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Sunday, April 7, 2013

Hibi Takes Girls Title at ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships; Kozlov Keeps Record Perfect Against Wiersholm to Claim Boys Title

©Colette Lewis 2013--
Carson, CA--

Mayo Hibi didn't care for the parallels she was seeing at the International Spring Championships.  Three years ago, Hibi had reached the 16s doubles final, lost that, and then lost the 16s singles final the next day to Alyssa Smith.

On Saturday, Hibi again lost in the doubles final, but the similarities ended there, when she played a nearly perfect match in the girls 18s final, beating No. 5 seed Jamie Loeb 6-2, 6-1 on a cool and overcast morning at the Home Depot Center.

The scoreline is a poor indicator of the length and quality of the match, which extended for over an hour and forty-five minutes.  Games were long, and the majority of the rallies saw the ball cross the net a dozen times, with some points two or three times that length.

The unseeded Hibi, who turned 17 turning the tournament, is known for her varied game and one-handed backhand, and although she didn't abandon the slice against Loeb, she elected to stay back and trade ground strokes with the 18-year-old from New York.

"After yesterday's match I was mentally prepared to rally for thirty shots in one point," said Hibi, who defeated top seed and noted counterpuncher Christina Makarova 6-4, 6-1. "My ground strokes were working really well today. She did make a few more unforced errors than me today, and overall, I think I played well."

Loeb is know for her precision and mental toughness, but with Hibi giving her virtually nothing in the unforced error department, Loeb had nowhere to turn.

"She missed like four balls all day," said Loeb. "She played very well, very steady. We had a lot of long points and a lot of long games and she just didn't give me any free points at all. If I felt I hit a good shot, she would come up with a better shot. It was tough. She played a very good match."

Loeb expressed surprise that Hibi didn't come to the net more, as that had been Hibi's preferred style in their previous matches.

"It didn't throw me off, but I expected her to come in more, because the past two times I played her she did serve and volley more," Loeb said. "But from the baseline, she was very solid today, hitting her forehand well, hitting good passing shots. Her slice, I think she maybe missed one."

Hibi lives in Irvine, California and takes private lessons from Debbie Graham, the former NCAA champion from Stanford and Top 30 WTA Professional, and Chris Lewis, the former Wimbledon finalist. Hibi believes having coaches with a professional background can only help her in achieving her goals.

"She knows what it takes to get to that level," Hibi said of Graham.  What kind of players you play, what kind of mentality you need, what kind of game you need to beat them."

Hibi also takes inspiration from the former champions of the International Spring Championships who have gone on to successful professional careers, like Vania King, Melanie Oudin and Sloane Stephens.

"It's cool to watch someone on TV that you've actually played," said Hibi, who is a Japanese citizen, but moved to Southern California when she was two and a half years old. "It encourages you, that you can also do the same thing if you work hard and go chase your dreams. That's what they've been doing, they went through the same path."

Hibi had not played a junior tournament this year, concentrating instead on the Pro Circuit, but said the opportunity to play so many matches while not incurring the expense of travelling made sense. After winning all six matches this week in straight sets, Hibi will be a favorite at the Easter Bowl, which begins Monday for the girls.

"It's going to be tough, it's always tough," said Hibi of the quick turnaround. "Last year I played Claremont, won that, got to the quarterfinals here and semis of Easter Bowl. It's really tiring, but you know on the tour, I usually play two or three weeks in a row, because you're traveling. You just have to get used to it."

Loeb thinks playing again on Monday might be good for her.

"Sometimes I tend to think about my losses too much, too long, spend too much time on it," said Loeb. "So having a match tomorrow just makes me forget about it and have another tournament. This was a really good tournament, definitely compared to last year. I just have to forget about it. It's not like I played horrible, I played decent, pretty well, but Mayo just played better. I have to give her the credit."

Henrik Wiersholm is still looking for the solution to the problem Stefan Kozlov poses after Kozlov defeated him 6-2, 6-3 to take the boys singles title.

Kozlov, who lost in last year's final to Mitchell Krueger, ran his record against Wiersholm to 8-0.

"I thought he would come out here and just fire out balls, because he hasn't beaten me," said the second seed. "He played a little different that I thought he would play. I guess he had a lot more pressure than me today. I had a lot of pressure on me too, but I'm getting better at loosening it away."

