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. Visit the tournament website:

Saturday Schedule

No. 2 seed Peter Polansky, following his 6-3, 6-7, 7-6 win over fellow Canadian Brayden Schnur, plays Yasutaka Uchiyama of Japan in the semifinals. The other men’s singles semifinal will feature No. 1 seed and 2016 finalist Blaz Kavcic of Slovenia vs. Israel’s Edan Leshem. In the women’s singles semifinals, No. 1 seed Nicole Gibbs of the United States takes on Japan’s Mayo Hibi and American Caroline Dolehide plays Shilin Xu of China. The singles semifinals start at 11 am.

Playing for the men’s doubles title Saturday (not before 1 pm) will be Luke Bambridge/David O’Hare vs. Yusuke Takahashi/Renta Tokuda. That match will be followed by the women’s doubles final: Hiroko Kuwata/Valeria Savinykh vs. Kimberly Birrell/Caroline Dolehide.

Dolehide Prevails In Marathon Match

In a match lasting three hours, 45 minutes Friday on Stadium Court, American Caroline Dolehide edged Japan’s Miharu Imanishi 6-7, 6-4, 7-6. Dolehide often had Imanishi on the run, but Imanishi extended many rallies were her great counter-punching skills.

“I’m a pretty aggressive player so having ball after ball after ball come back is pretty difficult to handle,” said Dolehide. “But I think I did a really good job especially in the second and third sets.”

Dolehide, 18, was a semifinalist in junior girls’ singles at the 2014 US Open.

“That was a good experience,” Dolehide said. “I went through qualies and got to the semis and my mom was there so it was nice.”

Dolehide, who trains in Orlando, is from Hinsdale, Illinois. Her older sister Courtney was captain of the UCLA Bruins team that won the 2014 NCAA team title.

“My older sister played so I got started from her, said Dolehide, whose younger sister Stephanie is also an accomplished tennis player. “She was 10 or 11 at the time and I was five. I started playing and we both loved it. She did really well in juniors and in some pro circuit and then went on to win NCAA’s in college so she was my inspiration and I keep playing because of her.”

Japan’s Success At Challenger

Japan will be represented in the men’s singles semifinals (Yasutaka Uchiyama), the women’s singles semifinals (Mayo Hibi), the men’s doubles final (Yusuke Takahashi/Renta Tokuda) and the women’s doubles final (Hiroko Kuwata) at the Winnipeg National Bank Challenger.

“A lot of Japanese players like to play the North American tournaments in Canada and the U.S.,” said Uchiyama. “We like these conditions – especially in Canada it’s some days hot but it’s a little bit dry so it’s good to play in.”

Last year’s men’s singles champion in Winnipeg was Japan’s Go Soeda. Uchiyama came a step closer to sending a Japanese player in the final this year with his 6-4, 6-0 victory Friday over Max Purcell of Australia.

“Today was very windy so it was very tough conditions to play in,” said Uchiyama. “I played good tennis in the good moments so I’m happy to be in the semifinals.”

Ranked No. 186 in the world, Uchiyama reached a career best ranking of No. 173 earlier this year. He captured a Challenger title in Kyoto, Japan in February with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Slovenia’s Blaz Kavcic (who will also play Saturday in the Winnipeg National Bank Challenger semifinals).

Uchiyama played in the qualifying rounds this year at the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon.

“My next goal is to play main draw (in the Grand Slams) and to be a top 100 player,” said the 24-year-old.