By Steve Pratt, special to USTA.com
CARSON, Calif. – Fifteen-year-old American Taylor Townsend is fully aware her junior tennis days are coming to an end soon.
As the top-seeded player in the girls’ 18s at the eighth annual USTA International Spring Championships, Townsend was one of 208 of the top U.S. and international junior players who competed in matches Monday that lasted well over 14 hours at the Home Depot Center. Townsend, of Stockbridge, Ga., beat Las Vegas’ Kimberly Yee, 6-2, 7-5.
Currently ranked No. 2 in the International Tennis Federation world rankings, Townsend plans to play the ISC, next week’s Easter Bowl and the three remaining junior Slams: the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open before venturing out into the pro ranks.
Her goal is a simple one over the next two weeks: to take over the No. 1 ranking in the world. "This was just all part of the plan," said Townsend of her reason for playing two weeks of junior events. "They are in States and I can get the ITF points I need to be No. 1. Plus, these are my last few junior tournaments so I want to go out and enjoy it."
It marked the first tournament for Townsend since winning the Australian Open Juniors singles and doubles championships back in January and it was a revenge win for her as she lost to Yee in the semifinals of the Easter Bowl on her 14th birthday two years ago in the 14s. When not training at USTA headquarters in Boca Raton, Fla., Townsend, who was watched Monday by her USTA coach Kathy Rinaldi, has been working out near her home at the Racquet Club of the South in Norcross, Ga.
This year, she’ll celebrate her Sweet 16 in Rancho Mirage at the Easter Bowl. "No plans yet," said Townsend, adding that she will try and play three or four $50,000 USTA Pro Circuit events in the coming months. "It’s just fun being there with all my friends. My mom is going to come out and help me celebrate."
Also posting a big win on Monday in one of the 104 matches was Indiana’s Ronnie Schneider, who won the USTA 18s National Spring Championship’s last month and was granted a wild card into Carson because of his strong results over the past few months. Schneider, a high school junior, has given a verbal commitment that he will play college tennis for the University of North Carolina.
"I had my visit during Super Bowl weekend and watched the game with all the guys on the team," said Schneider, who beat No. 8 seeded Ricky Medinilla, the No. 77 world-ranked player from Mexico, 6-4, 6-2. "I’m happy to have the decision behind me to just concentrate on my tennis."
Schneider will also play Easter Bowl next week. "It’s a new experience, kind of like a Grand Slam would be," he said of traveling and playing back-to-back weeks.
Also posting wins on Monday in the 18s were seeded players Spencer Papa (No. 2), Mackenzie McDonald (No. 4), Alexios Halebian (No. 5), Austin Siegel (No. 6), Jordan Daigle (No. 9), Michael Redlicki (No. 13) and Luca Corintelli (No. 14).
In the girls’ 18s, American’s Chalena Scholl (No. 3), Alexandra Kiick (No. 7), Kelsey Laurente (No. 13), Catherine Harrison (No. 14) and Blair Shankle (No. 16) moved onto the second round while unseeded American Mia King upset No. 10 seeded Ayaka Okuno in three sets.
In the boys’ 16s, all 32 first-round matches were played on Monday with No. 1 seeded Ruadhan De Bruges leading the seeded winners. In the girls’ 16s, top-seeded players Nicole Frenkel and Alexandra Miller-Krasilnikov each posted victories.
For a complete run down of Monday’s scores and updated draws, log onto the website at www.usta.com/isc