro debut in the 1994 Bank of the West Classic, when it was held at the Oakland Coliseum Arena, and won the title at Stanford in 2000 and 2002.
   Today's junior matches were postponed by rain until tomorrow. One boy and one girl from Northern California have advanced to the third round in singles.
   Sam Riffice, an 18-year-old Sacramento native now based in Orlando, Fla., will meet Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland. And Katie Volynets, 15, of Walnut Creek in the San Francisco Bay Area will play Anastasia Kharitonova of Russia.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Fresno product Stephens reaches U.S. Open semis

   There's more to U.S. women's tennis than the Williams sisters.
   Sloane Stephens reached her first Grand Slam semifinal in four years today, edging 16th-seeded Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (4) in the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.
   Stephens, a 24-year-old Fresno product, rallied twice from a break down in the final set to become the first American woman other than the Williams sisters in the U.S. Open semis since Jennifer Capriati and Lindsay Davenport in 2004.
   Both Stephens and Sevastova have rebounded after extended injury layoffs.
   Stephens, 24, had foot surgery in January and returned to competition in July after missing 11 months.
   "I'm getting teary-eyed," Stephens said afterward in an on-court interview. "This is incredible. When I started my comeback before Wimbledon, I could have never even dreamed of having these results in my home Slam, at my favorite tournament. It's indescribable."
   Sevastova, 27, retired in 2013 for two years because of back problems. She was playing in her second consecutive U.S. Open quarterfinal after sitting out of every Grand Slam tournament for four years (2012-15).
   Stephens, who stunned Serena Williams to reach the 2013 Australian Open semifinals, will face No. 9 seed Venus Williams, a 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (2) winner over No. 13 Petra Kvitova.
   Stephens defeated Venus 7-6 (5), 6-1 in the first round of the 2015 French Open in their only meeting to date.
   It's unlikely, but the United States could monopolize the women's semifinals. In the top half of the draw on Wednesday, No. 20 seed CoCo Vandeweghe will take on No. 1 Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic, and No. 15 Madison Keys will meet qualifier Kaia Kanepi of Estonia.
   Meanwhile, the last U.S. hope in men's singles lost. No. 28 seed Kevin Anderson subdued No. 17 Sam Querrey, a 29-year-old San Francisco native, 7-6 (5), 6-7 (9), 6-3, 7-6 (7) in a 3-hour, 26-minute battle that ended at 1:50 a.m. EDT.
   It was the tallest quarterfinal matchup in a Grand Slam tournament in the Open Era, which began in 1968. Anderson is 6-foot-8 (2.03 meters), and Querrey is 6-foot-6 (1.98 meters).
   Anderson will play No. 12 seed Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain on Friday in the first major semifinal for both. Carreno Busta, who had surgery for a herniated disc in 2012, dismissed No. 29 Diego Schwartzman of Argentina 6-4, 6-4, 6-2. Anderson, 31, is 2-0 against Carreno Busta, 26.
   Fifth-seeded Bob and Mike Bryan (Stanford, 1997-98) advanced to the men's doubles semifinals with a 6-4, 7-5 victory over Frenchmen Julien Benneteau and Edouard Roger-Vasselin. The 39-year-old Bryans will face 11th-seeded Feliciano Lopez and Marc Lopez (no relation) of Spain.
   In junior singles, two players from Northern California moved into the third round.
   Sam Riffice, who was born in Sacramento and lived in nearby Roseville until age 15, dominated Tomas Machac of the Czech Republic 6-3, 6-0.
   The 18-year-old Riffice, now based at the USTA National Campus in Orlando, Fla., has not lost more than three games in a set in the tournament. He will meet Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland for a quarterfinal berth.
   Ruusuvuori upset No. 13 seed Sebastian Korda of Bradenton, Fla., 6-3, 6-3. Korda is the son of Czechs Petr Korda, the 1998 Australian Open champion, and Regina Rajchrtova, who lost in the first round of the 1988 Olympics in Seoul.
   Katie Volynets of Walnut Creek in the San Francisco Bay Area defeated Natasha Subhash of Fairfax, Va., in the Washington, D.C., area 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-1.
   Volynets, a 15-year-old Walnut Creek native whose parents are from Ukraine, will play Anastasia Kharitonova of Russia. Kharitonova ousted top seed and reigning French Open junior champion Whitney Osuigwe of Bradenton 6-4, 4-6, 6-2.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Bryans advance to U.S. Open quarterfinals

   Fifth-seeded Bob and Mike Bryan beat ninth-seeded Oliver Marach of Austria and Mate Pavic of Croatia 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 today to reach the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.
   Marach and Pavic advanced to the Wimbledon final in July, falling 13-11 in the fifth set to Lukasz Kubot of Poland and Marcelo Melo of Brazil. Marach and Pavic were playing in their first Grand Slam title match.
   The 39-year-old Bryans (Stanford, 1997-98) will meet unseeded Frenchmen Julien Benneteau and Edouard Roger-Vasselin, who defeated young Russians Karen Khachanov and Andrey Rublev 4-6, 7-6 (3), 6-2.
