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Monday, July 2, 2012

Fourteen-year-old Stefan Kozlov Wins in Wimbledon Junior Championships Debut; Top Seed Townsend Breezes into Second Round

Stefan Kozlov in first round action Monday

©Colette Lewis 2012--

Apprehension was the key word Monday, when the dismal weather--more suitable for late autumn than midsummer--caused the scheduled first round junior doubles to be cancelled less than 15 minutes into the day. 

The rain, forecast to be in the area until the evening, suddenly stopped however, and with only an hour's delay, first round junior matches were started around noon. Two US juniors were fortunate to get off the court before a second rain delay two hours later: top seed Taylor Townsend and qualifier Stefan Kozlov.

Townsend had no trouble with Maria Constanza de la Vega of Argentina, needing just over an hour to complete a 6-2, 6-1 win, her first at Wimbledon. The 16-year-old left-hander has a game made for grass, and it showed in her stats: she came to the net 28 times and lost only 6 of those points.

"The grass and I are one," said Townsend, who got off to an early lead in both sets.  "We get along pretty well. It was definitely tough conditions today and the grass is playing a little bit differently because it was damp outside. When it's dry you get better bounces, but it was about adjusting, and that's what I did. I still enjoyed it and the shots I have that are effective I still used, and they were very effective."

Townsend is known for reading from a small notebook during changeovers, but what's in it is confidential. 

"I can't share that, that's actually a secret, I'm sorry," Townsend said good-naturedly. "I'm really superstitious so I didn't read in between the games, because I was playing really well, so I said that's got to stay in my bag, but I read it in between the sets to start off clear-minded."

Kozlov needed a bit more time to take out 17-year-old Daniel Masur of Germany 5-7, 6-2, 6-1.  The 14-year-old qualifier was up 5-2 in the first set, had two set points with Masur serving at 3-5, but couldn't close out the first set against the world's 19th-ranked junior.

"The first couple of games were pretty rough, I was kind of nervous," said Kozlov, the youngest player in the draw by more than a year. "Not nervous where I couldn't play, but throughout the whole first set I was kind of nervous. I played well until 5-2, then kind of gave it up."

Kozlov, who says people have told him he plays like 19-year-old Australian Bernard Tomic, broke Masur to open the second set.

"It was tough," Kozlov said. "It's a good thing I broke the first game, because otherwise it would have been hard. But I just stopped thinking about it, and played like I wasn't going to lose."

In the third set, Kozlov again got an early break and coasted to the win. With his variety and his ability to change pace and direction when least expected, Kozlov thinks the surface is a good one for him.

"I feel pretty comfortable on it," said Kozlov, who qualified and won a round at the Roehampton Grade 1 last week. "My serve kind of joins the grass, and I feel very comfortable on it, let's put it that way." 

Kozlov's father Andrei, who runs a tennis academy in Pembroke Pines, Florida, arrived at the All England Club from Florida this morning, but he didn't make the trip solely to see his son play his first match in the shadow of Wimbledon's Centre Court.

"He's coaching Camila Giorgi," Kozlov said of the 20-year-old Italian qualifier who lost in the fourth round to No. 3 seed Agnieszka Radwanska today. "He helps her out a lot and I usually hit with her a lot when I'm home."

Allie Kiick in her first round victory Monday

The third US junior to advance to the second round was No. 13 seed Allie Kiick, who survived a rain delay leading 5-2 in the third set against Carol Zhao of Canada. Kiick came back from the interruption to complete her comeback 4-6, 6-4, 6-2, but the two games at 2-2 in the third set were the key to her win over the Roehampton finalist.

Kiick saved four break points to hold for 3-2, then denied Zhao seven game points when the Canadian served to tie it. Finally getting a game point after six deuces, Kiick couldn't convert it, but she got the second one, after two unforced errors by Zhao.

"It's really tough, because it's just two points that can change the whole match," said Kiick, who turned 17 two days ago. "If she would have won that really long game on my serve, who knows what would have happened. It was just a couple points and thank god I was able to clinch them."

Kiick played her first match ever on grass last week at Roehampton, where she reached the quarterfinals before falling to eventual champion Eugenie Bouchard of Canada, and she had never even practiced on the surface prior to her trip to Great Britain.

"With my game, I didn't think I would enjoy it too much," said Kiick, who insisted that Zhao was the better player in the match today. "But I really, really like it a lot."

The other US junior players did not fare as well in their opening matches, with two seeds falling. No. 14 seed Noah Rubin lost to German qualifier Maximilian Marterer 6-4, 6-4 and No. 10 seed Chalena Scholl couldn't hold a 3-0 lead in the second set, losing to wild card Katy Dunne of Great Britain 6-3, 6-4.

Christina Makarova, who lost to No. 8 seed Donna Vekic of Croatia 6-3, 6-4, was the only unseeded player from the US losing in the miserable weather conditions that brought out the scarves and down jackets.

Qualifier Catherine Harrison had forced a third set in her match with Oleksandra Korashvili of Ukraine, but was trailing 5-4, with Korashvili serving at 15-0 (or 0-0; there are two different scores displayed on site) when the rain came and stayed, cancelling all play on the outside courts at 7:45 p.m.  Qualifier Thai Kwiatkowski and Max de Vroome had just begun their match, while Kyle McPhillps and Jennifer Brady did not start their matches.

Boys top seed and defending champion Luke Saville avenged his third round loss to Laurent Lokoli of France last week in decisive fashion today, moving on to the second round with a 6-1, 6-4 victory. Second seed Kimmer Coppejans of Belgium, who won both the French Open and Roehampton this year, also is through, beating Eduard Esteve Lobato of Spain 6-4, 6-3.  The only other seeded player to lose on Monday was No. 9 seed Andrew Harris of Australia, beaten by wild card Enzo Couacaud of France 6-1, 3-6, 6-4.

For complete draws, see the Wimbledon website, where there is also a recap of Townsend's win.