©Colette Lewis 2013--
Fifteen-year-olds Michael Mmoh and Tornado Alicia Black are getting comfortable in their positions as top seeds in a major ITF tournament, with both taking their Pan American Closed third round matches in straight sets to advance to the quarterfinals.
Temperatures in the 70s and cloudless skies continued Wednesday, with a steady breeze providing just enough of a challenge to keep the players on their toes.
Black had conceded just five games in her first two matches, and the US Open girls finalist looked to be following the script after taking the first set from unseeded Andie Daniell with the loss of only one game. But Black found herself in a battle in the opening half of the second set, as Daniel began to extend the baseline rallies.
"The girl was pretty good," said Black, who won her first Pro Circuit title two weeks ago at a $10,000 tournament in Amelia Island, Fla. "She started to play better as the match went on."
Black was able to reassert herself midway through the set, completing a 6-1, 6-3 victory, to set up a quarterfinal contest with unseeded Yolimar Ogando of Puerto Rico, who took out No. 12 seed Marie Norris 6-2, 6-4.
Black, who needed a wild card because she missed the entry deadline, said her plan for junior tournaments had always included this tournament, as well as the upcoming Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl.
"I don't have anything to defend this year, just semis of doubles here and one round at Eddie Herr," said Black, who trains at L'Academie de Tennis in Boynton Beach, Fla. "I think if I can do well here and there, I can be top 10 at the end of the year, which has kind of been my goal."
Black first played the Pan American Closed as a 13-year-old, starting in qualifying.
"I played here two years ago, in qualifying, and I was like 1000 in the world," Black said. "Last year, I was like 120 maybe, and this year, coming in as the one seed, it shows a lot of improvement. But I don't really think about me being the one seed, that it adds pressure to win. Maybe some other people look at it that way, but I just go out there and play match by match."
Boys top seed Mmoh defeated unseeded Zeke Clark 6-3, 6-3, but Mmoh was impressed with the Tulsa 15-year-old, whom he'd beaten 6-1, 6-3 in the quarterfinals of the Junior Orange Bowl 14s last year where Mmoh was also the No. 1 seed.
"He was playing really well, it was tough," said Mmoh, who trains at the IMG Bollettieri Academy in Bradenton. "He was running down everything and he never seemed to get tired. Maybe it didn't look like I was tired, but I was really tired out there for some reason. The last time I played him, he's improved so much since then. That match was so much easier than today. It was 3 and 3, but it felt like a 5 and 6 match."
Mmoh won the Grade 2 in Canada last month, but has struggled with injuries most of the spring and summer. He had a wrist injury that kept him from playing some of the major European clay tournaments this spring and then pulled a abdominal muscle right before Kalamazoo, an injury that kept him out of that tournament and the US Open juniors.
Saying he's one hundred percent healthy now, Mmoh isn't feeling any added pressure as the No. 1 seed.
"There's still so many good players," said Mmoh, who admitted to feeling the weight of expectations last year as the top seed at the 14s Junior Orange Bowl, which he won. "It's not like the pressure I had at the Orange Bowl, it's different. Papa, he's a '95(birth year), used to be 20 in the world, all the other players. I'm happy to be the No. 1 seed, and it's kind of a surprise to me."
Mmoh's opponent in the quarterfinals will be qualifier Aron Hiltzik, who has yet to drop a set in the tournament. Hiltzik beat wild card Kalman Boyd 6-3, 6-2 Wednesday.
Hiltzik is the only qualifier still alive, but two other unseeded players also have reached the quarterfinals. Taylor Fritz defeated Vincent Lin 6-2, 6-3 and Logan Smith beat William Blumberg 6-4, 6-1. Fritz will play No. 2 seed Spencer Papa, who withstood a second set surge from No. 13 seed Carter Lin to earn a 6-3, 3-6, 6-0 victory. Smith meets No. 3 seed Francis Tiafoe, who was pushed to three sets for the second straight day, this time by No. 14 seed Luke Gamble, before taking a 7-5, 6-7(6), 6-2 decision.
The only boys quarterfinal between two seeds will be No. 7 Alex Rybakov against No. 4 Daniel Kerznerman, who earned wins on Wednesday in contrasting fashion. Rybakov didn't win a game in the first set against wild card Jake DeVine, but fought back for a 0-6, 7-5, 6-4 victory. Kerzerman, meanwhile, has been breezing through opponents, losing only four games in his first two victories, and only four more in his third round win over unseeded Eduardo Nava, taking that match 6-2, 6-2.
Unlike the boys quarterfinalists, who are all from the US, the girls final eight are more diverse, with Ogando of Puerto Rico, Renata Zarazua of Mexico, Katherine Sebov of Canada and Maria Shishkina of Kazakhstan joining the four Americans. No. 4 seed Zarazua, a semifinalist here two years ago, defeated No. 14 seed Helen Altick 6-2, 6-2 to set up a meeting with unseeded Jessica Ho, who won the day's longest match. Ho and No. 5 seed Usue Arconada battled for two and a half hours just to split sets, with Ho eventually taking a 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-1 victory in over three hours and 15 minutes.
Sebov took out No. 9 seed Cassandra Vasquez 6-1, 1-6, 6-4 and will play No. 16 seed Sofia Kenin, who was down 5-0 in the opening set, but fought back for a 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-4 win over qualifier Charlotte Robillard-Millette. Shishkina defeated No. 10 seed Nicole Frenkel 6-3, 7-5 and will face No. 13 seed Kaitlyn McCarthy in Thursday's quarterfinal. McCarthy ended the run of Jessica Golovin 6-1, 6-2.
The doubles quarterfinals are set, with boys top seeds Mmoh and Tiafoe advancing 6-3, 3-6, 10-7 over Walker Duncan and John Mee. Papa and Kerznerman, the No. 2 seeds, won 6-2, 6-3 over Hiltzik and Brian Tsao. No. 3 seeds Tommy Paul and Rybakov lost to Fritz and Smith 7-6(2), 6-4.
With the No. 1 seeds out of the girls doubles Tuesday, No. 2 seeds Norris and Rianna Valdes are the top remaining seeds, and they advanced with a 6-0, 6-3 win over Camila Wesbrooks and Ellie Zogg. McCarthy and Vaszquez, the No. 3 seeds, squeezed past Mira Ruder-Hook and Caroline Turner 7-5, 3-6, 14-12.
For complete draws and order of play for Thursday, see the USTA's ITF homepage.