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Sunday, October 26, 2014

Fritz Claims Grade A Osaka Mayor's Cup; Mmoh Wins Brownsville Futures; Liu, Caruana Take USTA Masters Titles

Taylor Fritz gave himself an early birthday present today, capturing his first ITF Grade A title in Japan. The No. 4 seed, who turns 17 on Tuesday, defeated No. 3 seed Yunseong Chung of Korea 7-6(2), 6-3 in the Osaka Mayor's Cup final.  Fritz told me in Tulsa that he was playing in Japan for a couple of reasons: to attempt to finish the season in the Top 10, and to play a Grade A on a hard court (he pointed out that Australia, US Open and Osaka are the only Grade A tournaments on the surface, which he prefers to clay, the surface of five of the other six Grade As).  With that mission accomplished, he might skip the Grade A next month on clay in Mexico City, although he will still need a good showing at the Orange Bowl to secure a place in the Top 10.

Top seed Shilin Xu of China won the girls title, beating No. 3 seed Kimberly Birrell of Australia 7-5, 6-3. If my math is right (a big if), Youth Olympic gold medalist Xu, who also won the doubles title in Osaka, will take over the No. 1 spot in the ITF junior rankings from CiCi Bellis.

Last year's Osaka Mayor's Cup winner Michael Mmoh did not defend his title, but can hardly be regretting that after capturing his first Futures title today at the $15,000 tournament in Brownsville, Texas.  The 16-year-old Mmoh, a wild card, defeated 2012 Kalamazoo 18s champion Dennis Novikov 7-6(5), 6-1 in the final to become the youngest USTA men's Pro Circuit champion since Rhyne Williams won the Pittsburgh Futures back in 2007.

Mmoh was down a break in the first set to the former UCLA star twice, but both times he immediately broke back, including when the third-seeded Novikov was serving for the set at 6-5.  In the tiebreaker, Mmoh lost a point on serve to go down a minibreak at 5-3, but hit an ace on the next point. Novikov still had the match on his racquet, but lost both points on his serve and Mmoh closed it out.  Mmoh then broke Novikov in the opening game of the second set and that was it. When the 27 ATP ranking points are added in eight days, Mmoh, currently ranked 1433, should be in the 600s.

At the $50,000 Macon women's event, qualifier Kateryna Bondarenko of Ukraine defeated No. 4 seed Grace Min 6-4, 7-5 in the final. Madison Brengle and Alexa Glatch won the doubles title, beating Anna Tatishvili and Ashley Weinhold 6-0, 7-5.

Qualifying has begun at the $50,000 women's tournament in New Braunfels, Texas, the second leg of the USTA's Australian Open Wild Card Challenge.

As I mentioned on Saturday, the men are in Charlottesville for the $50,000 Challenger there, with the final round of qualifying on Monday. A PDF of the qualifying draw is here.

The USTA's inaugural Masters event finished today, with Claire Liu and Liam Caruana winning the titles.  The 14-year-old Liu, who was entered in the 18s draw and seeded second, beat one of the 16s qualifiers, Victoria Flores, 6-2, 6-2 in the final match.  Sixteen-year-old Caruana, the No. 3 seed, defeated No. 4 seed Emil Reinberg 6-0, 6-1 in the final. The Texas recruit lost a total of 11 games in his four victories this weekend.  Complete results can be found at the TennisLink site.