   The Bryans will try to avenge a 7-6 (4), 4-6 [10-6] loss to Benneteau and Roger-Vasselin on grass in the Queen's Club quarterfinals in London in June.
   The Bryans grew up in Camarillo in the Los Angeles area and now live in Florida. They own a record 16 Grand Slam men's doubles crowns, including five in the U.S. Open, but are trying to end a three-year title drought in majors.
   Benneteau and Roger-Vasselin won the 2014 French Open and were the runners-up to countrymen Pierre Hugues-Herbert and Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon last year.
   In the first round of boys doubles today, fifth-seeded Sebastian Baez of Argentina and Thiago Seyboth Wild of Brazil nipped Americans Danny Thomas and Sam Riffice, a Sacramento native now based in Orlando, Fla., 1-6, 7-6 (6) [11-9].

High hopes: Querrey, Anderson to meet in U.S. Open

    Ten years ago, two towering prospects met for the first time in the opening round of the $75,000 Sacramento Challenger at the venerable Sutter Lawn Tennis Club.
   On Tuesday, Sam Querrey and Kevin Anderson will square off for a berth in the U.S. Open semifinals.
   The 17th-seeded Querrey, a San Francisco native, dismantled 23rd-seeded Mischa Zverev of Germany 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 in 1 hour, 16 minutes in Sunday's late match at 23,771-seat Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.
   Zverev, the older brother of sixth-ranked Alexander Zverev, stunned then-No. 1 Andy Murray to reach the quarterfinals of the Australian Open in January.
   South Africa's Anderson, seeded 28th, defeated Paolo Lorenzi of Italy 6-4, 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-4 during the day session in Louis Armstrong Stadium.
   The 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) Querrey ripped 55 winners, including 18 aces, and committed just eight unforced errors in the fastest men's match of the tournament.
   "I really couldn't have done anything better out there tonight," Querrey, 29, crowed in his on-court interview. "It was my first time playing out here at night, so I wanted to make the most of it.
   "I was a little nervous at first, but I came out playing hot. Tennis is a game of momentum, and once I broke early, I felt like I was off to the races. I felt comfortable three minutes into the match, and that was the key."
   With the win, Querrey will become the No. 1 American for the first time since July 2013. He currently is third at No. 21 behind John Isner (No. 15) and Jack Sock (No. 16).
   On the women's side, Fresno product Sloane Stephens also reached the quarterfinals by beating a seeded German. Stephens, who had foot surgery in January, topped No. 30 Julia Goerges 6-3, 3-6, 6-1.
  Stephens, who ousted Serena Williams to advance to the Australian Open semifinals in 2013, will face 16th-seeded Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia for the first time.
   Sevastova defeated wild card Maria Sharapova 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 to move into the U.S. Open quarterfinals for the second consecutive year.
   Querrey is the first American man to gain the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open since Andy Roddick and Isner in 2011 and the only one remaining in singles this year.
   The 6-foot-8 (2.03-meter) Anderson, though, might as well be American. A 31-year-old veteran, he starred at the University of Illinois (2005-07), has an American wife and lives in Gulf Stream, Fla.
   Both Querrey and Anderson played part-time for the now-defunct Sacramento Capitals in World TeamTennis in 2012, but not together.
   Querrey is 9-6 against the 32nd-ranked Anderson, beginning with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 victory in Sacramento. They have split two matches this year, Querrey prevailing in five sets in the fourth round at Wimbledon in July and Anderson winning 6-4, 6-1 in the third round in Montreal last month.
   Their half of the draw will produce a first-time Grand Slam finalist, and the stars seem aligned for Querrey.
   Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are in the other half of the draw. The highest seed in Querrey and Anderson's half is No. 12 Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain. Murray, Novak Djokovic, Milos Raonic, Stan Wawrinka and Kei Nishikori -- the top five players, in order, in the 2016 year-end rankings -- missed the tournament with injuries.
   Also, Querrey is riding a wave of confidence after advancing to his first Grand Slam semifinal at Wimbledon and winning Los Cabos last month to give him a "Sombrero Double" with the Acapulco title in March.
   Last but not least, Querrey will have the support of the boisterous New York crowd.
   Anderson, meanwhile, will play in his second major quarterfinal. He lost to Wawrinka at that stage two years ago in the U.S. Open after upsetting Murray in the round of 16.
   In the first round of the junior tournaments at Flushing Meadows, two players from Northern California beat seeds in singles.
   Sam Riffice, an 18-year-old Sacramento native now based in Orlando, Fla., knocked off No. 4 Yuta Shimizu of Japan 6-3, 6-2. And Katie Volynets, 15, of Walnut Creek in the San Francisco Bay Area, took out No. 13 Emily Appleton of Great Britain 6-4, 6-4.
