Rubin Wins Opening Round at Plantation Futures; Five Junior Girls Qualify at Rancho Santa Fe $25K, Chang Beats Min; Fritz Downs Chardy, Moves into Top 100
©Colette Lewis 2016--
My last day at the $10,000 Plantation Futures was the most frustrating of the five I spent at the Veltri Tennis Center, with rain washing out all eight first round doubles matches and delaying the completion of three of the five first round singles matches scheduled today.
No. 2 seed Noah Rubin was one of two players to post wins, with the recently turned 20-year-old beating 16-year-old Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia 6-3, 6-1.
Kecmanovic, whose last competition at Veltri saw him leave with the prestigious ITF Grade A Orange Bowl title, was playing the tournament with a junior exemption, a perk of finishing in the ITF Junior Top 10 at year end. His last competition was at the Australian Open Junior Championships, while his opponent was picking up his first main draw slam win over No. 17 seed Benoit Paire of France in Melbourne.
Since that win in Australia, Rubin has also reached the semifinals of the Maui Challenger, and last week, was awarded a last-minute Delray Beach wild card, where he defeated Sam Groth of Australia 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(6).
"I'm at a tough ranking point right now at 217," Rubin said of his decision to enter the $10,000 Futures event. "I could have gone to Acapulco (qualifying)--Tommy (Paul) got in as an alternate, but he was taking a chance. So I thought if I play two Futures, maybe final, win one, semi, just to pick up points here and there to move up."
The wild card into Delray Beach meant that Rubin couldn't play the first of the two Futures at Plantation, but with family to stay with in the area, he decided to stick around for this week's event.
"I think there's a lot to work on here. I haven't played a clay court tournament since Junior French Open 2014," said Rubin. "That's a year and a half. So I think I have a lot to gain mentally from this tournament, more than anything else. I think I hit the ball well, moved well, but he won Orange Bowl here, is Top 5 junior in the world. I think I kept my composure. Early on, he had a couple of break points he didn't convert on, and it's stuff like that. It's playing every match, being professional every match, building good habits."
The win over Groth last week in Delray Beach, in which he saved three match points, was significant for Rubin.
"He's a pretty big boy, I guess you could say," Rubin said of Groth, known as one of the hardest servers in the men's game. "But I think I had something to prove. A lot of people were taking credit away from me in the Benoit Paire match--he wasn't playing well, this, that--but then again he took out Wawrinka last week, so you never know. So another Top 75, Top 80 win, I think it proved I actually deserve to be here, playing against those top guys. It wasn't just a fluke, and I want to keep the momentum going."
Rubin is hoping for a wild card into Indian Wells, qualifying or main, a tournament he referred to as "the fifth grand slam."
"We'll see if it works out, but if not, I'll play the 25s in Cali, just to get inside the top 200 at that point," Rubin said.
Rubin is now the virtual top seed in the Plantation tournament, with No. 1 seed Darian King of Barbados pulling out, and Raleigh Smith taking his place as a lucky loser.
The only other first round match to finish Tuesday was Facundo Mena's 6-1, 2-6, 6-4 victory over wild card Vasil Kirkov. Mena looked to be cruising to an easy win over the 16-year-old in the first set, but Kirkov improved his play, while Mena's dipped considerable. Mena led 3-1 in the final set, but Kirkov got the break back and took a 4-3 lead. The teen's inexperience showed in his service game at 4-all, however, and he was broken at love, with Mena serving out the match with no drama in the next game.
The other 16-year-old wild card, Patrick Kypson, served for the match against Patricio Heras of Argentina at 6-2, 5-4, but he was unable to convert, losing that game and then two more to drop the set 7-5. Unforced errors cost Kypson at the end of the second set, but he was able to come out strongly in the third set, taking a 3-0 lead before heavy rain postponed the match until Wednesday.
Wild card Wil Spencer was up 6-2, 3-1 over No. 8 seed Caio Zampieri, but the Brazilian got the break back and won the subsequent tiebreaker 8-6, despite what could have been a crushing volley miss on his first set point at 6-5 in the tiebreaker. Spencer held in the opening game of the third set, when the rain, light at first, intensified into a court-flooding downpour.
Lucky loser Smith, playing Argentina's Andrea Collarini, was serving to stay in the match at 4-6, 4-5 when play was called.
The final round at the $25,000 Women's Pro Circuit event in Rancho Santa Fe California produced five teenaged American qualifiers: Maria Mateas, Claire Liu, Michaela Gordon, Carson Branstine and Alexa Graham.
Mateas, 16, will make her debut at the $25K level after beating former Pepperdine star Lorraine Guillermo 6-4, 6-3. Fifteen-year-old Liu, who qualified and won a round in the Surprise $25K last week, defeated former Tennessee and USC standout Brynn Boren 7-5, 6-3. Sixteen-year-old Gordon advanced to the main draw with a 6-3, 6-1 win over Lou Brouleau of France, and 17-year-old Alexa Graham defeated Francoise Abanda of Canada 3-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(0). The 15-year-old Branstine has warmed up for her Madison Square Garden Showdown appearance on World Tennis Day by qualifying for her first professional level event. In fact, Branstine's three qualifying wins--over Carol Zhao of Canada, Alexandra Sanford and Ena Shibihara--were her first three wins on the Pro Circuit, having played qualifying in only two $10,000 tournaments and losing in the first round of both. Megan McCray, who beat Taylor Townsend, and Pepperdine freshman Luisa Stefani of Brazil, who defeated Quirine Lemoine of the Netherlands, also qualified.
In main draw action, wild card Hanna Chang, who turns 18 in two days, defeated Grace Min 6-2, 6-4, and 17-year-old Sonya Kenin ousted No. 8 seed Hiroko Kuwata of Japan by a 6-2, 7-5 score.
At the ATP 500 in Acapulco, qualifier Taylor Fritz defeated No. 8 seed Jeremy Chardy of France 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 in the first round, a win that will put Fritz into the ATP Top 90. The 18-year-old Fritz had set his goal for 2016 as ATP Top 100, but he'll need to recalculate that now.
Ryan Harrison, who is defending semifinalist points, got his biggest win since last year in Acapulco, beating No. 3 seed Marin Cilic of Croatia 6-3, 3-6, 6-2. Cilic had not lost to an American since 2008, a streak of 26 straight wins against players from the USA, according to Jonathan Kelley of On The Rise (a tennis blog).