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Sunday, February 3, 2019

Wild Card McNally Claims Midland $100K Title; UCLA's Cressy Saves Match Points, Wins Cleveland Challenger

At the $100,000 Dow Tennis Classic's pre-tournament press conference, I asked Caty McNally, whose has played on the biggest stages of junior tennis for several years now, the difference between that circuit and the professional events she's been playing the past several months.

"It's definitely a big change just in the way that the players act," McNally said. "Now I'm playing against players who do this for a living, this is how they make their money, and in juniors, it's kind of different. I think mentally, maybe, juniors aren't as strong as they are in pros. They take it very serious and I'm definitely learning how to become more professional."

The 17-year-old wild card proved to be a exceptionally quick study this week, beating two WTA Top 100 players and the 1, 3 and 4 seeds, without dropping a set to any of them, taking the title this afternoon with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over No. 4 seed Jessica Pegula.

Pegula, who had lost her previous seven finals on the WTA and ITF circuits, didn't play well in the opening set, losing the first game and making too many unforced errors to put any pressure on McNally, who had beaten top seed Rebecca Peterson in the semifinals and defending champion and No. 3 seed Madison Brengle in the quarterfinals.

Pegula did win a big service game to start the second set, saving three break points, but lost her next two service games to go down 4-1. When McNally held in a deuce game to take a 5-1 lead, the result seemed a foregone conclusion, but Pegula held to force McNally to serve it out at 5-2. In finishing her upsets of Brengle and Peterson, McNally had shown no nerves whatsoever, but that changed today. She missed first serves, made unforced errors and double faulted twice, the second on game point, and Pegula was able to hold to pull within a game. Serving for the title a second time, McNally double faulted again to open the game, but Pegula made two unforced errors to help McNally to a 30-15 lead. A well-executed backhand pass gave her two match points, but two forehand errors brought it back to deuce. But a good first serve, rare in her final two service games, gave her a third match point, and after a brief rally, McNally came in for a forehand volley, and Pegula sent her response well wide.

McNally didn't show much emotion throughout the week, but she went down on the court briefly after Pegula's shot went out, before sharing a hug with her doubles partner this week at the net.

McNally has won two doubles title in junior slams, but lost her only singles final to Coco Gauff at the French Open last year.

"I've been in a position like this before," McNally told commentator Ken Thomas after the match. "In the finals of a [junior] grand slam it's almost just as much pressure. I kind of struggled through that, so I've tried to learn from it, and grow from it and I think I did a pretty good job of that today."

McNally had planned on playing the $25,000 events later this month in Surprise Arizona and Rancho Santa Fe California, but, citing the WTA restrictions on the number of tournaments she can play until she turns 18 in November, McNally is now planning to play just the California event. After her performance this week, she will likely receive a wild card into the WTA 125 tournament prior to Indian Wells and perhaps the BNP Paribas Open too.

McNally will rise to around 253 in the WTA rankings, with friend Whitney Osuigwe and Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine the only two players younger than she is above her in the WTA rankings.

Without McNally's breakout run this week, most of the attention would have gone to UCLA senior Maxime Cressy, who won his first ATP Challenger title today in Cleveland, in just the second such event he had ever played.  Cressy, who had played for France until this year (his father is French, is mother is American), defeated recent Ohio State star Mikael Torpegaard of Denmark 6-7(4), 7-6(6), 6-3 at the inaugural ATP 90 event.

Cressy, who serves and volley often and chips and charges too, saved two match points in the second set, serving at 4-5 and 5-6, each time at 30-40. The 21-year-old also trailed 4-0 in the second set tiebreaker, but Torpegaard couldn't put him away, and Cressy won eight of the next ten points to send the match to a third set. Neither player was able to break serve--Torpegaard was 0-6 and Cressy was 0-4--until Torpegaard double faulted at ad-out serving at 3-4. Cressy took the gift and served out the match at love, winning seven matches (one in qualifying) to earn the title. Cressy had 22 aces for the second straight match, also hitting that number in his three-set win over Marcos Giron.

With the win, Cressy will move to 313 in the ATP rankings, with the only current college player ahead of him Ohio State junior JJ Wolf.

For the second straight week, Nathaniel Lammons(SMU) and Robert Galloway(Wofford) and Romain Arneodo of Monaco and Andrei Vasilevski of Belarus met for the doubles championship, with the Americans, who won the Newport title last week, unable to make it two in row.  Top seeds Arneodo and Vasilevski defeating Lammons and Galloway 6-4, 7-6(4) in today's final.

At the World Tennis Tour men's $25,000 tournament in Weston Florida, top seed Dmitry Popko of Kazakhstan defeated unseeded Alejandro Tabilo of Chile 6-2, 6-3 to take the singles title.  The doubles title went to teenagers Sebastian Korda and Nicolas Mejia of Colombia. The No. 2 seeds defeated former Texas A&M Aggies Jordi Arconada and Harrison Adams 6-3, 3-6, 11-9 in the final.