DOUBLES RESULTS
(Matches involving players with Northern California connections)
Women's doubles
Second round
   Timea Babos, Hungary, and Andrea Hlavackova (5), Czech Republic, def. Raquel Atawo (Fresno native; Cal, 2001-04; San Jose resident), United States, and Sabine Lisicki, Germany, 6-3, 6-4. 
   Kiki Bertens, Netherlands, and Johanna Larsson (11), Sweden, def. Julia Boserup and Nicole Gibbs (Stanford, 2011-13), United States, 6-2, 6-3.
Mixed doubles
Second round
   Lucie Hradecka, Czech Republic, and Marcin Matkowski (8), Poland, def. Raquel Atawo (Fresno native; Cal, 2001-04; San Jose resident), United States, and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi, Pakistan, 3-6, 6-3 [10-4].

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Bryans rout Aussies; Gibbs' doubles match halted

   Fifth-seeded Bob and Mike Bryan routed Australians Nick Kyrgios and Matt Reid 6-1, 6-1 today in the second round of the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.
   The 39-year-old Bryans (Stanford, 1997-98) will meet ninth-seeded Oliver Marach of Austria and Mate Pavic of Croatia on Monday for a quarterfinal berth.
   Marach and Pavic reached the Wimbledon final in July, falling 13-11 in the fifth set to Lukasz Kubot of Poland and Marcelo Melo of Brazil. It was the first Grand Slam men's doubles final for Marach, Pavic and Kubot and second for Melo, who lost in the 2013 Wimbledon title match with Ivan Dodig of Croatia.
   The Bryans grew up in Camarillo in the Los Angeles area and now live in Florida. They are trying to end a three-year Grand Slam title drought in men's doubles. They own a record 16 major crowns, including five in the U.S. Open.
   In women's doubles, the second-round match pitting 11th-seeded Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands and Johanna Larsson of Sweden against Los Angeles-area residents Julia Boserup and Nicole Gibbs (Stanford, 2011-13) was suspended by rain at 1-1.
   The match is scheduled to resume on Sunday at about 5 p.m. EDT. More rain is forecast for the morning but should end by noon. Matches are scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. 
   Gibbs' first-round singles match against Veronica Cepede Royg of Paraguay also was suspended overnight by rain. Gibbs won in three sets before falling to top-ranked Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic in three sets in the second round.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Querrey advances, but no U.S. showdown

Sam Querrey, right, plays doubles with Gilles Mueller at Indian Wells in March.
Querrey, a 29-year-old San Francisco native, beat Radu Albot of Moldova in four
sets today in the U.S. Open. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Sam Querrey did his part.
   But John Isner was upset, preventing an all-American showdown on Labor Day weekend for a berth in the U.S. Open quarterfinals.
   Querrey, seeded 17th, defeated Radu Albot of Moldova 4-6, 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 today in the third round in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., to equal his best showing in the U.S. Open. He also reached the round of 16 in 2008 and 2010.
   No. 10 seed Isner fell to No. 23 Mischa Zverev, a Moscow native who plays for Germany, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (5) in the first match of the night session in 23,771-seat Arthur Ashe Stadium. Halfway through the third round, Querrey is the only remaining U.S. man in singles.
   On the women's side, resurgent Sloane Stephens beat Ashleigh Barty of Australia 6-2, 6-4 to reach the fourth round of a major for the first time since the 2015 French Open.
   Querrey, a 29-year-old San Francisco native now living in Santa Monica in the Los Angeles area, will meet Zverev, a 30-year-old left-hander, for the first time on Sunday.
   Querrey is riding a wave of confidence after reaching his first Grand Slam semifinal in July at Wimbledon and completing a "Sombrero Double" with the Los Cabos title last month. He also won Acapulco in March.
   The bottom half of the U.S. Open draw, in which Querrey and Zverev are situated, will feature a first-time Grand Slam finalist following No. 29 seed Diego Schwartzman's 4-6, 7-5, 7-5, 6-4 victory over No. 5 Marin Cilic.
   The tournament is missing Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, defending champion Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic because of injuries.
   Stephens, a 24-year-old Fresno product, returned to competition at Wimbledon after missing 11 months because of foot surgery. The layoff changed her perspective.
   "Before I was, like, so emotional. Everything always got to me," Stephens, who upset Serena Williams to reach the semifinals of the 2013 Australian Open, told reporters. "Now, my life is good, everything's good. I play a sport for a living. I don't operate on people. This is not life or death. It's hard to realize that when you're out there playing, because there's a lot riding on it: prize money, points, so many things go into it.
    "Now I'm kind of, like, I do this for fun. I love tennis. There's not a lot of people that can say, like, Oh, yeah, I go and play tennis every day, and sweat, see all my friends, hang out, work out, and take pictures. That's it, right? I think I have it pretty good."
   Stephens will play No. 30 seed Julia Goerges of Germany on Sunday and could face 2006 champion Maria Sharapova in the quarterfinals. Stephens is 4-1 (4-0 on hardcourts) against Goerges, including a 6-1, 7-6 (3) victory two weeks ago in the Cincinnati quarterfinals.
