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TENNIS / L.A. OPEN

Newport Beach's Carsten Ball takes professional approach

The 22-year-old, a veteran of Challenger and Futures events, is in the big leagues this week, qualifying for L.A. Tennis Open and then beating Marc Gicquel in first round.

July 29, 2009|Bill Brink

Professional tennis takes Carsten Ball all over, from Sacramento to Sarasota, Fla., to Savannah, Ga., so he welcomes a match near home.

He has made the most of it so far. The 22-year-old Newport Beach resident advanced to the second round of the L.A. Tennis Open on Tuesday by defeating France's Marc Gicquel, 6-2, 7-6 (6).

"I don't get to spend that much time at home so when I can, an hour drive is definitely worth staying at home," said Ball, who faces third-seeded Dmitry Tursunov today.

Ball, ranked No. 205 in the world, has competed mostly in ATP Challenger series events and in ITF Futures tournaments. He was 0-1 this season in ATP Tour matches before Tuesday but has a record of 11-9 in Challenger matches and 13-3 in Futures matches.

"It's a tough transition. It's another level. These guys get to play these, week in week out," he said, referring to ATP Tour matches. "I definitely think if I can keep playing all right I can make the transition."

Ball won a Futures tournament in Sacramento on June 15 and was a finalist at Challenger events in Yuba City, Calif., and Sarasota. He also won a Futures tournament in New Zealand in March.

"You still play high-caliber players all the time," Ball said of the lower-tier events. "To finally come here, if you can play well, it can change your year."

Ball won three qualifying matches to gain a spot in the L.A. Open main draw. On Sunday he defeated Donald Young, 6-3, 6-0, to cement his spot.

"I got on to his service games early on to try to set the tone for the set," he said. "That gave me more confidence to play the shots I wanted to play, and they all went in for me."

Ball's father, Syd, a former tennis pro, is also his coach.

"He does everything always in my best interests on and off the court," Ball said. "Having somebody there also kind of helps you to stay focused.

"It's a little tough sometimes having your dad as your coach. We've done pretty well together."

It helps to have a dad who played at the pro level. Ball said he was nervous in his match against Gicquel but used his serve and aggressiveness to apply pressure. The courts at the UCLA tennis center, he said, help his style of play.

"The ball comes off the court higher and faster," he said. "For some of us that's good."

Ball has never faced Tursunov but has seen him play. To be successful, Ball said, he must be on point with his returns, because Tursunov will convert short balls into points. He also will stay aggressive, especially since he has nothing to lose, he said.

"He's obviously very experienced and plays well," Ball said of Tursunov. "I'm just going to go out and go for it and see how it goes."

In night matches Tuesday, Sam Querrey advanced to the second round by beating Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan, 6-2, 6-0, and Marat Safin defeated Robby Ginepri, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Earlier in the day, John Isner beat Benjamin Becker in a tight match, 7-6 (8), 7-6 (3). Igor Kunitsyn, Marcos Baghdatis and Ryan Sweeting also advanced to the second round.

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william.brink@latimes.com

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