Mmoh Saves Match Point to Reach Eddie Herr ITF Quarterfinals; Bellis, Dolehide and Kingsley Among Girls Final Eight
©Colette Lewis 2014--
Tommy Paul was ready to celebrate a hard-earned victory over Michael Mmoh in the third round of the ITF Grade 1 Eddie Herr International Thursday at the IMG Academy's Har-Tru Court 1. After a heartbreaking defeat to Mmoh in the quarterfinals of October's ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed in Tulsa, where Mmoh saved three match points, Paul had just closed the net and put a forehand into the deuce corner with Mmoh serving down 30-40, 4-5 in the third set.
Mmoh, who had lost control of the point several shots earlier, scrambled to attempt a forehand passing shot, but mishit it. Ready to pump his fist, Paul had to turn to see the forehand float over him and land inside the baseline. After a momentary look of disbelief, he did manage a wry smile at his bad luck and Mmoh's good fortune.
"Honestly, it was kind of a mishit," said Mmoh. "When I hit it, it didn't feel very good and it looked like it was going out, but it just dipped in. Tennis is all about luck. I've played matches where the same thing has happened to me. It's unfortunate for him, because both times I've played him, he's had match points and lost. That's definitely going to be tough for him."
In Tulsa, Paul had gotten to a third set tiebreaker under similar circumstances, but he couldn't negotiate that in Thursday's match, double faulting away game point at 5-5 to give Mmoh an opportunity to serve it out. With his first serve--erratic during the second and third sets--reappearing for the final game, Mmoh held at love for a 7-6(5), 4-6, 7-5 win that took just over three hours.
Paul served for the first set at 5-4, but played a horrible game, committing four unforced errors. A shanked forehand at 5-4 in the tiebreaker proved to be his undoing in that opportunity, but Paul came back strong in the second set.
"In the beginning he was missing a lot more, random balls, but second set, he played a flawless set," said Mmoh. "He didn't miss much and he was hitting from both sides really well. I was trying to outhit him and he's obviously very good. Tommy Paul is super talented."
Mmoh was down 3-1 in the final set, but got the break back in the next game, leaving the drama to build until the match point.
"I'm just happy with the way I competed," said the 16-year-old Mmoh, who has now won 23 of his last 24 junior and Futures matches. "I thought I fought really hard and was mentally strong."
Mmoh will play unseeded 16-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece in the quarterfinals. Tsitsipas beat Chan-Yeong Oh 6-2, 6-0. The other quarterfinal in the bottom half will feature No. 3 seed Seong Chan Hong of Korea against No. 6 seed Mikael Ymer of Sweden, a rematch of the Grade A Abierto Juvenil Mexicano semifinal, won by Hong 6-0, 6-2. Hong saved three match points against No. 13 seed William Blumberg, who led 6-3, 5-2, only to lose 3-6, 7-5, 6-1. Ymer defeated Vit Kopriva of the Czech Republic 6-1, 6-7(6), 6-4.
The other US boy in the quarterfinals is Reilly Opelka, who defeated No. 5 seed Alex Rybakov 6-2, 7-6(3), his third straight-set win over Rybakov in the past month, with the previous two in Futures tournaments. Opelka's opponent on Friday will be No. 14 seed Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia, the Eddie Herr 14s champion last year, who defeated No. 4 seed Corentin Denolly of France 6-3, 6-2. Top seed Yunseong Chung of Korea will play No. 8 seed Hubert Hurkacz of Poland.
In the girls draw, an American semifinalist is assured, after both Caroline Dolehide and Raveena Kingsley advanced to play each other in Friday's quarterfinals.
Wild card Dolehide beat Emma Higuchi 6-2, 6-1, while No. 9 seed Kingsley got by unseeded Maia Lumsden of Great Britain 7-5, 6-2.
"There's no clay at all, I had to come here a week early," said the 16-year-old. "I feel like I've been playing pretty good. I've had some rough starts in the matches, but eventually get going."
