Photo by Matt Kamp
Michael Mmoh, 17, talks on the microphone after winning the singles title at the LCCC Futures on July 26, while tournament director Jim Hunstein (right) looks on.
For Lewis and Clark Community College Futures tournament director Jim Hunstein, the singles championship can be bittersweet.
When 17-year-old Michael Mmoh outlasted University of Illinois senior Jared Hiltzik in three sets, it signaled the end to the 18th installment of the tournament.
“It’s always nice when it’s over because it is a lot of work,” said Hunstein, the women’s tennis coach at LCCC. “The players appreciate it. The officials appreciate it. We would like to get more fans out to appreciate it.”
There was plenty to like Sunday as the future of American tennis was on display in Mmoh.
Born in Saudi Arabia, Mmoh moved to the United States when he was 11. He is training with IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
Mmoh, ranked No. 3 on the junior circuit, has been a mainstay in the top tournaments, including a semifinal appearance in doubles of the Wimbledon Junior Championships and Australian Open Junior Championships. He also made it to the semis in the French Open Junior Championships in singles.
Hiltzik, though, gave Mmoh everything he could handle.
“That finals was fun to watch. A 7-5 third set; you cannot ask for more than that,” Hunstein said. “It was a great final in a lot of different ways. It was a tough match that seesawed back and forth.”
Not even a 30-minute rain delay early in the third set could halt the momentum of the match.
“We were checking phones, apps and watching the sky,” Hunstein said. “A huge dark cloud went over and we thought we were in the clear.”
Once the rain stopped, USTA officials were quick to get the court ready to resume play.
Hunstein said that was just one of the examples of how hard officials worked throughout the tournament.
“The USTA officials control everything. They keep their wits about them and make sure things run smoothly,” Hunstein said. “When things don’t, they jump in.”
And like the officials, the tournament couldn’t have gone on without the work of the LCCC staff.
“It’s a total team effort. They make things so easy,” Hunstein said. “I’m just the guy that stands out there and presents medals. Everybody works so hard and so tirelessly. It’s a total effort.
“It’s a great event. We get good reviews. Everybody likes it. That’s a testament to how hard everybody works.”
Following the singles match, both competitors talked about how great Godfrey was as a host and their willingness to return if they are still on the tour in a year.
“We hope they aren’t,” Hunstein said. “We hope they are off to bigger and better.”
The Futures tournament at LCCC is the first of four stops in Illinois. Next up is Edwardsville, where it will be hosting the tournament for the fifth time. After that, the tour will go to Decatur for the 17th time and then to Champaign for the first time.
This will be the first time the tournament goes from Godfrey to Edwardsville, as opposed to Decatur.
“The USTA made a great move with rescheduling and reshuffling the tournament,” Hunstein said. “If someone wants to play the Illinois swing, it’s easy. It’s four tournaments in a row in easy driving distance.”
Hunstein said he’ll try to make the trip to Edwardsville, where he will actually be able to watch to the tournament more closely as opposed to being the director.
Along with the Edwardsville tournament director Dave Lipe, the two tournaments work closely together, and Hunstein said that makes it even better for all the fans.
“We help Edwardsville. They use our chairs and equipment,” Hunstein said. “We are happy to share with them. It makes tennis better in the St. Louis area. We are all going to benefit from that.”
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