Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Rankings movers of the week: Querrey, Altamirano

Sam Querrey, shown in 2014, rose from No. 32 to No. 27 in this week's
world rankings after reaching the third round of the Australian Open.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Rising five places in the world rankings might not sound like much, especially considering Collin Altamirano of Sacramento has skyrocketed 584 spots in the last two weeks.
   But the higher you go, the harder it is to move up. So Sam Querrey's jump from No. 32 to
No. 27 is significant.
   Querrey, a 29-year-old San Francisco native, improved by reaching the third round of the Australian Open (losing to top-ranked Andy Murray) after falling in the first round in Melbourne last year.
   It's Querrey's highest ranking since he was No. 26 on Aug. 5, 2013. He attained his career high of No. 17 in 2011.
   Altamirano, a junior at two-time defending NCAA champion Virginia, soared from No. 1,395 to No. 811 by advancing to the quarterfinals in Los Angeles and the final in Long Beach on the Futures circuit.  
WORLD RANKINGS
   Players with Northern California ties ranked in the top 1,000 in the world (change from previous week in parentheses):
Men's singles
   No. 27 (+5) -- Sam Querrey, 29-year-old San Francisco native.
   No. 179 (-10) -- Dennis Novikov, 23-year-old resident of Milpitas in San Francisco Bay Area.
   No. 277 (career high, +8) -- Mackenzie McDonald, 21-year-old resident of Piedmont in San Francisco Bay Area.
   No. 403 (+2) -- Dmitry Tursunov, 34-year-old resident of Folsom in Sacramento area, 
   No. 719 (+1) -- Ryan Haviland, 36-year-old former Stanford All-American.
   No. 767 (+87) -- Bradley Klahn, 26-year-old former NCAA singles champion from Stanford.
   No. 807 (+1) -- John Lamble, 24-year-old Saratoga resident and former Santa Clara star. 
   No. 811 (+372) -- Collin Altamirano, 21-year-old Sacramento native and resident.
   No. 864 (no change) -- Connor Farren, 22-year-old product former USC standout from Hillsborough in San Francisco Bay Area.
Men's doubles
   No. 3 (+2) -- Bob Bryan, 38-year-old former NCAA singles and doubles champion from Stanford..
   No. 3 (+2) -- Mike Bryan, 38-year-old former NCAA doubles champion from Stanford.
   No. 61 (-9) -- Scott Lipsky, 35-year-old former Stanford All-American.
   No. 80 (+8) -- Sam Querrey, 29-year-old San Francisco native.
   No. 161 (-14) -- Dennis Novikov, 23-year-old resident of Milpitas in San Francisco Bay Area.
   No. 287 (career high, +15) -- Mackenzie McDonald, 21-year-old resident of Piedmont in San Francisco Bay Area.
   No. 415 (+53) -- John Paul Fruttero, 35-year-old former Cal All-American.
   No. 540 (+5) -- John Lamble, 24-year-old Saratoga resident and former Santa Clara star
   No. 824 (no change) -- Bradley Klahn, 26-year-old former NCAA singles champion from Stanford.
Women's singles
   No. 50 (-1) -- Sloane Stephens, 23-year-old Fresno product. 
   No. 72 (career high, +1) -- CiCi Bellis, 17-year-old product of Atherton in San Francisco Bay Area.
   No. 89 (+3) -- Nicole Gibbs, 23-year-old former NCAA singles and doubles champion from Stanford..
   No. 228 (+1) -- Kristie Ahn, 24-year-old former Stanford All-American.
   No. 409 (-67) -- Maria Sanchez, 27-year-old Modesto product.
   No. 512 (-16) -- Carol Zhao, 21-year-old former Stanford star.
   No. 724 (-14) -- Michaela Gordon, 17-year-old resident of Saratoga in San Francisco Bay Area
Women's doubles
   No. 20 (+1) -- Raquel Atawo (formerly Kops-Jones), 34-year-old San Jose resident and 2003 NCAA doubles champion from Cal.
   No. 60 (-1) -- Maria Sanchez, 27-year-old Modesto product.
   No. 147 (+2) -- Nicole Gibbs, 23-year-old former NCAA singles and doubles champion from Stanford.
   No. 242 (career high, +5) -- CiCi Bellis, 17-year-old product of Atherton in San Francisco Bay Area.
   No. 327 (-21) -- Carol Zhao, 21-year-old former Stanford star.   
   No. 400 (-14) -- Kristie Ahn, 24-year-old former Stanford All-American.
   No. 602 (+8) -- Maegan Manasse, 21-year-old Cal senior.
   No. 709 (+1) -- Felicity Maltby, 19-year-old Sunnyvale resident.
   No. 731 (+5) -- Alexandra Facey, 23-year-old product of Cameron Park in Sacramento area. 
   No. 731 (+5) -- Kat Facey, 23-year-old product of Cameron Park in Sacramento area.
   No. 742 (-38) -- Michaela Gordon, 17-year-old resident of Saratoga in San Francisco Bay Area. 
   No. 884 (+1) -- Sloane Stephens, 23-year-old Fresno product.  

TV schedule, calendar

TV SCHEDULE 
(All broadcasts on Tennis Channel; all times in California)
Thursday
   Davis Cup, Czech Republic at Australia, 4 p.m. (live).
Friday 
   Davis Cup, Spain at Croatia, 6 a.m. (live).
   Davis Cup, Switzerland at United States, Czech Republic at Australia, 1 p.m. (live).
   Davis Cup, Czech Republic at Australia, Spain at Croatia, Switzerland at United States, 8 p.m. (replay).
Saturday
   Davis Cup, Czech Republic at Australia, Spain at Croatia, Switzerland at United States, 3 a.m. (replay).
   Davis Cup, Spain at Croatia, 7 a.m. (live).
   Davis Cup, Switzerland at United States, Czech Republic at Australia, noon (live).
Sunday
   Davis Cup, Czech Republic at Australia, Spain at Croatia, Switzerland at United States, 3 a.m. (replay).
   Davis Cup, Spain at Croatia, 6 a.m. (live).
   Davis Cup, Switzerland at United States, Spain at Croatia, 9 a.m. (live).
   Davis Cup, Switzerland at United States, Spain at Croatia, 3 p.m. (replay).
CALENDAR
   Friday-Sunday -- Davis Cup, World Group, first round, United States vs. Switzerland in Birmingham, Ala.
   Monday-Feb. 12 -- $100,000 KPSF Open (men), Bay Club SF Tennis Center, San Francisco.
   Feb. 11-12 -- Fed Cup, World Group, first round, United States vs. Germany at Royal Lahaina Resort, Maui.
   March 6-19-- BNP Paribas Open, Indian Wells. 2016 champions: Novak Djokovic, Victoria Azarenka, Pierre-Hugues Herbert/Nicolas Mahut, Bethanie Mattek-Sands/CoCo Vandeweghe.
   March 20-26 -- USTA International Spring Championships, Carson, Calif.
   March 25-April 2 -- Easter Bowl, Indian Wells.
   April 1-2, 8-9 -- Gold River Junior Championships, Gold River Racquet Club, Gold River, Calif.
   April 7-9 -- Maze Cup (Northern California vs. Southern California juniors), Bakersfield.

