©Colette Lewis 2012--
The weather was perfect for the completion of the first round of the ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships Tuesday at the Home Depot Center: sunny skies, a light breeze and temperatures in the mid-70s. The perfection wasn't confined to the playing conditions, with 2011 girls 18s champion Samantha Crawford and 2011 boys 16s champion Noah Rubin extending their winning streaks in Carson with straight set victories.
Crawford, the No. 5 seed, defeated 13-year-old qualifier Maria Shishkina, also of the US, 7-5, 6-2, recording her seventh straight victory on the courts of the USTA Player Development-West facility.
The 17-year-old right-hander, who trains at the USTA's Boca Raton facility, likes the court surface and the weather, and is focusing on the positives and good memories rather than the pressure of being defending champion.
"I've already won the tournament once," said Crawford, who beat Madison Keys in the final last spring, "so I'm trying to not think about that, worry that 'oh, I have to win the tournament again or else I'll lose points'. I just don't think that's a good way to look at it."
In the match against Shishkina, Crawford got an early break in both sets, but in the opener, she let it slip away, with Shishkina going from 2-5 down to 5-5. Crawford held for 6-5, and forced an error with Shishkina serving 5-6, 30-40 to take the first set, as Shishkina could not adequately defend against Crawford's power.
"I think I did a better job in the second set and the end of the first set staying in points, not missing off the second or third ball," Crawford said. "I stayed in games longer and didn't give away points."
In every Crawford match, the outcome is on her racquet, and with her propensity to hit either a winner or make an error, it is difficult for her opponent's to find any rhythm. Shishkina was often a bystander when Crawford got a short ball, and was unable to control many of the rallies. Once Crawford began to make fewer errors, Shishkina's opportunities to change the momentum diminished quickly.
"Sometimes I start going for too much," Crawford said. "That's when I start missing more, when points start going faster. So slowing things down, going back to setting up the point and having bigger margins is helpful."
For Rubin, the 16-year-old who is now seeded third in the 18s after winning the younger division last year, the circumstances of his return are a bit different from Crawford's.
"It's a different division, so it's a whole new ballgame, but I'm having fun just being out here," said the New Yorker, who hits with John McEnroe at his Academy when both are in town. "I'm still young, compared to some of the other kids. I love California and I love hard courts especially, and the memories from last year pump me up a little bit when I need it."
Rubin didn't need much of that in his 6-1, 6-1 win over wild card Justin Butsch.
"I was a little bit more consistent than normal, and that worked out in my favor," said Rubin. "I feel that I'm in a condition now where I can run for an extended period of time, and I didn't know about his physical condition, so I wanted to test him for a little bit and see how long he would stay in the points. He kind of bailed out a little early and I got lucky at times, but it was a good match. He played well too."
Top seed Mitchell Krueger took the court for his first round match with Charles Boyce at 8 a.m. and despite the early start time looked very sharp, winning the first eight games. Boyce won the next three games however, putting the match on serve in the second set, but Krueger put together another winning streak to close it out 6-0, 6-3.
Thirteen of the 16 boys seeds made it through to the second round, with No. 8 Ricky Medinilla of Mexico, who was beaten by wild card Ronnie Schneider on Monday, the highest seed eliminated. No. 15 seed Thomas Colautti of Great Britain lost to qualifier Henry Craig of the US 6-3, 6-2 on Tuesday, and No. 16 seed Santiago Munoz Quiroga of Mexico fell to Harrison Richmond of the US 6-2, 6-2 on Monday.
Fourteen of the 16 girls seeds will play in the second round on Wednesday, with only No. 10 seed Ayaka Okuno of Japan and No. 15 seed Katrine Steffensen of the US missing.
Okuno was beaten by Mia King of the US 7-6(5), 3-6, 6-4 on Monday, and Steffensen lost to Claremont champion and qualifier Mayo Hibi of Japan 7-6(3), 6-2.
Second seed Kyle McPhillips had her hands full with Louisa Chirico, but recovered for a 2-6, 6-4, 7-5 win.
In the 16s, top seeds Nicole Frenkel of the US and Ruadhan De Bruges of Australia advanced to the third round with straight-set victories, but both No. 2 seeds have been eliminated. Les Petits As champion Frances Tiafoe defeated No. 2 seed Toshiki Matsuya Monday and Mira Ruder-Hook took out girls No. 2 seed Alexandra Miller-Krasilnikov in Tuesday's second round 2-6, 6-1, 7-6(3).
In the doubles, top seeds and defending champions Gabby Andrews and Taylor Townsend won 11 straight games in their 6-1, 6-1 win over Sydney Riley and Cassandra Vazquez. Mitchell Krueger, who won the doubles title last year with Shane Vinsant, is playing with Alexios Halebian this year, and the No. 1 seeds advanced to the second round with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Dan Kerznerman and Nikko Madregallejo Tuesday afternoon.
Complete draws and Wednesday's order of play can be found at the tournament page at usta.com.