Kingsley and Dolehide last played nearly two years ago in a USTA event, with Dolehide winning 6-4, 6-3.
"We played in a 16s indoor tournament a long time ago," said Kingsley. "I lost, and I remember missing a lot of forehands, making a lot of errors. But now I feel more confident and ready to play her."
The other quarterfinal in the bottom half has No. 7 seed Dalma Galfi of Hungary playing No. 15 seed Evgeniya Levashova of Russia. Galfi downed Katarina Jokic of Serbia 6-1, 6-0 and Levashova beat Claire Liu 6-0, 1-6, 6-2.
Top seed CiCi Bellis looked to be headed for her first three-set match of the tournament when she fell behind wild card Ingrid Neel 5-0 in the second set, but she won the final seven games of the match for a 6-2, 7-5 victory.
The 15-year-old Californian admitted that letting the second set go occurred to her.
"I was thinking if I really get down in the 5-0 game, I'll just coast until the third set," said Bellis. "But I kind of got on a roll after that, started playing a lot better and thought, yeah, I can come back if I keep playing like this, so I just kind of went for it."
Neel, who has trained for several years at the IMG Academy, served for the set at both 5-1 and 5-3, but double faults began to surface at inopportune times, including on game point at 5-3. Bellis had regained the rhythm she lost early in the second set, and Neel was just not able to stay in many of the long rallies in the second half of the set.
Bellis, who won two $25,000 Pro Circuit events in South Carolina in October, says there are adjustments to make on returning to junior competition.
"It's different, It's definitely a lot more pressure," Bellis said of the juniors. "When you're in the pros, you're thinking, okay, let's see how far I can get in this tournament. While in juniors, it's do you think you can win this tournament. I think the pressure is definitely more in juniors because you should win in some matches, but you have to deal with it."
Bellis will play No. 4 seed Gabby Ruse of Romania in the quarterfinals. The other quarterfinal in the top half has No. 4 seed Fanni Stollar against unseeded Katie Swan of Great Britain. Stollar eliminated the last qualifier, Rebeka Masarova of Switzerland, 7-6(5), 7-5, while Swan defeated No. 12 seed Sonya Kenin 6-2, 6-3.
The doubles semifinals are set for Friday. In the boys draw, the unseeded team of Opelka and Paul will play No. 6 seeds Domagoj Biljesko of Croatia and Alejandro Tabilo of Canada. Unseeded Alfredo Perez and Bjorn Thomson of Ireland will play top seeds Chung and Hong. A US team is guaranteed for the finals of the girls doubles, with Kelly Chen and Emma Higuchi playing No. 8 seeds Kenin and Jessica Ho. The other semifinal has No. 4 seeds Naiktha Bains of Australian and Luisa Stefani of Brazil against No. 2 seeds Levashova and Anna Kalinskaya of Russia.
The quarterfinals in the 12s, 14s, and 16s divisions will also be played on Friday, with Americans in all of them. Zane Khan(1), Spencer Brachman(7), Faris Khan and Nicolas Garcia(4) are still alive in the boys 12s. Victoria Hu and Charlottle Owensby are still in contention in the girls 12s. Jaycer Calleros, Roscoe Bellamy(8), Steven Sun and Brian Shi are the US boys in the 14s quarterfinals and Nicole Conard(8) and Caty McNally(6) are still in the girls 14s. Sam Riffice(1), lucky loser Danny Thomas, Patrick Kypson and Vasil Kirkov(6) are in the 16s quarterfinals. The draw with the most Americans remaining is the girls 16s, with Victoria Emma, Dominique Schaefer(4) (ITF Peru), Mimi Levine(5), Madeline Meredith and Sofia Sewing(2) in the quarterfinals.
For complete draws and orders of play, see the tournament website or the TennisLink site. Scores are posted throughout the day on the 12s, 14s, 16s at the TennisLink site.