   April 22-23 -- Fed Cup semifinals.
   April 26-29 -- Pacific-12 Conference Men's and Women's Championships, Ojai, Calif.
   April 27-30 -- Big West Conference Men's and Women's Championships, Indian Wells.
   April 27-29 -- West Coast Conference Men's and Women's Championships, Claremont, Calif.
   April 27-30 -- Mountain West Conference Women's Championships, Las Vegas.
   April 28-30 -- Mountain West Conference Men's Championships, Boise, Idaho
   April 28-30 -- Big Sky Conference Men's and Women's Championships, Phoenix.
   April 29-30, May 6-7 -- Rio Del Oro Junior Championships, Rio Del Oro Racquet Club, Sacramento.
   May 12-14 -- NCAA Division I Men's and Women's Team Championships, first and second rounds at campus sites.
   May 18-29 -- NCAA Division I Men's and Women's Championships, Athens, Ga.
   May 28-June 11 -- FRENCH OPEN, Paris. 2015 champions: Novak Djokovic, Garbine Muguruza, Feliciano Lopez/Marc Lopez, Caroline Garcia/Kristina Mladenovic, Martina Hingis/Leander Paes.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Results of all 2017 Australian Open finals

Roger Federer
2015 photo by Paul Bauman
Serena Williams
2016 photo by Paul Bauman
   Men's singles -- Roger Federer (17), Switzerland,
def. Rafael Nadal (9), Spain, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6,
6-3.
   Women's singles -- Serena Williams (2), United States, def. Venus Williams (13), U.S., 6-4, 6-4.
   Men's doubles -- Henri Kontinen, Finland, and John Peers (4), Australia, def. Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan (3), United States.
   Women's doubles -- Bethanie Mattek-Sands, United States, and Lucie Safarova (2), Czech Republic, def. Andrea Hlavackova, Czech Republic, and Peng Shuai (12), China, 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-3.
   Mixed doubles -- Abigail Spears, United States, and Juan Sebastian Cabal, Colombia, def. Sania Mirza, India, and Ivan Dodig (2), Croatia, 6-2, 6-4.
   Boys singles -- Zsombor Piros (15), Hungary, def. Yshai Oliel (4), Israel, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.
   Girls singles -- Marta Kostyuk (11), Ukraine, def. Rebeka Masarova (1), Switzerland, 7-5, 1-6, 6-4.
   Boys doubles -- Hsu Yu Hsiou, Taiwan, and Zhao Lingxi (4), China, def. Finn Reynolds, New Zealand, and Duarte Vale, Portugal, 6-7 (8), 6-4 [10-5].
   Girls doubles -- Bianca Vanessa Andreescu, Canada, and Carson Branstine (3), United States, def. Maja Chwalinska and Iga Swiatek, Poland, 6-1, 7-6 (4).

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Federer tops Nadal in classic to end Slam drought

Roger Federer defeated Rafael Nadal in five sets today in the Australian
Open for his first Grand Slam title in five years. He extended his record
to 18 overall. 2015 photo by Paul Bauman
   He came to the Australian Open as a long shot.
   Roger Federer, 35, was ranked and seeded 17th and playing in his first official tournament since Wimbledon last July because of arthroscopic knee surgery. He hadn't won a Grand Slam title since Wimbledon in 2012.
    But Federer put on a vintage performance to pull out a 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 victory over ninth-seeded Rafael Nadal today in Melbourne and extend his record to 18 major singles crowns. Nadal, 30, remains tied with Pete Sampras for second place with 14.
   The next Grand Slam tournament, the French Open beginning in late May, will mark the third anniversary of Nadal's last major title. He has been plagued by injuries and a subsequent loss of confidence. However, Nadal appears rejuvenated after hiring fellow Mallorcan and former world No. 1 Carlos Moya as his coach at the end of last year.
Nadal remains tied with Pete Sampras for second
place with 14 major singles titles. 2015 photo by
Paul Bauman
   "I don't think either of us believed we'd be in the final six months ago," Federer, who won his fifth Australian Open title and first since 2010, said during the awards ceremony. "I would have been happy to lose, too. The comeback was perfect as it was."
   It looked bleak for Federer early in the fifth set. Trailing 2-1, he had his right thigh treated. Nadal held for 3-1, but Federer reeled off five consecutive games to end the 3-hour, 38-minute classic.
   Federer fought off two break points in the final game and converted his second championship point on a cross-court forehand on the sideline set up by a strong serve down the middle.
   Nadal challenged the call, so Federer could not celebrate until the replay. When it showed his shot caught the line, Federer jumped up and down in joy, fell to his knees and burst into tears.
   Nadal had been 23-11 against Federer with five victories in their last six matches. But Federer pounded his serve, moved beautifully, ripped his formidable forehand and crushed his one-handed backhand to beat Nadal in the Australian Open for the first time in four matches, including a five-set loss in the 2009 final.
   Federer became the oldest man to win a Grand Slam singles title since 37-year-old Ken Rosewall in the 1972 Australian Open.  
   Serena Williams, also 35, defeated her sister Venus, 36, on Saturday to set the Open Era record of 23 Grand Slam singles titles. She had been tied with Steffi Graf. Margaret Court of Australia holds the all-time mark of 24.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Serena beats Venus for Open Era-record 23rd title

Serena Williams, shown in 2014, defeated Venus Williams 6-4, 6-4 for her
seventh Australian Open singles title. Tri Nguyen/TriNguyenPhotography.com 
   Well, wasn't that thrilling.
   In a typically ragged match between the Williams sisters, Serena defeated Venus 6-4, 6-4 today in the Australian Open in Melbourne to set the Open Era record with her 23rd Grand Slam singles title.
   Serena, who had been tied with Steffi Graf, now will try to break Margaret Court's all-time record of 24.
   Serena won her seventh Australian Open title, regained the No. 1 ranking and improved to 17-11 against Venus. Serena has won eight of the last nine matches in the head-to-head series.
   The sisters combined for 48 winners, 48 unforced errors, 17 aces (10 by Serena) and eight double faults in the final.
   Serena, 35, flailed melodramatically at serves to the corners and did not chase some balls. It appeared she could have blown Venus, 36, off the court if she had been so inclined.
   Only once, in the 10th game of the match, did ESPN commentator Chris Evert acknowledge "the elephant in the room, that (Serena) is playing her sister." Evert's colleagues, Chris Fowler and Mary Joe Fernandez, did not mention it at all during the match.
   Venus, who was diagnosed with an energy-sapping autoimmune disease in 2011, was playing in her first Grand Slam final since losing to Serena at Wimbledon in 2009. Venus has won seven major singles titles, most recently Wimbledon in 2008.
   The sisters have combined to win five singles titles in the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford. Venus triumphed in 2000 and 2002, and Serena prevailed in 2011, 2012 and 2014.
            
