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Thursday, October 9, 2014

Boyd Beats Fritz, Mmoh Saves Match Points in Pan American Closed Quarterfinals; Gordon Ousts Top Seed Zarazua

©Colette Lewis 2014--
Tulsa, OK--

After three days of mostly routine results, the drama quotient increased Thursday, with two boys winners--No. 7 seed Kalman Boyd and No. 1 seed Michael Mmoh--saving match points, and Michaela Gordon coming from 6-4, 4-1 down to defeat girls top seed Renata Zarazua on another warm, breezy and humid day at the Michael D. Case Tennis Center.

Boyd's 0-6, 7-5, 6-2 win over longtime Southern Cal friend and rival Taylor Fritz, last year's finalist, could have been a brief scare had Fritz converted the match point he had with Boyd serving at 4-5 in the second set.  After failing to convert his game point at 40-30, Boyd lost the next point, giving Fritz his opportunity.  But the No. 2 seed's forehand went way long, and Boyd regrouped, won the game and broke Fritz to go up 6-5 and held in yet another close game.

Such was Boyd's focus, however, that he didn't know he had saved a match point.

"Did I save a match point?" Boyd asked. "I didn't even realize that. That was how in the zone I was."

Boyd couldn't quite comprehend why Fritz was dominating him so thoroughly in the first set, saying their recent practice matches were closely contested.

"I was getting really upset, saying what's going on, we're usually closer and now that we're in a tournament he's killing me," said Boyd, 17. "I was going down the drain, but eventually said it doesn't matter. Let's just play tennis now, have fun, and that's when it turned around for me. Trying to enjoy it more, I relaxed and just got better from there."

Boyd did get angry at Fritz, who he described as his best friend, when Fritz did not concede a point in the seventh game of the second set.  Fritz, who had already conceded a point to Boyd earlier, telling the chair umpire to correct his call, did not offer the same response in this case.

"At 3-3 15-40, he hit a ball that was like two inches wide and the chair umpire didn't call it, and Taylor was like I know I missed it, but you just lost the point because nobody called it," Boyd said. "He knew it was out, that I had just won the game, and he didn't give it to me and I was really upset with him because c'mon, you're my friend just give me the point."

Once he had taken the second set, Boyd showed renewed confidence and poise, hitting winners, returning well, keeping errors to a minimum.  In the the first game of the third set, with Fritz serving, Boyd finally broke after 13 deuces, converting his eighth break point on a forehand winner to end the 20-minute game.

"It was back and forth, over and over," said Boyd, who has committed to Southern Cal for 2015. "For me, I really wasn't under any pressure at all, which was great for me. I'm supposed to lose that game, he's holding serve. And it was the first game of the set, so with that mindset, I'm very relaxed and that helped me win the game."

Fritz had opportunities to get the break back in the fourth and sixth games of the set, but couldn't convert any of the three break points, with Boyd coming up with a good serve or a forehand winner to brush them aside.

Boyd got an insurance break after saving two break points at 3-2 and served out the match with no additional drama.

"Ever since I've committed to college, it's not been about results," said Boyd, who has now reached his first Grade 1 semifinal. "It's always just been to improve, so when I get there, I can really contribute to the team, I can win matches. I'm not worried about winning the tournament or anything. I'm really just trying to get better."

Boyd will play No. 9 seed William Blumberg, who cruised past No. 4 seed Alejandro Tabilo of Canada 6-1, 6-1.

While Boyd had completed his comeback, Mmoh was nearly an hour away from finishing his 7-5, 5-7, 7-6(4) victory over No. 10 seed Tommy Paul.

Leading 2-0 in the final set, Mmoh lost four straight games, then pulled even at 4.  But as the match duration approached the three hour mark, Mmoh was broken for a third time in the final set and Paul would serve for the match at 5-4.

A backhand winner made it 30-15 for Paul and a forehand winner made it 40-15. A double fault on the first match point indicated the nerves Paul was feeling, but on his second match point, he went for a forehand and just missed it long.

"Honestly, I don't really know what was working for me in that match," said Mmoh, who reached the semifinals last year. "I was kind of relying on his mental breakdowns, when he just goes for something stupid. So on that point, I just decided to stay really solid and he missed a forehand a little long."

