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Sunday, September 30, 2018

US Girls Win Second Straight Junior Fed Cup Title, Spain Claims Junior Davis Cup; Muhammad and Mmoh Capture Titles in Templeton and Tiburon

Last year, the US girls did not have to play the doubles match in the Junior Fed Cup final, beating Japan 2-0, with singles victories by Whitney Osuigwe (who was still eligible to play in the 16-and-under competition this year) and Caty McNally. The road to the title was much rockier this year, with Alexa Noel losing her No. 2 singles match to Ukraine's Lyubov Kostenko 6-1, 6-4 to start out, and, after Coco Gauff had tied the score with a 6-1, 4-6, 6-0 win over Dasha Lopatetskaya at No. 1 singles, saving a match point in the deciding doubles 5-7, 6-4, 11-9.

In a match that close, any point can be crucial, but most who saw it will vote for Noel's shot serving at 6-8 in the match tiebreaker as the turning point. At the net and stretched into the doubles alley, Noel managed to sharply angle a slice backhand that landed in the doubles alley on the other side of the net that galvanized the US team. Instead of being down three match points, it was 7-8, and Lopatetskaya, who was playing with an injured shoulder, made a backhand error to put the match back even. Ukraine, the No. 2 seed in the event, earned its match point with a quick poach and volley winner by Kostenko, but Gauff saved it with a big serve and when Lopatetskaya hit a forehand long, the US team had their chance at a match point. They converted, with Kostenko missing a forehand volley to give the top-seeded US girls their third title in the past five years.

Noel was on the USA's 2016 ITF 14-and-under World Junior Tennis team, making the final, but losing (with Whitney Osuigwe) in the deciding doubles point 10-6 in a match tiebreaker. Lopatetskaya was on the winning side in that one, although she did not play singles that year.

Spain's crucial point in its 2-1 win over No. 2 seed France came much earlier in the tie, with Spain trailing 1-0 after Lilian Marmousez had beaten Mario Gonzalez Fernandez 6-1, 4-6, 6-2 at No. 2 singles. Spain, the No. 6 seed, was looking at a 2-0 defeat when Carlos Alcaraz Garfia lost the first set to Harold Mayot at No. 1 singles and was down 5-3 in the second, but Alcaraz saved a match point in that game, rallying for  a 6-4, 5-7, 6-1 victory. The doubles drama didn't match the girls', with Spain winning 6-2, 6-3 to take their sixth Junior Davis Cup title and their first since 2013.

The US boys won their fourth straight match, beating Hungary 2-0 to finish the tournament in ninth place. Toby Kodat, who retired in the first match in the round robin group against Great Britain, did not play after that.

After three years in Budapest, it was announced today that the tournament will relocate to the USTA National Campus in Lake Nona for 2019.  I had heard the USTA was bidding on the tournament, and with it now official, I'm sure more details will follow. As the host, the US teams will not need to qualify for the tournaments, as the other 15 teams must.

For more on the girls final, see this ITF Junior Circuit website article.  For more on the boys final, see this ITF Junior Circuit website article.
For all results, see the ITF tournament webpage.

Americans captured the two biggest events on the USTA Pro Circuit this week, with unseeded Asia Muhammad and No. 5 seed Michael Mmoh taking titles in California.

Muhammad defeated Sesil Karatantcheva of Bulgaria, also unseeded, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3 in Templeton to claim her third title of the year and second at the $60,000 level. Muhammad will move well inside the Top 200 with this title, although still short of her career-high ranking of 124 last spring.

Muhammad also took the doubles title, with Maria Sanchez(USC). The top seeds defeated unseeded Quinn Gleason(Notre Dame) and Brazil's Luisa Stefani(Pepperdine) 6-7(4), 6-2, 10-8. It's actually the lowest level doubles title Muhammad and Sanchez have won this year, with their previous titles as a team at the $100,000 tournament in Ilkley this summer and the WTA International in Quebec earlier this month.

Mmoh defeated top seed Marcel Granollers of Spain 6-3, 7-5 at the $100,000 ATP Challenger in Tiburon, claiming his second straight Challenger title and moving into the ATP Top 100 for the first time. The 20-year-old Floridian, who won the Kalamazoo 18s title in 2016, will be amont 12 Americans in the ATP Top 100 come Monday.

Doubles qualifiers Hans Hach Verdugo(Abilene Christian) of Mexico and Luke Saville of Australia won the doubles title, beating unseeded Gerard Granollers and Pedro Martinez of Spain 6-3, 6-2 in the final. 

In the continuing saga of former collegians excelling in ATP doubles, Ben McLachan(Cal) of Japan and Joe Salisbury(Memphis) of Great Britain won the ATP event in Shenzhen China today, beating Rajeev Ram(Illinois) and Sweden's Robert Lindstedt(Pepperdine) 7-6(5), 7-6(4) in the final. Read more about their first title as a team at the ATP website.

At the $15,000 tournaments in the US today, Bianca Turati of Italy and Takuto Niki of Japan claimed the titles. Top-seeded Turati, the University of Texas junior,  defeated Washington State sophomore Michaela Bayerlova of the Czech Republic, the No. 3 seed, 7-6(0), 6-2 in the final of the Hilton Head South Carolina tournament.

Niki, the No. 4 seed, defeated qualifier Michael Shabaz(Virginia) 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 to take the title at the Fountain Valley California event.