Photo: Fred MullaneGrace Min (USA)
Our featured player for this month is American Grace Min.
Earlier this year, Min won her first ITF Pro Circuit singles final in Innisbrook, Florida and now, in the week of her 18th birthday, she was once again competing in the Sunshine State.
The opening round of her first appearance at the ITF Indian Harbour Beach tournament saw her draw the top seed and 2011 semifinalist; fellow American Irina Falconi. Against the tournament favourite Min turned in an excellent performance to reach the second round with a stunning 60 64 win.
Round two rather remarkably saw the last two remaining seeded players exit the tournament as the fifth and seventh seeds fell.
Unlike the seeded players, Min came through the second round, a 64 60 win was then followed with another straight sets win to move into the semifinals.
It was here that Min dropped her first set of the tournament, taking just two games in the first set off Krista Hardebeck, an American qualifier. Min recovered from this set back to edge the second set 75 before cruising to a 61 final set win.
The day of the final saw Min turn 18 and opposing her on the court in the title match was American Wild Card entrant Maria Sanchez. In a close encounter Min took the opening set 64 and then made sure it was a happy birthday as she secured the title in a tiebreak 7-4.
In her first full tournament as an 18-year-old, Min travelled to North Carolina for the $25,000 event in Raleigh where she was named as the fifth seed.
In her only other appearance here, back in 2010, Min bowed out in the first round but there was no repeat of that as she only dropped one game as she raced to a 60 61 win.
A second successive win over Alexandra Kiick followed. Having defeated her in the quarterfinal the previous week, Min only allowed her one game as she won through to the next round 60 61.
Two rounds played and twenty-four games won with only two lost gave her plenty of confidence going into her quarterfinal with the top seed from Australia Olivia Rogowska.
A 63 62 win saw Min eliminate a number one seeded player for the second tournament running and with a 64 75 semifinal win over the fourth seeded Heidi El Tabakh she was into a second consecutive final.
Playing in back-to-back finals for the first time in her professional career Min was taking on Belgian third seed Tamaryn Hendler. It was Hendler who seized the initiative and moved into a one set lead by taking the opening set 63.
Min struck back immediately to level the match with the loss of two games in the second set and force the final to go the distance. A tense final set finished 63 in favour of Min who found herself winning the title for a third time in 2012.
Her triumph in the Raleigh final was to be her last match of the month but the ranking points earned would see her lifted to a new career high WTA singles ranking of 176.