Photo: Corinne DubreuilMichael Mmoh (USA)
If having famous friends can sometimes be a burden, it can also be a distinct advantage and Jaume Antoni Munar Clar of Spain and American Michael Mmoh on Saturday took full advantage of their close connections as they kicked off their Australian Open campaigns with straight-sets victories.
Hailing from Mallorca, Munar Clar knows world No. 1 Rafael Nadal well and has spent many hours trying to keep up with him in practice. On Saturday, the 16-year-old upset sixth seed Filippo Baldi of Italy 76 76(9)
Shortly after Munar Clar’s victory, he went off to warm up Nadal for his 3rd round clash with Gael Monfils in the men’s event and he admitted the world No. 1 had helped him enormously.
“I first met him three or four years ago but we have the same manager (Carlos Costa), so we’re always doing things together,” said Munar Clar, who next plays Harry Bourchier of Australia.
“I know him well. In Mallorca, I was training with him for two weeks, last Christmas. It was unbelievable to play with one of the best players in the history of the world. It is amazing to train with him because he is playing at a different level.”
While Nadal is at his best on clay, Munar Clar is more at home on hard courts, thanks to a quirk of geography as much as by design.
“I grew up on hard courts,” he said. “I was playing in the club of the village, with two (hard) courts and they were quick. Since I started to play tennis, I prefer to play on hard courts. It’s unusual for Spanish player, I know.”
Both were Junior Davis Cup by BNP Paribas winners - Baldi in 2012 and Muna Clar in 2013 – but the Italian was a favourite for the title.
“It’s a good win,” Munar Clar said. “The match was not so good a level but I knew he is a good competitor and I tried to do my best, and finally I won.”
Michael Mmoh is considered one of the United States’ best juniors and the 16-year-old No. 5 seed showed he is a talent as he eased past Daniel Windahl of Sweden 64 64.
Injured for much of last year with wrist and abdominal strains, Mmoh has only played one junior grand slam – the 2012 US Open – but having trained with Tommy Haas and Kei Nishikori at the IMG Nick Bollettieri academy in Florida – he is used to hard-hitting.
What he is not used to was the speed of the outside courts at Melbourne Park, which he described as “very, very fast”.
“It was difficult to get used to,” he said. “It was also a little bit windy. He hits really big and serves really big, and it was one of the fastest courts I’ve played on, which suited his game. He’s very streaky.
“I’ve been injured a lot lately, which caused me to miss a lot of slams, but I felt like I should win. When you’re injured you really miss it. My best results came right after I got injured.”
Third seed Johan Sebastien Tatlot (FRA) was sent packing, defeated 64 06 64 by Martin Blasko of Slovakia but No. 8 Daniil Medvedev of Russia saw off Australia’s Daniel Nolan 62 62.
In the girls’ event, second seed Ivana Jorovic of Serbia made a convincing start to her title bid, beating Australia’s Michelle Pits 62 63. Another Serbian, eighth seed Nina Stojanovic, was ousted by South Africa’s Ilze Hattingh, who is receiving support from the Grand Slam Development Fund.
Russian fourth seed Elizaveta Kulichkova eased into the second round with a 62 60 victory over China's Wushuang Zheng. At 13-years-old, Destanee Aiava is the youngest girl in the draw. Coached by Andrea Stoltenberg, wife of former professional Jason Stoltenberg, the young Australian defeated Verena Hofer of Italy 75 62 and will meet American Katrine Steffensen in the 2nd round.