   The Williams sisters weren't the only American siblings playing for a title today. The Grand Slam drought of third-seeded Bob and Mike Bryan (Stanford 1997-98) continued with a 7-5, 7-5 loss to fourth-seeded Henri Kontinen of Finland and John Peers of Australia.
   The 38-year-old Bryan twins have won a record 16 Grand Slam men's doubles titles (six in the Australian Open) but none since the 2014 U.S. Open.
   Kontinen and Peers won their first major title, together or individually, and defeated the Bryans in straight sets for the third consecutive time in the last three months. Kontinen and Peers also won the Paris Masters and ATP World Tour Finals in London last November.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Nadal tops Dimitrov in thriller, will face Federer

Rafael Nadal reached his first Grand Slam final since winning the 2014
French Open for his 14th major singles title. 2015 photo by Paul Bauman
   Welcome to the Retro Open.
   Venus vs. Serena in their first Grand Slam final in eight years. 
  Roger vs. Rafa in their first major title match in six years.
   Who will the chair umpires be, Doc Brown and Marty McFly?
   Rafael Nadal, seeded No. 9, completed the matchups with a stirring 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (5), 6-7 (4), 6-4 victory over No. 15 Grigor Dimitrov in 4 hours, 56 minutes today in the Australian Open in Melbourne.
   Dimitrov had opened the year with 10 consecutive victories. The 25-year-old Bulgarian won Brisbane for his fifth ATP World Tour title.
   Of the four singles finalists, Nadal is the only one under 35, and he's no youngster at 30.
   "It's special to play with Roger again in a final of a Grand Slam," Nadal told reporters. "I cannot lie. It's great. It's exciting for me and for both of us that we are still there and we are still fighting for important events. So that's important for us, I think. That's very special."
   Nadal, who had been plagued by injuries and a subsequent loss of confidence, reached his first Grand Slam final since winning the 2014 French Open for his 14th major singles title. He added fellow Mallorcan and former world No. 1 Carlos Moya to his coaching team at the end of last year. Moya had been working with world No. 3 Milos Raonic.
   The women's final is scheduled for Saturday at 12:30 a.m. California time, and the men's final is set for Sunday at the same time. ESPN will televise the matches. Unfairly, Federer, who beat Swiss compatriot Stan Wawrinka in five sets in the semifinals, has two days to rest and Nadal one.
Federer won the last of his record 17 Grand Slam singles titles
at Wimbledon in 2012. 2015 photo by Paul Bauman
   Federer, 35, is playing in his first official tournament since losing to Raonic in the Wimbledon semifinals last July. Federer was out with a knee injury.
   Nadal has a 23-11 record against Federer with five victories in their last six matches. Nadal leads 6-2 in Grand Slam finals (4-0 on clay in the French Open) and 3-0 in Australian Open matches, including a 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-2 victory in the 2009 final.
   This will be the first meeting between the superstars since Federer won 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 on an indoor hardcourt in the final of Federer's hometown tournament in Basel in October 2015. It will be their first matchup in a Grand Slam final since Nadal triumphed in four sets in the 2011 French Open.
   Federer won the last of his record 17 Grand Slam singles titles at Wimbledon in 2012. Nadal is tied with Pete Sampras for second place with 14.
   Serena Williams, meanwhile, is even with Steffi Graf for the Open Era mark of 22 Grand Slam singles titles. The Open Era began in 1968, when professionals were admitted to Grand Slam tournaments. Margaret Court holds the all-time record of 24.
   Venus, who was diagnosed with an energy-sapping autoimmune disease in 2011, will be playing in her first Grand Slam final since losing to Serena at Wimbledon in 2009. Venus has won seven major singles titles, most recently Wimbledon in 2008.
   The sisters have combined to win five singles titles in the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford. Venus triumphed in 2000 and 2002, and Serena prevailed in 2011, 2012 and 2014.
   Serena, 35, is 16-11 against Venus, 36. Their meetings are halfhearted affairs because neither wants to beat the other. Look for Serena to put on a dramatic show about how hard she's fighting but, consciously or subconsciously, let Venus win one last Grand Slam title. Serena will have more chances to surpass Graf and Court.
   Venus will win in three sets, giving the match the illusion of being competitive. Memo to Venus and Serena: For what's left of your careers, do everyone a favor and don't play in the same tournaments. You can alternate Slams. Thank you.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Venus, Serena reach final; so does Federer