   Sharapova defeated 18-year-old American Sofia Kenin 7-5, 6-2 in a late matchup of wild cards in Arthur Ashe Stadium and will face No. 16 seed Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia.
   Kenin, a Moscow native who grew up idolizing Sharapova, won $60,000 Challengers in Stockton in July and Sacramento last year. She could turn pro, allowing her to keep $144,000 for reaching the third round of the U.S. Open.
OTHER RESULTS
(Matches involving players with Northern California connections)
Women's doubles
First round
   Julia Boserup and Nicole Gibbs (Stanford, 2011-13), United States, def. Naomi Osaka, Japan, and Francesca Schiavone, Italy, 6-3, 6-2.
   Sorana Cirstea, Romania, and Sara Sorribes Tormo, Spain, def. Kristie Ahn (Stanford, 2011-14), and Irina Falconi, United States, 6-3, 6-2.
   Qiang Wang and Yafan Wang, China, def. Sloane Stephens (Fresno product) and Taylor Townsend, United States, 6-4, 6-4.
  

Thursday, August 31, 2017

No. 1 Pliskova survives scare from Gibbs

Nicole Gibbs, shown last year at Indian Wells, lost to top-ranked Karolina Pliskova
2-6, 6-3, 6-4 today in the second round of the U.S. Open. Photo by Mal Taam
   For one set, Nicole Gibbs was brilliant.
   The former Stanford star was scurrying around the court, even though her left thigh was wrapped, and lacing passing shots against the top-ranked player in the world.
   It didn't last, as Karolina Pliskova rallied for a 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory over the American qualifier today in the second round of the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.
   The turning point in the daytime match at Arthur Ashe Stadium came when Pliskova broke serve at love to lead 4-3 in the second set. Pliskova, a 6-foot-1 (1.86-meter) Czech, won all 17 points on her first serve in the third set.
   Gibbs, a 5-foot-6 (1.68-meter) resident of Santa Monica in the Los Angeles area, had 14 winners and only four errors in the first set but finished with 32 and 28, respectively. She had lost to Pliskova 6-0, 6-0 in their previous meeting in the second round at Sydney in 2015.
   Pliskova avoided joining the list of upset victims in the U.S. Open. Through two rounds, five of the top eight seeds have been eliminated: No. 2 Simona Halep, No. 5 and two-time runner-up Caroline Wozniacki, No. 6 and defending champion Angelique Kerber, No. 7 Johanna Konta, and No. 8 and 2004 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova.
   Gibbs won three NCAA individual titles in her three years at Stanford. She had two in singles (2012 and 2013) and one in doubles (2012), and added one NCAA team championship (2013).
   Two other ex-Stanford standouts, Bob and Mike Bryan, got off to a good start as they try to end their three-year Grand Slam title drought in men's doubles. The fifth-seeded Bryan twins, 39, defeated Czechs Roman Jebavy and Jiri Vesely 6-2, 4-6, 6-3.
   The Bryans have won a record 16 Grand Slam men's doubles titles, including five in the U.S. Open. Their last major crown came in 2014 in Flushing Meadows.
OTHER RESULTS
(Matches involving players with Northern California connections)
Men's doubles
First round
   Rohan Bopanna, India, and Pablo Cuevas (10), Uruguay, def. Bradley Klahn (Stanford 2009-12) and Scott Lipsky (Stanford, 2000-03), United States, 1-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Women's doubles
First round
    Raquel Atawo (born in Fresno; Cal, 2001-04; San Jose resident), United States, and Sabine Lisicki, Germany, def. Nicole Melichar, United States, and Anna Smith, Great Britain, 3-6, 7-5, 6-3.
  Nadiia Kichenok, Ukraine, and Anastasia Rodionova, Australia, def. CiCi Bellis (born and raised in San Francisco Bay Area), United States, and Marketa Vondrousova, Czech Republic, 6-3, 6-4.
Mixed doubles
First round
   Raquel Atawo (born in Fresno; Cal, 2001-04; San Jose resident), United States, and Aisam-Ul-Haq Quereshi, Pakistan, def. Louisa Chirico and Bradley Klahn (Stanford 2009-12), United States, 6-4, 6-4.
   Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, Spain, and Nicholas Monroe, United States, def. Kristie Ahn (Stanford, 2011-14), and Tennys Sandgren, United States, 6-4, 6-2.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Bellis suffers stunning collapse in U.S. Open

   The U.S. Open has been the scene of some of CiCi Bellis' greatest triumphs.
   Today, it was the scene of one of her most disappointing losses.
   Bellis, who was born in San Francisco and grew up in nearby Atherton, fell to Nao Hibino of Japan 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., in a first-round match postponed by rain.
   Bellis, 18, led 5-3 in the third set but collapsed in a blaze of unforced errors, especially on the forehand side. She was clearly perturbed afterward, giving the 22-year-old Hibino a perfunctory handshake at the net.
