Laaksonen Defends Champaign Challenger Title

The 24-year-old Swiss beat Ruben Bemelmans in straight sets. Michael Mmoh takes USTA Australian Open wild card.

Henri Laaksonen (photo: Jacob Stuckey)

CHAMPAIGN, November 21, 2016

Henri Laaksonen successfully defended his title at the 21st edition of the $50,000 JSM Challenger of Champaign-Urbana, one of the longest-running men’s events on the USTA Pro Circuit. The second seed from Switzerland defeated Rubens Bemelmans of Belgium in Saturday’s final 7-5, 6-3.

Laaksonen, who edged past US-American NextGen star Taylor Fritz in last year’s title match, won 76 per cent of his first service points and converted three of his eight break point chances to seal victory in 65 minutes.

By claiming his third ATP Challenger career title, his second of the season after he had lifted the trophy in Shanghai, the World No. 141 earned $7,200 in prize money as well as 80 ATP Ranking points.

Laaksonen has become the fourth repeat winner on the ATP Challenger Tour this year after Facundo Bagnis in Santiago, Hyeon Chung in Kaohsiung and Yen-Hsun Lu in Nigbo.

Earlier the day, US-Americans Austin Krajicek and Tenny Sandgren clinched the doubles title, winning the final 7-6, 7-6 over British duo of Luke Bambridge and Liam Broady. The encounter lasted one hour and 15 minutes.

Mmoh Wins USTA Australian Open Wild Card Challenge

Champaign is the last of three consecutive men’s hard-court tournaments that make up the USTA Pro Circuit Australian Open Wild Card Challenge. On Friday, Michael Mmoh officially won the competition, securing the most tour ranking points in a series of fall hard-court Pro Circuit events to earn a wild card into the main draw of the 2017 Australian Open. It will be his first appearance in the main draw of a Grand Slam outside the United States.

The 18-year-old rising star took the challenge title by winning the $50,000 Knoxville Challenger in Tennessee last week and reaching the quarterfinals of the $50,000 JSM Challenger of Champaign-Urbana in Champaign this week. That gave him 95 points in the challenge, enough to hold off 20-year-old US-American Jared Donaldson, who could have surpassed Mmoh with a victory in Champaign but lost in the event’s semifinal round.

Mmoh was born in Saudi Arabia but grew up in the U.S. His dad is former ATP professional and Nigerian Olympian Tony Mmoh.

Seventeen-year-old Kayla Day captured the women’s Australian Open wild card a week ago. The USTA and Tennis Australia have a reciprocal agreement in which wild cards into the 2016 US Open and 2017 Australian Open are exchanged.