Above photo courtesy of Karl Mendoza at www.kamera8studios.ca.

News from the Winnipeg National Bank Challenger, July 8-16 at Winnipeg Lawn Tennis Club. 

Friday Schedule

No. 2 men’s seed Peter Polansky takes on fellow Canadian Brayden Schnur in an evening quarterfinal match on Stadium Court at 5 pm. The other men’s quarterfinal match-ups are: No. 1 seed Blav Kavcic, Slovenia vs. Raymond Sarmiento, U.S.; Edan Leshem, Israel vs. Yusuke Takahashi, Japan; Max Purcell, Australia vs. Yasutaka Uchiyama, Japan.

In women’s quarterfinal play Friday, No. 1 seed Nicole Gibbs of the United States meets Jessika Ponchet of France. The other women’s quarterfinal match-ups are: Alexandra Mueller, U.S. vs. Mayo Hibi, Japan; Miharu Imanishi, Japan vs. Caroline Dolehide, U.S.; Hiroko Kuwata, Japan vs. Shilin Xu, China.

Matches start at Winnipeg Lawn Tennis Club at 10 am.

Ponchet Beats Defending Champion

Jessika Ponchet of France defeated 2016 women’s singles champion Francesca Di Lorenzo 6-4, 6-3 Thursday to reach the quarterfinals of the Winnipeg National Bank Challenger.

In addition to capturing the singles crown, Di Lorenzo also won the women’s doubles tile in Winnipeg last year with fellow American Ronit Yurovsky. Di Lorenzo is a two-time USTA/ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor champion, having just completed her sophomore season at Ohio State. She also won the NCCA women’s doubles title with Buckeyes teammate Miho Kowase in May.

Ponchet, however, was undaunted by Di Lorenzo’s achievements. In fact, Ponchet knows very little about the competition she’s facing this week since this is her first time in Canada.

“I don’t know any players here,” she said with a laugh. “I just play match after match and I do my best.”

Ponchet, who is coached by her mom, won her last tournament on clay courts in France before coming to Winnipeg.

“I need to continue to play this way,” said the 20-year-old.

Ponchet decided to enter the Winnipeg National Bank Challenger because it’s played on her favourite surface: hard courts.

“I play on clay all the time in France so I asked my mom to stop and change beyond my surface,” said Ponchet, who will also play the National Bank Challenger tournaments in Gatineau and Granby this summer.

In the first round in Winnipeg, Ponchet beat 17-year-old Canadian Isabelle Boulais 6-3, 6-7, 6-3.

“She’s very young and she plays very good – she plays flat and hard all the time,” Ponchet said of Boulais. “You need to be present all the time on the court.”

Canadian Schnur Reaches Quarterfinals 

Brayden Schnur of Pickering, Ontario advanced to the men’s singles quarterfinals with a 6-4, 6-4 win Thursday over Luke Bambridge of Great Britain.

“He’s a tough player because he doesn’t really give you a lot of rhythm off the ground,” Schnur said after his Stadium Court victory. “He serves and volleys a lot and he has a pretty good serve so I knew during the match that it was going to be tight.”

Schnur has captured two Futures titles this year, winning in Arkansas and Nigeria.

“So far it’s been a pretty good year for me,” said Schnur, 22. “I’ve done a lot of travelling which is different than last year. Out of college I played my first six months mostly in North America. I ventured around a little bit more so far this year.”

Representing the University of North Carolina, Schnur won the USTA/ITA National Indoor Collegiate Championship in his sophomore season.

“I loved my time at school,” said Schnur. “I love the University of North Carolina. I love Chapel Hill (North Carolina). Outside of home it’s my favourite place on earth to be. I still go back and visit quite a bit.”

Schnur played two and a half years at UNC before turning pro.

“I have so many great memories from there so obviously it was tough (the decision the leave school and go pro),” Schnur said. “But I just felt it was my time to leave. I was playing good tennis and I was healthy. My dream, before I went to school, was always to be a pro so I felt like chasing my dream was the right decision.”

Schnur was an avid soccer player as a kid and took up tennis at age eight.

“My mom signed me and my sister up for summer camps and all the soccer camps were full,” Schnur recalled. “There was a half-soccer, half-tennis camp so I played that and right away I liked the chance to be alone and have all the pressure on you rather than depending on teammates.”

Schnur, who trains at the National Training Centre in Montreal, lost in the first round of the Winnipeg National Bank Challenger last year to Canada’s Philip Bester. In this year’s opening round, Schnur beat Canadian Filip Peliwo 6-2, 7-6.

“My goal this summer is to win a Challenger and for the rest of the year to win a Challenger until I get that,” said Schnur. “That’s what I’m chasing right now.”