   Bellis, the youngest player in the top 50 at No. 36, will drop to about No. 43 after the U.S. Open. She reached the third round as a qualifier last year, then turned pro.
   Three years ago, Bellis stunned 12th-seeded Dominika Cibulkova in the opening round to become the youngest player to win a singles match at the U.S. Open since Anna Kournikova, also 15, in 1996. Cibulkova had advanced to the Australian Open final that year.
   Hibino, ranked No. 80, earned her first main-draw victory in a Grand Slam tournament after seven losses and topped Bellis for the first time after two defeats. Hibino won the inaugural Stockton Challenger in 2015.
   Meanwhile, Sloane Stephens, a 24-year-old Fresno product, upset No. 11 seed Cibulkova 6-2, 5-7, 6-3 in the second round. Stephens, who climbed to No. 11 in the world in 2013, returned to competition last month at Wimbledon after missing 11 months because of foot surgery. She will play Ashleigh Barty of Australia.
   Ex-Stanford star Nicole Gibbs beat Veronica Cepede Royg of Paraguay 6-0, 1-6, 6-1 in the completion of a first-round match suspended by rain. Gibbs, 24, will face top-ranked Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic.
   Sofia Kenin, who won last month's Stockton Challenger, topped qualifier Sachia Vickery 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (0) in a second-round matchup of Miami-area residents who often practice with each other.
   Kenin, 18, was born in Moscow and moved to the United States as a baby. She will take on her idol, wild card Maria Sharapova. If Kenin loses and remains an amateur, she will forfeit $144,000 for reaching the third round of the U.S. Open.
   On the men's side, No. 17 seed Sam Querrey, a 29-year-old San Francisco native, beat 32-year-old Dudi Sela of Israel 6-4, 6-1, 6-4 in the second round.
   Querrey, 6-foot-6 (1.98 meters) and 210 pounds (95 kilograms), is 9 inches (22.9 centimeters) taller and 66 pounds (30.0 kilograms) heavier than Sela.
   Querrey, who reached his first Grand Slam semifinal at Wimbledon, has not lost a set in two matches at the U.S. Open. He will meet another 5-foot-9 (1.75-meter) veteran, 27-year-old Radu Albot of Moldova, and could face Davis Cup teammate John Isner, seeded 10th, in the round of 16.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Teen stuns defending champion Kerber in U.S. Open

   Two champions of the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford played today in first round of the U.S. Open.
   Only one advanced.
   No. 6 seed Angelique Kerber, the defending champion at Flushing Meadows, lost to Naomi Osaka, 19, of Japan 6-3, 6-1 during the day session at Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York. Kerber won the 2015 Bank of the West.
   It was Osaka's first top-10 victory and the first time the defending champion lost in the first round of the U.S. Open since Svetlana Kuznetsova in 2005.
Madison Keys applauds the crowd at last month's
 Bank of the West Classic, which she won, at
Stanford. Photo by Mal Taam
   No. 15 seed Madison Keys, who won last month's Bank of the West Classic, opened the evening session with a 6-3, 7-6 (6) victory over Elise Mertens of Belgium at Ashe.
   Ex-Stanford star Nicole Gibbs leads Veronica Cepede Royg of Paraguay 6-0, 1-6, 1-0 in a match suspended by rain. The contest is scheduled to resume on Wednesday at 8 a.m. PDT. Partly cloudy weather with only a 10 percent chance of rain is forecast.
   Ashe is the only stadium at the USTA Billie Jean King Tennis Center with a roof.
   Cepede Royg, 25, is ranked No. 75, and Gibbs, a 24-year-old Southern Californian, is No. 127. But Gibbs won their only previous meeting, 6-3, 6-2 in the second round at Carlsbad, Calif., in 2015 on a hardcourt. Both players are undersized, Gibbs at 5-foot-6 (1.68 meters) and Cepede Royg at 5-foot-4 (1.63).
   The winner will face top-ranked Karolina Pliskova, who outclassed Magda Linette of Poland 6-2, 6-1.
   CiCi Bellis' first-round match against Nao Hibino of Japan was pushed back to Wednesday after the 8 a.m. match between No. 18 seed Gael Monfils and fellow Frenchman Jeremy Chardy on Court 17.
   Bellis, who grew up a five-minute drive from Stanford in Atherton, is 2-0 against Hibino, who won the inaugural Stockton Challenger in 2015. Bellis, 18, is the youngest player in the top 50 at No. 36. Hibino, 22, is ranked No. 80.
   In second-round matches scheduled for Wednesday:
   --No. 17 seed Sam Querrey, a 29-year-old San Francisco native, will meet diminutive Dudi Sela (5-foot-9 or 1.75 meters and 144 pounds or 65 kilograms) of Israel.
   --Sloane Stephens, a 24-year-old Fresno product, will take on No. 11 seed Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia.
