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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Fourth Seed Farren Needs Third Set Tiebreaker to Advance to Quarterfinals at ITF Pan American Closed

©Colette Lewis 2011--
Tulsa, OK--

Five minutes after his three-hour 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(3) win over 13-year-old Stefan Kozlov in the third round of the ITF Pan American Closed, fourth seed Connor Farren still wasn't quite sure what had happened.

"I'm still not quite completely sure if I won the match or not," said the 17-year-old, who was down a set and break to his much smaller opponent. "I've got to go look at the score online tonight before I come back tomorrow."

Kozlov's style has left more than a few older opponents dazed and confused, as the young Floridian has already won one ITF tournament and reached the finals of two others in the nine months since he was eligible to compete in the 18-and-under events.

With sunny skies and little wind on an unseasonably warm day, conditions were not a factor in the looming upset. Kozlov was serving at 3-2 in the second set, but Farren won the next four games to even the match. He took a 4-2 lead in the final set, but couldn't hold it, a theme throughout the match.

"It was a crazy match," said Farren. "I don't think the serve meant too much. I think there were just as many breaks as there were holds."

Farren got yet another lead by breaking Kozlov at 5-5, when Kozlov netted a forehand at 30-40. Looking depressed and lethargic, Kozlov shouted at himself for being "the biggest choke," but he came right back to break Farren, who made three backhand errors, and force a tiebreaker.

Farren reasserted himself early in the tiebreaker, hitting two forehand winners and an overhead for a 3-0 lead. Soon it was 5-0, and although Farren missed the volley on a rare serve-and-volley tactic to make it 5-1, Kozlov was in deep trouble. He didn't appear to realize that he needed to change ends, and when Farren asked him if he wanted to, Kozlov said, "no, do you?" The roving umpire, who was on court throughout the third set, didn't get involved, although he did admonish Kozlov about taking so long on the end change.

Farren missed a backhand long to make it 5-2, but on a Kozlov second serve, which was about all either player got in during the tiebreaker, Farren hopped forward and laced a backhand return winner to give himself four match points. He missed a forehand return on the next point, but escaped with the win when Kozlov's return of a second serve went wide.

"I tried to make it more physical and make it a little harder," said Farren. "Being favored to win was tough, playing a kid I was supposed to beat. He just keeps the ball really low, has really good hands at the net. He's got a really good feel for the ball, for his age, for any age, and has a really good feel for the court and places it really well."

Next up for Farren is another younger player, 15-year-old Noah Rubin, who has lost only three games in three victories, although one of the matches was a default. The two met recently in the final of the back draw at Kalamazoo, with Farren winning 7-5, 6-1.

"He's a really good competitor, we had a great match last time," said Farren. "He's a really nice kid, I get along well with him, and he's fair, so it should be a good match."

The other boys quarterfinal in the bottom half will feature unseeded Spencer Papa against No. 2 seed Marco Aurei Nunez of Mexico. Both Papa and Nunez defeated qualifiers, with Papa downing Josh Hagar 6-4, 6-1 and Nunez getting past Ryan Shane 6-4, 7-6(4).

In the top half, Mitchell Krueger, the top seed, will meet unseeded Brayden Schnur of Canada, after Krueger defeated No. 16 seed Carter Lin 6-0, 6-2, and Schnur eliminated qualifier Ryan Smith 7-6(5), 6-3.

Defending champion Filip Peliwo of Canada, seeded third, had his hands full today against No. 14 seed Thai Kwiatkowski, but prevailed 7-5, 2-6, 6-3. Kwiatkowski had his chances in the third set, but couldn't overcome a balky first serve, with Peliwo taking advantage of the second. With Peliwo serving at 4-2 in the third, Kwiatkowski had five break points, but Peliwo saved them all. Down 0-30 serving for the match at 5-4, Peliwo hit consecutive aces and induced two errors from Kwiatkowski to keep his hope for back-to-back titles alive.

Peliwo's opponent Thursday is unseeded Mackenzie McDonald, who defeated No. 5 seed Ricky Medinilla of Mexico 6-3, 6-1 to reach his first Grade 1 quarterfinal.

The girls round of 16 matches produced only two three-setters, with most matches going to the higher seeds. In one that didn't, 14-year-old Renata Zarazua of Mexico continued her impressive run, beating No. 15 seed Kimberly Surin of Canada 6-3, 7-5. Zarzua, who has yet to lose a set, plays Catherine Harrison in the quarterfinals Thursday, assuring an unseeded semifinalist. Harrison defeated qualifier Mariana Gould 6-1, 6-1. Taylor Townsend, seeded 11th, handled No. 8 seed Marcela Zacarias of Mexico 6-2, 6-1, and will play No. 2 seed and 2010 finalist Christina Makarova in the quarterfinals. Makarova beat No. 16 seed Denise Starr 6-2, 7-6(2).

No. 14 seed Chalena Scholl put an end to Josie Kuhlman's tournament, cruising to a 6-0, 6-0 victory and will play No. 9 seed Kelsey Laurente, who was extended to three sets by Katrine Steffensen, but recorded a 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 win.

Fifth seed Allie Kiick had little difficulty with No. 10 seed Alejandra Cisneros of Mexico, posting a 6-2, 6-0 victory, but her quarterfinal opponent, Jennifer Brady, needed three hours and 22 minutes to earn her win over unseeded Breaunna Addison.

Brady served for the match at 6-5 in the second set, but Addison forced a tiebreaker. Leading 3-1 in the tiebreaker, Addison lost five of the next six points to give Brady two match points. But Brady's backhand let her down, with three straight errors off that side giving Addison a set point. She couldn't convert it, sending a forehand long, but after another backhand error by Brady, Addison struck a clean forehand winner to force a third set.

Addison took a 2-0 lead in the third set, but then lost five straight games, all of them close. Serving for the match at 5-2, Brady didn't get to match point, and again her backhand side produced the error at 30-40 to make it 5-3. Addison held for 5-4, and Brady looked in danger of losing serve again when she went down 0-40. Addison hit a backhand wide on the first break point, and Brady's forehand came to her rescue on the next two as she hit two big forehand winners to bring it back to deuce. Addison had one more break point, but missed a forehand long, then another wide to give Brady her third match point. Changing the pace on her first serve, she kicked it into Addison's backhand and the return went long, giving Brady her second consecutive three-set victory.

"I think when I'm down sometimes I play better," said Brady. "When I'm ahead, I sort of get relaxed and don't think too much while I'm out there. I think that's what happened in that last game."

As for her willingness to go for her forehands in that situation, Brady was confident in that shot when she needed it.

"I never feel nervous when it comes to my forehand," said the 16-year-old, who trains at the Evert Academy in Boca Raton, Fla. "I can hit that all day. It's not that my backhand is a weak shot, but I'm not as confident as with my forehand, so that's why I always run around it."

Thursday's order of play can be found at the usta.com site. Updated draws, including second round doubles results, can be found at the TennisLink site.