Photo: Srdjan StevanovicTaylor Townsend (USA)
Junior Australian Open champion and local favourite Taylor Townsend might be top seed but the American teenager needed all her experience to battle through her first round match at the Orange Bowl International Tennis Championships.
The marquee ITF Grade A event is blessed with a strong draw in boys’ and girls’ singles this year, with Townsend just one of many big names competing in the under-18 category. The sixteen-year-old, admits that clay is not her favourite surface, struggled to cope with promising 15-year-old Ivana Jorovic of Serbia in the first round on Monday before delivering a 76(1), 76(8) win on the claycourts of the Frank Veltri Tennis Center in Florida.
"I just fought hard and am glad I got through it. Hopefully, the next round will be better,” Townsend told local media after the match.
Townsend is bidding to become the first American girl to finish a season No.1 in the ITF Junior World Rankings since Gretchen Rush in 1992 but she faces stiff competition from Katerina Siniakova of Czech Republic, whose best result came when she won the Grade A Osaka Mayor’s Cup. Townsend is currently in the top spot but needs to keep bettering Siniakova’s results to hang on to it. She now has a tricky second round in prospect against Dutch girl Indy De Vroome.
It has been a banner year for Townsend in Juniors. As well as taking the singles honours at Melbourne Park in January, she also won the Australian, Wimbledon and US Open Junior doubles titles and was also part of the victorious USA Junior Fed Cup by BNP Paribas team. Her Junior Fed Cup captain Kathy Rinaldi was courtside in Florida to watch her opening match.
The American contingent in Plantation was hit somewhat by the withdrawals through injury of 14th seed Sacha Vickery and USA’s highest ranked boy Noah Rubin. There was better news of local girl and former Orange Bowl 16s champion Allie Kiick, who beat Dominika Paterova (CZE) 61, 63.
In the boys’ singles, Anton Desyatnik of Russia sent fifth seed Spencer Papa of the USA tumbling with a 61, 63 win, Cheng-Yu Yu of Tapei knocked out seventh seed Mackenzie McDonald of the USA 75, 61 while Diego Pedraza (COL) also scored a hard-fought upset 16, 64, 64 victory over Hugo Di Feo of Canada.
Fourth seed Borna Coric (CRO) and third seed Yoshihito Nishioka (JPN) both progressed safely through to the second round and there was also a first round win for much-talked about 15-year-old German Alexander Zverev, who looked in imperious form during his 61, 60 defeat of Stefan Emilio Gonzalez of Guatamala.
Top seeded boy Gianluca Quinzi of Italy is due to get his title campaign underway against Lucas Gomez of Mexico, while second seed Frederico Ferreira Silva of Portugal must overcome American qualifier Henry Craig to set up a possible second round meeting with Zverev. Siniakova, meanwhile, plays American qualifier Nicole Frenkel.