Venus Williams became the oldest Grand Slam singles
finalist since Martina Navratilova at Wimbledon in 1994.
2016 photo by Paul Bauman
   Venus Williams reached her first Grand Slam singles final in eight years today, beating fellow American CoCo Vandeweghe 6-7 (3), 6-2, 6-3 in the Australian Open in Melbourne.
   The 13th-seeded Williams, 36, became the oldest Grand Slam singles finalist since 37-year-old Martina Navratilova at Wimbledon in 1994. The unseeded Vandeweghe, 25, was playing in her first major semifinal.
   Williams, a seven-time Grand Slam singles champion, was diagnosed with Sjogren's Syndrome, which saps energy and causes joint pain, in 2011. She will seek her first major singles title since Wimbledon in 2008 against second-seeded Serena Williams, who routed unseeded Mirjana Lucic-Baroni of Croatia 6-2, 6-1 in 50 minutes.
   Venus is 11-16 against Serena, including 2-6 in Grand Slam finals. Serena beat Venus 7-6 (4), 3-6, 6-4 in the 2003 Australian Open final. Serena also won their last meeting in a major final, which came at Wimbledon in 2009.
   Russian hackers released confidential records last September showing that both Williams sisters received legal exemptions to use prohibited substances between 2010 and 2015. Serena was treated for a blood clot in her lung in 2010.
Serena Williams will try to break the Open Era record of
22 Grand Slam singles titles she shares with Steffi Graf
and regain the No. 1 rankings. 2016 photo by Paul Bauman
   Serena, 35, is trying to win a record seventh Australian Open singles title, break the Open Era record of 22 majors she shares with Steffi Graf and regain the No. 1 ranking. Margaret Court holds the all-time record of 24 Grand Slam singles crowns.
   Serena owns three singles titles in the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford (2011, 2012 and 2014) and Venus two (2000 and 2002).
   No. 17 Roger Federer defeated No. 4 Stan Wawrinka 7-5, 6-3, 1-6, 4-6, 6-3 in an all-Swiss men's semifinal. The 35-year-old Federer, who missed the last six months of 2016 with a knee injury, improved to 19-3 against Wawrinka and became the oldest man to reach a Grand Slam singles final since 39-year-old Ken Rosewall in the 1974 U.S. Open.
   No. 9 Rafael Nadal will face No. 15 Grigor Dimitrov on Friday at 12:30 a.m. Nadal is 7-1 against Dimitrov, who won the last meeting 6-2, 6-4 in the Beijing quarterfinals last October on an outdoor hardcourt.
   Third-seeded Bob and Mike Bryan (Stanford 1997-98) advanced to the doubles final with a 7-6 (1), 6-3 victory over unseeded Spaniards Pablo Carreno Busta and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. 
Roger Federer became the oldest man to reach a Grand
Slam singles final since 39-year-old Ken Rosewall in
the 1974 U.S. Open. 2015 photo by Paul Bauman
   The 38-year-old Bryan twins will meet fourth-seeded Henri Kontinen of Finland and John Peers of Australia. They beat Aussie wild cards Marc Polmans and Andrew Whittington 6-4, 6-4.
   Kontinen and Peers defeated the Bryans in straight sets en route to consecutive titles in Paris and the ATP World Tour Finals in London last November.
   The Bryans have won a record 16 Grand Slam men's doubles titles, including six in the Australian Open. But their last major crown came in the 2014 U.S. Open.
   The Bryans recently announced their retirement from Davis Cup competition after 14 years with the U.S. team. They hold the American record for doubles victories by a team, having gone 24-5. They clinched the last of the United States' record 32 Davis Cup titles in 2007 against Russia in Portland, Ore.
   Top-seeded Bethanie Mattek-Sands of Phoenix and Mike Bryan, who grew up in Camarillo in the Los Angeles region, withdrew from their mixed doubles quarterfinal against Elina Svitolina of Ukraine and Chris Guccione of Australia. It was the second consecutive walkover for Svitolina and Guccione. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Lucic-Baroni gains first major semifinal in 18 years

Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, playing in last year's U.S. Open, has
overcome a turbulent past to reach the Australian Open semi-
finals at age 34. Photo by Paul Bauman
   The last time Mirjana Lucic-Baroni reached a Grand Slam semifinal, Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky dominated the news.
   Eighteen years later, Lucic-Baroni did it for the second time. She surprised fifth-seeded Karolina Pliskova, the U.S. Open runner-up last September, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 today in the Australian Open in Melbourne.
   Pliskova, the Brisbane champion in the first week of January, had won nine consecutive matches.
   After today's upset, the 79th-ranked Lucic-Baroni kneeled on the court and sobbed. She then broke down during her on-court interview with Rennae Stubbs.
   "I know this means a lot to every player to reach the semifinals, but to me, this is overwhelming," said Lucic-Baroni, a 34-year-old Croat who knocked off third-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska in the second round. "I will never, ever, ever forget this day or the last couple of weeks.
   "This has truly made my life and everything bad that happened OK. Just the fact that I was this strong and that it was worth fighting for, it's really incredible."
   As a teenager, Lucic-Baroni was a prodigy along with Martina Hingis and Venus Williams. Lucic-Baroni became the youngest player to win an Australian Open title when she took the 1998 women's doubles crown at 15 years, 10 months with Hingis. At 17, Lucic-Baroni defeated Monica Seles en route to the Wimbledon semifinals in 1999.
   But Lucic-Baroni's career was derailed by problems with her father, who she has said physically abused her and tampered with her prize money. From 2003 through 2009, she did not play in a Grand Slam tournament.
   "There have been more beatings than anyone can imagine," Lucic-Baroni once said.
   Countered Marinko Lucic at the time: "I never used excessive force, and if I did give her the occasional slap, it was because of her behavior. I did what I believed was best for the child."    
   Lucic-Baroni has not advanced past the first round in seven appearances in the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford. She will face No. 2 seed and six-time Australian Open champion Serena Williams in the second semifinal on Wednesday night (California time) on ESPN2.
   Williams, seeking an Open Era-record 23rd major singles title, dismissed No. 9 seed Johanna Konta of Great Britain 6-2, 6-3 in their first meeting. Williams and Konta have won four of the last six Bank of the West titles between them.
   Williams is 2-0 against Lucic-Baroni, but they have not met since 1998.
   In the first semifinal at 7 p.m., No. 12 Venus Williams will play unseeded fellow American CoCo Vandeweghe. Williams won their only meeting 6-4, 6-3 in the first round of last year's Italian Open in Rome on clay.
   No. 4 Stan Warwinka will take on No. 17 Roger Federer in an all-Swiss men's semifinal on Thursday at 12:30 a.m. (ESPN). Federer, who missed the last six months of 2016 with a knee injury, leads the head-to-head series 18-3.
   In the other men's semifinal, No. 9 Rafael Nadal will face No. 15 Grigor Dimitrov on Friday at 12:30 a.m.
   Nadal topped No. 3 Milos Raonic 6-4, 7-6 (7), 6-4 to reach his first Grand Slam semifinal since he won the 2014 French Open for his 14th major singles title.
   Dimitrov, nicknamed "Baby Fed" because his playing style is similar to Federer's, dismissed No. 11 David Goffin 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 to gain his second Grand Slam semifinal.
   Nadal is 7-1 against Dimitrov, who won the last meeting 6-2, 6-4 in the Beijing quarterfinals last October on an outdoor hardcourt.

New Hall of Famers dominated Bay Area tourneys

   Kim Clijsters and Andy Roddick, who were elected to the International Tennis Hall of Fame on Monday, were practically adopted Northern Californians.
   Clijsters won the Bank of the Classic at Stanford four times (2001, 2003, 2005 and 2006), and Roddick captured three titles in the now-defunct SAP Open in San Jose (2004, 2005 and 2008).
   Clijsters won four Grand Slam singles crowns (three in the U.S. Open) and two major doubles titles. She also played on Belgium's Fed Cup championship team in 2001.
   Roddick used his thundering serve to claim one Grand Slam singles title, the 2003 U.S. Open, and reach three Wimbledon finals. He lost to Roger Federer each time at the All-England Club, including 16-14 in the fifth set in 2009.
   Roddick led the United States to its last Davis Cup championship, in 2007, and remains the nation's last man to win a major singles title.
   He joins countryman Michael Chang, Yannick Noah of France, Manuel Orantes of Spain and Gabriela Sabatini of Argentina as Hall of Famers with one Grand Slam singles crown.

