News from the National Bank Challenger, July 9-17 at Winnipeg Lawn Tennis Club. Visit the tournament website: http://winnipeg.nationalbankchallenger.com/
Bester Ousts Top Seed Fratangelo
Canadian Philip Bester got by No. 1 seed Bjorn Fratangelo 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 on Stadium Court Thursday at the National Bank Challenger. Serving at 3-5 in the second set, Bester saved four or five match points en route to the three-set victory.
“As in any match I just kept fighting,” said Bestor, 27, who ended the match with a running forehand passing shot down the line. “The funny thing about tennis is anything can happen.”
Ranked No. 184 in the world, Bestor has won nine career pro-level Futures singles titles. The North Vancouver resident was the men’s singles champion last week at the Canada F5 Futures in Saskatoon.
“It was nice for me to win last week,” said Bestor, a finalist in junior boys’ singles at the 2006 French Open. “I’ve been struggling all year just finding my groove. I’m not playing the way I want to being playing right now, but I’m finding ways to win.”
Fratangelo came into the tournament ranked No. 110 on the ATP. He beat fellow American Sam Querrey in the first round of the French Open and took world No. 1 Novak Djokovic to three sets at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells before losing 2-6, 6-1, 6-2.
After beating Fratangelo, Bestor said Winnipeg is putting on a first-rate event this week.
“I played the Futures (in Winnipeg) a couple of years ago, and I think the title sponsor National Bank – everybody here from my previous experience as well – they do a great job of organizing the tournament well,” said Bestor. “They try to put little things out for players we need, so I’m really happy. Any tournament in Canada for a Canadian is a great place to play.”
Canadian Routliffe Advances To Semis
Erin Routliffe of Caldeon, Ontario beat Japan’s Michika Ozeki 6-4, 6-3 Friday in a women’s singles quarterfinal at the National Bank Challenger.
“Just focussing on playing my game, playing the aggressive tennis that I practice,” Routliffe cited as the key to her success in Winnipeg this week.
On Thursday, Routliffe edged No. 6 seed Ellie Halbauer of the United States 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 to reach the quarterfinals.
“I know she’s such a good player, said Routliffe, who lost 6-3, 6-1 to Halbauer at the Challenger in Granby last summer. “I just wanted to focus on getting a good first serve percentage and taking control of that first ball and that first return because I know how tough she can be. She doesn’t really give you anything.”
Routliffe, 21, is going into her senior year at the University of Alabama. She won back-to-back NCAA women’s doubles titles with Alabama partner Maya Jansen in 2014 and 2015.
“I’m playing with one of my best friends so it makes it easier,” Routliffe said of her victories with Jansen. “We never thought we’d win two in a row but it was super fun.”
After winning their second NCCA women’s doubles championship, Routliffe and Jansen set their sights on teaming up for the 2015 US Open.
“Normally the winner of the NCAA’s gets the wildcard (into the US Open) but obviously I’m Canadian and they don’t give it to foreigners,” said Routliffe, who was born in Auckland, New Zealand and moved to Canada at age four.
Routliffe/Jansen got into the US Open last year by first winning a qualifying event in Atlanta and then winning at the US Open National Playoffs in New Haven. The pair lost to Racquel Kops-Jones/Abigail Spears 6-2, 6-1 in the first round of the Grand Slam tournament in New York.
“We played the sixth seeds but it was so much fun,” Routliffe said. “It was such a great experience to be in the players’ lounge, see all the pros – you get a taste of the dream.”
Routliffe is playing with Jansen in women’s doubles at the National Bank Challenger. The team won its first round match Thursday 6-4, 6-2 against the Japanese duo of Miharu Imanishi/Michika Ozeki.
Ball Kid Crew
Tennis Manitoba’s Ball Kid Crew has been hard at work this week at the National Bank Challenger. The tournament features about 35 ball kids who arrive each day about 15 minutes before the first matches, which have normally been at 10 am.
“Some kids have gone right to eight o’clock, nine o’clock at night,” said Robert Kennedy, co-ordinator of the ball kids at the event.
As a requirement of the ATP, the balls kids are on court for all of the men’s matches at the National Bank Challenger.
“If we had a bigger crew we would have liked to have done all the matches (on the women’s side) but we just don’t have the numbers,” Kennedy said.
The ball kids had three training sessions to get ready for the professional tournament, which included a morning of training at the Deer Lodge Classic in June.
“We’ve had good feedback from the players and the umpires and referees,” said Kennedy. “Any mistakes the kids have made they’ve learned from them.”