Sunday, October 8, 2017

With incredible turnaround, Norrie reaches final

   STOCKTON, Calif. -- It was the biggest turnaround since Donald Trump succeeded Barack Obama.
   Cameron Norrie was two points from getting bageled in the first set of his semifinal against Michael Mmoh on Saturday in the $100,000 Stockton Challenger.
   From there, Norrie won 11 consecutive games in a 7-5, 6-2 victory at the University of the Pacific's Eve Zimmerman Tennis Center.
   As if that's not amazing enough, Norrie defeated Mmoh by the same score in the quarterfinals of last week's $100,000 Tiburon (Calif.) Challenger en route to the title.
   In an effort to change that outcome, the third-seeded Mmoh was determined to play more aggressively this time. He did just that initially, throwing the eight-seeded Norrie off his game and bolting to a 5-0 lead.
   But Mmoh, for all his firepower at a chiseled 6-foot-1 (1.85 meters) and 187 pounds (85 kilograms), likes to use his tremendous athleticism to play defense. He lapsed back into that mode, which proved fatal against Norrie and his precise groundstrokes.
   It didn't help that Mmoh double-faulted on the first of his three set points at 5-3 in the first set, on break point at 5-5 in that set and on break point at 2-4 in the second set.
   "He actually played really well to start off with, hitting the ball everywhere, and I was a little off," said Norrie, a 22-year-old left-hander from Great Britain. "My racket was strung dead, but I'm not making any excuses. He was playing great tennis. I just tried to take it one point at a time, and he stopped being as aggressive. That allowed me to play my game and dictate play a little more."
   Mmoh, 19, of Bradenton, Fla., agreed with Norrie's assessment.
   "I thought I was playing pretty solid and that was part of the reason I was up 5-0," said Mmoh, the son of former journeyman pro Tony Mmoh from Nigeria. "Then everything clicked (for Norrie), and I slowed down a little bit. He found his rhythm and built off that. He played really well the rest of the match after 5-0."
   Norrie, ranked No. 136, will face sixth-seeded Darian King of Barbados today after the 11 a.m. doubles final. King, ranked No. 207, defeated Tim Smyczek of Tampa, Fla., 6-1, 6-4.
   "I was expecting a long match, but I got a couple of errors from Tim to get an early break, and I guess I rode that wave," said King, 25. "Also in the second set, he got some early breaks, and I was getting a little tight trying to win the match. I was playing someone for the first time and trying to get into my first final in a long time."
   Norrie has played King once, winning 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 in the final round of qualifying for the $100,000 Dallas Challenger in February 2015. Norrie also practiced with King in Barbados while visiting a friend there the week before Tiburon last month.                    
   Norrie seeks his third Challenger title since turning pro in May after his junior year at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth.
   Since reaching the second round of the U.S. Open as a qualifier, Norrie has played in three consecutive Challenger finals. In the first one, he lost to unheralded American Kevin King in a $50,000 Challenger in Cary, N.C.
   "I've still got a lot of things to work on," said Norrie, who reached No. 1 nationally at TCU. "It's exciting that I'm winning and not playing my best tennis."
   King will play in his first final since beating Mmoh in last year's Tiburon Challenger.
   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, singles main 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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