Venus, CoCo -- in Aussie semis -- have NorCal ties

Venus Williams, playing in the Bank of the West Classic at Stan-
ford last July, became the oldest woman to reach the Australian
Open semifinals in the Open Era. Photo by by Paul Bauman
   Northern California has played a prominent role in the careers of Americans Venus Williams and CoCo Vandeweghe, who will meet in the Australian Open semifinals.
   Williams, 36, made her professional debut at 14 in Oakland in 1994, won the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford in 2000 and 2002 and reached last year's final.
   Vandeweghe, 25, played World TeamTennis for the now-defunct Sacramento Capitals in 2009 at 17 years old and in 2012. She advanced to the final of the 2012 Bank of the West Classic as a lucky loser, falling to Serena Williams.
   Venus Williams, seeded No. 13, beat No. 24 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia 6-4, 7-6 (3) on Monday (California time) in Melbourne to become the oldest female semifinalist in the Australian Open in the Open Era (since 1968). Pavlyuchenkova played for the Capitals at age 15 in 2006.
   The unseeded Vandeweghe dismantled No. 7 Garbine Muguruza, the reigning French Open champion, 6-4, 6-0 to reach her first Grand Slam semifinal. Muguruza won the Bank of the West doubles title in 2014 with fellow Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro.
   Vandeweghe, the niece of former NBA star Kiki Vandeweghe, was coming off a straight-set victory over top-ranked and defending champion Angelique Kerber.
CoCo Vandeweghe, shown in the 2012 Bank of
the West Classic at Stanford, reached her first
Grand Slam semifinal. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Venus Williams beat Vandeweghe 6-4, 6-3 in the first round of the Italian Open in Rome on clay last year in their only career meeting.
   In an all-Swiss men's semifinal in Melbourne, No. 4 Stan Wawrinka will meet No. 17 Roger Federer.
   Wawrinka, who won the first of his three Grand Slam singles titles in the 2014 Australian Open, defeated No. 12 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France 7-6 (2), 6-4, 6-3.
   Federer, who has won four of his record 17 major singles titles in the Australian Open, eliminated unseeded Mischa Zverev of Germany 6-1, 7-5, 6-2.
   Zverev, the runner-up in the 2012 Sacramento and Tiburon Challengers, had stunned top-ranked Andy Murray in the fourth round.
   The 35-year-old Federer, who missed the last half of 2016 with a knee injury, is 18-3 against Wawrinka, 31. They won the doubles gold medal in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
   Meanwhile, No. 3 seeds and six-time Australian Open champions Bob and Mike Bryan (Stanford, 1997-98) reached the semifinals with a 7-6 (5), 5-7, 6-4 victory over No. 9 Ivan Dodig of Croatia and Marcel Granollers of Spain.
   The 38-year-old Bryan twins have won a record 16 Grand Slam men's doubles titles but none since the 2014 U.S. Open. They will play unseeded Spaniards Pablo Carreno Busta and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.
   On the women's side, No. 11 Raquel Atawo (former Kops-Jones, Cal 2001-04) of San Jose and Xu Yifan of China lost to No. 2 Bethanie Mattek-Sands of Phoenix and Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic 6-1, 6-1.
   In the second round of mixed doubles, No. 1 seeds Mattek-Sands and Mike Bryan dispatched Xu and Fabrice Martin of France 6-3, 6-2.
   Atawo, 34, and Robert Lindstedt of Sweden fell to Michaella Krajicek of the Netherlands and Raven Klaasen of South Africa 6-4, 6-4. Lindstedt, 39, played at Fresno State before transferring to Pepperdine.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Reigning, former Bank of the West champs to meet

Johanna Konta, playing in the U.S. Open last
August, will face Serena Williams for the first
time in the Australian Open quarterfinals.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Serena Williams and Johanna Konta, who have combined to win four of the last six singles titles in the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford, will meet in the Australian Open quarterfinals.
   Williams, the No. 2 seed who grew up in Compton in the Los Angeles area, beat No. 15 Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic 7-5, 6-4 today in Melbourne.
   No. 9 Konta, a Sydney native who became a British citizen in 2012, defeated Ekaterina Makarova, a Russian seeded No. 30, in the fourth round for the second consecutive year, 6-1, 6-4. Last year, Konta prevailed 8-6 in the third set.
   Williams won the Bank of the West Classic in 2011, 2012 and 2014. Konta captured her first WTA Tour title in last year's tournament, defeating Venus Williams.
   Serena Williams, 35, and Konta, 25, will meet for the first time.
   Williams seeks her 23rd Grand Slam singles title, which would break a tie with Steffi Graf for the record in the Open Era (since 1968). Margaret Court holds the all-time mark of 24. Six of Williams' crowns have come in the Australian Open.
   Konta will try to reach her second straight Australian Open semifinal. She has never played in a major final.
   Including last week's Sydney title, Konta has won nine consecutive matches and 18 straight sets.
   Meanwhile, identical twins Bob and Mike Bryan (Stanford 2011-13) and San Jose resident Raquel Atawo (formerly Kops-Jones, Cal 2001-04) reached the men's and women's doubles quarterfinals, respectively.
   The 38-year-old Bryans, seeded No. 3, have won six Australian Open titles. They beat unseeded Brian Baker of Nashville, Tenn., and Nikova Mektic of Croatia 6-3, 7-6 (11).
   The 11th-seeded Atawo, 34, and Xu Yifan of China crushed Liang Chen and Yang Zhaoxuan of China 6-2, 6-0.
   Atawo and Xu will take on No. 2 seeds Bethanie Mattek-Sands of Phoenix and Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic. Mattek-Sands and Safarova have won three Grand Slam women's doubles titles, including the 2015 Australian Open.