   --Sofia Kenin, who won last month's Stockton Challenger, will play qualifier Sachia Vickery in a matchup of Miami-area residents. Kenin, 18, ousted No. 32 seed Lauren Davis of Orlando, Fla., in the first round.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Querrey dominates former top-10 player in Open

No. 17 seed Sam Querrey defeated former top-10
player Gilles Simon 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 today in the first
round of the U.S. Open. 2014 photo by Paul Bauman
   Sam Querrey could go far in the U.S. Open.   With his confidence at an all-time high, the 29-year-old San Francisco native opened with a 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 victory over Gilles Simon, a former top-10 player from France, today at Flushing Meadows.
   The 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) Querrey, coming off his first Grand Slam semifinal last month at Wimbledon, fired 10 aces in the 1-hour, 52-minute match.
   "I thought I did everything pretty well," the 17th-seeded Querrey, who now lives in Santa Monica in the Los Angeles area. told reporters. "The best thing I thought I did well was not get too down on myself. I lost serve three or four times in a row at one point, which doesn't happen too often. I did a good job of battling through that. Every part of my game felt good today, so overall I was pretty happy."
   Simon, 32, ascended to a career-high No. 6 in 2009. Both Querrey, ranked No. 21, and Simon, ranked No. 39, have reached the round of 16 in the U.S. Open twice.
   Querrey will face another 32-year-old veteran, Dudi Sela of Israel, in the second round on Wednesday. Sela, only 5-foot-9 (1.75 meters) and 144 pounds (65 kilograms), dismissed U.S. wild card Christopher Eubanks 6-2, 6-4, 6-2. Querrey leads Sela 3-2 in their head-to-head series.
   Querrey could face 10th-seeeded John Isner, 6-foot-10 (2.08 meters), in an all-American showdown in the round of 16. Querrey is 4-2 against Isner.
   Earlier today, Dmitry Tursunov lost to qualifier Cameron Norrie 7-6 (7), 6-1, retired. Tursunov, a 34-year-old Russian who owns a townhouse in the Sacramento suburb of Folsom, had his right knee taped during the match.
   Norrie, a 22-year-old left-hander, was born in South Africa, grew up in New Zealand, starred at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, still lives there, and plays for Great Britain.
   On the women's side, Sloane Stephens beat 2015 U.S. Open runner-up Roberta Vinci of Italy 7-5, 6-1 for her first victory at Flushing Meadows in three years. Stephens, a 24-year-old Fresno product, won eight of the last nine games.
   Stephens missed last year's U.S. Open with a foot injury and lost in the first round in 2015. The former world No. 11 had foot surgery and missed 11 months. She returned at Wimbledon, then reached the semifinals in Toronto and Cincinnati.
   Two years ago in the U.S. Open, Vinci pulled off one of the biggest upsets in sports history when she ended Serena Williams' bid for the first calendar-year Grand Slam since Steffi Graf's in 1988.
   The unseeded Vinci, playing in her first major semifinal at age 32, shocked the top-ranked Williams 2-6, 6-4, 6-4.
   Stephens, a semifinalist in the 2013 Australian Open (beating Williams), will face No. 11 seed Dominika Cibulkova in the second round.
    Sofia Kenin, who won the $60,000 Stockton (Calif.) Challenger last month, stunned No. 32 seed and fellow American Lauren Davis 7-5, 7-5 for her first Grand Slam victory. Kenin, 18, trailed 4-0 in the first set.
   “My dad and I made a deal (that) if I win my first round, I get to go to Tiffany's," Kenin, who was born in Moscow and moved to the United States as a baby, told reporters. “I'm going to take him out tonight in the city and we'll go.”
   If Kenin remains an amateur, she will forfeit $86,000 for reaching the second round and at least $144,000 if she beats qualifier Sachia Vickery on Wednesday.
   Kenin and Vickery, 22, live five minutes from each other in the Miami area and "practice (together) almost every single day," Vickery said.
   The winner could take on wild card Maria Sharapova, who ousted No. 2 seed Simona Halep 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Tursunov Q&A Part III: Don't blame Russia for Trump

Dmitry Tursunov says voters, not his native Russia, put Donald
Trump in the White House. 2014 photo by Paul Bauman
   Russia has been in the news a lot lately. 
   The nation almost was banned from last summer's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro because of doping. In the end, 270 of its athletes were cleared and 167 dismissed.
   Former world No. 1 Maria Sharapova returned from a 15-month doping suspension in April.
   And former FBI director Robert Mueller is heading an investigation into alleged Russian interference in last year's U.S. presidential election.
   Former top-20 player Dmitry Tursunov discussed these issues -- as well as Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, politics, favorite cultures and global warming -- during the recent $100,000 Nordic Naturals Challenger in Aptos, Calif.
   Tursunov, a 34-year-old Russian, moved to the San Francisco Bay Area at 12 to train and turned pro at 17. He owns a townhouse in the Sacramento suburb of Folsom but is based in his hometown of Moscow.
