Mmoh and Blumberg to Meet in Pan American Closed Final; Kingsley and Liu to Decide Girls Championship
On Saturday, they will meet to decide the boys title at the ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed after both posted three-set victories indoors on a cool and rainy day in Tulsa.
The girls championship match will feature No. 3 seed Raveena Kingsley and unseeded Claire Liu, who advanced to the final with straight set victories Friday morning.
Mmoh saved two match points in his quarterfinal victory over Tommy Paul on Thursday, and was again in precarious circumstances today when he trailed No. 3 seed Sameer Kumar 6-3, 3-1 before completing a 3-6, 7-5, 6-1 comeback.
"Sameer was playing really smart today," said Mmoh, who has won three three-setters en route to the finals. "He was really changing it up, every point he played different. He was serving and volleying, slicing, mixing up the pace a lot. He was playing pretty solid and I was playing pretty tentative, was kind of nervous. But in the third set, I feel like I really stepped it up."
Down 3-1 in the second set, Mmoh took advantage of his first break point opportunity with Kumar serving at 2-3, ad out. Kumar had served and volleyed on key points earlier, but Mmoh was expecting it, hitting a perfect offensive lob winner to break. At 5-all, Mmoh held, then broke Kumar, who was starting to make errors he didn't commit in the first half of the match.
"I wasn't really playing my game in the first two sets," said Mmoh, who lives and trains at the IMG Bollettieri Academy in Bradenton, Fla. "But he got a little nervous, but he's a great player, and he played really well."
Blumberg was broken to start his 6-1, 2-6, 6-4 win over No. 7 seed Kalman Boyd, but reeled off six straight games to take the set in just over 20 minutes. Boyd had lost the first set 6-0 to No. 2 seed Taylor Fritz in the quarterfinals, yet managed to work his way back into that match, which is what he did against Blumberg, who made a slew of backhand errors.
"He's from California, so it probably took him a while to get used to the indoors, and I played a solid first set," said the ninth-seeded Blumberg, who lives in Connecticut. "I served really well in the first set as well. In the second set, I missed a lot more balls than I would have liked to. To be honest, Kalman played a really solid second set, served better and made a lot more balls, pushed me to my backhand a lot more. So I wasn't very upset, the only thing I was upset about was my errors."
Boyd started off the third set by getting broken twice, with two double faults contributing to his downfall. He got one break back immediately, but Blumberg began getting a lot more first serves in, holding at love to make it 5-3. After Boyd saved a match point on his serve, holding for 5-4, Blumberg went down 0-30, missing a drop shot and getting a racquet abuse warning when he dropped his in disgust. But an ace and another good first serve brought him even, and a Boyd forehand long gave Blumberg his second match point. Blumberg didn't get a first serve in, but Boyd sent his forehand return of the second wide to put Blumberg in his first Grade 1 final.
Blumberg and Mmoh, who also were on the USA's 14-and-under World Junior Tennis team that won the title in 2012, have met once before, in the semifinals of Les Petits As in Tarbes, France in January of 2012. Blumberg won that match 6-4, 3-6, 7-5, and although Blumberg dismissed it as "a long time ago," Mmoh remembers it well.
"I'll never forget that match," Mmoh said. "It was the first time I had ever played with a big crowd, and I had two match points, so it was probably one of the toughest losses I've had. That was a great match and I think we'll have another one tomorrow."
The girls finalists have a much more recent encounter, with Kingsley defeating Liu 6-1, 6-3 in the third round of the August Grade 1 International Hard Court Championships in College Park, Md.
Liu earned her rematch with Kingsley by defeating No. 12 seed and reigning 16s Orange Bowl champion Charlotte Robillard-Millette of Canada 6-2, 6-4. Robillard-Millette was broken in the first game of each set, while Liu never dropped serve, although she was pushed to deuce often and saved a handful of break points.
"I think I played pretty well," said the 14-year-old from Thousand Oaks, California, who trains with USTA Player Development at Carson. "I played smart and didn't hit the ball harder than her. I just tried to get more balls in and move her."
Liu did admit that the left-hander's serve did pose some problems for her during the match.
"She had a really good slice out wide serve," said Liu, who had not played Robillard-Millette before, but had received some tips from fellow Carson player Kylie McKenzie, who lost to the Canadian Thursday. "She got a lot of free points off that from me."
Liu does not need any scouting reports on Kingsley, nor does she lack for motivation.
"I lost to her last time, so yeah, the next time I definitely want to beat her," Liu said.
Kingsley, who was ill after her three-set quarterfinal win over Kayla Day, said she was still feeling a bit off, but did not let it affect her during her 6-3, 6-0 win over No. 7 seed Michaela Gordon.
"It was there in the match, but I just didn't pay attention to it," the 16-year-old said. "I just focused on the match, not on that."
Kingsley was the first to surrender a break of serve, in the fifth game of the opening set, but that was the last game she lost, as she found her rhythm on her penetrating groundstrokes and began to take control of the points.
"I think I played pretty well, probably my best match of this tournament," said Kingsley, who is now training at the Dent Tennis Academy after many years at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Md. "I got off to a bad start, a little slow, but as I picked it up, momentum just carried me. I think she played pretty well; there were a lot of balls coming back."
Kingsley said her focus in the championship match, her second Grade 1 final, will be on her own.
"My plan is just to play my game, do everything right," Kingsley said. "She's just a really good player; she likes to dictate and I have to be ready for that."
Both the girls and boys finals are scheduled for 9:30 on Saturday, with the cool and rainy weather in the forecast possibly forcing the finals indoors as well.
The doubles finals are set after Friday's action, with top seeds Mmoh and Taylor Fritz advancing to the championship match with a 6-1, 6-2 win over unseeded Victor Krustev and Joshua Peck of Canada. Mmoh, who is the defending doubles champion (with Francis Tiafoe) said he is happy to be in both Saturday finals.
"It's been going really well," Mmoh said of his first time playing with Fritz. "We haven't been in any trouble all week. I think I'm playing really well in the doubles and it's good to play both."
Mmoh and Fritz will play No. 4 seeds Alfredo Perez and Canadian Alejandro Tabilo , who beat No. 2 seeds Tommy Paul and Nathan Ponwith 6-2 6-3.
For the second day in a row, No. 6 seeds Abi Altick and Ellyse Hamlin advanced without hitting a ball. Unseeded Karina Traxler and Claudia Wiktorin gave them a walkover into the final, with Wiktorin unable to compete due to illness. Altick and Hamlin will play No. 7 seeds Marie-Alexandre Leduc and Robillard-Millette of Canada, who defeated top seeds Renata Zarazua of Mexico and Gordon 6-2, 6-3.
Complete draws can be found at the ITF junior website.