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Saturday, January 18, 2014

Kozlov Just Gets By Injured Mott; Mmoh, Steffensen and Hauger Also Reach Second Round at Australian Open Junior Championships

I'm usually required to write about junior slam matches outside of New York with what I can gather from following the live scoring, but thanks to Watch ESPN and Australian Open Junior Championship tournament officials, who knew to put Stefan Kozlov and Blake Mott on a televised court, I've got plenty of visual evidence for my coverage of the nearly three-hour first round match.

The 15-year-old Kozlov, seeded No. 2, won the match 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-5 ret., with Mott unable to move in the last two games of the match due to what was being reported as an ankle injury, as well as cramping. (There was no commentary on the ESPN feed to clarify the injury).

That did not keep Mott from having a match point however.  When he returned to the court following a five-minute medical timeout after being broken serving for the match at 5-3, the 17-year-old Australian could barely move as took his position to return serve. At 30-15, Kozlov double faulted for 30-30, then stared in amazement as Mott's return of a good first serve hit on the baseline for a clean winner. With his serve both an asset and a liability throughout the match--he had 12 aces and 10 double faults, three of the latter when he was serving at 3-4 in the third set--it was anybody's guess what would happen on that match point, but Kozlov got a first serve in and this time Mott was not as fortunate with his return, sending it wide and long.  Doubled over in pain after that point, Mott again tried his backhand, but he had no control of it, and two errors later Kozlov had leveled the match.

Things did not improve for Mott in the next game, even though the large crowd on Show Court 3 continued to clap and chant for him.  He managed to double fault only once, but three more missed backhands, game Kozlov the game, and rather than go to this chair for a changeover, Mott made his way slowly to the net to shake hands with Kozlov.

Just a few games earlier, the prognosis seemed much brighter for Mott, who had played only ITF Men's Circuit events since last March, earning an ATP ranking of 653. After Kozlov had double faulted on set point serving at 4-5 in the second set, Mott had jumped on him quickly in the third set, taking a 3-0 lead by breaking Kozlov at love in the second game.  Serving at 4-2, Mott had a game point for 5-2, but an unlucky net cord, a double fault and an error-forcing cross court backhand by Kozlov put the match back on serve.  Kozlov's double faults kept him from pulling even in that game, but Mott couldn't take advantage. He didn't reach match point on his own serve, up 5-3, losing four straight points after a backhand volley winner gave him a 30-15 lead. At 30-all, Mott went down on the court after a Kozlov backhand winner, and although he got up and continued play, it may have been there that he sustained his ankle injury, costing him any chance to win the match.

So Kozlov, who had lost in the first round of last week's Grade 1 in Traralgon to another Australian wild card, Brad Mousley, manages to post his first win in Australia, but only just.

Sixteen-year-old Olivia Hauger, playing in the first junior slam, also picked up a win Sunday, coming from a break down in the second set to defeat wild card Chloe Hule of Australia 6-2, 7-5.

In Saturday's action, Katrine Steffensen of the United States, seeded No. 14, picked up her first career grand slam victory, defeating Simran Kaur Sethi of India 6-4, 6-2.  No. 5 seed Michael Mmoh of the US won his opening round match over Daniel Windahl of Sweden 6-4, 6-4.  For more on Mmoh's victory, see the ITF junior website article by Simon Cambers.  Michaela Gordon, the fifth US player competing in the main draw in Melbourne, lost to Jasmine Paolini of Italy 6-2, 1-6, 6-4.

A number of upsets have already occurred after just one round, in the boys draw particularly. No. 3 seed Johan Sebastien Tatlot of France was beaten by Martin Blasko of Slovakia 6-4, 0-6, 6-4, and No. 6 seed Filippo Baldi of Italy went out to Jaume Munar Clar of Spain 7-6(2), 7-6(9). On Sunday, No. 4 seed Roman Safiullin of Russia lost to another unheralded Slovakian, Alex Molcan, 3-6, 7-6(2), 6-4.  Top seed Alexander Zverev did advance, 6-3, 6-4 over Croatia's Nino Serdarusic.

For complete results and draws, including the doubles draws, where Mmoh and Kozlov are the top boys seeds, see the tournament website.