Saturday, October 7, 2017

'Lefty Andy Murray' advances to Stockton semis

   STOCKTON, Calif. -- If Michael Mmoh is right, Cameron Norrie has a very bright future.
   When it was suggested to Mmoh that the left-hander's game resembles his British countryman Andy Murray's, Mmoh replied: "Lefty Andy Murray is a pretty good comparison. He has a really good backhand and a pretty good forehand. He's very talented at moving you around the court and really dictating that baseline, so he'll just push you from corner to corner. He can do that all day. He has very good precision."
   That doesn't necessarily mean Norrie, who will face Mmoh today in the semifinals of the $100,000 Stockton Challenger, will ascend to No. 1 and win three Grand Slam singles titles like Murray.
   Norrie, 22, is far behind Murray at the same age. Murray won the first of his 45 ATP titles, 14th in the Open era (since 1968) and fourth among active players, in the now-defunct SAP Open in San Jose at 18 years old in 2006 and repeated in 2007. Norrie is ranked No. 136 and could crack the top 100 by the end of the year. That would be an impressive feat, considering he turned pro only four months ago after his junior year at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth.
   Norrie, seeded eighth, beat Tennys Sandgren, seeded second, 6-3, 7-6 (5) on Friday at the University of the Pacific's Eve Zimmerman Tennis Center.
   The third-seeded Mmoh, 19, of Bradenton, Fla., led 34-year-old Russian qualifier Dmitry Tursunov, a former top-20 player who has been plagued by injuries, 6-3 when Tursunov retired with a hamstring injury.
   It's the third consecutive tournament in which Tursunov, who trained in Northern California from age 12 into his 30s, has retired and the second straight because of a hamstring problem.
   In the other semifinal, sixth-seeded Darian King of Barbados will meet unseeded veteran Tim Smyczek of Tampa, Fla., for the first time.
   King, 25, defeated fourth-seeded Stefan Kozlov, 19, of Pembroke Pines, Fla., 6-4, 6-4. Smyczek, 29, eliminated Elias Ymer, a 21-year-old Swede, by the same score.
   Both King and Smyczek qualified for the U.S. Open in August and lost in the first round.   
   Sandgren, 26, of Gallatin, Tenn., in the Nashville area was the only top-100 player in the Stockton Challenger at No. 97. Top-seeded Ruben Bemelmans, a Belgian who lost to Ymer in the first round, dropped from No. 92 when the draw came out last Saturday to No. 101 in the latest rankings on Monday.
   Norrie's victory wasn't really an upset. He improved to 3-0 against Sandgren, including a 6-2, 6-3 victory in the final of the $100,000 Tiburon (Calif.) Challenger on Sunday.
   "I think I've had a little bit of luck (against Sandgren)," the 6-foot-2 (1.88-meter) Norrie said modestly. "I've been winning the long rallies against him, and that's what he usually does well. That's paid dividends, and I've been coming forward when I've needed to and knocking off some volleys when he's on the run and slices. I've been staying positive and staying tough."
   Sandgren led 4-1 (one service break) in the second set, but Norrie broke back for 3-4 when Sandgren sailed a high backhand volley long. Both players then held serve to force the tiebreaker, in which Norrie bolted to a 5-1 lead and held on for the match.
   "He played a good game to break me (early in the second set)," said Norrie, who reached the second round of the U.S. Open as a qualifier before losing to eventual semifinalist Pablo Carreno Busta. "I felt like I was playing well. I just tried to focus on the present. Then I fought back and played a very good tiebreaker and served really well. It's the best I've served the last two weeks. I'm feeling really good about the match."
   Mmoh, the son of former journeyman pro Tony Mmoh from Nigeria, skipped college and turned pro last year. He was happy that his match against Tursunov lasted only 39 minutes.
   Mmoh was coming off a 1-6, 6-2, 7-6 (4) victory over Mackenzie McDonald, who grew up in Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area, on Thursday. Mmoh saved two match points in the 2-hour, 34-minute battle.
   "I had a super-long match yesterday and was pretty sore this morning," conceded Mmoh, who was named after Michael Jordan and has much of his namesake's athleticism. "Having a 30-minute match or whatever it was is going to help me the rest of the tournament and if I decide to play Fairfield (next week) as well."
   Norrie is 2-0 against Mmoh, including a 7-5, 6-2 win last week in the Tiburon quarterfinals.
   "I need to be a little more aggressive and take my chances," said the 6-foot-1 (1.85-meter) Mmoh, ranked No. 156. "I don't think I'm going to have a lot of success just putting the ball in play and hoping he's going to miss because he can make a ton of balls. I'm going to look to use my firepower and take it upon him."
   Here are the Stockton singles and doubles draws and today's schedule. The tournament is being streamed live.
   Also, here are the singles qualifying draw and today's schedule for the $100,000 Northbay Healthcare Men's Pro Championships at Solano Community College in Fairfield, Calif.

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