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Sunday, November 13, 2016

Mmoh Wins Knoxville Challenger; Min Falls in Waco Final to Give Day the USTA's Australian Open Wild Card; Draws Out for ITF Grade A in Mexico

Eighteen-year-old Michael Mmoh won the $50,000 ATP Knoxville Challenger today, defeating Peter Polansky of Canada 7-5, 2-6, 6-1 in the final.

Mmoh, playing in his second Challenger final, took a 3-1 lead on the 28-year-old Polansky in the first set but he was unable to hold on to the lead, despite two set points serving at 5-3.  Mmoh was content to engage in long rallies with Polansky, banking on his outstanding court coverage and defense, and that worked in the opening set, with Polansky more likely to miss than Mmoh.  That proved true on the fourth set point, with Polansky serving at 5-6, but Polansky smashed a routine putaway into the net to give Mmoh the first set.  The second set saw Mmoh lose much of the patience he showed in the first set, but he came out more aggressive in the third and got an early break for a 2-0 lead.  Polansky had two break points with Mmoh serving at 3-1, but Mmoh stepped up his serving when down, hitting two aces and a good second-serve kicker and held for 4-1.  Another break in the next game gave Mmoh a chance to serve out the match, and he did so impressively. Making all four of his first serves, Mmoh was the picture of composure in the final game of his first Challenger title.

Mmoh is now one of four US teens to win a Challenger title this year, joining Reilly Opelka, Frances Tiafoe and Taylor Fritz, and he will move close to the ATP Top 200 when Monday's rankings are released.

Mmoh also takes the lead in the USTA's Australian Open Wild Card Challenge, with the final tournament of the men's competition coming up next week in Champaign.  Both Mmoh and last week's winner Opelka are entered in Champaign, as are Knoxville semifinalists Jared Donaldson, the top seed, and Stefan Kozlov, the No. 3 seed. Regardless of the outcome of the race for the main draw wild card, all four are assured of a place in the qualifying draw in Melbourne.

Polansky did pick up a title in Knoxville however, taking the doubles championship with partner Adil Shamasdin, also of Canada. The No. 2 seeds defeated the unseeded Belgian team of Joris De Loore and Ruben Bemelmans 6-1, 6-3.

At the $50,000 Women's Pro Circuit final in Waco Texas, No. 6 seed Grace Min lost to Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil 6-2, 3-6, 6-1. Min needed to take the title in Waco to secure the women's USTA Australian Open wild card, so her loss means 17-year-old Kayla Day will claim it, with her Macon $50K title and a semifinal last week in Scottsdale.  Day made her slam debut in New York this year, beating Madison Brengle in the first round, so she will be playing in her second straight main draw in a slam.

Min was down 6-2, 2-0, but fought back to force a third set, but the 20-year-old from Brazil, who also won last week's $50K in Arizona, was able to regroup in the third set, breaking Min from 40-15 up to take a 4-1 lead and closing it out on her third match point.

At the $10,000 Futures in Niceville Florida, No. 2 seed Gianni Mina of France defeated Tulane junior Constantin Schmitz of Germany, a qualifier 4-6, 6-1, 6-0 in the singles final.

Qualifying is complete and draws have been posted at the ITF Grade A Abierto Juvenil, with a surprise wild card as the No. 1 seed: Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia, who is fighting for the year-end ITF World Junior Champion title and is currently No. 2 in the rankings behind Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece.  Benjamin Sigouin of Canada is the No. 2 seed in the boys draw.

Anastasia Potapova of Russia is the No. 1 seed in the girls draw, with Kayla Day the No. 2 seed. Their battle for the girls World Junior Champion title starts in Mexico, and could extend through the final Grade A of the year, the Orange Bowl.

The United States juniors are well represented in the draws, with 28 girls (including Carson Branstine, who has been reported as changing her allegiance to Canada), nine of them seeded.  Included in that number are four qualifiers: Malkia Menguene, Chloe Hamlin, Imani Graham and Alexa Noel.  I believe there has been an error in the draw, because players from the same country are not supposed to play each other in the first round if that's avoidable (this rule does not apply in regards to lucky losers), and Menguene has been drawn against defending champion Amanda Anisimova, the No. 3 seed.  A notable wild card in the girls draw is 13-year-old Noa Krznaric of Croatia, last year's Eddie Herr 12s champion.

Seventeen US boys are in the draw, although Trent Bryde, at No. 12, is the only seed.  Four are qualifiers: Noah Schachter, Timothy Sah, Boris Kozlov and Joshua Bode.  Interesting to note that 7 of the 8 top seeds in qualifying made it to the main draw in both the girls and boys qualifying, an unusually high number, particularly for a Grade A.

The tournament website has the order of play, draws, and links to live scoring and live streaming.