The 15-year-old Kozlov, who trains with Wiersholm at the USTA's Boca Raton National Center, never trailed in the final, getting a break in the fourth game of the first set.  Wiersholm didn't serve with the same effectiveness as he did in his quarterfinal win over top seed Noah Rubin and Saturday's semifinal win over No. 4 seed Naoki Nakagawa, and Kozlov made him pay by moving in and hitting return winners on Wiersholm's second serve.

Wiersholm fell behind 3-0 in the second set, but got back on serve, only to be broken in the next game to give Kozlov a 4-2 lead. Kozlov saved a break point to make it 5-2, and after Wiersholm held, Kozlov earned three match points. He botched the first, undecided on what to do with a mid-court volley, but on his second match point, Kozlov hit a drop shot winner to claim his first Grade 1 title.

The friendship between the two players was evident throughout the match, particularly when they reassured each other on close line calls. But that respect didn't help Wiersholm, who admitted his losing streak to Kozlov was starting to get to him.

"It's all mental now, once it goes to 8-0," said Wiersholm, 16. "I can't really perform how I want to because I'm caught up in it. I lost seven times to this guy, I can't lose again. It's tough to rationalize winning when you haven't won before. So yeah, that was part of the thing today."

Wiersholm also mentioned that Kozlov prevented him from getting any rhythm, and Kozlov agreed.

"He couldn't find his rhythm throughout the whole match," said Kozlov. "I try to keep him off balance, try to hit a lot of winners, so he doesn't get in his groove. But in the second set, he almost got it back even, and then I started playing better again."

Kozlov, who reached the final of the Grade A Copa Gerdau last month after several months off due to an elbow injury, has an ambitious goal for 2013.

"I think I'm going to play the (junior) slams and some Futures," said Kozlov, who is scheduled to play his first Easter Bowl match Tuesday. "My goal is to be at the top of the ITF list."


TKO? said...

Duke women lost two more matches having to forfeit at #6 singles and #3 doubles. They have another injury, so their newly added player, Lipp is actually playing #5 now.

It's amazing how tough this season has been. Going from one of the favorites for the National Championship to just trying to field a full team.

Maybe it's time for the Standing TKO

contradiction..... said...

Interesting how Stefanki commented on how he would NOT take the Monfils job because Gael would not change his game BUT he accepted Roddick's gig even when Andy told him he was not going to change the way he was going to play. Andy played the wrong way - too defensive for the past 6-7 years.

Did Larry address that in his speech?

Regarding Larry said...


Amazing he called USA players soft. Did he go into detail into why he thought that?

Now that Patrick MCEnroe, Jose Higueras, Jay Berger have been in charge for several years, what difference have they made in changing the culture in Men's Tennis?

Larry is a great ATP coach but his recent player Andy Roddick never changed his game to succeed in his career. All the small tweaks was hitting his backhand down the line and getting in better shape. HIs court positioning was so far back and sliced all his backhands. He played like Ferrer and counter puncher.

You Cannot be Serious said...

Jack Sock got another wildcard into a main draw event in Houston.

Main Draw singles wildcards: San Jose, Memphis, Delray Beach, Indian Wells, Houston

This is the 5th main draw wildcard in the 8 events he has played. The other 3 events he played - lost in qualifying.

No wonder Larry thinks American men are soft.

US Tennis said...

What Larry said about American Men being soft is a generality of what the conception is so it is nothing new. I want to hear specifics.

I hope Larry would be positive and give advice on how to improve American tennis rather than insult and tell how soft Americans are.

Did he talk about how he could not improve Andy's game or get him to be more aggressive?

Colette Lewis said...

Stefanki talked for over an hour, and in depth about Roddick's game and how they worked together to improve it. It was obvious he felt Roddick had a willingness to accept coaching that Monfils does/did not. But I don't want to simplify his comments too much, because context is important.

US Tennis said...


thank you for your answer. The one thing that does not make sense to me is Roddick may had a willingness to change but never did or applied the change under Stefanki or even before him.

