Friday, February 10, 2017

Pospisil tops 6-foot-11 Opelka, 19, to gain S.F. quarters

Vasek Pospisil, left, and Jack Sock slap hands during a doubles match
in the 2015 U.S. Open. Pospisil and Sock won the Wimbledon men's
doubles title in 2014. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Vasek Pospisil shouldn't be playing a Challenger in San Francisco this week.
   This, after all, is a guy who:
   --Ascended to No. 25 in the world three years ago at age 23.
   --Reached the Wimbledon singles quarterfinals in 2015.
   --Won the Wimbledon men's doubles title with Jack Sock in 2014.
   --Helped Canada advance to the Davis Cup semifinals in 2013.
   Alas, the 6-foot-4 (1.93-meter) Pospisil has plunged to No. 133.
   Hello, San Francisco, where Pospisil is joined by recently hired coach Mark Woodforde, a Hall of Fame doubles legend.
   Pospisil, seeded seventh in the $100,000 KPSF Open, on Thursday prevented an all-American sweep of the quarterfinal berths in the top half of the draw.
   Pospisil defeated 19-year-old Reilly Opelka, 6-foot-11 (2.11 meters), 6-7 (5), 6-1, 6-3 indoors at the Bay Club SF Tennis Center to set up a tantalizing first-time meeting with top-seeded Frances Tiafoe tonight after a 7 o'clock doubles match.
   Tiafoe, also 19, is the youngest player in the top 100 at No. 94 and the only player in the draw to reach the second round of the Australian Open last month. Pospisil lost in the first round of qualifying in Melbourne.
   Opelka stunned then-No. 28 Kevin Anderson en route to the semifinals in Atlanta on the ATP World Tour last August.
Reilly Opelka eyes a backhand volley during the
$100,000 Fairfield (Calif.) Challenger last October.
Opelka stunned then-No. 28 Kevin Anderson en
route to the semifinals in Atlanta on the ATP World
Tour last August. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Also in the top half of the KPSF Open draw, eighth-seeded Denis Kudla will take on yet another 19-year-old sensation, Michael Mmoh, for the first time at about 4 p.m.
   Kudla, 24, seeks his third Challenger semifinal of the year and second in two weeks. He fell to Taylor Fritz, still another 19-year U.S. prospect, 7-6 in the third set in last week's $125,000 Dallas Challenger.
   Mmoh, the Saudi Arabia-born son of Nigeria native and former journeyman pro Tony Mmoh, ousted third-seeded Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan on Wednesday for his first victory over a current top-100 player. Mmoh defeated Pospisil two weeks ago in the first round of the $75,000 Maui Challenger en route to the quarterfinals.
   Only one seed and one American remain in the bottom half of the KPSF Open draw, and they will meet after the Kudla-Mmoh encounter. Fifth-seeded Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland will face qualifier Eric Quigley.
   Laaksonen reached the semifinals of the Maui Challenger and played on the Swiss Davis Cup team that lost to the United States 5-0 last week in Birmingham, Ala. Swiss stars Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka skipped the first-round series.
   Quigley reached the NCAA singles final in 2012 as a senior at the University of Kentucky, losing to Steve Johnson of USC, and advanced to the semis of the $100,000 Aptos Challenger as a qualifier last August. Aptos is a 90-minute drive south of San Francisco on the Pacific Ocean.
   At 2 p.m. today, Tatsuma Ito of Japan will play qualifier Ze Zhang of China. Ito, a Dallas semifinalist, upset sixth-seeded Peter Polansky of Canada 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-4. Zhang topped qualifier Brayden Schnur of Canada 6-4, 6-2 after the ousting second-seeded Fritz in the first round.
   Here are the KPSF Open singles and doubles draws and today's schedule.

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