TEMPLETON, October 1, 2018 (by Steve Pratt)
Asia Muhammad, the Long Beach, Calif., native who calls Las Vegas home, won her seventh ITF singles title of her career and third in 2018 at the Central Coast Pro Tennis Open at the Templeton Tennis Ranch Sunday.
The riveting USTA $60,000 Women’s Pro Circuit singles final stretched over two hours as Muhammad pinned her offensive playing style against counter-puncher Sesil Karatantcheva of Bulgaria for a 2-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory. The 27-year-old Muhammad followed the singles victory up with a doubles final win after only 30 minutes rest. Muhammad and partner Maria Sanchez won the doubles title 6-7 (4), 6-2, 10-8, over former college players, Quinn Gleason (Notre Dame) and Luisa Stefani (Pepperdine).
Karatantcheva took the first set of her singles match 6-2 by forcing Muhammad to play groundstrokes from several feet behind the baseline. Muhammad lost her first two service games but began to find her way into the match late in the first set. As she described the match: “In the beginning, a little dodgy.”
After holding serve twice at the end of that first set, Muhammad began the second set being broken again, but quickly equalized when she broke back in the second game. Each player would break the other again in the fourth and fifth games before Muhammad regained her momentum with a better feeling for the ball. Up 5-4 in the second set, Muhammad broke Karatantcheva a third time in a thrilling game that had two deuces before the American could close on her second set point.
Muhammad explained: “That match just kind of had to go three sets so I could work it out. I was just trying to use my slice more and trying to use my forehand more which at times was tough because that’s a lot more physical.”
With a set each, Karatantcheva began to tighten up in the third, while Muhammad was putting increasing pressure on her opponent. Although Muhammad looked comfortable rallying from the baseline, her most spectacular shots came when she created opportunities to rush the net for high-powered overheads and volleys hitting the lines at tight angles outside of her opponent’s reach.
Despite the defeat, Karatancheva was relaxed after the match, the 29-year-old tour veteran taking the loss in stride and giving credit to the American. Already in the mindset to play her next tournament in Stockton the coming week, she mused, “you just keep hitting the yellow ball.”
After the match, Muhammad had only a short time to enjoy her victory before having to go right back on court to play the doubles final, in which she and fellow California native Sanchez, the top-seeded team, defeated Gleason and Stefani. Holding both the singles and doubles titles from the second annual Central Coast Pro Tennis Open, Asia Muhammad is taking powerful momentum to her next tournament in Stockton. She put it simply: “Now that I’ve gotten through both, I’m just really pumped.”
Muhammad will cash a check worth $10,791 on Monday once the banks open. She received $9,119 for singles and $1,672 for the doubles win from tournament host and Templeton Tennis Ranch owner Ralph Goehring and Director of Tennis Scott Cleere. Perhaps more importantly, Muhammad receives 80 valuable WTA singles rankings points.