2011 Pan American Finalist Rubin Survives in Three Sets, Shishkina Ousts No. 4 Seed Routliffe in Monday's Opening Round at ITF Grade B1 in Tulsa
©Colette Lewis 2012--
Last year as a 15-year-old, Noah Rubin was an unseeded wild card at the ITF B1 Pan American Closed, making his way to the final in only his second ITF tournament. This year, he returned to Tulsa as the top seed, No. 16 in the world junior rankings, and as the player with the biggest target on his back.
Rubin opened play at the Michael D. Case Tennis Center at the University of Tulsa against Ciro Riccardi, and it was over two and a half hours before he posted a 6-3, 6-7(4), 6-1 victory.
Temperatures were in the low 40s for the 9 a.m. match, and although skies were clear, the sun was slow to warm the surface or the balls.
"I knew he was a tough competitor," said Rubin, who had beaten Riccardi in the semifinals of the 16s in the International Spring Championships last year. "He gets balls back, and the balls in this condition are really not going anywhere," said Rubin. "They're just getting really hard, the felt is coming off, and so it was working for his game."
Rubin led 5-0 in the first set, but Riccardi, a Southern Californian who won the Grade 3 Costa Rica Bowl this past spring, took three straight games, and although Rubin took the set, the tone of the match had changed. Rubin fell behind a break at 4-3 in the second set, but got the break back and had a match point serving at 6-5, but he couldn't convert.
In the tiebreaker, Rubin made several unforced errors while Riccardi avoided them, and after taking the set, he had Rubin down 0-40 in the opening game of the third. Rubin came back to hold however, and Riccardi couldn't recover mentally from letting that opportunity slip away.
"It was too much of a scare, and that's when I got a little nervous," Rubin said. "I said okay, I've got to step up a little bit and I hit some good serves in that game to get it back to deuce and close it out. It was all I could ask for in the third set. It was a good set for me."
Riccardi struggled with his serve in the final set and was down 5-0 before he held.
Although Rubin has a lot of points to defend after reaching last year's final, he's not concerned about that or the pressure of the No. 1 seeding.
"I guess people could say I have pressure on myself after making the finals last year, but that's not what I'm here for," Rubin said. "I'm here to play tennis. I'm trying to play Futures a lot more, so this is just another tournament, and hopefully I can do well in it."
Only two seeds lost in first round play in the boys draw Monday, with No. 10 seed Jordi Arconada of Argentina falling to Tommy Paul 1-6, 6-2, 7-6(2), and No. 12 seed Alan Nunez Aguilera of Mexico losing to Eduardo Nava 6-1, 6-4. (All players in this tournament without countries mentioned are from the United States).
The girls draw saw four seeds exit, including No. 4 seed Erin Routliffe of Canada and Caroline Doyle, the No. 8 seed.
Routliffe, the 16s Orange Bowl champion, led 14-year-old Maria Shishkina 5-2 in the opening set, but won only two more games in the remainder of the match, falling 7-5, 6-2.
Shishkina admitted to some jitters at the beginning of the match, which was played in the late afternoon, when the temperatures finally reached the low 60s.
"Everyone's nervous in their first round," Shishkina said. "I was a little bit nervous, but once you start playing, the nervousness goes away and you just focus to win."
Shiskina played her first professional event last month in the $10,000 Pro Circuit tournament in Amelia Island, where she reached the quarterfinals as a qualifier before falling to eventual champion Jamie Loeb, the No. 6 seed here in Tulsa, in three sets.
"I got to the quarterfinals--it was really great to get there--and it was a beautiful place," Shishkina said. "I enjoyed being there. The girls in the 10Ks are more mature, they're older and have more years playing on the tour and playing tennis. I beat a couple of great players and of course it gave me confidence coming into this tournament."
Against Routliffe, Shishkina frustrated the 6-foot-2 right-hander with her defense and her rituals, and Shishkina stopped making errors once she was in danger of losing the opening set.
"I just tried to tell myself to be more consistent, make her move out of the court a little bit and focus," said Shishkina. "Not focus on the mistakes I made before at the beginning of the set."
Arconada took out Doyle by a 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 score, with No. 11 seed Madison Bourguignon and No. 13 seed Johnnise Renaud also falling.
Ally Miller-Krasilnikov defeated Bourguignon 6-4, 6-3 and Cassandra Vasquez of Mexico downed Renaud 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.
Top seed Carol Zhao of Canada was the last match to go on court after 6 p.m. Central time, but she wasn't the last to finish, as she defeated Elizabeth Sutherland 6-1, 6-2 in just under an hour.
Tuesday's schedule will include all second round singles matches and the first round of doubles matches.
For the draws, results and order of play, see the tournament page at usta.com.