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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Loeb, Gordon, Sanford and Albanese Qualify for $100K Dow Corning Tennis Classic

©Colette Lewis 2016--
Midland, Michigan

The draw for the $100,000 Dow Corning Tennis Classic in Midland was already full of Americans, with 22 entries in the 32-player draw. Four more were added to that number today, with all four qualifiers coming from the USA, including two teenagers.

Sixteen-year-old Michaela Gordon needed only 49 minutes to get by 15-year-old Isabelle Boulais of Canada, who managed to win only 17 points in the match compared to Gordon's 50 in the 6-0, 6-0 result. Gordon, who also won her first round qualifying match 6-0 ,6-0, will play in her first main draw of a $100,000 tournament on Wednesday against former UCLA star Jennifer Brady.

2015 NCAA champion Jamie Loeb, the No. 8 seed in qualifying, will also be making her singles debut in the main draw at the $100,000 level after defeating Nadja Gilchrist 6-1, 6-3. After a tough three months, in which she won only one qualifying match in six tournaments, Loeb was happy to string together three wins in three days.

"It was probably Lexington in July," Loeb said of her last three-match winning streak. "So yeah, it feels good. I felt I played pretty well today. She hits a really flat, big ball so there was a lot of banging out there, but overall, I held my ground and played well."

Loeb arrived in Midland after playing the three $25,000 Pro Circuit events on the Florida clay.

"These courts are very quick, but I've grown up on indoor hard and I love it," said the 20-year-old from New York. "They're definitely quick; there are definitely not a lot of long points out here, so it's a lot of first strike tennis. So far, that's been in my favor."

Loeb will play Julia Boserup in the first round of Wednesday.

Alexandra Sanford, who turned 17 last month, earned her way into the main draw with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 win over No. 2 seed Natalia Vikhlyantseva of Russia, who is 18 years old.

Sanford got off to a quick 4-1 lead, but after Vikhlyantseva took a medical timeout at the changeover, she lost ten points in succession. But as she showed in her three-set win over Ingrid Neel on Monday, Sanford regrouped quickly, breaking Vikhlyantseva for 5-4, then saving two break points to close out the set with a forehand winner and backhand that forced an error.

The only break in the second set came with Sanford serving at 3-4 and Vikhlyantseva served well to close out the set at love.

Sanford fell behind 2-1 in the third set, but got the break right back. Vikhlyantseva requested a second medical timeout for her left leg before serving at 2-3, but both players appeared unaffected by that delay with each holding serve.  Errors cost Vikhlyantseva in her next service game and she was broken, but Sanford was unable to serve out the  match, going down 0-40 and losing the game two points later.

"I was a little disappointed after I couldn't close it out," said Sanford, who served for the match against eventual girls champion Dalma Galfi in the first round of the US Open in September. "I've had matches when I've been up 5-3 in third and haven't been able to close them out. But on the changeover, I just talked myself through it, got myself to calm down. I just tried to let it go, stay in the moment and focus point by point in the 5-4 game."

Sanford said her strategy was to keep the ball deep and move the 6-footer, and she was successful doing that throughout the match. In the final,  Sanford also benefited from the erratic Vikhlyantseva's errors, and that proved the difference in the final game. A netted backhand and a forced error made it 0-30, but Vikhlyantseva came up with a big serve to get it back to 15-30.  A backhand wide gave Sanford two match points and she thought she had won the match when her return at the feet of Vikhlyantseva was not called out by the baseline judge. The chair overruled however, calling the return long, and Sanford, who had said c'mon and began approaching the net, had to regroup for a replayed point.

"She [the chair umpire] immediately told me it was out," said Sanford, who showed remarkable maturity in handling such a frustrating turn of events. "I just tried to let it go and focus on the next point. It's not easy, but I tried to force myself to do it. In the past, I would have been upset by that, maybe let it carry over, affect the next couple of points, but I went back to the fence and just regrouped. I think I did a good job of that."

On match point number two, Vikhlyantseva eventually got the upper hand in a typically hard-hitting rally, setting up for a short forehand putaway that she inexplicably sent wide.

Sanford, who will play Jennifer Brady in the first round, played the Dow Corning Classic two years ago, losing in the first round of qualifying, so her progress in that time has encouraged her.

"I didn't have any expectations," said Sanford, who trains with Ty Tucker in Columbus, but spent most of last month in Florida traveling to the $25,000 tournaments with the USTA. "I just wanted to not put pressure on myself and play the way I've been practicing and just have fun. My results in January weren't great, but I was working on a lot of things and trying to adjust to my new court positioning that I had. Obviously I was going to take some hard losses, but I felt like it's starting to come together and it's a great time to do it. I'm super excited."

The fourth qualifier is Lauren Albanese, who defeated No. 1 seed Nicole Vaidisova of the Czech Republic 7-6(5), 0-6, 6-4.

First round action during the day saw Veronica Cepede Royg of Paraguay, Jovana Jaksic of Serbia and Mayo Hibi of Japan post wins. Cepede Royg defeated wild card Taylor Townsend 7-6(3), 1-6, 6-3; Jaksic topped Kristie Ahn 6-4, 7-6(5) and Hibi defeated Riko Sawayanagi of Japan 6-1, 6-1.  Last year's finalist Louisa Chirico downed Grace Min in the only all-American first round match of the day, 6-3, 6-2.

CiCi Bellis will face No. 2 seed Tatjana Maria of Germany in the featured night match.

Jonathan Kelley is on site at the Greater Midland Tennis Center, and he will have more on Tuesday's action at On The Rise Tennis.

Draws, schedules and the link to live streaming is available at the tournament website.


I forget said...

Has Jamie Loeb been injured? I just haven't seen much on her recently. She left college to play pro, right?