Faye Muhammad probably received some nice presents from her three kids on Mother’s Day. But none was sweeter than the one her daughter Asia gave her.
The 22-year-old Las Vegan won the singles and doubles titles Sunday at the $25,000 Merz Aesthetics championships in Raleigh, N.C. More important, it gave her confidence a big boost as she heads to Europe for the next few weeks.
“It’s always been there,” Muhammad said of her ability to win on the USTA Women’s Pro Circuit, which is a step down from the WTA Tour. “It’s just coming out.”
Before winning on the clay in Raleigh, Muhammad’s only other pro singles victory came early in her career when she won a $10,000 event in 2007 in Houston. In between, there have been a lot of frustrating days, be it from underachieving performances, injuries or simply being outclassed by her opponent.
But as she has matured from a teenager into adulthood, Muhammad has learned to become mentally tougher.
She also changed her diet and workout routine to help avoid injuries, eating smarter while doing yoga and other stretching to keep herself more flexible.
She’s competing better, and her play in doubles is proof of her improved performance on the court.
Since 2010, Muhammad has won at least one doubles title each year and has eight overall. She has teamed with another 22-year-old American — Allie Will — to win twice this season. They won on the hardcourt at Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., in March and Sunday in Raleigh.
“I’m putting it all together,” said Muhammad, who has won $112,184 in her six-plus years as a pro. “I’m getting forward more and attacking. I’m also more patient.”
Her WTA rankings figure to receive a boost from last week’s success. She is currently ranked No. 118 in doubles and No. 422 in singles.
“I’m not thinking or worrying about it,” Muhammad said. “I know that if I can keep playing well and winning, the rankings will take care of itself.”
Tim Blenkiron, Muhammad’s longtime coach, said by staying healthy and active, she has been able to find a rhythm on the court as well as learn from her playing experiences. It has enabled her to improve as a player.
“When you’re out there month after month, it’s going to sink in and help you,” Blenkiron said. “She’s playing in more tournaments, and she’s learning a lot from being out there.”
Blenkiron said finding a strong doubles partner in Will also has helped Muhammad.
“They play a little differently, so Allie’s game complements Asia’s,” Blenkiron said. “But Asia’s found a good doubles partner, and she’s more consistent with her game with Allie.”
Now, Muhammad will be testing her skills overseas, starting with the WTA Brussels Open in Belgium, which begins Monday. She is also expected to play in France at the ITF $100,000 Marseille Open, a clay-court event that starts June 3.
From there, Muhammad and Will will head to England and try to qualify for doubles at Wimbledon, which begins June 24.
It will be a good test to see just how far Muhammad truly has come. The money is better and the competition much tougher.
“It’ll be my first time playing on grass (at Wimbledon), so I’m excited about that,” Muhammad said. “I played well on the clay in Raleigh, so I’m hoping to play well in France.”
Blenkiron said he thinks Muhammad and Will have a shot to make the field at the All-England Club.
“They work well together,” he said, “and they’ll have to go through the qualifying, which won’t be easy. But they’re both playing well right now and certainly have a chance.”
Assuming she’s not busy at Wimbledon, Muhammad plans to attend the NBA Draft on June 27 in New York, where her younger brother Shabazz is expected to be a lottery pick.
“The whole family will be there,” she said. “I’m looking forward to that.”
Contact reporter Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.