 Tursunov is scheduled to play British qualifier Cameron Norrie in the first round of the U.S. Open on Monday at 8 a.m. PDT on Court 14. It will be Tursunov's first appearance at Flushing Meadows since 2014, when he lost in the opening round to Alejandro Gonzalez of Colombia. Tursunov has reached the third round of the U.S. Open four times.
   Why has Russia had such a doping problem in Olympic sports?
   I think they wanted to win that way (laughs). I wouldn't be able to answer that question. There are a lot of theories. I believe that none of these high results can be achieved on Flintstones (vitamins). This is so far beyond what people can buy at the store. All the athletes are basically guinea pigs for all the stuff you end up buying at GNC later -- creatine powders, protein powders. Anything you buy at GNC had to be tested somewhere, and it's tested on athletes.
   I think there are basically two entities working. One is trying to develop something that helps you perform better, and the other is trying to keep up with the first one and trying to figure out, OK, this is helping you perform better, so this is considered doping.
   I don't know why marijuana is on the forbidden list because it doesn't seem like it helps with performance. But it's OK for medicinal purposes. ... Caffeine in large amounts was considered doping -- I don't know if it changed or not. If you had enough Red Bull, you would test positive. It's just gradations, I guess. ...
   I'm taking some protein shake, and I already feel nervous because anything you take, it's your responsibility. It doesn't matter where you buy it; it doesn't matter if the package doesn't say it contains something forbidden. We do get some warnings about eating in China and Mexico because steroids from the meat can get in your bloodstream.
   It's a tough situation because you can't perform eating Flintstones or One-A-Day Centrum. If you think about it, you're a race car that you're supposed to drive on street tires from Big O. You have to treat professional athletes like a race car. Don't expect it to be running on the same type of gas and using the same type of oil and tires or have anything similar to a regular car. You have to try to find advantages and improvements all over the place in order to perform better.
   What do you think of Donald Trump?
   He was always a bully. It's kind of funny because if you told anyone 10 years ago that Donald Trump was going to be president, no one would have believed it. Of course, everyone can blame Russia for it, but the fact of the matter is if another country can really influence the election of the greatest country on the planet, there's something wrong. It doesn't add up when people say America is the greatest country in the world but then they blame another country for messing with their election. They're shifting blame from themselves. Someone had to vote for him. ...
   I'm pretty far from politics, but Donald seems like not the guy you want to be friends with. He's a pretty tough, abrasive guy. I think he's fairly obnoxious. How many people would say he's a guy they would like to have a drink with or have a round of golf with? He's like the kid who would take the other kid's lunch money.
   But I also feel like he's getting so much criticism for everything. OK, he's doing some stupid s--- here and there, but even if he decides something good, people aren't going to let him do it because they're so busy criticizing him. If he's so bad, how did he end up being a candidate for president? That's puzzling to me. ... People should have been worried (about him) a long time ago, not whine and cry about it now. ... Impeach him or let him do something. ... People are fighting him tooth and nail. It's kind of sad to watch.
   Are you a dual citizen?
   No. Just Russian.
   If you could have voted in last year's U.S. presidential election, would you have, and if so, for whom?
   I don't like politics. Politicians are going to say what they need to say. Let's say I want to become mayor of a city. First, I need to identify what the citizens are most unhappy with, and then I need to sing to their tune. If they're all, hypothetically, against gay marriage, then I, as a (mayoral candidate), am going to have to say, "No gay marriages in our town." Then the citizens are going to respond to me. (I) might be for gay marriages, but to become the mayor, you need to do what the citizens want. You don't belong to yourself. You're like a windmill. If the wind blows south, you turn toward south. If it blows north, you turn around. ...
   So you don't vote in Russian elections?
   No. As much as people say voting matters, I don't think it truly does. I think most people vote without a true understanding of what they're voting for. We don't have enough information to make a qualified decision. We have to study it and analyze it. Reading media is not necessarily a good thing. Listening to a couple of (debates) ... they all have their points written out for them. They're going to point a finger and say, "Oh, yeah, but you smoked weed in college, so you wouldn't be a good president. What you got to say about that?" It's all a bunch of noise. I don't really believe in that.
   We're too consumed with looking at others instead of looking at ourselves. The world would be a much better place if each person woke up in the morning and said, How can I today be better? Instead, we say, "Donald Trump wants to build a wall. Oh my god. What a terrible president. I can't believe the damn Russians. They gave us Donald Trump for president." It's not very productive.
   What do you think of Vladimir Putin?
   I think he's doing what's best for his country, whether other people like it or not. Just like Donald Trump is going to do what's better for his country. I don't know (Putin) personally, but the public perception is he's a pretty tough guy. Some people say he's a dictator; some people say he's the best president for Russia. I don't know. I guess we'll find out in time.
   There's a lot of issues in Russia, some he's been able to fix, some he hasn't or maybe has made worse. Can we blame him for it or somebody else? ... It's not like he just waves a magic wand and corruption disappears. There has to be a lot of steps to fix it. ... Not a lot of countries are in love with him at the moment. There are sanctions and other stuff. He's sort of treated like a villain, but it's not as black and white as the media like to portray it. ...