Giant-killers Zverev, Vandeweghe starred in NorCal

Mischa Zverev, left, poses with fellow Moscow natives Dmitry Tursunov,
middle, and Igor Andreev during the 2012 Aptos (Calif.) Challenger.
Tursunov, who's still active at 34, and Andreev, who's retired, are former
top-20 players. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Five years ago, a German left-hander with a dynamic serve-and-volley game and a history of injuries reached back-to-back Challenger finals in Northern California.
   On Saturday (California time), Mischa Zverev used his old-school game to stun top-ranked Andy Murray 7-5, 5-7, 6-2, 6-4 in the Australian Open in Melbourne and reach his first Grand Slam quarterfinal.
   Later, CoCo Vandeweghe of Rancho Santa Fe in the San Diego area eliminated top-ranked and defending champion Angelique Kerber 6-2, 6-3 to gain her second major quarterfinal.
Zverev serves to Daniel Kosakowski in the semifinals of the
2012 Sacramento Challenger. Zverev advanced to the final,
in which he lost to James Blake. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Zverev's victory followed Denis Istomin's upset of six-time and defending champion Novak Djokovic, seeded No. 2, in the second round.
   For the first time in the Open Era, the Australian Open lost both top seeds and both defending champions before the quarterfinals.    
    It's also the first time the top two men's seeds have lost in a major since Roger Federer and Andy Roddick in the 2004 French Open, won by Gaston Gaudio over fellow Argentine Guillermo Coria in the only Grand Slam final of their careers.
   Murray won his first ATP World Tour title in the SAP Open in San Jose at 18 in 2006, repeated the following year and never returned. The tournament folded after the 125th edition in 2013.
   Vandeweghe played World TeamTennis for the now-defunct Sacramento Capitals in 2009 at 17 and in 2012. She also reached the final of the 2012 Bank of the West Classic at Stanford as a lucky loser, falling to Serena Williams. Kerber won the 2015 Bank of the West Classic.
   Williams can regain the No. 1 ranking by winning her 23rd Grand Slam singles title, which would break a tie with Steffi Graf for the record in the Open Era (since 1968). Only Margaret Court (24) has won more.
   The 25-year-old Vandeweghe, ranked 35th, will face seventh-seeded Garbine Muguruza, the reigning French Open champion.
   Zverev, who saved two match points in his second-round victory over No. 19 seed John Isner, will take on No. 17 Federer.
Runner-up CoCo Vandeweghe and champion
Serena Williams pose with their trophies in
the 2012 Bank of the West Classic at Stanford.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   The favorites for the men's title now are:
   --No. 3 seed Milos Raonic, last year's Wimbledon runner-up.
   --No. 4 Stan Wawrinka, who won the first of his three Grand Slam singles crowns in the 2014 Australian Open.
   --No. 9 Rafael Nadal, a 14-time Grand Slam singles champion seeking his first one since the 2014 French Open.
   --The 35-year-old Federer, who has won a record 17 Slams but none since Wimbledon in 2012.
   Zverev, a 29-year-old Moscow native who's ranked 50th, has been overshadowed by his 19-year-old brother. Alexander Zverev, ranked and seeded 24th, lost to Nadal in five sets in the third round. Nadal has touted 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) Alexander as a future world No. 1.
   Mischa Zverev, 6-foot-3 (1.90 meters), lost to Americans James Blake and Jack Sock in the 2012 Sacramento and Tiburon finals, respectively.
   Murray, a three-time Grand Slam singles champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist, was trying to win his first Australian Open title. He has five runner-up finishes, falling just short the last two years and in three of the last four. All five losses have come against the top-ranked player, Federer in 2010 and Djokovic the subsequent four times.
   Also Saturday, Australian wild cards Alex Bolt and Bradley Mousley outlasted Sam Querrey, a San Francisco native, and Donald Young of Atlanta 7-5, 3-6, 7-5 to reach the quarterfinals.
   In the first round of mixed doubles, Raquel Atawo (formerly Kops-Jones) of San Jose and Robert Lindstedt of Sweden edged No. 3 seeds Andrea Hlavackova of the Czech Republic and Edouard Roger-Vasselin of France 0-6, 7-6 (6) [10-8].
   Atawo won the 2003 NCAA doubles title with Cal teammate Christina Fusano, a Sacramento native. Lindstedt played at Fresno State before transferring to Pepperdine.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Scary good: 'USTA hasn't seen a player like this since Capriati'


