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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Crawford Beats Austin; Xepoleas Downs Goodman; Safdar Tops Smith in Four-Hour Easter Bowl Marathon

©Colette Lewis 2011--
Rancho Mirage, CA--

The ITF B1 for the boys began on Tuesday at Rancho Las Palmas, but it was 17th-seeded girls in the 14s division who provided much of the drama on a warm and calm day in the Coachella valley.

Meredith Xepoleas, a 17 seed, toppled the girls 14s No. 1 seed Lauren Goodman 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, and Mehvish Safdar, also seeded 17th, outlasted No. 4 seed Maria Smith 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 in a match that lasted over four hours.

"That's definitely the longest match I've ever played," said the 14-year-old from Mason, Ohio. "When I won that last point, it was the best moment of my life."

Safdar had let a big lead slip away in a tournament a few weeks ago, so when she didn't convert on a match point at 3-5, she was determined to learn from the experience.

"I was up 5-2 40-15 in the third set and I ended up losing it," Safdar said of that disappointing loss. "I was mentally down after that, so I think that really helped me, because I kept that in mind. I thought, it's just over, and I can't do anything about it now."

Safdar acknowledged that playing four hours in the 88 degree temperatures, playing points with 30-stroke rallies, was difficult not just physically, but mentally as well. But having conquered both, she is optimistic about her chances in the tournament.

"I feel like everyone's really close here, so now I feel really confident that I have a chance," Safdar said. "It's not a given that I'll win, but I can hang in there hopefully."

Xepoleas was just coming back from a stress fracture in her right foot which required a cast, but she said she felt no pain or rust as she took on the top seed.

"She's a smart player," said Xepoleas, who relies on her serve and forehand for her offense. "She knows what your weak shot is, and she knows where to hit it. She's really aggressive too, so you have to outwit her sometimes."

Xepoleas, who trains at the USTA Center in Carson, had additional motivation for winning the match beyond just advancing in the tournament.

"I don't want to go do my math homework when I lose," said the 13-year-old from Newport Beach. "And I'm the only one left in it from Carson."

In the girls 18s, International Spring Champion Samantha Crawford kept her winning streak going, defeating No. 11 seed Brooke Austin 6-3, 5-7, 6-4.

Austin pressured Crawford on nearly every service game, but Crawford seemed to come up with a big serve when she needed it. In the third set, most of the points were won with winners, not errors. Austin was the first to blink, losing serve at 3-3, but Crawford dropped her serve in the next game to make it 4-4. In the next game, Austin saved two break points to get it back to deuce, but a costly double fault gave Crawford a third, which she converted with a forehand winner to make it 5-4.

After the changeover, Crawford stepped to the line to finish off the never-say-die Austin, and started with an ace. A double fault followed, but a backhand winner gave her a 30-15 lead. Austin has an excellent return, but she wasn't able to get a racquet on the ball on either of the next two points, as Crawford hit two aces in a row to claim the victory.

"In the second set I was missing more first serves," said Crawford. "But toward the end of the third I started getting more first serves in, and then in the last game, it just worked."

The girls ITF has reached the third round with half of the seeds already on the sidelines. In Tuesday's second round, wild card Allie Kiick beat No. 3 seed Lauren Herring 6-3, 6-3, Stephanie Vlad beat No. 15 seed Blair Shankle 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 and Skylar Morton beat No. 5 seed Julia Elbaba 6-2, 1-6, 6-2. Top seed Grace Min beat Whitney Kay, 6-4, 6-4.

In the boys ITF, there were no major upsets, but four seeds lost in the opening round. No. 13 seed Trey Strobel lost to Anton Kovrigin 6-3, 6-3, Andrew Scholnick defeated No. 16 seed Richard Del Nunzio 6-4, 6-3, Mitchell Polnet downed No. 14 seed Robert Livi 6-0, 6-0 and No. 12 seed Daniel McCall lost to David Doehring 7-6(2), 6-4. Top seed Bjorn Fratangelo, No. 2 seed Alexios Halebian and ISC champion Marcos Giron all advanced in straight sets.

Both top seeds in the 16s, Jamie Loeb and TJ Pura advanced in straight sets, as did No. 1 boys 14s seed Henrik Wiersholm.

For 14s and 16s results, see the TennisLink site.

The ITF results can be found at this TennisLink site.