Saturday, September 19, 2015

American Young Guns Set to Clash in Claremont Final

Americans Mackenzie McDonald and Deiton Baughman will go head-to-head for the first time in a professional match in just over two years, when on Sept. 17, 2013, Baughman defeated McDonald 7-6(3), 6-0 in Costa Mesa, Calif. However, since then, their careers have gone in two very different paths.

Both players at the time had just received their first ATP ranking points in the previous months and were among the more promising talents in American tennis. Mackenzie McDonald had just accepted a scholarship to go play tennis at UCLA in the upcoming spring season, putting off his professional aspirations.

Baughman on the other hand had received a scholarship offer from rival USC. The native of Carson, Calif. graduated high school in the spring of 2014 and went the opposite route of his opponent on Sunday. He decided to play a full professional schedule.

McDonald's match against Baughman two years ago was the last main draw professional match he played for the next nine months. During that hiatus, McDonald played No. 3 singles as a freshman for UCLA and earned an 18-4 record in dual matches.

Meanwhile, Baughman got his hands dirty, playing futures events week after week slowly boosting his ranking nearly 1000 spots to be on the brink of the top 1000 by the summer of 2014. Baughman went south of the border to play a futures event in Mexico and his quarterfinal victory there cut his ranking down to just three digits.

Earlier this year, McDonald returned to UCLA for a breakout sophomore season. As the team's No. 1 player, he went 15-1 in dual matches to earn the No. 3 ranking in the nation, while still playing professional events every couple of months, keeping his ranking inside the top 1000.

Baughman in the meantime has had a breakout 2015 season, justifying his decision to turn pro. He won his first futures event in January and then reached a final in Nigeria and won another title in Bosnia & Herzegovina. Baughman has also traveled to the Netherlands and Belgium this year, building his ranking to as high as 408 in the world.

The pair of Americans crossed paths again just a few weeks ago at the 2015 US Open. Baughman played his first career grand slam, receiving a doubles wildcard to play with Tommy Paul in the main draw. McDonald was there for the College Invitational where as the No. 2 seed he won the championship, earning a wildcard to the 2016 US Open qualifying draw.

Now after two years since they first played each other, the two will get to see how much their games have improved since both going in drastically different directions in their career. With this tournament Baughman will move into the top 400 in the world, and McDonald gets more valuable experience for when he commits to a full professional schedule.

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