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Friday, January 24, 2014

Eight Intriguing Questions for 2014; Kozlov Reaches Australian Boys Final; Liu, Bolton, Bellamy in Les Petit As Semis; ITA Kickoff Weekend Underway

One of my Eight Intriguing Questions for 2014 could be answered as soon as late tonight, when Stefan Kozlov takes on Alexander Zverev of Germany in the Australian Open boys final.

In my annual column for the Tennis Recruiting Network, published today, I ask “Will any of the American boys born in 1998 win a junior slam?”, seeing it as the next level for that impressive birth year.

Kozlov, the No. 2 seed, earned his way into the final with a 2-6, 7-6(3), 6-3 victory over No. 7 seed Quentin Halys of France, while Zverev, the No. 1 seed, overcame unseeded Brad Mousley of Australia 6-4, 1-6, 6-1.

Kozlov had just one break point in the first set, which he didn’t covert, while Halys didn’t have many—only two—but won them both.  Kozlov was up 4-2 and 5-4 in the second set, lost the break both times, but never trailed in the tiebreaker.  In the third set, Kozlov’s 3-0 lead was constantly in peril when he served, saving two break points in the fifth game and three break points in the seventh game. But he held both times, and when it came time to serve out the match he earned the luxury of two match points at 40-15. Halys saved the first, but not the second, putting Kozlov through to his second straight Grade A final.

I tweeted last night that Kozlov held a 3-0 head-to-head advantage over Zverev, but that's just in ITF junior and Futures events. Kozlov is actually 4-0, with an additional victory back in the semifinals of the 2011 Junior Orange Bowl 14.  Kozlov's most recent victory over Zverev is last month's 7-6(2), 6-0 win in the Orange Bowl semifinals. For his part,  Zverev won the Grade 1 at Traralgon last week, so he is now on an eleven-match winning streak.

For an interesting interview with Kozlov, see this from Tennis Panorama. I've been watching him play since he was eight years old, and I didn't know he was named after Stefan Edberg.

According to ESPN3, the boys and girls singles finals, on Rod Laver Arena, will be streamed, although I do recall some issues with the streams last year.  Kozlov and Zverev are scheduled for 9 pm Eastern, with the girls final, between No. 4 seed Elizaveta Kulichkova of Russia and unseeded Jana Fett of Croatia, to follow.

While Mousley avoided two losses on the same day, Halys did not. Mousley defended his boys doubles title, won last year with Jay Andrijic, when he and Austria's Lucas Miedler claimed a 6-4, 6-3 decision over Halys and Johan Sebastien Tatlot of France. Miedler had lost in last year's doubles final to Andrijic and Mousley.  

Kulichkova already has secured her first junior slam title, winning the girls doubles final with Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine 6-2, 6-4 over No. 2 seeds Ivana Jorovic of Serbia and Katie Boulter of Great Britain.

For more on the singles finalists and doubles champions, see Simon Cambers' article on the ITF Junior website.  See the Australian Open website for complete draws.

Three Americans are still alive in the prestigious 14-and-under Les Petits As tournament in Tarbes, France.  Roscoe Bellamy reached the boys semifinals, with Claire Liu and Elysia Bolton getting to the final four on the girls side.  

Bellamy, the No. 12 seed, beat No. 4 seed Nikolay Vylegzhanin of Russia 6-3, 6-1 in today's quarterfinals and will play Teen Tennis champion Nicola Kuhn of Germany, the No. 11 seed, in Saturday's semifinals. Bellamy lost to Kuhn 3-6, 6-2, 6-1 in the quarterfinals at the Teen Tennis tournament in Bolton last week, and was the only player to win a set from Kuhn.  The other boys final features wild card Rayane Roumane of France, who upset top seed Alen Avidzba of Russia 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, against No. 15 seed Nicaise Muamba of Canada. Muamba ended unseeded American Keenan Mayo's run with a 6-1, 6-2 victory today.

Canada also has a girls semifinalist, with Bianca Andreescu, the No. 12 seed, putting an end to the run of qualifier Ulyana Shirokova of Russia 3-6, 6-2, 6-1.  Andreescu will play unseeded Bolton in the semifinals, another rematch from Teen Tennis. Bolton, who beat Teen Tennis finalist Anda Karanusic(8) of Croatia 3-6, 7-6(2), 7-5 in today's quarterfinals, lost to Andreescu 6-2, 7-6(6) in the third round last week.

Liu, the No. 4 seed, came back to beat No. 7 seed Anastasia Potapova of Russia 3-6, 7-5, 7-5, and will play No. 11 seed Katarina Zavatska of Ukraine, a wild card, in the semifinals. Zavatska outlasted unseeded Grace Joyce of the United States 7-6(5), 3-6, 6-3 today.

Andrew Fenty and Axel Nefve lost in the doubles semifinals, falling to unseeded wild cards Roumane and Hugo Gaston of France 6-0, 5-7, 10-8.

For complete results, see the tournament website.

The ITA Kickoff Weekend is underway, with the 15 winners of the four-team tournaments this weekend qualifying for the ITA Team Indoor Championships in Charlottesville, Virginia and Houston, Texas.  I will be covering the Sunday final of the women's event the University of Michigan is hosting, weather permitting, for the Tennis Recruiting Network. 

The approved lineups were posted yesterday and can be found at the hub page. It's great to see the Florida women back in the Team Indoor mix, and as far as No. 1 seeds who are in for a battle, I expect the North Carolina men, with freshmen Brayden Schnur and Ronnie Schneider at the top of the lineup, to challenge host Duke, especially if the Blue Devils are still without Michael Redlicki, as they were in their loss to Elon last week.


Tenniscoachfla said...

Good for Stefan Kozlov. Nice kid too. We took some little players to the Orange Bowl and stood by the fence during his match. He came over, said hi to the kids with a big smile, while in the middle of a tight match! Made the kid's day.