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Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Top Seeds Baird and Boyer Survive in Three Sets as First Round Completed at ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships

©Colette Lewis 2018--
Carson, CA--

Often first round matches involving the top seeds are routine affairs, but that wasn't the case on day two of the ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships.

No. 2 seed Natasha Subhash didn't have any trouble with qualifier Julia Deming, earning a quick 6-1, 6-2 victory, but top seed Margaryta Bilokin was in trouble early against qualifier Eryn Cayetano.  Bilokin, who made a slew of unforced errors to start the match, was down 3-0 in no time. She took a medical timeout for a left knee issue at the first changeover and after that she was able to steady herself, although she did trail 5-2.  Cayetano served for the set at 5-3, but was broken at love and in her next service game she could manage just one point. Bilokin served out the set, winning her fifth straight game, and went on to claim a 7-5, 6-3 victory.

Boys top seed Drew Baird found himself in an even tougher battle, but he did prevail over 15-year-old Toby Kodat 6-4, 1-6, 6-4.

At 4-all in the third set, Baird was down a break point, the result of a couple of consecutive unlucky net cords, but he came up with an ace and went on to hold for a 5-4 lead.

"That's part of the experience," said Baird, 17. "I've been playing three years more than him and I just knew how to keep my head calm. I knew that he hadn't played that many matches like that, so if I could just stay in it, I'd have a good chance."

In the next game, Kodat wasn't able to make many first serves and he fell behind 15-40. He managed to save both of those match points, but on a third, his forehand went wide, giving Baird the victory.

"I think he got a little tired, I was tired too, it was a long match," said Baird, who trains at IMG, where Kodat is also a student. "I could see his legs kind of dying on him a little bit and he got a little angry, so I thought maybe this is my chance to break and I took advantage of that game."

Like Baird, Kodat has a one-handed backhand, and Baird was impressed with its effectiveness, given how young Kodat is.

"His backhand is really steady and strong," said Baird, who believes his own backhand has improved substantially in the past year. "It's not like it's a weakness at all. It's steady and it's solid. He's an unreal player. He practices so hard every day, and he really deserves to be playing as well as he is."

No. 2 seed Tristan Boyer played four consecutive three-set matches at last week's Easter Bowl and that pattern continued Tuesday, with lucky loser John Bernard taking the first set from the Easter Bowl finalist. But once Boyer got rolling, Bernard wasn't able to maintain the level he's shown in the opening set, with Boyer taking a 6-7(3), 6-3, 6-0 victory.

The most exciting match of the day was between qualifier Karl Lee and No. 12 seed Will Grant, with Grant pulling out a 6-4, 2-6, 7-6(6) win.

Grant earned a break at 5-all in the third, but was broken at love serving for match. Lee trailed 5-2 in the deciding tiebreaker, but his forehand brought him back into the match, with two outright winners sandwiched around a return error by Grant. At 5-all Grant hit a big forehand winner of his own to force an error and earn a match point, but the 15-year-old Lee saved it with a good first serve. After the change of ends the forehand was not longer there for Lee however, with two errors from that side giving the match to Grant.

The only seeded boy to lose on Tuesday was No. 10 seed Eliot Spizzirri, who lost to qualifier Aditya Gupta 6-2, 6-2.

The only seed girl to lose on Tuesday was No. 11 seed Adrienn Nagy of Hungary, who fell to Kylie Collins 6-0, 7-6(5).  Collins was cruising along at 6-0, 5-2 when the wheels came off, and a 6-2 lead in the tiebreaker almost disappeared as well.

"All through the match I wasn't playing my best, I wasn't thinking my best," said Collins, 15. "She was missing a lot, I don't think we both were playing our best. At 5-2, I think she went for a little bit more and I back off and played a little passive. Down 5-6 I started to regroup and I dialed in a little bit more, realizing I had to play my game and not play not to lose."

Collins made three errors to squander three match points in the tiebreaker, but Nagy let her off the hook by putting a return into the net at 6-5.

"At 6-5 I realized, I'd better get it together, because the point before I missed like the third shot, and it was not normal to miss that," Collins said.

The 16s seeds took the court for the first time in Tuesday's second round, and top boys seeds Spencer Brachman and Hunter Heck both advanced to the third round in straight sets.  Girls top seeds Mell Reasco Gonzalez of Ecuador and Lauren Anzalotta-Kynoch also advanced with two-set victories. No. 3 seed Nataly Kader was beaten by Ava Neyestani 6-4, 6-3.

Complete results of Tuesday's matches, including the first round of 18s doubles, can be found at the tournament website.