Fritz, Mmoh and Brady Win USTA Pro Circuit Titles; Norway's Ruud, Japan's Hontama Champions at ITF Grade A Osaka Mayor's Cup
Because I was in Tulsa for the Pan American Closed, I wasn't able to follow the USTA Pro Circuit events as closely as I would have liked. I did have an opportunity today to watch the live stream of the $50,000 Fairfield Challenger final in California, however, with Taylor Fritz winning his second straight Challenger title over Dustin Brown of Germany 6-3, 6-4.
Brown and Fritz had met in the second round of last week's Sacramento Challenger, with Fritz saving three match points in his 6-7(3), 7-6(5), 7-6(7) win. The rematch in today's final was much anticipated, but Fritz was in control throughout, saving the only three break points he faced. When the 6-foot-4 right-hander, who turns 18 in ten days, gets 67 percent of his first serves in, as he did today, he will be difficult to beat, even by someone with as much game as the flashy Brown, who was the No. 3 seed. In all Fritz beat four seeds, including No. 1 Tim Smyczek, with all his victories in straight sets.
According to the ATP's Josh Meiseles, Fritz becomes only the seventh active player to win multiple Challengers at age 17, joining Richard Gasquet, Juan Martin del Potro, Tomas Berdych, Rafael Nadal and Bernard Tomic. His ATP ranking will move into the 230s, and his winning streak, including the US Open Juniors, is now at 16.
Frances Tiafoe also had a good week in Fairfield, reaching the semifinals before falling in three sets to Brown.
Another 17-year-old American, Michael Mmoh, won the $15,000 Houston Futures today, defeating Lucas Gomez of Mexico 6-3, 6-2. Mmoh, the No. 5 seed, beat top seed Eric Quigley and No. 3 seed Deiton Baughman en route to his third Futures final. Up 5-0 in the first set, and 4-1 in the second against the unseeded Gomez, Mmoh needed just over an hour to take his third Futures title and the second this year. His ranking will rise very close to the Top 400 when the points are added.
Baughman won the doubles title in Houston, with Hans Hach(Abilene Christian) of Mexico. The top seeds defeated current Rice teammates Adam Gustavsson of Sweden and David Warren 6-2, 6-0 in the final.
Jennifer Brady, the 20-year-old who left UCLA for professional tennis this summer, won her second $25,000 title, this one in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Brady, the No. 6 seed, did not lose a set all week, beating top seed Romina Oprandi of Switzerland in the semifinals and unseeded Andrea Gamiz of Venezuela 7-5, 6-4 in the final. When the points are added, Brady should return to the WTA Top 200. The doubles title went to Ema Burgic Bucko (Baylor) of Bosnia and Renata Zarazua of Mexico. The unseeded team defeated top seeds Elitsa Kostova of Bulgaria and Florencia Molinero of Argentina 7-5, 6-2 in the final.
At the Grade A Osaka Mayor's Cup in Japan, won by Mmoh two years ago and Fritz last year, Casper Ruud of Norway and Mai Hontama of Japan won the singles titles.
The boys and girls draws played out very differently, with the top four seeds reaching the boys semifinals, and two qualifiers, both from Japan, reaching the girls semifinals.
The 16-year-old Ruud, the No. 3 seed, defeated No. 2 seed Yunseong Chung of Korea 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 in the semifinals and beat No. 4 seed Mate Valkusz of Hungary 6-4, 6-0 in the final. Valkusz had advanced to the final when top seed Seong Chan Hong of Korea retired trailing 5-3 in the semifinals.
Top seed Katie Swan of Great Britain lost in the quarterfinals to qualifier Xinyu Gao of China. Gao was beaten by the unseeded Hontama in the semifinals, while 14-year-old qualifier Yuki Naito of Japan took out No. 11 seed Berfu Cengiz of Turkey. Naito's run came to end against the 16-year-old Hontama, who posted a 6-1, 7-5 victory in the final.
The two US girls in the draw, Raquel Pedraza and Emma Higuchi, both lost in the second round.
The girls doubles title also went to the home country, with unseeded Haruna Arakawa and Ayumi Miyamoto defeating top seed Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine and Wushuang Zheng of China 6-4, 6-4 in the final.
Taiwan's Chien Hsun Lo and Japan's Yosuke Watanuki, the No. 4 seeds, beat unseeded Masamichi Imamura and Yuki Mochiduki of Japan 7-6(6), 6-1 in the final.
For more on the tournament, including the great crowds, see this ITF Junior website article from Sandra Harwitt, who also provides insight into Ruud's background, training, and Davis Cup participation.