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Saturday, January 7, 2017

Kirkov, Appleton Claim First Grade 1 Titles at Coffee Bowl; Mmoh Qualifies for ATP Auckland; McDonald and Soderlund Advance to LA Futures Final

Emily Appleton of Great Britain swept both girls titles at the ITF Grade 1 Coffee Bowl in Costa Rica today, while Vasil Kirkov defeated Oliver Crawford in an all-US final to capture his first title at that level.

The 17-year-old Appleton started her successful day partnering Sofia Sewing for the girls doubles title. The No. 1 seeds saved two match points in defeating No. 2 seeds Ellie Douglas and Nicole Mossmer 6-4, 4-6, 11-9.  Sewing and Appleton trailed 9-7 in the tiebreaker, but Sewing stepped up in the final four points with her backhand return winner closing out the win.  It's Sewing's third Grade 1 title with her third different partner since August.

The boys doubles title went to No. 2 seeds Danny Thomas and Gianni Ross, who defeated top seeds Constantin Bittoun Kouzmine of France and Sam Riffice 6-3, 3-6, 10-3.  Coincidentally, Thomas won the same three Grade 1s as Sewing since August, and he too did it with three different partners.

In the singles, Appleton, the No. 2 seed, had an experience advantage over unseeded Salma Ewing, and it showed in her 6-3, 6-3 victory.   Appleton had reached two Grade 1 finals in 2016, and although she lost both, she looked much more comfortable at the start of the match, played in front of the tournament's usual sellout crowd and TV cameras.  The 16-year-old Ewing fell behind 5-1 in the first set, and never looked entirely comfortable, but she did break Appleton serving for the first set at 5-1 to settle down a bit.

Appleton broke in the third game of the second set, but Ewing got the break back and took a 3-2 lead.  Appleton, who hadn't won a straight-sets match since the second round, proceeded to break Ewing's next two service games while holding hers easily to secure the win.

Crawford, the No. 5 seed, had, like Appleton, reached the final after winning three consecutive three-setters, but he was not able to dent the serve of No. 4 seed Kirkov, who took a 6-2, 6-4 victory.

There were no breaks of serve in the first set until Crawford was broken at 4-4, although Kirkov did escape a 0-40 hole in his first service game.  After Kirkov served out the first set at love, Crawford called for a trainer, who worked on his right thigh.  He saved two break points to hold his first service game, but was broken serving at 1-1 and Kirkov held for a 3-1 lead.  Crawford's last chance to get back in the match came with Kirkov serving a 3-2. Crawford had two break points at 15-40, but as it had done throughout the match, Kirkov's serve came through for him and he finished with a break and love hold for his first Grade 1 title.

In Auckland, New Zealand, Michael Mmoh, who beat Kirkov to win the Kalamazoo 18s title in August, qualified for the ASB Classic, beating former ATP Top 20 player Jerzy Janowicz of Poland 7-6(3), 6-3 in the final round of qualifying.  It is the second ATP 250 tournament Mmoh has qualified for; he will be looking for his first ATP main draw victory in his fourth try, with his first round opponent Germany's Dustin Brown.

The finals are set for the $25,000 Futures in Los Angeles with 2016 NCAA champion Mackenzie McDonald facing University of Virginia freshman Carl Soderlund of Sweden in the final.  McDonald, the No. 5 seed, defeated No. 4 seed Yannick Hanfmann of Germany 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, while Soderlund, the No. 8 seed, beat No. 6 seed Evan King 7-6(2), 6-7(6), 6-3.  For more on today's semifinals, see this report from press aide Steve Pratt.