Sports

Gibbs outlasts Zhao in a match between Stanford tennis aces

 

Nicole Gibbs and Carol Zhao each spent a lot of time on the courts at Stanford's Taube Family Tennis Center the past decade and when they met as opponents for the first time Monday night, they played like they never wanted to leave.

Gibbs, who turned pro after helping Stanford win the 2013 NCAA championship, beat Zhao, who helped the Cardinal win the NCAA championship in May, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, in the first round of the Bank of the West Classic in a match that lasted over two hours.

Gibbs moves on to meet fourth-seeded CoCo VandeWeghe on Thursday at 7 p.m.

"The obvious threat is her serve, which is so effective," Gibbs said. "She plays a big game. I look forward to playing a little less stressed. I think the pressure shifts after getting through the first match."

Zhao picked up her biggest paycheck yet as a pro, earning $6,990.

She earned a combined $1,700 through her first three professional tournaments, a span of eight matches in places like El Paso, Baton Rouge and Sumter.

"I wasn't breaking even most weeks," said Zhao, who turned 21 last month. "I've talked to Gibbsy a little bit and she had great advice for me. I'm trying to find my own way still."

Zhao will pick up at least another $1,620 when she joins Gibbs for the doubles tournament. They'll play Jelena Ostapenko and Arina Rodionova on Wednesday.

"I've known her a long time and on the court it's all about the matches," Zhao said.

The biggest challenge for Gibbs was realizing that her opponent knew the court as well as she did.

"It was tough mentally," Gibbs said. "Here's someone who knows the court as well as me, if not better because she's more recent. It's a unique pressure. I tried to play to the court early but she covers it so well and was neutralizing me."

In earlier matches, China's Saisai Zheng beat American Maria Mateas, a junior in high school from Braintree, Mass. who received a wild card into the main draw.

The 74th-ranked Zheng recorded her 200th career victory with the 7-5, 6-1 win. Zheng won in the first round of a main draw for the first time in five tournaments.

Mateas, who turns 17 on Wednesday, has played in a handful of tournaments this summer and is ranked No. 1,058. She's ranked first or second nationally as a blue chip recruit the past two years.

Alize Cornet, a native of Nice, France, beat American Jennifer Brady, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, in her first match since reaching the third round at Wimbledon. She also reached the third round at the French Open and won at Hobart in January.

The 51st-ranked Cornet, who has a career-high ranking of No. 11 (February, 2009), will meet Zheng in the second round.

"In the end it was really really close, and I went for it and it worked out," Cornet said. "I'm really happy to be in the second round."

Romanian Ana Bogdan beat USA's Asia Muhammad, 6-4, 5-7, 6-3, in a match between qualifiers.

Fifth-seeded Misaki Doi of Japan downed China's Xinyun Han, 6-0, 2-6, 6-2.

In doubles play, Atherton's CiCi Bellis joined Brady, though they lost, 6-2, 6-3, to Ukraine's Kateryna Bondarenko and Olga Savachuk.

The third-seeded doubles team of Darijaq Jurak (Croatia) and Anastasia Rodionova (Australia) swept American Julia Boserup and Bulgaria's Elitsa Kostova, 6-2, 6-2 and the fourth-seeded duo of Anna-Lena Groenefeld (Germany) and Kveta Peschke (Czech Republic) topped Paraguay's Veronica Cepede Royg and Argentina's Maria Irigoyen, 6-4, 3-6, 11-9.

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