Monday, April 9, 2012

Austin Tops Fifth Seed Crawford as Girls Easter Bowl ITF Begins; Hovsepyan Downs Second Seed Sneed in Girls 16s First Round Action

©Colette Lewis 2012--
Rancho Las Palmas, CA--

Brooke Austin felt she had let her 2011 Easter Bowl match against Samantha Crawford get away, losing 6-4 in the third when she was the seed and Crawford, despite being the International Spring Champion, was unseeded.

This year, the roles were reversed, with Austin, out for four months with a foot injury, unseeded, and Crawford the No. 5 seed.

On a warm and sunny day at the Rancho Las Palmas resort, the two big hitters played two contrasting sets before Austin pulled away for a 6-2, 1-6, 6-2 victory.

Crawford was making plenty of errors in the first set, but eliminated them completely in the second and seemed to sustain all that momentum, taking a 2-0 lead in the third set. But Austin continued to match Crawford stroke for stroke, breaking her for 2-0 and holding for 3-2. Crawford's serve, which can set up her forehand for winners when it's on, was erratic throughout the match, and she double faulted twice in the sixth game, leading to another break.

Austin has her share of problems with her serve, but they didn't surface in the late stages of the match, and she held for 5-2.

The next game, with Crawford serving at 2-5, was by far the longest of the quickly played match, with nine deuces before Austin finally converted her fifth match point.

"I knew if I didn't win that game, I was in trouble," said Austin. "Last year I was up 4-2, 40-15 in the third and double faulted and missed an easy forehand. I ended up losing that game, and then said, okay, the next game, here we go. But I ended up losing that game and she went on one of her streaks."

Austin was particularly happy to post such a good win in a difficult first round match, validating her recent USTA Spring National title.

"After winning Mobile, for me it was a big deal, because this is like my fifth tournament back," said Austin, who was out from August through December with stress fractures in her foot. "It showed me I was on the right track to come back and this win showed a lot too, considering that last year I lost to her."

Crawford was the highest seed to fall, but four others failed to make it out of the first round. No. 8 seed Jennifer Brady lost to Zoe Katz 6-3, 6-3; No. 11 Catherine Harrison went out to Dasha Ivanova 5-7, 7-6(7), 4-1 ret. inj. USTA Spring National finalist and wild card Lexi Borr rolled past No. 13 seed Blair Shankle 6-2, 6-1 and No. 16 seed Tornado Ali Black was beaten by June Lee 7-6(5), 6-0. The first set between Black and Lee was one punishing point after another and took as long to complete as many routine two-set matches. The second set was over in a matter of minutes however, with Lee getting little resistance from a dispirited Black.

Two matches ended in third set tiebreakers, with Rancho Mirage's Lauren Marker falling to International Spring 16s champion Jessica Ho 2-6, 6-2, 7-6(5), and Breaunna Addison defeating Jamie Loeb 2-6, 6-1, 7-6(2). Loeb served for the match at 5-4 and 6-5, with three match points in that 12th game, but errors crept into her game at the least opportune time. In the tiebreaker, Addison was able to play conservatively, waiting for Loeb to make a mistake and the strategy worked, as Loeb's forehand found the net or missed long on four different occasions.

International Spring champion Allie Kiick posted a quick 6-1, 6-0 win and top seed Taylor Townsend advanced with a 6-1, 7-5 decision over Louisa Chirico.

The 14s and 16s produced very few upsets, with the biggest being Kristina Hovsepyan's 0-6, 6-4, 7-5 win over No. 2 seed Olivia Sneed. After looking overmatched in the first set, Hovsepyan said her main focus was just getting on the board.

"I couldn't go down without a fight, that easily,"said Hovsepyan, who trains at the Evert Academy. "I just started grinding a little more, got into a few more points. I got some mistakes from her, which helped, and I was serving a little smarter."

Not only did she get on the board, but the 16-year-old left-hander took the second set and was serving at 5-2 in the third when nerves got the best of her.

Her first serve was nowhere to be found in that game, and she was broken, with Sneed then holding for 4-5. Hovsepyan was playing less aggressively than she had been in taking the lead, but she still committed four unforced errors serving for the match for the second time.

She got a third chance after breaking Sneed, who committed her own flurry of unforced errors, but there was still drama to come. On her first match point, Hovsepyan missed a forehand long, then double faulted, giving Sneed a point for the third set tiebreaker. But Sneed's lob was long, and Hovsepyan made a fine backhand pass to get a second match point. When Sneed's return went long, Hovsepyan could enjoy a significant win.

"I think it's the biggest," said Hovsepyan. "This is my last 16s super national, so it feels good."

The draw for the boys 18s, which begins on Tuesday is available here, along with the first round of the girls results. Ronnie Schneider is blogging for usta.com this week, and his first installment can be found here.

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