CiCi Bellis, left, poses with her former coach, Monique Javer,
last month at the Broadway Tennis Center in the San Fran-
cisco suburb of Burlingame. Javer, who was born in Burlin-
game and lives in nearby Hillsborough, reached No. 56 in the
world in 1992. Photo courtesy of Monique Javer
   This is the second in a three-part series on San Francisco Bay Area teenage phenoms CiCi Bellis and Katie Volynets.
   It all began with Halloween.
   That's when family friend and ex-professional player Monique Javer witnessed CiCi Bellis' energy and determination.
   "We went trick-or-treating with the Bellises in the city (San Francisco) when my daughter was 3 and CiCi might have been 6," Javer, formerly ranked in the top 60 in the world, said of Gordon and Lori Bellis' only child.
   As Javer recalls, CiCi (short for Catherine Cartan, her grandmother's maiden name) was dressed as a tiger -- an appropriate choice, given her subsequent competitiveness.
   "I said, 'Gordon, you better get your daughter into something like gymnastics or figure skating' because she kept saying, 'Let's get more candy!' " Javer said. "CiCi's like, 'I'm not going home; I need more candy.' I said, 'OK, you guys, it's 10 o'clock at night. I'm exhausted. I have to get my daughter home and change the diaper.' 'No -- more candy!' That's why I said, 'Get her in a sport.'
   "They called the next day and said, 'Would you hit with her?' I said, 'No,' because we're good friends. Then I said OK, I would. But I think if she had done any other sport, she'd be at the top. I don't think it's just tennis. I think she was born with that seed. If it was gymnastics, she'd be in the Olympics right now. That's just who she is."
   Bellis, a 17-year-old product of Atherton in the San Francisco Bay Area, turned pro last September after reaching the third round of the U.S. Open as a qualifier. She hopes to follow Venus Williams, 36, Serena Williams, 35, and Madison Keys, 21, as a U.S. star.
   At No. 73 in the world, Bellis is by far the youngest player in the top 100. Next is No. 36 Ana Konjuh, a Croat who turned 19 on Dec. 27. Bellis, who's featured as one of five women to watch in Tennis magazine's 2017 preview issue, will be 18 on April 8.
   "Every goal she's ever set, she's achieved," noted Javer, who worked with Bellis until she was 14, except for a one-year break at 11. "If CiCi says top 50, she'll be top 50. If she says top 10, she'll be top 10.
   "All those years working with her, people said, 'Why are you working with her? She's so little.' You don't take away someone's dream. It doesn't matter what size you are in tennis. It's what you do out there, how you compete, how you believe in yourself, what you can and can't do. If she believes she can go all the way, she will. People said, 'Why should she turn pro?' I said, 'Because she's too good for college tennis. She's ready to play as a pro.'"
   Then Javer dropped a bombshell.
   "The USTA hasn't seen a player like this since (Jennifer) Capriati," Javer declared. "They have not had one. And Capriati was great. She was exciting. She was fun to watch. When you get a young player in, it's great for the sport. We miss Capriati. I know she had her troubles, but boy was she fun to watch against (Monica) Seles. (Capriati) worked hard."
   Bellis' combination of talent and charisma, Javer contends, separates her from the Williams sisters, International Tennis Hall of Famer Lindsay Davenport and Davenport's protege, the eighth-ranked Keys.
   "There's some excitement when CiCi plays," Javer said. "She creates attention like Jennifer where people want to watch. Some players draw attention and have that appeal -- CiCi has that. Her dad used to call her the 'Energizer Bunny.' She is. She's like a little wind-up Energizer Bunny. She doesn't stop. She's positive. She's go-go."
Bellis, 8, waves to the camera as Javer shakes hands with another
junior at the Burlingame Country Club in 2007. Photo courtesy
of Gordon Bellis
   Bellis is fiery yet composed on the court.
   "CiCi is one of the best competitors that I've seen among the best young players in the world," Martin Blackman, the general manager of USTA Player Development and a former Stanford star, proclaimed in an e-mail from Melbourne, where he is attending the Australian Open. "She stays focused on getting better and making good decisions, with the knowledge that results are a product of process. This approach to competition reflects a rare maturity and ability to stay in the moment."
   As precocious as Bellis is, nobody compares to Capriati -- and therein lay the problem.
   Capriati made her professional debut in 1990 at age 13 years, 11 months, reaching the final of a hard-court tournament in Boca Raton, Fla., and gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated. She advanced to the semifinals of the French Open three months later in her Grand Slam debut and became the youngest player to crack the top 10 at 14 years, 235 days.
   But Capriati's early success exacted a big emotional toll. After a first-round loss in the 1993 U.S. Open, she took almost 2 1/2 years off, was arrested on charges of shoplifting and possession of marijuana, and went five years without winning a Grand Slam match.
   Capriati rebounded to win three Grand Slam singles titles, the first coming in the 2001 Australian Open at age 24, and ascend to No. 1 later that year. Injuries ended her career at age 28 in 2004, and she was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012.
   Venus and Serena Williams turned pro at 14 after being held out of junior tournaments by their iconoclastic father, Richard. Venus made her pro debut in Oakland, across the bay from Atherton, in 1994.
   "They did a different path (from Bellis)," Javer noted. "It worked for them, and it didn't work for anyone else."
   Bellis "did it the old-school way," according to Javer. "She won the 10s, the 12s, the 14s, the 16s, the 18s. She was No. 1 in every age group and No. 1 in the juniors in the world. She has a foundation.
   "Lori (a former NCAA Division I recruit in Indiana) never let her skip her age group (in national tournaments), and I'll tell you this: The reason CiCi is so much better than every American junior is that she didn't skip her age group. All these other kids are playing the 18s, and they belong in the 14s -- winning. Everyone says, 'They play better in the 18s.' Well, of course they do. There's no pressure, but you're never going to be like CiCi. She beats everyone her own age. She rarely loses to someone younger than her. ... You have to play your own age group."
   Furthermore, Javer asserted, "CiCi played consolations. She never defaulted a consolation. These girls who play the 18s ... 'Oh, I lost second round; I'm not playing the consolations.' Who does that (plays them) now? And people wonder why we don't have (teenage) American pros in the top 100, top 200. We only have CiCi and (No. 197) Kayla Day. But Kayla Day has played every age group and been No. 1 in every age group."
   Davenport (6-foot-2, 175 pounds) and Keys (5-10, 145), meanwhile, are bigger and more powerful than Bellis (5-7, 120). Capriati, by the way, also is 5-7.
   "(Davenport and Keys) are great, and they did well coming up," Javer allowed. "They're absolutely fantastic, but CiCi's a little different. She's a lot like Jennifer. They just have that same personality, that spunk, that energy."
   Bellis appears to have everything -- talent, passion, drive, temperament, tennis IQ, charisma, nationality, personality and, yes, looks -- to be a star not only on but off the court. After turning pro, she signed lucrative endorsement contracts with Nike (clothes and shoes) and Babolat (rackets).
Javer, a Burlingame native, played No. 1 for Great Britain
and represented that nation in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
Her mother, Anne, was born in England. Photo courtesy of
Monique Javer
   Bellis' agent, Marijn Bal of IMG, also represents two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic and reigning Olympic singles gold medalist Monica Puig of Puerto Rico.
   Bal, reached by telephone in Melbourne, said Bellis "is extremely marketable. She comes from a great market being in the U.S. She is a very humble, approachable, down-to-earth, normal girl who has both feet on the ground. I describe her often as the girl next door.
   "For her, the sky is the limit. She has the potential to be one of the best players in the world and win Grand Slam titles, to compete for the No. 1 spot in the world. Combined with who she is as a person and her off-court demeanor, the care she takes for others, the nice family that she comes from, she's extremely marketable because a lot of people will use her as an example. She has good morals and standards."
