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Monday, March 31, 2014

Top Seed Tiafoe Moves into Second Round at ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships; Eighth Seed McCarthy Aims for Junior Slam Main Draws

©Colette Lewis 2014--
Carson, California

Top seed Francis Tiafoe fought gusty winds and a determined opponent Monday afternoon, but the Grade 1 International Spring Championships' top seed bore down, saving two set points to claim a 6-3, 7-6(2) victory over Sami Kirberg in first round action.

After double faulting to make it 5-6, 15-40 in the second set, Tiafoe was able to save both set points. A forehand winner took care of the first, and an excellent first serve and a third-shot forehand winner brought the score to deuce.  Two points later, the 16-year-old had forced the tiebreaker, and despite three consecutive double faults after taking a 4-1 lead, Tiafoe maintained his lead and closed out the 16-year-old from Florida.

"Coming from playing indoors, my feet still aren't too good outside," said Tiafoe, from College Park, Maryland. "Second set, I was up 3-1 and kind lost focus there and started to get frustrated, did stuff I shouldn't have done. But I'm glad I got through, and I'm happy with it."

Tiafoe didn't know anything about his opponent, although he said he did receive a congratulatory message from Kirberg after Tiafoe won the Orange Bowl last December. Kirberg's serve gave Tiafoe some problems, but Kirberg also had his share of double faults in the breezy conditions.

"It's a weird serve. On the ad, he can hit it flat wide, not sliding away, and the second serve goes into your body," Tiafoe said of his 609th- ranked opponent. "He's pretty solid from the baseline and he's definitely better than what his ranking says."

Tiafoe, who is ranked No. 8, doesn't have to worry about getting into the junior slams this summer, and had some success in Futures events earlier this year, but felt he needed to play this tournament and the Easter Bowl.

"It's good to play," said Tiafoe. "I haven't played a tournament since a 10K in Florida, and I didn't want to stay too much indoors. The weather in Maryland is awful. So I just wanted to get out of there, get some sun, get outside. After these two tournaments, I think I'm just going to stay out here, get some training weeks with some of the pros here. I think it's a good decision to play these."

Girls No. 8 seed Kaitlyn McCarthy began her quest for a main draw berth at the French Open and Wimbledon Juniors with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Claudia Wiktorin.

In 2013, McCarthy had to retire in her second round match in Carson due to a foot injury, and although she played the following week at the Easter Bowl, she is looking for better results this year, now that she is healthy.

"I'm glad I'm healthy this year," said the 16-year-old from North Carolina, who is ranked 87th among ITF juniors. "My goal here is to secure a spot in the main draw of the slams. That would be amazing. Obviously, things happen, like last year, that's what I was trying to do, and I ended up in a boot, so I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that I'll be healthy this year and playing good tennis. But yes, that is really something that I want to do if I can."

The first round of 18s singles is spread over two days, and girls No. 1 seed Sandra Samir of Egypt and No. 2 seed Sofia Kenin will play Tuesday. No. 3 seed Johnnise Renaud, No. 5 seed CiCi Bellis and No. 7 seed Michaela Gordon all advanced to the second round with wins on Monday.

No. 10 seed Madison Bourguignon was unable to compete due to illness, with lucky loser Bianca Moldovan taking her place and advancing to the second round.  The only other girls seed to fall on Monday was No. 14 seed Constanza Gorches of Mexico, who lost to wild card Francesca Di Lorenzo 7-6(3), 6-2.

Boys second seed Naoki Nakagawa of Japan is on Tuesday's schedule, as are No. 3  and No. 4 seeds Alex Rybakov and Henrik Wiersholm. No. 5 seed Logan Smith was upset by Nathan Ponwith 6-1, 6-2.  No. 14 seed Zhe Zhou of China was the only other boys seed to lose Monday, falling to Myles Schalet 7-5, 6-4.

Unseeded Deiton Baughman, who lives within walking distance of the tournament site at the StubHub Center in Carson, advanced to the second round with a 7-6(3), 6-4 win over Kentaro Mizushima of Japan. Baughman, who has decided to forego college and turn pro, is planning to play several Futures tournaments outside of the US in the upcoming months.

The live streaming on courts 4 and 5 is up and running and is available on the tournament website. Tuesday's schedule on those two courts includes the first round matches of Taylor Fritz, Claremont champion Claire Liu, Samir, Wiersholm and Kenin.