When Paul's next backhand went long,  Mmoh had a break point, which he converted with a brave and unexpected drop shot winner that Paul had no chance to reach.

Two holds sent the match into the tiebreaker, and Mmoh ran out to a 3-0 lead, only to see Paul come with four straight points, two on clean forehand winners. At 4-all Paul hit a forehand long, then missed a routine backhand wide to give Mmoh a match point. Paul missed his first serve and after a brief rally Paul's forehand sailed way long, ending the three-hour and 18-minute match.

"Surprisingly, my body's feeling pretty fresh somehow," Mmoh said after his doubles match later in the afternoon. "I was feeling really dizzy shortly before this doubles, maybe a little sun stroke, but yeah, I'm surprised I'm feeling pretty fresh."

In Friday's semifinals, Mmoh will play No. 3 seed Sameer Kumar for the first time. Kumar came from 3-1 down in the first set to win 11 of the next 13 games in his 6-4, 6-1 victory over No. 11 seed Denis Shapovalov.

Gordon didn't save match points, but she too was at the brink of defeat against Zarazua of Mexico before winning the three-hour 10-minute match 4-6, 6-4, 6-2.

"I feel pretty tired, my legs are tired," said Gordon, who at 15 is in her third ITF Grade B1 semifinal. "It was so physical and the points themselves were really long too. You had to win the point. Neither one of us gave the other one anything."

Gordon adjusted when she realized Zarazua, her doubles partner this week, was getting the upper hand in heavy-hitting rallies.

"I just tried to change up the pace a little bit," said Gordon. "She was winning some of the harder rallies, so I tried to make her a little off balance. She also made a few unforced errors on important points, and that helped me a little bit."

Winning the final five games of the second set gave Gordon confidence to start the third.

"I was really happy that I was able to come back," said Gordon. "Knowing that even if I get down in the third, I can still come back, so I played a little bit more free in the third and I definitely hit my shots more, went for it a little bit more, played more aggressively, came in a little more."

Gordon will play No. 3 seed Raveena Kingsley, who defeated unseeded Kayla Day 2-6, 6-4, 6-3 in the day's final singles match.  Kingsley had lost to Day in three sets in the first round of the Easter Bowl this year. The victory was costly however, as Kingsley became ill after the match and was unable to compete in the doubles quarterfinals later in the afternoon.

The other two girls semifinalists had less strenuous paths to Friday's matches, with unseeded Claire Liu beating No. 15 seed Emma Higuchi 6-0, 6-1 and No. 12 seed Charlotte Robillard-Millette of Canada defeating wild card Kylie McKenzie 6-4, 6-3. The 14-year-old Liu and 15-year-old Robillard-Millette are making their first appearances in Grade 1 semifinals.

The doubles semifinals are set for Friday, when the warm and humid conditions are expected to give way to a much cooler and possibly wetter weather.

Top seeds Mmoh and Fritz defeated No. 6 seeds Shapovalov and William Tutecky of Canada 7-5, 6-3 to advance to a meeting with unseeded Victor Krustev and Joshua Peck of Canada. Krustev and Peck defeated Trent Bryde and Mwendwa Mbithi 6-2, 5-7, 10-5.  Second seeds Paul and Nathan Ponwith advanced over No. 7 seeds Jack Lin and Benjamin Sigouin of Canada 6-2, 1-6, 10-5. They will play No. 4 seeds Alfredo Perez and Tabilo, who beat Vincent Lin and Myles Schalet 6-1, 3-6, 10-6.

No. 6 seeds Ellyse Hamlin and Abi Altick reached the semifinals due to the illness of Kingsley, who with her partner Katherine Sebov, was seeded second. Hamlin and Altick will play unseeded Karina Traxler and Claudia Wiktorin, who beat unseeded Liu and Kelly Chen 7-6(5), 5-7, 11-9.  Gordon and Zarazua, the top seeds, will play No. 7 seeds Marie-Alexandre Leduc and Robillard-Millette of Canada. Gordon and Zarazua defeated No. 5 seeds Emma Higuchi and Sofia Kenin 6-4, 6-4, while Leduc and Robillard-Millette downed unseeded Meghan Kelley and Gabby Pollner 7-5, 7-5.

The order of play for Friday is available here.

The draws are available at the ITF junior website.