The youngest and oldest players in the BNP Paribas Open main draw toughed out three set wins as the first round continued. And somewhere in between, Monica Niculescu was in crushing form.
WTA Staff

INDIAN WELLS, CA, USA - Sixteen-year-old American Taylor Townsend came up a winner in her first WTA main draw match Thursday, battling to the end to beat Lucie Hradecka at the BNP Paribas Open.

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Townsend has had a very successful career in the juniors - she won the Australian Open last year and got to No.1 just a few months later - and she made a very big statement on Thursday, twice a game away from losing down 5-4 and 6-5 in the second set but hanging tough to beat Hradecka, 36 76(1) 63.

"She came out playing really well," Townsend said. "I just tried to stay composed and tried to keep fighting, and that's what got me through. I just had to take it one point at a time, one point at a time - especially during the tie-breaker I was just trying to breathe and stay as calm as I could out there.

"I always thought I belonged at this level. It's so surreal - it's coming to pass."

Townsend talked about the steps she has taken as she eyes a transition from the juniors to the pros.

"This was the first year I've really buckled down and had a good pre-season," Townsend said. "I got a new trainer and we hit it hard for six weeks - I also went back to the basics and worked on some stuff in practice. It's the first year I've done that consistently, and I can see the work coming to fruition.

"I've had to give up eating a lot of stuff, and I've had to start eating a lot of stuff I don't really like - like brussels sprouts. I think that's typical for a lot of kids, though. But I'm starting to like it."

Townsend's match against the No.57-ranked Hradecka was her first against a Top 100 player, and it won't get any easier for the No.471-ranked wildcard in the next round as she takes on Ana Ivanovic, ranked No.13 and seeded No.11 here. The Serb is a former No.1 and former champion here.

"It's actually very exciting," Townsend said of the looming match-up. "I've watched her on TV. She's such a great player. She has so many strengths. I think it's going to be fun - less pressure on myself."

While the youngest player in the draw was grinding out a win, so was the oldest: 42-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm battled two hours and 17 minutes, battled back from 2-0 down in the third and played just a little bit better on the big points to diffuse the heavy-hitting of Galina Voskoboeva, 64 36 64. The two won the same amount of points in the match, 99 to 99, but Date-Krumm won the most important one.

Meanwhile, there was a player not at all interested in going the distance, in fact quite the opposite - Monica Niculescu took just 52 minutes to beat Ukrainian qualifier Elina Svitolina, 60 60, totally confounding the up-and-comer with her very unique brand of spins, angles and trajectories. She won the first 11 games of the match without facing game point and fought five of them off in the final game.

"I played amazing," Niculescu said. "I wasn't making any mistakes, I was focusing on every point, and I was even hitting some shots and then thinking, 'Whoah, what's happening here?' So I really don't have any complaints today. I'm playing really well. I feel fantastic. I feel really confident right now."

Could any of that confidence come from the fact she just won her first WTA title in Florianopolis? "I was a little bit stressed coming here after having such a good week the week before, and now a new tournament starting," she said. "But I'm really happy to be here and really happy to win today."

Next for Niculescu is the No.28 seed, Kirsten Flipkens. "I'm looking forward to that match," Niculescu said. "I lost to her in Hobart this year but let's see. It's not going to be easy, but I feel really confident right now and I really want to do a good result here. We'll see what happens on Saturday."