Silence is the majority inside Overland Park Racquet Club. That affords greater meaning to each exhalation, scream or cry. It all provided background to a common goal on Saturday morning.
Winners among the finalists at the US Open National Playoff Section Qualifier would advance to the US Open National Playoffs Men’s and Women’s Singles Championships in New Haven, Conn., held Aug. 15-18. Losers wait for the next opportunity.
Asia Muhammad made the most of Saturday’s chance. Muhammad defeated Nicole Melichar in the women’s final 4-6, 7-6, 7-5. Muhammad, a 23-year old out of Las Vegas, held a calm demeanor throughout, even when Melichar led 5-2 in the second set.
Muhammad pulled within 5-4 and remained silent. Melichar screamed in frustration when Muhammad tied it 5-5, and Muhammad allowed herself a pumping of the fist. When Muhammad took the second set, Melichar threw her racquet and left the court to regroup.
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“I knew by her getting that upset she was actually giving me an edge,” Muhammad said after the match. “You know, once your attitude starts to go south, it’s hard to regain it. I know from personal experience because that has happened to me.”
In the final set, Muhammad pinpointed her shots. “She is the luckiest person in the world,” Melichar said at one point.
Perhaps there was a hint of luck involved here and there. But Muhammad is the older sister of Shabazz Muhammad, a forward for the Minnesota Timberwolves in the NBA. Her uncle Stephone Paige played for the Kansas City Chiefs. So athletics seems to be encoded in her family’s genes.
“It is some competition there (in the family),” she said. “It’s healthy competition.”
The competition was healthy for Muhammad on Saturday as well, as she as able to close out Melichar in the final set.
In the men’s final, Sanam Singh beat Ross Guignon 6-3, 6-1.
Win or lose, the silence in between tennis points, games and matches is something Singh is used to. He travels to tournaments alone. Originally from India, Singh is a 26-year old professional tennis player with roots in Charlottesville, Va.
Sometimes he goes 8 months to a year without seeing his family.
“I think everyone has a different road,” Singh said before his match on Saturday. “Some people have it easier, a little easier, in the sense that they might have funding available easily. Some people have a tougher road, where they kind of have to grind through it. But I think for the most part, tennis is a very tough sport.”
Guignon grew up in Prairie Village across the street from Homestead Country Club. He started playing tennis when he was 5. Guignon will be a senior at the University of Illinois this fall.
“It definitely has a different feel to it,” Guignon said of Saturday’s finals and playing in tournaments like this one. “Probably just because you’re only playing for yourself when you’re out here. When you’re playing in college, you’re playing for the other guys on the team.”
Guignon won the Big Ten championship his freshman year and was named All-American as a junior.
Even with the loss to Singh, Guignon’s spirits remained high.
“Right now, I’m focused on becoming a better tennis player every day,” he said. “Come January of my senior season, hopefully our team can put together a great run.”