   Honestly, I'm not the most educated person to make a qualified assessment of whether he's a good or bad president. Who am I to say Donald Trump is a bad president? A lot of people say, "He's a horrible president." OK, if you were president, would you do a better job? When I play tennis, there are 200 coaches out there saying what I should be doing different, but somehow they're not better players. It's very easy to look at it from the sideline and say, "This guy's bad, and he should be doing this and this different," but if you're so good, please be my guest. Pick up the racket and go out there.
   In tennis, I'm more or less able to say, OK, this person should do this, because I've played tennis for 30 years of my life, and I understand some things. Even then, I could be wrong. But when I have to talk about a politician or a president, it's really not my comfort zone.
   Is corruption the biggest problem in Russia?
   I live in Moscow, and Moscow is doing very well compared to most other cities. I feel the biggest problem is not corruption. It's with people. It always lies with people, within a culture. It's a collective effort. If many people are rowing in the wrong direction, the boat will go the wrong way.
   In general, the majority of people (around the world) are too consumed with greed and doing anything they can to get ahead. They don't have that much respect for anybody else. They're not considerate of others, and you can see that on the road, whether someone sits in the left lane and drives 30 miles an hour and thinks no one should pass them or whether someone is tailgating and trying to pass everybody. All these people have egos, and (when) each one thinks he's the most important person on the planet, you're going to have issues.
   I like cultures that are more respectful to others. I like cultures that cultivate pride in (one's) work and becoming a better person, a better worker, a samaritan. ... We're all too consumed with "I want this," or "I want that." Not too many people think about what's good for others, what can I do to help someone. I know it's a little like psycho-babble and that sometimes people are too busy making a living and don't want to think about helping somebody else because they can barely feed themselves. But when you always pull the blanket toward yourself, someone's going to get cold.
   What cultures do you like?
   I feel like Japanese people are more respectful. I feel like they take pride in their work. When you walk in the street, you feel like it's built for people, generations and the common good. It's not built because, "We're going to make a profit on it today," or because, "The shareholders are going to be happy."
   Even when you land in Germany, you look out the window, everything is manicured, everything is nice. They're like perfectionists. I can't say that every single German is like that. I'm sure some Germans are crazy, but I feel like they take pride in their work. I feel like when they lay tile or when they're a carpenter, it's a life trade. They wake up early, they go to work, they take pride in their work. That translates into a much more productive economy, country. In general, they're going to advance further than when they just sit on their ass, pick their nose, don't do anything and feel the world owes them. I think it's a wrong approach to life. ...
   Are you concerned or worried about global warming?
   I think people are going to mess it up way before the global warming. We're constantly having these little wars and these little sanctions on each other. We're trying to separate our little plots of land and saying, "This is mine; this is yours," "No, you keep this," "No, you give it back to me." I'm not sure if the climate is going to finish us off before we finish ourselves.
   If I have the option of trying to conserve some stuff or recycle or not use more than I need to, then I'll do it. But if someone told me that a solar or battery car is going to cost three times more than a gasoline car, of course I'm going to buy a gasoline car because I'm going to think with my (pocketbook). In the end, people always think with their (pocketbook). ...
   In general, we should not feel we're the owners of the planet. We should feel we're the guests of the planet, and as guests, we should not leave a mess behind ourselves. You make a mess, you clean it up as much as you can. We don't always have that option or have the time or energy to do it, but if guests come to stay at my house, I want them to respect my place. I think we don't do that.
   Again, we don't think about others. Generally, we just think about:"What's good for me right now, and that's what I'm going to do. The planet is going to be here for another 80 years, and I'm probably going to die in 80 years, so I might as well just turn on my car and idle for the next 20 years (laughs)."
   Did you get your philosophical outlook from reading Russian classics?
   Russian classics are generally depressing. In the U.S., all the movies sort of end on a good note. The hero struggles but prevails, and everything is great. In Russia, everyone always dies and everything is miserable, and it ends like that.
   I don't know if I got it from somewhere, but a lot of things come from analyzing it and thinking about it. In general, if you look at what you're doing and you think, OK, would you like other people to do that to you, how would you feel about it? We just have to be a little bit more considerate. When you consider something other than yourself or don't think of yourself as the middle of the universe and everything revolves around you, if you think of yourself as just part of it, then you start approaching things with a different mindset.
   It's a process and a journey. I didn't start where I am today, and I'm probably going to finish somewhere else. I'm always evolving. I think everyone has their own little journey. I'm trying to see how can I improve, and I think that's a more exciting way of approaching life. It might not be the easiest, but I think it's more rewarding when you try to improve yourself and help others than when you sit back and say everyone owes me.
   I'm not saying my way of thinking is right. It could be wrong. It's definitely not the easiest because when you're trying to be a perfectionist in a lot of things, it definitely makes life more difficult. But I can't really change myself that much.