By McCarton Ackerman
Alexandra Mueller won the inaugural US Open National Playoff Women’s Championship in 2010 and now she’s one match away from clinching the title for a second time.
All semifinal matches were completed today in front of packed crowds at the US Open National Playoffs Men’s and Women’s Championships, held at the Connecticut Tennis Center at Yale University in New Haven. The No. 2 seed Mueller got the opportunity to have her semifinal match against No. 4 seed Sandra Roma of Sweden take place on Yale’s 15,000 seat stadium court. The atmosphere clearly worked to her advantage as Mueller breezed through to the finals with a 6-3, 6-2 win.
"Anytime you can play on a court like this one, it’s what you dream about as a little kid," said Mueller. "I just hope I can go all the way tomorrow because that was my goal when I entered this competition. And now that I’ve had more experience this past year playing against top 100 and top 150 players, which will be the standard at the US Open, I think I can do better than the last time there."
The 24-year-old Mueller was joined in the finals by top-seeded Japanese teenager Mayo Hibi, who continued her impressive form this week by dispatching unseeded American Mary Weatherholt 7-5, 3-6, 6-4. Hibi is currently ranked No. 413 on the WTA Tour after an impressive summer on the USTA Pro Circuit, which included winning the $10,000 futures event in Hilton Head, S.C. and reaching the semifinals at a $50,000 challenger in Yakima, Wash.
"The US Open would so big for me, but even just being here and seeing all the WTA players (competing in the New Haven Open) play and practice is a great experience," said Hibi. "It’s everyone’s goal to play in a Grand Slam, so I’m really excited to possibly have that chance."
The top two seeds in the men’s draw also advanced into the championship match on Monday. No. 1 seed Clement Reix didn’t drop serve once in his match against New York native Nikita Kryvonos while keeping the pressure on his opponent’s serve throughout, breaking him three times as he advanced with a 6-2, 6-4 win.
Reix gained direct entry into last year’s US Open qualifying draw when he was at his career high ranking of No. 250. Now at No. 502 in the ATP Tour rankings, Reix said his experience at last year’s tournament has made him even more motivated to go back this year.
"The US Open was definitely the best tournament I’ve ever played in," said Reix. "I knew I wouldn’t have the ranking to play there again this year and this is a great opportunity to get back, so I’m just trying to take advantage of it."
Reix will be joined in the championship match by No. 2 seed Nicholas Meister of the U.S., who defeated fellow American Eric Hechtman 6-4, 6-2 in the other semifinal. Meister turned pro in June after a standout career on the tennis team at UCLA and qualified for the ATP Tour event last month in Los Angeles, bringing him to his current career high ranking of No. 561.
"It would just be so encouraging and motivating to be in that atmosphere and see the world’s best players," said Meister. "This is only my third month on the pro tour after college, so having that opportunity would give me such a boost for the rest of my career."
The finals for the US Open National Playoffs Men’s and Women’s Championships will kick off on Monday at noon on Court 2. Mayo Hibi will take on Alexandra Mueller for the women’s title, followed by Clement Reix and Nicolas Meister squaring off for the men’s crown.
The winner of the men’s and women’s singles events this week will receive a wild card into the US Open qualifying tournament, held from August 21-24 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y.
US Open National Playoffs--Men’s and Women’s Championships
Sunday, August 19
Connecticut Tennis Center at Yale University
New Haven, Conn.
Men’s Singles - Semifinals
Clement Reix, France (1), def. Nikita Kryvonos, Flushing, NY (3), 6-2, 6-4
Nicolas Meister, Trabuco Canyon, CA (2), def. Eric Hechtman, Miami, FL, 6-4, 6-2
Women’s Singles - Semifinals
Mayo Hibi, Japan (1), def. Mary Weatherholt, Shawnee, KS, 7-5, 3-6, 6-4
Alexandra Mueller, Abington, PA (2), def. Sandra Roma, Sweden (4), 6-3, 6-2