Alexandra Mueller is comfortable here.
The 25-year-old has made Hilton Head Island a home away from home in recent years, twice winning the singles title at the Head/First Federal Women's $10,000 USTA Pro Circuit Tournament in her last four trips to the Lowcountry. She was at it again Wednesday, registering a 6-3, 6-3, first-round victory over Jessica Lawrence to advance another day at one of her favorite stops.
"I really love coming here, no matter where I am the previous week or something," she said. "I always try to put this one on my schedule. I think it's a great place. I think the spectators really love when the tournament comes, so it feels awesome to play here."
Her win total might have something to do with that. Mueller has made a living off her mighty serve -- she registered 12 aces in her 2009 championship at Van Der Meer Tennis Center -- but managed to advance a round despite not having her best on Wednesday.
Mueller said she struggled with timing and movement against Lawrence, but managed to fight through it by accelerating the ball instead of overthinking things by trying to place it.
"It's definitely something I want to get better at as the tournament goes on," she said. "Sometimes when you're not playing your best it's just about getting through it.
"If something's not feeling right, you definitely just want to make sure you get by. You can always get better as the tournament goes on."
She let out an exasperated, "Finally!" after a second set ace clinched a win to go up 4-2. That was where she was at her best against Lawrence, capturing four of five games that went to deuce to propel her past a 19-year-old who had evened up both sets at two games apiece.
"I played well, it was just a few points here and there that she got," Lawrence said. "Tough match. ... She's a good player. She has a good ranking and she plays well. She has a good serve and has good ground strokes."
The second-seeded Mueller dialed in her focus as games got tight, which in turn helped keep her recent streak alive. She teamed with Kristy Frilling a week ago to capture the doubles championship at the Palmetto Pro Open in Sumter.
"I definitely feel like when it got tight, when it got to a deuce game or got to a 3-all point in the set, I felt like I focused a little harder on those points," she said. "I just put in a little extra effort to hit a good first serve or hit a great return."
Mueller is hoping to keep her trend of success at Van Der Meer in odd years intact. The 2009 and 2011 tournaments both featured singles titles for her, and she's hoping to add a third in 2013.
"I didn't think of that," she said, laughing. "But let's hope so."
ITF Women's Circuit
Head/First Federal Women's $10,000
A USTA Pro Circuit event; Wednesday's results, at Van Der Meer Tennis Center, Hilton Head Island
Sydney Campbell (USA) def. Jessica Moore (Aus)  6-4 2-6 6-4
Nelly Ciolkowski (Fra) def. Olena Leonchuk (Ukr) 6-1 6-1
Hayley Carter (Usa) def. Elisabeth Fournier (Can)  6-1 6-2
Samantha Powers (Usa) def. Nicole Robinson (Usa), 6-1 7-5
Amanda Rodgers (Usa) def. Olga Zavarotnaya (Blr), 6-2 7-6(7)
Taylor L. Davidson (Usa) def. Sherry Li (Usa), 6-3 6-1
Hiroko Kuwata (Jpn)  def. Ellie Halbauer (Usa), 6-7(5) 6-1 7-6(6)
Veronica M. Corning (Usa) def. Mia Horvit (Usa), 6-1 7-6(7)
Yana Koroleva (Rus) def. Piia Suomalainen (Fin) , 6-2 7-6(4)
Brooke Austin (Usa)  def. Usue Maitane Arconada (Usa), 6-3 6-3
Alexis King (Usa) def. Sonja Molnar (Can) , 3-6 6-4 6-4
Katerina Stewart (Usa)  def. Erin Clark (Usa), 6-1 6-2
Alexandra Mueller (Usa)  def. Jessica Lawrence (Usa), 6-4 6-3
Michelle Sammons (Rsa) def. Ashley Murdock (Usa), 6-4 6-1
Jessica Moore (Aus) / Belinda Woolcock (Aus)  def. Jade Lewis (Nzl) / Olga Zavarotnaya (Blr), 7-5 6-3
Sherry Li (Usa) / Jainy Scheepens (Ned) def. Veronica M. Corning (Usa) / Isabella Robbiani (Par), 6-3 1-6 [10-6]
Hayley Carter (Usa) / Josie Kuhlman (Usa) def. Elisabeth Fournier (Can)  / Hiroko Kuwata (Jpn), 6-0 7-5
All courts start play at 9 a.m.
Jade Lewis (NZL) vs. Yana Koroleva (RUS)
Alexis King (USA) vs. Veronica M. Corning (USA)
Sydney Campbell (USA) vs. Nelly Ciolkowski (FRA)
Brooke Austin (USA)/Brooke Rischbieth (AUS) vs. Hayley Carter (USA)/Josie Kuhlman (USA)
Kristy Frilling (USA)/Alexandra Mueller (USA)  vs. Alexandra Morozova (USA)/Denise Starr (USA)
Brooke Austin (USA)  vs. Belinda Woolcock (AUS)
Amanda Rodgers (USA) vs. Hayley Carter (USA)
Michelle Sammons (RSA) vs. Alexandra Mueller (USA) 
Sherry Li (USA)/Jainy Scheepens (NED) vs. Erin Clark (USA) /Sonja Molnar (CAN)
Katerina Stewart (USA)  vs. Taylor L. Davidson (USA)
Samantha Powers (USA) vs. Hiroko Kuwata (JPN) 
Jessica Moore (AUS)/Belinda Woolcock (AUS)  vs. Nicole Robinson (USA)/Katerina Stewart (USA)