Sunday, November 23, 2014

Mmoh, Galfi Take Abierto Juvenil Grade A Titles; Nguyen Beats Giron in Mexico Futures Final

Both Michael Mmoh and Dalma Galfi of Hungary have been playing great tennis on junior and professional levels recently and that confidence came through in the finals today of the ITF Grade A Abierto Juvenil Mexicano in Mexico City.

Galfi, 16, had won two $10,000 ITF Women's Circuit events in Greece coming into the tournament and handled the switch in surface from hard to clay with no problem.  Seeded No. 10, Galfi beat second seed Anna Kalinskaya of Russia 5-7, 6-1, 6-0 in the semifinals and claimed her first Grade A title with a 7-6(4), 6-4 victory over No. 6 seed Natalia Vikhlyantseva of Russia in the final. 

Galfi and Vikhlyantseva were meeting for the first time in ITF junior competition, but Mmoh and his opponent in the final, Seong Chan Hong of Korea, had met twice before.  Mmoh had won both, once in 2013 and this year on clay in Belgium, but had needed three sets each time.

A large and demonstrative crowd was on hand for both finals, but Mmoh looked to limit their involvement with a quick first set. Hong kept to the previous script however, forcing a third set, before Mmoh prevailed 6-1, 6-7(6), 6-4.

Hong, using his speed and an effective drop shot, which shouldn't have surprised Mmoh, but seemed to, was up 4-1 in the second set before Mmoh tied it up and forced the tiebreaker.  A perfectly executed drop shot put the 17-year-old Korean up 6-3, but Mmoh held his next two serves and saved a third set point when Hong's forehand sailed long after an extended rally.  Mmoh netted a forehand to give Hong a fourth set point, and this time he converted with Mmoh's forehand going wide.

The crowd seemed solidly behind the Korean, a slight underdog perhaps as he was the No. 4 seed and Mmoh the No. 3 seed, and Hong gave them plenty to cheer about in the final set, breaking Mmoh at 3-3.  Mmoh took a medical time out for what appeared to be a shoulder problem at the changeover and broke Hong to get back on serve, crushing a forehand winner at 30-40 to make it 4-4.  Twice in that game a ball was called, or rather not called, in Hong's favor, and twice Mmoh asked for a check of the mark and received a reversal of the call. Displeasure from the crowd, mostly in the form of whistling, did not bother Mmoh and he held his next service game to make it 5-4.

In the first point of the final game, yet another call went by the chair umpire went in Mmoh's favor, resulting in a replayed point, but to the crowd's relief, Hong won it.  Mmoh hit a good return that handcuffed Hong to make it 15-15 and a deep forehand from Mmoh resulted in a netted reply from Hong. At 15-30 Mmoh won a 16-shot rally with a clean backhand winner, giving him two match points.  He took the first, with Hong netting a third-shot forehand, one of the few short rallies in the match. With the win, Mmoh's second Grade A title and first on clay, Mmoh will move closer to his goal of a year-end Top 10 ranking.

In the doubles competition, Fanni Stollar gave Hungary its first title of the day, partnering Anna Blinkova of Russia to a 6-1, 6-3 win over unseeded Maia Lumsden of Great Britain and American Ingrid Neel. Stollar and Blinkova were the No. 2 seeds.

The tournament closed with the boys doubles final, won by top seeds Taylor Fritz and Andrey Rublev of Russia 6-2, 7-6(6) over unseeded   Fabian Fallert and Tim Sandkaulen of Germany. Fallert and Sandkaulen saved six match points, four at 3-5 in the second set, one at 6-5 and one more at 5-6 in the tiebreaker before Fritz finally hit an unreturnable serve to close them out.

The second leg of the month-long clay swing in Mexico and Florida is the Grade 1 Yucatan Cup, where qualifying has begun.  The fields are not strong, with many players taking a week off before the Eddie Herr-Orange Bowl segment, but Rublev and US Open girls champion Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic are entered.

Farther west in Mexico, No. 3 seed Daniel Nguyen won the title at the $15,000 Futures in Mazatlan, with the former USC Trojan defeating former UCLA Bruin Marcos Giron 6-0, 2-6, 7-6(0). It is Nguyen's third Futures title of the year, and should move him near the Top 300 after starting the year at 526.

At the $10,000 Pensacola Futures, delayed most of the day by rain, 17-year-old Theo Fournerie of France, the No. 6 seed, won his first Futures title, beating former Cal standout Ben McLachlan of New Zealand 6-2, 7-5.

That completes the USTA Pro Circuit for the year, with the next Futures in Florida in January.  For the 2015 schedules, go to usta.com.