Tally one for Asia Muhammad on the sibling rivalry scoreboard.
The 27-year-old came out ahead in a tense first set and went on to defeat Ann Li (7-5, 6-1) to win the women’s singles title on the final day of the Kentucky Bank Tennis Championships at the Hilary J. Boone Complex on the University of Kentucky campus Sunday.
“I definitely feel like I’m the golden child right now,” Muhammad said after the trophy presentation.
University of Kentucky basketball fans likely remember her brother as one of the ones that got away. Shabazz Muhammad was a major UK recruiting target in the class of 2012. He ultimately chose UCLA over the Wildcats and Duke and spent one year with the Bruins before being selected 14th overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2013 NBA Draft.
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Asia Muhammad said her little brother should be prepared to endure some gloating when she returns home.
“I’m definitely gonna rub this in his face,” she said. “When we get back to (Las) Vegas tonight he’ll be there and he’ll get to hear all about it. He’s gonna get an earful.”
The family patriarch wouldn’t confirm which child was ascendent at the moment, but Ron Muhammad was clearly a proud papa after Asia’s victory.
“It never gets old. It’s always a really great feeling,” he said when asked about the thrill of watching his children excel as professional athletes.
Ron Muhammad spent all week watching Asia navigate her way through the bracket. He sat calmly in the front row during Sunday’s championship match as his daughter battled through a lengthy first set in which both she and Li both fought off multiple break points. He clapped politely along with the rest of the crowd at times, but he never raised his voice.
His demeanor was far different in the early stages of Asia’s career.
“I love when he’s here now because it’s a positive support. When I was younger he was really tough on me and it would be nerve-wracking,” Asia said. “He’d ride every single point, which wouldn’t help me. But now, he’s really chill ... He just had to learn, and I’m glad he did sooner rather than later or we could still be having those issues.”
While Asia had to evolve as a tennis player, Ron had to evolve as a cheerleader. He was proactive when it came to discovering how best to support his daughter.
“When she was younger I was brutal, and I just realized something had to change,” Ron said. “I did some research on how the mind works and it turns out I wasn’t helping her at all.
“I was really hard on both of them. And Shabazz could deal with it. He didn’t care, but you have to approach different people in different ways. And now it’s so much more comforting for me and for her.”
Harris dominant in men’s finals
South African Lloyd Harris rolled to the men’s singles title, facing just one break point all day as he knocked off Stefano Napolitano of Italy, 6-4, 6-3.
Harris took control in the middle of the first set by dominating play at the net. During one stretch, several volleys occurred at close range, and Harris won almost every one.
“I played three unbelievable games in a row to go up, and a few times we were both at the net scrambling and I was fortunate enough to get all those points,” Harris said. “Those were hard-earned and well-deserved points. That gave me a lead and a lot of confidence, for sure.”