Alexandra Mueller fought off two set points on her way to a 7-6 (2), 6-3 win over No. 1 seed Mayo Hibi of Japan.
By McCarton Ackerman
The US Open National Playoffs Men’s and Women’s Championships, held at the Connecticut Tennis Center at Yale University in New Haven, Conn., came to a conclusion on Monday. 2010 champion Alexandra Mueller fought off two set points on her way to a 7-6 (2), 6-3 win over No. 1 seed Mayo Hibi of Japan, while No. 1 seed Clement Reix continued his domination through the men’s draw with an easy 6-2, 6-3 win over No. 2 seed Nicolas Meister of the U.S.
The women were up first in the opening match of the day on Court 2. The 16-year-old Hibi used her unorthodox serve-and-volley game to throw Mueller off in the beginning, grabbing an early break to storm out to a 4-2 lead in the first set. However, as Hibi’s first serve percentage dropped and she was forced to stay on the baseline, the powerful Mueller was able to dictate most of the rallies and break back to level the match at 4-4.
"She plays a lot different than the girls normally do every week and her serve skids through the court, so it took some getting used to," said Mueller.
Mueller fought off two set points on her own serve at 4-5 in the first set, but stepped up her game when it mattered most in the opening set tiebreak. Using her strong serve to control the tempo of the points, Mueller raced out to a 6-1 lead and then closed out the tiebreak with a backhand winner on her second set point.
The second set was another set of missed opportunities for Hibi. She jumped out to a 3-1 lead and had a break point opportunity for 4-1, but sent a forehand long and Mueller eventually held. It would be the last bit of momentum the Japanese teenager would have as Mueller won the last five games to take the match.
Mueller is currently ranked No. 469 on the WTA Tour. She received wild cards into the qualifying draw of the US Open in 2004 (where she reached the second round) and 2010 (where she lost in the first round). However, Mueller said she is expecting to put together her best ever run at the US Open this week.
"I think those other times I was just happy to be there, but now I know what to expect," said Mueller. "I’ve had more experience this year against top 100 and 150 players, which is the standard for the qualifying draw, so I’m definitely looking to win some rounds and hopefully qualify."
On the men’s side, Reix encountered little resistance in his match against Meister. He broke Meister to love in the American’s first service game and then grabbed a double break with a forehand winner to lead 5-1. Although he dropped serve in his first opportunity to close out the set, Reix immediately rebounded at 5-2 by breaking Meister once again with a flurry of strong groundstrokes that landed with inches of the baseline.
Meister had one bit of momentum in the match when he broke Reix to lead 2-1 in the second set, his only lead throughout the contest. However, the American lost his serve in the next game to level the match and Reix raised his level even further. Following a strong forehand with timely trips to the net, Reix broke Meister to lead 5-3 and then closed out the match with his ninth ace of the day.
"Whenever my groundstrokes were struggling, my serve was there for me all week," said Reix. "This is the first time in a long time I’ve been able to play three good matches in a row."
Now ranked No. 502 in the ATP Tour rankings, Reix got into the US Open qualifying draw directly last year when he was at a career high ranking of No. 250. Having lost in the first round of his previous two attempts at qualifying for a Grand Slam, Reix said he is playing well enough to finally get over the first round hurdle this year.
"The US Open will be a different level because I’ll only be playing against people in the top 250," said Reix. "If I can keep up the level from this week though, I have a good chance to win some rounds there. We’ll see what happens."
The US Open qualifying tournament will take place from August 21-24 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, NY. The US Open National Playoffs Mixed Doubles Championship will take place from August 22-25 at the Connecticut Tennis Center. The winner of that event will receive a wild card into the mixed doubles draw of the US Open.
US Open National Playoffs--Men’s and Women’s Championships
Monday, August 20
Connecticut Tennis Center at Yale University
New Haven, Conn.
Men’s Singles - Finals
Clement Reix, France (1), def. Nicolas Meister, Trabuco Canyon, CA (2), 6-2, 6-3
Women’s Singles - Finals
Alexandra Mueller, Abington, PA (2), def. Mayo Hibi, Japan (1), 7-6 (2), 6-3