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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Rubin Saves Match Points to Advance at Delray Beach; Teens Post Wins in Surprise $25K; ITF Junior Update

Noah Rubin earned the second ATP Top 100 win of the year today in the first round at Delray Beach, defeating 76th-ranked Sam Groth of Australia 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(6).  Rubin, who will turn 20 on Sunday, saved three match points against the big-serving Australian, who hit 25 aces.

Rubin got a break in the opening game of the match and made it hold up, saving the only two break points he faced in that set when serving a 3-2.

Rubin had three chances to break Groth in the second set, two at 2-2 and one at 4-4, but Groth saved them, and a couple of forehand errors from Rubin in the tenth game of the set helped Groth convert his only break point to take the set.

The third set was more of the same, with Groth holding serve without facing a break point, and Rubin doing the same, at least until serving at 4-5.  Facing two match points at 15-40, Rubin saved the first with an ace and on the second, Groth hit a backhand wide.  Rubin held, and Groth went up 6-5, leaving Rubin serving for a tiebreaker. Again, a couple of missed forehands led to a third match point, but Groth again sent his backhand wide and Rubin held to force the tiebreaker.

Rubin got the mini-break to 3-1 on an outstanding return at the feet of Groth and held on to that slim lead to go up 6-4. Rubin netted a forehand however to but it back on serve, and Groth saved a second match point with an ace. Rubin broke with a backhand pass to earn his third match point, winning it when Groth's defensive lob went well long.

After defeating Benoit Paire of France in the Australian Open, Rubin reached the semifinals of the Maui Challenger before receiving a wild card into Delray Beach this week. He will play his second Top 30 player in the second round, No. 5 seed Jeremy Chardy of France.  A few quotes from Rubin on the win are available at the ATP website.

Austin Krajicek advanced to the second round when top seed Kevin Anderson of South Africa retired after losing the first set 7-6(3). Rajeev Ram took out No. 2 seed Bernard Tomic of Australia 7-6(3), 6-1, with Sam Querrey, Donald Young(7) and Steve Johnson(6) also advancing. Wild card Tim Smyczek avenged his earlier loss to Taylor Fritz, beating the 18-year-old Memphis finalist 6-3, 6-3.  Jonathan Kelley of On The Rise has written a good piece on why he believes the excitement surrounding Fritz is justified, as long as patience and perspective are maintained.

Qualifying concluded today at the $25,000 Women's Pro Circuit event in Surprise, Arizona, with 15-year-old Claire Liu and 16-year-old Kayla Day among the eight qualifiers.  Liu will face No. 4 seed Michelle Larcher de Brito of Portugal in the first round Wednesday, with Day meeting No. 5 seed Kristie Ahn.  In Tuesday's first round play, teenagers Usue Arconada, Sonya Kenin and wild card Alexandra Sanford picked up victories.

Last week's ITF junior tournaments were not notable from the US perspective, with no Americans reaching the quarterfinals of the Grade 2 in Bolivia. At the Grade 4 in Mexico, unseeded Nathan Han and Cotter Wilson took the doubles title, with Cotter and last week's champion Elli Mandlik losing in semifinals of singles.

This week the Grade 2 in Chile has several Americans competing.  Zeke Clark is the top seed there, with Olukayode Ayeni seeded 8th. Both are through to the third round.  Also of note, Junior Orange Bowl 14s champion Thiago Tirante of Argentina qualified and has reached the third round in only his third ITF junior tournament.

There are four US girls in the third round of the Chile Grade 2: second seed Raquel Pedraza, No. 11 seed Chiara Lommer, No. 12 seed Nada Dimovska and unseeded Camille Townsend.

The Grade 4 this week in Guatemala also has several American juniors in the draw, including girls top seeds Jimena Rodriguez-Benito and Paris Corley.