Sunday, October 9, 2016

Tiafoe, Rubin have extra motivation in Stockton final

   STOCKTON, Calif. -- More than a title will be on the line today in the $100,000 Stockton Challenger.
   Frances Tiafoe, 18, hopes to beat fellow American Noah Rubin for the first time and reach a career milestone. Rubin, 20, wants to distinguish himself among the United States' many top prospects.
   They will meet for the first time as professionals after the 11 a.m. doubles final at the new Eve Zimmerman Tennis Center at the University of the Pacific. Both matches will be streamed live.
   Tiafoe, seeded third, beat Mackenzie McDonald, a native of Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area, 7-6 (4), 6-3 on Saturday. Tiafoe had lost to McDonald 3-6, 7-6 (5), 7-5 in the quarterfinals of last week's $100,000 Tiburon Challenger.
   McDonald had two set points serving at 5-3, 40-15 in the first set.
   "He played two loose points, and I made him pay," Tiafoe said. "I played a good breaker, then made sure I won the second set. I was up a set and a break last week and let it go. I'm happy I stuck to it and got the win today."
   When asked if the Tiburon loss gave him extra motivation, the 117th-ranked Tiafoe said: "Definitely. Also, winning this tournament would put me in the top 100, and I really want that. Obviously, I want to beat (Rubin), but I want to win this tournament, so I'm going to compete as hard as I can to do it."
   Rubin, only 5-foot-10 (1.78 meters) and 155 pounds (70 kilograms), defeated 18-year-old American Michael Mmoh 6-2, 6-3. Mmoh aggravated an abdominal strain at 2-2 in the first set.
   "I think I tried to go for a little too much on one of the serves," said Mmoh, the Saudi Arabia-born son of Nigeria native and former journeyman pro Tony Mmoh. "It was a long game, and I kind of felt it tug and pull on me. The abdomen is a very sensative area. It's not something you can really push through, but all credit to Noah. He played fantastic today, better than I was expecting him to play. I'm happy for him. Hopefully, he keeps it going."
   Rubin, Tiafoe and Mmoh have won the last three USTA boys 18 national titles, in that order, in Kalamazoo, Mich., to earn automatic wild cards in the main draw of the U.S. Open. Rubin also captured the Wimbledon boys singles title during his dream summer of 2014.
   Rubin turned pro last year after reaching the NCAA final as a freshman at Wake Forest and stunned then-No. 18 Benoit Paire of France in the first round of Australian Open in January.
   But Rubin missed much of this past summer with a sprained ankle. That, plus facing a fellow young American, gave him added incentive on Saturday.
   "Yeah, of course. You want to prove yourself," said the 192nd-ranked Rubin, a product of the John McEnroe Tennis Academy in New York. "You don't want to be thrown into the pack and be forgotten about, especially since I went to school for a while and I was injured, so I want to make my mark again.
   "Also, I just want to get back to a place where I'm comfortable with my game and feel like I'm moving well and ready to play every match. I feel confident right now."
   Rubin was 3-0 against Tiafoe in ITF junior tournaments, including in the round of 16 en route to his USTA boys 18 and Wimbledon titles.
   "He moves extremely well and competes extremely hard," said the 6-foot-2 (1.88-meter), 170-pound (77-kilogram) Tiafoe, who will counter with a big serve, a devastating forehand and an outstanding two-handed backhand. "It's going to be tough, but hopefully my weapons can take him down."
   They almost took down 20th-seeded John Isner in the first round of the recent U.S. Open. Tiafoe led the 6-foot-10 (2.08-meter) Isner, the top-ranked American at the time, two sets to none before falling in a fifth-set tiebreaker. Tiafoe embraced Isner at the net afterward.
   Both Rubin and Tiafoe have won one Challenger singles title.
   Here are:
   --The Stockton singles and doubles draws and today's schedule.
   --The Fairfield (Calif.) singles qualifying and main draws and today's schedule. The $100,000 men's tournament is being held at Solano Community College.
   --The Redding (Calif.) singles and doubles draws and today's schedule. The $25,000 women's tournament is being played at Sun Oaks Tennis & Fitness.

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