Also I do not like when people take shots at American tennis without giving specifics. I do like that he is not afraid to speak up and voice his opinion but when you say a problem please give a solution

russ said...

lledgmcIt peeves me to no end to hear someone calling players soft, and it's especially galling at a junior tournament. Being an ATP coach, Stefanki probably has no idea what goes on at junior tournaments. Is it soft to play in 100 + degree heat with the sun crushing your brain in San Antonio for four hours? Or in Florida on clay in the high nineties with unbelievable humidity when you can't drink enough water to replace all that you're losing? Is it soft when kids are carried out on stretchers and have to spend not just a night, but days in a hospital recovering from full body cramps, dehydration, heatstroke? Is it soft when kids are puking all over the court and keep playing? Sampras' puke becomes the stuff of legends when he does it once, but I have seen junior tournaments where this was a way of life.

Or are these kids soft because they don't train hard enough to play in these conditions? I didn't hear anyone call Ferrer and Murray soft after playing only 2 hours and 45 minutes in Miami and they were both doubled over in pain and exhaustion. Juniors matches at the the national clays often go longer and they aren't playing for money; in fact most of them aren't even playing for a career, they're just playing not to lose that day. Is that soft? To give it your all for the moment of triumph that only you will ever know and cherish?

How bout when poorly trained trainers can't diagnose injuries and kids play entire tournaments with stress fractures and muscle tears, popping pills to endure the pain? How bout when kids go crashing into the clay or concrete or umpire chairs and net posts ending bloody and bruised yet keep on playing? Is it soft when someone tears an acl or the ligaments in their wrist and keeps on playing?

Is it soft to forsake school and home, to transplant yourself to some academy and live tennis morning, noon and night while your parents spend tens of thousands of dollars a year helping you chase a dream? Is it soft playing the futures circuit knowing that it is a losing financial proposition, and that there is a significant emotional, spiritual, psychological. physical toll being paid for staying in cheap hotels, eating nasty food, playing some of the worst courts you could imagine in some of the worst conditions you can ever believe and then losing the effing match because you have the flu, or you rolled your ankle the day before, or your shoulder is messed up because you had to go big the day before? Is it soft to weigh the pros and cons and decide that even if it's a million to one shot that you'll ever create a career that's financially rewarding, you're going to sacrifice your twenties for a dream?

Or is soft something else? Like choking in the clutch, or underperforming in a big match in a big tournament, or retiring so often with injuries that Roddick mocks you and everyone laughs in basic agreement. (There are still people out there questioning Djokovic's injuries, calling his rolled ankle in the recent Davis Cup exaggerated.) Are Federer, Murray soft for blowing match points and then losing? Did Federer tank the 2008 French open final when lost 1, 3, 0? That last set was as sorry a performance as I've ever seen and to think it was delivered by the "greatest of all time". Remember when Lebron was too soft and not clutch enough and now that he has won a title the question some ask: is he better than Jordan? Is that what soft is, the fan's frustration that x player or x country doesn't have the results that said fan thinks he should have? And does soft become tough and clutch when a player wins a major championship? And if major championships are the criteria, I don't remember Stefanki holding up any trophies. Was Stefanki too soft for not making it to the top? Was Roddick too soft after winning his only major and never being able to beat Federer? Or are there other elements in play here?

to be continued)

russ said...

Tennis, of all the sports, is a veritable rubik's cube of what it takes to become great. One element out of whack and you end up failing. And yet how often it is said that it's all mental. Sometimes it is, but sometimes it's the alchemy of gifts and talents that is lacking. We are all given gifts to play the game: physical, mental, spiritual, psychological. Some players have great will but have shaky backhands that undermine the will. Some players have the heart of a lion but are tortured by doubt. Everything has to be in sync and it ain't easy. If it was, we would all be champions. We all fight our demons, improve our weaknesses, and attempt to soar with our strengths. But sometimes the other guy just puts it together better than you. And sometimes in today's global age there are more good players than ever before. Ask the Bryans if they were soft in their match Saturday, or if Bozoljac just put together his game better than they did.

So what is soft, but the outsider's cheap conventional wisdom masquerading as definitive truth. Having seen my son's generation play juniors for over seven years I will never question their heart, their desire, their effort, their sacrifice. I respect them all far too much to ever call them soft.

junior coach said...

Why is Larry considered a terrific coach - just because you coach top players does not make you the best or one of the best.

He NEVER developed any of those top players - only had them when they were already multi-millionaires. The best coaches are the one how develops the player - not books practice courts at pro events.

Makes me angry when he stereotypes American players as being soft without any justification. Sounds like he is completely out of touch with juniors, college, and professional players.

Makes me angry when he says that crap in front of American juniors, coaches, and the press.

AJT said...

Well Said Russ, kudos.