BRADENTON -- Mitchell Krueger's boys junior tennis ranking has dropped recently.
He doesn't mind.
Because the 18-year-old Krueger is a pro now, making the decision to eat, sleep and breathe tennis 24/7 instead of going to college back in July.
The Dallas native is in Bradenton this week for the ITF $10,000 Futures Tour clay-court event at IMG Academy, and he got off to a fast start by winning his first-round match of the singles portion 6-1, 6-0 over American Terence Celestine.
"I played pretty well," Krueger said. "I was glad I was able to get on first, the first day of the tournament, and get a win."
It's the first pro circuit men's event to come to Bradenton since 1996, and it's the first time IMG has ever held a pro tennis tournament.
Krueger displayed a versatile game in Tuesday's match, the same type of game that enabled him to ascend to No. 5 in the world for juniors in 2012 as well as earning the title as the top American junior player.
His high ranking came on deep runs in two Grand Slam events, when Krueger reached the semifinals in both the French Open and Wimbledon.
That made the decision to turn pro that much easier.
"It was back and forth for awhile," Krueger said. "... I had some exposure to some management companies, and I got talking to some agents and was able to get deals from companies, so it's helped."
Growing up in football-crazy Texas, Krueger never played the sport. Rather, he was focused on tennis and baseball before concentrating on the former when he was in the fifth grade.
It also was a no-brainer considering his pedigree, with both parents playing tennis collegiately.
"I can devote everything to Futures now, to Challengers,"
Krueger said. "I don't really have to go back and forth between (junior and pro) tournaments. I have been able to play several tournaments in a row as to where normally I would have had to play some Futures then some Juniors and lose some momentum."
Krueger is only in his eighth Futures Tour event since becoming a professional, and he has already made an impact on the world stage.
The USTA granted him a wild card into the qualifying draw of the U.S. Open, and Krueger didn't disappoint in registering a straight-set victory over Argentina's Martin Alund.
He said it's his biggest win to date.
And he recently notched a semifinal appearance in a Futures Tour event in Alabama.
"It's been a good stretch of tournaments, I think," Krueger said.
He'll next play the winner of France's Florian Reynet and Germany's Pirmin Haenle. Reynet is the top seed in the tournament, and his first-round match against Haenle is slated for Wednesday.
Out-of-Door Academy alum and former University of Florida standout Sekou Bangoura Jr. earned a straight-set victory over his doubles partner, Patrick Daciek, in a first-round match on Tuesday. Bangoura won 6-1, 6-2.
"I was moving well, I was seeing the ball well," Bangoura said. "I got off to a pretty good start, and I kind of just kept the momentum going."