Top Seed Blanch Survives in Three Sets, Defending Champion Blumberg Rolls in First Round of International Spring Championships; TCU Defeats Texas A&M in 4-3 Thriller
©Colette Lewis 2016--
A two-hour delay for rain-soaked courts made for a long first day of main draw competition, with chilly winds adding to the challenge, but the top seeds at the ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships cleared all the hurdles Monday at the Stubhub Center.
No. 1 seed Ulises Blanch, who made his ITF Top 10 debut last week, dropped the opening set to Tristan McCormick, but fought back to claim a 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory.
Blanch went up 3-0 to start the match, but McCormick found his range and reeled off five straight games. Blanch saved a set point serving at 3-5 in the first and McCormick struggled to close out the set serving at 5-4, with several nervous errors, including a double fault, preventing him from converting the first three set points he had in the game. McCormick eventually did close out the set, when Blanch missed a second serve return, then netted a forehand on set point No. 5.
Near the end of the first set, the wind began to assert itself, reaching speeds of 20 mph and up and gusting higher, and it was McCormick who appeared to have more difficulty adjusting. His one-handed backhand and serve had troubled Blanch in the first set, but McCormick, who will be 17 on Friday, couldn't find a way to get back in the second set after dropping serve in the fourth game.
"I knew he had a good serve and I thought he served really well today," said Blanch, who turned 18 last Friday. "The wind was very tricky and picked up in the second and third. So I just put the ball deep, try to move him around. I tried not to hit too hard, but not too soft. He wasn't hitting it as cleanly as in the first set."
McCormick was broken in the opening game of the third set, and Blanch's strategy of just keeping the ball in play began to pay dividends. He didn't face a break point in the set and closed out the match by breaking McCormick.
Blanch said it wasn't nerves or the pressure of being the top seed that led to his slow start.
"I don't know what was going through my mind, but I wasn't nervous, that's for sure," Blanch said. "With the wind and everything, I struggled to get my game going, but after I lost the first set, I thought I had to win the match no matter what."
Unlike Blanch, who has been playing junior events all year, defending champion William Blumberg, the No. 2 seed, was playing his first ITF junior competition since last September's US Open Junior Championships.
Showing no signs of rust, Blumberg defeated Robert Loeb 6-1, 6-1 to run his winning streak in the Carson tournament to seven matches.
After a bout with mono last year, Blumberg took time off, hoping to rediscover what he had enjoyed about playing tennis.
"After I healed from that, I just needed a little mental break, to figure out some stuff," said the 18-year-old from Connecticut. "I practiced a long time, and now I came back, and I'm having a lot of fun playing again. That's what really matters to me."
Although conditions were far from ideal in his first match in nearly seven months, Blumberg was not dwelling on the negative.
"It's super windy, but I actually don't mind the wind," said Blumberg, who will play wild card Sebastian Korda in the second round on Wednesday. "It's frustrating in general, but throughout my whole career, I've kind of used the wind to my advantage. Obviously serves are tough, but everything else, it just makes it more fun and challenging."
Returning to the same court where he won the title last year, beating Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia 6-2, 6-4, was bound to invoke good memories, regardless of the conditions.
"It's awesome," said Blumberg. "Playing in the US is awesome for me, I love it, and playing here after winning last year is really fun as well. I feel comfortable here, and I love hard court and I love California, so it's fun."
Of the 14 boys seeds in action on Monday, only one lost, with No. 15 seed Andres Andrade of Ecuador falling to Brian Cernoch 6-0, 3-6, 6-3.
The girls seeds posted similar results, with nine of the 10 seeds in action Monday advancing, including top seed Amanda Anisimova, who defeated Paris Corley 6-4, 6-1.
Raquel Pedraza topped No. 11 seed Kelly Chen 6-4, 6-3, but although Chen was the only seed to lose, several others needed comebacks to advanced. No. 4 seed Kylie McKenzie, playing under the lights, survived against wild card Emma Decoste 5-7, 6-2, 6-1. No. 7 seed Morgan Coppoc defeated Safiya Carrington 6-7(3), 7-6(2), 6-3, and No. 9 seed Alexandra Sanford outlasted Ashley Lahey 5-7, 6-3, 7-5.
No. 2 seed Kayla Day will play qualifier Sydney Van Alphen in one of the 21 remaining first round 18s matches scheduled for Tuesday.
The seeds in the 16s singles will begin play on Tuesday, and the 18s doubles will also start. Top seeds are Blumberg and Nathan Ponwith in the boys draw, and Day and Sanford in the girls draw.
The order of play, draws and a link to the live scoring can be found at the tournament website.
There was a thriller in College Station tonight, with No. 3 TCU defeating No. 7 Texas A&M 4-3, with the final match going to 12-10 in a third-set tiebreaker. Jerry Lopez of TCU defeated Max Lunkin of Texas A&M 2-6, 6-4, 7-6(10) at line 5 to give the Horned Frogs the victory. Details and quotes from TCU's David Roditi can be found at the TCU website.