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Monday, December 3, 2012

Townsend Turns Pro, Survives First Round Test at Orange Bowl; McAdoo Upsets No. 3 Seed Under the Lights

©Colette Lewis 2012--
Plantation, FL--

On Monday morning, Lagardere Unlimited announced it had signed ITF World Junior No. 1 Taylor Townsend to a representation contract. Townsend and her family had been talking with the company, which represents current and former World No. 1s Victoria Azarenka and Caroline Wozniacki as well as young Americans Sloane Stephens and Melanie Oudin, since the US Open in September.

"I thought it was all about timing, and was really ready and really excited," said the 16-year-old from Georgia. "Lagardere has been showing interest for a while and my mom was talking with them for a while and we got a chance to meet in New York. It was over time, it wasn't just an instant decision. There was a lot of thought put into it, and I was really excited and I thought now was the right time."

Townsend, who made her decision right before Thanksgiving, was back on the court Monday in the first round of the Orange Bowl, after falling in the third round of the Eddie Herr last week. The No. 1 seed had a tough match with 15-year-old Ivana Jorovic of Serbia, needing six match points and over two hours to post a 7-6(1), 7-6(6) victory.

Townsend was down 3-0 and two breaks in the first set before winning four games in a row, as Jorovic used her power from the backhand side to keep Townsend away from the net.  Townsend raised her game in the opening tiebreaker, while Jorovic's level plunged, with unforced errors and a double fault, as well as two Townsend drop shot winners, proving her undoing.

Townsend got a break to take a 3-2 lead in the second set and held it until she served for the match at 5-4. Jorovic saved three match points in the game, one with a vicious forehand winner, then took the game with a backhand winner. Serving at 5-6, Townsend saved a set point at 30-40 with an inside in forehand winner and held to force a second tiebreaker.

With her forehand balky at times early in the match, Townsend finally began to get consistency from it in the tiebreaker. She used two forehand winners to earn a 5-3 lead in the tiebreaker, then got a backhand error from Jorovic a point later to earn two more match points. A good return from Jorovic forced an error for 6-5, then another backhand winner, this one on the line made it 6-6. Townsend earned her sixth match point when Jorovic sent a forehand wide, and this time she converted, hitting a forehand winner after some excellent defense when Jorovic seemed to control the point.

"I don't think I played too well," said Townsend, who went directly from Stadium Court to a practice court to work on her serve with USTA National Coach Kathy Rinaldi. "You're not going to have great days every day, and I'm just glad I was able to get through it. Mentally I was able to stay in there even though I had my chances in both sets. It was really close and she was playing really well."

Townsend will meet Indy de Vroome of the Netherlands in the second round. De Vroome beat Townsend at last year's Orange Bowl in the third round.

"I'm excited to play her again," Townsend said. "She's a good player and I think it's going to be a good match. I'm not going to reminisce about last year--it's one full year later, and a lot has happened in that year--but I'm looking forward to playing that match."

Due to a two-hour rain delay early in the morning, Townsend's match began in the late afternoon sunlight and finished under the lights, as did Rasheeda McAdoo's contest with No. 3 seed Elizaveta Kulichkova of Russia.

McAdoo zipped through the first set, lost the second, then won the final three games of the third set for a 6-1, 3-6, 6-4 victory, her first over an ITF Top 10 player.

McAdoo, daughter of NBA Hall of Famer Bob McAdoo, who is now a coach for the Miami Heat, was down 4-3 in the final set before Kulichkova started to lose aim on her forehand. Two Kulichkova forehand errors helped McAdoo break back for 4-4, and an easy hold put the pressure back on the 16-year-old Russian. Up 40-0 serving at 4-5, Kulichkova couldn't shake McAdoo, who kept the points going, avoided errors and lured Kulichkova into going for too much.

After McAdoo won four straight points, she had a match point, which Kulichkova saved with a forehand volley winner, but her forehand failed her on the next two points, with her attempt at winners from the side going wide.

When the second one missed, McAdoo let out a long c'mon, with only a few stray spectators around to hear it as 8:00 approached.

"I had to play really hard for that one," said McAdoo. "What was that, like three hours? I just kept telling myself, one point at a time.  I'm glad I kept confident and positive those last three games. And thank God I did fitness."

Part of the confidence comes from her performance in the Orange Bowl 16s last year, where the recent Georgia Tech recruit reached the semifinals.

"It's familiar, this place," said McAdoo, who is commuting to the courts from her home in Boca Raton. "Last year getting to the semis, it gave me a positive edge."

Kulichkova was the highest seed, boys or girls, to fall in Monday's first round, there were others eliminated on the opening day.

No. 16 seed Jennifer Brady lost to Aidila Sutjiadi of Indonesia 6-2, 6-2, and on the boys side Americans Spencer Papa and Mackenzie McDonald also went down in straight sets. Papa, the No. 5 seed, lost to Anton Desyatnik of Russia 6-1, 6-3 and McDonald, the No. 7 seed, fell to Cheng-Yu of Taiwan 7-5, 6-1. Canadians Brayden Schnur and  Hugo DiFeo also lost, with DiFeo the No. 11 seed and Schnur No. 16.

Boys top seeds Gianluigi Quinzi of Italy and Frederico Silva of Portugal will play their first round matches on Tuesday.

For complete draws and the order of play for Tuesday, see the tournament website.