GODFREY — Armed with a powerful right-handed serve and an array of forehand shots, 17-year-old Michael Mmoh displayed a veteran presence in the finals of the 18th Lewis and Clark Community College Futures on Sunday.
Sixth-seeded Mmoh, who was born in Saudi Arabia and moved to the U.S. when he was 11, outlasted University of Illinois senior Jared Hiltzik 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 to claim his second Futures championship and first since an October 2014 win in Brownsville, Texas.
"This means so much to me. Last year I won a (Futures) tournament in October, and since I've been playing a lot of junior tournaments, I haven't had a chance to play many (Futures)," said Mmoh, who is
currently ranked No. 3 on the junior circuit. "This win gives me a great confidence boost compared to the beginning of the year. I am so excited. Hopefully, I'll be able to play the same way in Kalamazoo."
Mmoh's second win on the Futures tour — he was the sixth youngest to win a Futures event in 2014 — came at the expense of the eighth-seeded Hiltzik, who was seeking his first title on the tour.
Hiltzik, who graduated from New Trier High School in Winnetka, rebounded from a 6-3 first-set loss to force a decisive third set with a 6-3.
Hiltzik, though, wasn't able to hold serve trailing 6-5. Trailing 40-30, Hiltzik's forehand shot went long and Mmoh fell to the ground in celebration.
"I felt like I had a step forward and kept telling myself that, but it never did," Hiltzik said. "I'll take what I learned from this tournament and grow from it."
Mmoh, who trains at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., said Hiltzik challenged him from the start.
"He's an extremely mentally tough guy. He doesn't have the most aggressive game, but he makes up for it with being a warrior out there," Mmoh said of Hiltzik. "I thought I hung in there and really
Early in the match, both players were able to hold serve until Mmoh broke Hiltzik and went ahead 4-2 in the first set.
Mmoh said he was able to execute when he needed to break serve and gain momentum.
"I stayed aggressive. He gives you a lot of looks and you have to be able to execute," Mmoh said.
Hiltzik stayed alive late in the first set, drawing to within 5-3, but Mmoh overcame poor serving to close out a 6-3 victory.
That momentum continued into the second set for Mmoh, who went ahead 2-0 after dropping a shot over the head Hiltzik to win the second game.
Hiltzik rebounded, winning four straight games to go ahead 4-2. During the run, he was able to break Mmoh's serve for the first time.
"I was able to grab some momentum as the balls were getting a little bit older. I was able to push him around serving a little bit more," Hiltzik said. "I just kept fighting."
Mmoh closed to within 4-3, but Hiltzik closed out the second set with a 6-3 win.
After Mmoh took a 1-0 lead in the third set, a 30-minute sprinkle delay sent the competitors underneath the umbrellas.
When play resumed, Mmoh took the second game to go ahead 2-0, but Hiltzik again recovered, taking the next two.
It would be tied again 4-4 when Mmoh held serve to take a step closer to a title.
Hiltzik, though, won the next game, evening it 5-5.
That's when Mmoh found his forehand shot, He slammed down three shots in picking up a win to go ahead 6-5.
"That was a big game," Mmoh said. "I was getting tired there towards the end, and I was needing a quick game, Those three smashes were fantastic for me."
This time, Hiltzik didn't have an answer as Mmoh was able to close out the championship victory.
"It was so much joy," Mmoh said. "I was really happy."
While Mmoh will next be in action in Junior Nationals at Kalamazoo, Mich., Hiltzik will continue the Illinois swing. Next up is Edwardsville, followed by Decatur and Champaign before turning his
attention to the Fighting Illini.
"This was definitely a positive, especially with not even playing my best in this tournament," Hiltzik said. "These tournaments give you a little cushion going into the school year since you are going to miss pro tournaments during the school year. This was a big building block."
The doubles champions were determined on Saturday. Jordi Arconada and Dominic Cotrone defeated John Labmle and Frederick Saba 6-4, 6-4 to win the doubles title.