The March wind, which gusted over 40 mph at times, made the first round at the USTA 18s Spring Nationals a lesson in survival. But with only one exception, the Top 8 seeds in both boys and girls draws were able to prevail in conditions guaranteed to produce some comically bad tennis.
Boys top seed David Hsu advanced to the second round with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Ryan Smith, a wild card. Hsu, a high school junior from San Jose, Calif., had never played Smith before, but he was prepared for a top opponent.
"I saw on Tennis Recruiting that he was a blue chip, so I was ready for a good match," Hsu said.
Because the conditions were so challenging, Hsu concentrated on moving his feet and giving himself more margin for error, as the ball couldn't be relied upon to stay on its usual path.
"I thought footwork was a big part of what I did well today," Hsu said. "And my consistency. Just trying to make that extra shot contributed to my win today."
Because Smith is a left-hander, Hsu prepared himself for the spin while changing his own shot selection to counter what comes off his opponent's racquet. Smith committed substantially more unforced errors than Hsu, who could wait until Smith, or the wind, took the ball outside the lines.
Hsu, a finalist at the Winter Nationals, is the top seed at a Level 1 USTA National for the first time, and he is comfortable with that.
"I think it's really great to have this experience, to be honest," said Hsu. "Not everybody gets this experience, so I'm just trying to embrace it and enjoy the early round matches."
Hsu called the Winter Nationals his "breakthrough tournament."
"I didn't do so well at Kalamazoo. I did all right at Clays, but [Winter Nationals] definitely gave me an idea of where I am now and where my potential is really at."
No. 2 seed Thomas Fawcett joined Hsu in the second round, taking a 6-2, 6-3 win over Aidan Talcott.
John Mee, the No. 8 seed fell to Florida recruit Joshua Wardell 6-2, 4-6, 6-1, with Mee the highest of the six boys seeds to lose.
No. 9 seed AJ Catanzariti lost to Peter Leung 6-1, 6-4, No. 12 seed Maxx Lipman was defeated by Jordan Belga 6-3, 6-4 and No. 16 seed Paul Oosterbaan went down to Korey Lovett 6-0, 6-3. Two No. 17 seeds, Jeremy Lynn and Brendon Kempin, also lost their openers.
The girls draw saw less disruption, with only four seeds failing to reach the second round.
Madison Westby, the No. 10 seed, was the only Top 16 beaten, with the other three No. 17 seeds.
Westby lost a long and close battle with Caroline Turner 2-6, 6-4, 7-6(6). The wind, which at one stage of their match blew signs into the air and knocked a metal barrier over, prevented any aggressive play, and in the final tiebreaker both played even more cautiously. Turner would sneak into the net on occasion, and Westby was erratic in her passing shots. On the final match point, Turner hit an approach shot without much on it, but Westby netted an attempted forehand pass to give Turner the win.
The youngest player in the draw came away with her first victory at an 18s Level 1, with 13-year-old Michaela Gordon beating No. 17 seed Erin Larner 6-3, 6-4.
Because she is so much younger than most of the players in the draw, Gordon hadn't competed against most of them, including Larner.
"I've played maybe five players from this tournament," said Gordon, from Los Altos Hills, Calif. "I don't know many players. They're all a lot taller, everybody has a better serve and they hit with more power."
Larner had considerable pace on her forehand, so Gordon did her best to keep the ball away from that side.
"I tried to keep in mind that her backhand was weaker," Gordon said. "Within the first two games I was able to figure that out. I think I played all right given the wind, but I still have to work on my forehand, and also my consistency."
Gordon said she would like to win at least a couple of rounds to get her 18s ranking up, recognizing that she is playing with different expectations than those playing in their age group.
"I feel a lot less pressure, and all the 18-year-olds, they really want to beat you," Gordon said. "I feel less pressure and I think there's more pressure on them."
The other No. 17 seeds to lose were Jessica Perez and Monica Lin.
Top seed and defending champion Brooke Austin needed less than an hour to defeat Brittany Brewster 6-2, 6-3, while No. 2 seed Rachel Pierson had a much slower start, falling behind 3-0 in the first set before rolling past Whitney Williams 6-4, 6-1.
The first round of doubles was completed on Monday, with the top seeds not in action due to byes.
For complete results, see the TennisLink site.