   Bellis has everything, that is, except size in today's era of power, although the serve is less important in women's tennis than men's. You don't have to be a giant to win Grand Slam singles titles (hello Angelique Kerber, Li Na, Flavia Pennetta, Marion Bartoli, Francesca Schiavone, Svetlana Kuznetsova and, most of all, Justine Henin). But it helps (hello Davenport, Kvitova, Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka, Ana Ivanovic and Garbine Muguruza).
   "I don't like it when people say, 'Oh, you can't do this because of your size,' " Javer groused. "It's all about your strike zone and your power. Now that (Bellis) is hitting a little bit flatter, it's allowing her to hit harder. (Dominika) Cibulkova is tiny -- she's what, 5 feet or 5-1? (she's actually listed at 5-3) -- but she hits really flat."
   Javer, who reached the second round in all four Grand Slam tournaments, is 5-foot-10 (1.77 meters).
   "But I don't have the speed of CiCi -- I never did," Javer conceded. "She has the speed of an Olympic track runner. She's the fastest thing ever on the court. That girl can cover anything. She can move. So what you (lack) in height, you make up in speed."
   Javer, a 49-year-old native of Burlingame and resident of nearby Hillsborough, climbed to a career-high No. 56 in the world in 1992. She played No. 1 for Great Britain (her mother, Anne, was born in England) and competed for that nation in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
   Javer lost in the first round of the 1992 Games to Barbara Paulus of Austria on clay. Capriati won the gold medal, beating Steffi Graf in the final.
   Javer also played for Great Britain against the United States in the old Wightman Cup in London in November 1988. Beforehand, she said she would imagine all the spectators -- including Queen Elizabeth -- were naked.
   "It will make me laugh and ease the tension," Javer, then 21, told United Press International.
   Seventeen years later, Javer began working with Bellis and knew immediately she could beat enormous odds.
   "It's so hard to become a pro and do what Capriati, Kathy Rinaldi, Marianne Werdel -- all the players I grew up with -- did," said Javer, who's actually nine years older than Capriati and never played her. "There's one in a million that rises to the top 100, that shines through. (CiCi) is that one person that shines through. She's one in a million.
   "You just see that one client that you can just tell ... Now I understand when I (attended Nick Bollettieri's academy) what he meant when he said, 'Monique, you're one of my girls.' I get it. He knew I was going to be a pro. You can just see it."
   Javer has known Bellis' parents for 30 years, and her in-laws have known the family for 50 years.
Bellis celebrates after winning a key point
during her three-set loss to eventual cham-
pion Anhelina Kalinina in the quarterfinals
of the 2015 Sacramento Challenger. Photo
by Paul Bauman
   "After lesson one, you could just see she had it," Javer recalled. "She works hard. I hit with her (recently) for the first time in three years because I had breast cancer. I'm fine now. It was like nothing had ever changed. She's the same humble person.
   "We usually text each other after every match win or lose. We have a quote; she said it to me: 'Monique, you taught me that if I ever lose to somebody, I never lose to them twice.' She always beats them back. That's the fire in her. She's just different."
   Indeed, Bellis has avenged losses to Latvia's Jelena Ostapenko, the 2014 Wimbledon girls champion currently ranked No. 38; American Shelby Rogers, a French Open quarterfinalist last year; and Kazakhstan's Zarina Diyas, ranked as high as No. 31 in January 2015.
   Those are only a few of Bellis' stunning results in the last three years. At 15 in 2014, she became the youngest player to:
   --Win the USTA girls 18-and-under national championship since Davenport in 1991. The title gave Bellis an automatic wild card into the U.S. Open.
   --Win a U.S. Open match since Anna Kournikova in 1996. Bellis stunned the 12th-seeded Cibulkova of Slovakia in the first round in 2014 before losing to Diyas. Cibulkova had reached the Australian Open final that year, falling to since-retired Li of China.
   --End the year as the world's No. 1 junior since Russia's Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, also 15, in 2006. Pavlyuchenkova is ranked No. 27 in the world after climbing to a career-high No. 13 in 2011.
   Bellis has beaten five top-50 players, including three (Cibulkova, Rogers and Zhang Shuai of China) who have reached the quarterfinals or better in a Grand Slam tournament.
   Furthermore, Bellis has a 15-match winning streak after ending 2016 with titles in two $50,000 indoor tournaments in Canada (Saguenay and Toronto) and the inaugural $125,000 Hawaii Open in Honolulu.
   Zhang, Bellis' victim in the Honolulu final, shocked second-seeded Simona Halep and the 15th-seeded Keys en route to the quarterfinals of last year's Australian Open.
   Bellis, suffering from a hamstring strain, withdrew from this year's Australian Open.
   None of Bellis' success surprises Javer.
   "Not at all," Javer declared. "I always said to her mom (Lori), 'She's like Capriati she's so good.' The only thing I'm hoping is when she plays now, she'll start to believe she can beat players like Serena and Kerber and have no fear against those players because when she plays those matches, she has nothing to lose. I hope she can ... realize those players are scared of her. The top 10 are always nervous about a young player coming up. Nobody wants to play the young phenom.
   "That's the next step for her, to believe that, OK, those players have all the pressure and you have no pressure. That's the one thing that would be awesome. It will happen, but only she can do that. No one else can do that."
Bellis talks to the media after upsetting sixth-seeded Jelena
Ostapenko, ranked No. 38 then and now, in the first round
of the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford last July. Bellis,
who grew up in neighboring Atherton, reached the quarter-
finals of the WTA Premier Level tournament. Photo by
Paul Bauman
   Bellis has played former world No. 1 Serena Williams and current No. 1 Kerber once each. Both times, Bellis lost 6-1, 6-1 in less than an hour.
   "I thought she had a chance to beat Serena two years ago in Miami," opined Javer, who watched the third-round encounter on television. "I thought she could have won that, and everyone's like, 'You're crazy -- she can't beat Serena.' I said, 'Serena was nervous.' CiCi had nothing to lose. And she'll get there with experience.'
   Javer didn't hesitate when asked if Bellis has top-10 potential.
   "Absolutely," Javer exclaimed. "One thing in her game she knows she needs to work on is her serve, and she can do that. She's only 17. Her (two-handed) backhand is world class; her backhand is superb. Her groundstrokes are superb."
   ESPN commentator Brad Gilbert -- a lifelong Bay Area resident who reached No. 4 in the world and coached Andre Agassi, Andy Murray and Andy Roddick -- also is bullish on Bellis.
   "Need to watch her play more at the tour level to really give better feel for her level, but top 25 for sure for now," Gilbert tweeted.
   Blackman, the general manager of USTA Player Development, understandably is more cautious than Javer and Gilbert about Bellis' future.
   "CiCi can become a great player and maximize her potential," Blackman, who trained as a teenager with Agassi and Jim Courier at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy, wrote in an e-mail. "I don't make predictions; they don't help the player.
   "CiCi is a great mover and is able to absorb pace and re-direct the ball. Because of that, she is not afraid of playing bigger, stronger opponents. She is also committed to developing an all-court game, which means that we'll continue to see her add tools and weapons to her repertoire every year."  
   And eventually win one or more Grand Slam singles titles?
   "I can see CiCi doing it, absolutely," Javer declared. "She loves tennis. I've never seen her so happy on the court and pumped. She's got the foundation, she's working hard, she's gotten bigger and stronger. She's got to be in the right hands, right frame of mind. She's got a chance, how about that?
   "You get one good draw at a Grand Slam, you get an opening, you never know what happens. Everyone gets that opportunity. You don't know where it is, but you get it, like that match against Arantxa Sanchez."
   Javer faced Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario in the second round of the 1991 Australian Open, when the Spaniard was 19 and ranked sixth in the world. She climbed to No. 1 four years later.
   "I had her 6-4, 4-1, point for 5-1, and I ended up losing it," Javer recalled. "That was an opportunity because that draw was wide open to the semis. If (Bellis) gets the opportunity and she goes for it, yeah, absolutely."
   For Bellis, that would be sweet indeed.
   Next: Katie Volynets, 15, makes a name for herself.