US Open Series Week 2: Going Back to Cali
by Lynn Berenbaum | July 23rd, 2006, 3:01 pm
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The Greatest Road Trip in Sports departs the Midwest heat to take over the campuses of California this week as we head into the Countrywide Classic in LA and the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford.

Countrywide Classic at UCLA

On the men’s side, the newly-renamed Countrywide on the campus of UCLA features the farewell tour of defending champ Andre Agassi as fifth seed. The top slot went to wildcard Andy Roddick, with other seeds including Lleyton Hewitt at No. 2, Fernando Gonzalez at No. 3, Robby Ginepri at No. 4, Tommy Haas at No. 6, Dominik Hrbaty at No. 7 and Californian-Russian Dmitry Tursunov in the No. 8 slot. The singles draw also includes Ivan Ljubicic, Mario Ancic, Paradorn Srichaphan, Marat Safin, Arnaud Clement, Indy semifinalist Xavier Malisse and quarterfinalist Nicholas Mahut, plus Americans Justin Gimelstob and Paul Goldstein, with the Bryan Brothers topping the doubles draw.

Recent Thousand Oaks High graduate Sam Querrey, in his first year as a professional, received a wildcard, and opens against Vince Spadea, once ranked as high as No. 18 in the world and now at No. 94. Other notable first-round matches include Marat Safin vs. Mardy Fish and Gonzalez vs. last year’s surprise finalist, Gilles Muller.

Monday night features the fifth annual “Gibson Baldwin Night at the Net,” benefitting MusiCares. The event will feature Andre Agassi, the Bryans Brothers joining actor/comedian Jon “I’m an AcTor!” Lovitz, Entourage star Jeremy “the Piv” Piven and Jack and Stench from “the Jamie, Jack and Stench Show” on STAR 98.7 FM as ball boys for the event. The evening’s musical performer will be GRAMMY® Award winner Brian McKnight, and Verve Recording artist Mindi Abair will sing the National Anthem. Pam Shriver will act as chair umpire. If you can’t attend, you can still help out by taking part in the eBay auction and bid on some sweet musical items through July 27th.

With no Blake in the way, speculate away as to who Roddick will meet in the final.

Bank of the West Classic at Stanford

While the Men battle it out in southern Cali, the women take to the Bay Area on the campus of Stanford University for the Bank of the West Classic in its 15th consecutive year at the Taube Family Tennis Stadium. This year’s tourney is seriously short on star power, and loaded with up-and-comers. In fact, it doesn’t even look like their website has been updated since last year. Embarassed, perhaps? Who knows.

Defending champion Kim Clijsters took the No. 1 seed in the singles field, and gets a first-round bye, making it unlikely she would take the court before Wednesday or Thursday. No. 2 seed Patty Schnyder is the other Top 10 player in the field. Last week’s withdrawal of Lindsay Davenport — whose injured back has kept her off the court since March — lightened the field at this event considerably, leaving tournament organizers to rely on the potential of a young, relatively unknown international field for ticket sales.

Among the brightest of the young stars in the field is No. 3 seed Nicole Vaidisova, ranked No. 12 in the world. Anna-Lena Groenefeld, the 21-year-old German, is the No. 4 seed. Daniela Hantuchova, the No. 17-ranked player in the world, is the No. 5 seed.

The crowd at Stanford will, however, recognize some familiar local faces. Amber Liu, the Stanford star who won the NCAA singles title in 2003 and 2004, just capped her college career by winning a team title with the Cardinal in May. She will play her first WTA Tier II event and just the second professional match of her career when she faces Shahar Peer in the first round.

Stanford alum Lilia Osterloh, who won the NCAA title for the Cardinal in 1997, grabbed a wildcard entry into the field Friday and will play a first-round match against Jelena Jankovic on Monday or Tuesday.

As the San Jose Mercury News reveals, the tournament will spend so much time spreading the seeds of comfort for the players, in the hopes that next year will fill their marquee with bigger names. Let’s hope the men don’t ask for equal treatment.

Take your best guesses as to who Kim gets to cream in the final.

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