Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - June 21, 2006

A new face at Stanford

Teenager Nicole Vaidisova joins a veteran cast in Bank of West

by Rick Eymer

While crowd favorites Kim Clijsters and Lindsay Davenport will return to the Bank of the West Classic this summer, perhaps teenager Nicole Vaidisova will draw the most interest when the event gets under way at Stanford's Taube Tennis Center beginning Monday, July 24.

Vaidisova, of course, splashed on the scene with her remarkable run through the French Open. The 17-year-old defeated top-ranked Amelie Mauresmo and reigning Wimbledon champion Venus Williams to reach the semifinals of a grand slam event for the first time ever.

She's ranked 13th in the world these days, but it's not just the French Open. Vaidisova won a tournament at Strasbourg earlier this year and is 19-8 on the season, including a 6-3 record on hardcourt.

Vaidisova has won six WTA Tour titles in her career, so it was no surprise to many observers that she did so well at Roland Garros. She also reached the fourth round of the Australian Open.

Vaidisova will get another chance to display her tennis talents when Wimbledon gets underway on June 26.

Seedings for the 120th All-England Championships will be announced on Wednesday. Qualifying for Wimbledon began on Monday.

Centre Court underwent a major redevelopment since last year, getting a nifty facelift which should add a sparkling new luster to the atmosphere.

Since winning the title last year, Williams has been limited in her playing time because of an elbow injury. She played — and lost — one match through the first four months of the season.

Williams rebounded to win nine of her next 12 matches (and is 1-1 against Martina Hingis, another former Bank of the West champion) but she's still looking for her first title of the year. Williams has three Wimbledon titles to her credit, and usually plays well on the grass surface.

Davenport withdrew from the tournament on Monday with a sore back. She hasn't played since the middle of March. Serena Williams withdrew from Wimbledon in late May because of a sore knee.

The Bank of the West generally features a strong field of ranked players. The event, now in its 36th year, boasts former champions like Clijsters, Davenport, Williams and Martina Hingis.

Clijsters is currently ranked second in the world while Davenport is sixth.

The Bank of the West is the opening women's event for the U.S. Open Series, which leads up to September's U.S. Open in New York, the final grand slam event of the season.

Most of the participants in the Bank of the West will be competing at Wimbledon.

Adam Barrett, who also runs the NASDAQ-100 Open tournament in Miami (Roger Federer won this year's event) every March, was named the Bank of the West Tournament Director in May.

"Leading off the U.S. Open Series enables the Bank of the West Classic to set the tone for a great summer of tennis," Barrett said. "We look forward to an exciting week of tennis on the most impressive college campus in the country."

Stanford's Amber Liu, a two-time NCAA singles champion, hopes to make the Bank of the West one of her first professional tournaments. Liu went through graduation ceremonies at Stanford on Sunday.

Liu lost to Clijsters, then-ranked first in the world, in her first appearance at the Bank of the West.

Clijsters is the defending Bank of the West champion and went on to win the U.S. Open Series and the U.S. Open to become the 12th woman to surpass $10 million in career earnings.

Several other Stanford products usually play in the Bank of the West as well. Lilia Osterloh, an NCAA singles champion, is the top American in the USTA Pro Circuit with 77.5 points while Laura Granville, a two-time NCAA singles champion, is third with 49.5 points.

The Bank of the West is the longest running women's only professional tennis tournament. A Tier II event, it features a 28-player singles draw and a 16-team doubles draw with total prize money of $600,000.

Tickets range from $18 to $75, with the qualifying round on July 22 and 23 free to the public. Morning sessions begin at 11 a.m. and evening sessions at 7:30 p.m. through Thursday. Friday's sessions start at noon and 7:30 p.m., with Saturday's semifinals scheduled for 1 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Sunday's championship match begins at noon.

Tickets are available by calling 1-866-982-8497 or visiting www.BankoftheWestClassic.com on the internet.

Men's tennis

The upper bracket of the Recoating West USTA 15K tournament in Rocklin last week had a Stanford feel to it, as three former Cardinal All-Americans reached the quarterfinals and two made it to the semifinals.

David Martin and Scott Lipsky were Stanford teammates between 2000-03 and Sam Warburg was their teammate in 2002-03. They ended up beating each other, with Martin reaching Sunday's championship match.

Martin, who won three qualifying matches just to make it into the main draw, dropped a 7-6 (3), 7-5 decision to Brendan Evans in the finals.

Martin beat the fourth-seeded Lipsky, 6-3, 7-6 (4), in the semifinals.

Martin also advanced in a walkover when the top-seeded Warburg was unable to play the quarterfinal match.

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