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Saturday, July 5, 2014

Americans Kozlov and Rubin Meet for Boys Wimbledon Title; Schmiedlova and Ostapenko to Decide Girls Championship Sunday

Stefan Kozlov and Noah Rubin of US will meet in Wimbledon boys final
©Colette Lewis 2014--

Back in 1977, two boys from the United States met for the Wimbledon junior title, with Van Winitsky beating Eliot Teltscher. On Sunday, for the first time since then, two Americans will decide the boys championship, with Stefan Kozlov and Noah Rubin earning their place in the final.

Kozlov, the No. 6 seed, defeated No. 8 seed Johan Sebastien Tatlot of France 6-3, 7-6(7), winning a second set tiebreaker to clinch the victory for the third consecutive match.

The 16-year-old from Pembroke Pines, Florida was serving at 5-3 30-30 in the first set when the rain began, but Court 3 was covered for only 30 minutes before the players returned to a much smaller crowd.

With the women's singles final an hour away, the first eight games of the match were well-attended by early arriving fans, but after the rain, most had moved under the roof of Centre Court.

If the delay bothered Kozlov he didn't show it, drawing an error to reach set point, then hitting a good first serve that Tatlot couldn't handle to secure the set.

The second set saw no breaks of serve, and the tiebreaker was finely balanced.  Kozlov earned two match points when Tatlot missed a forehand wide to go down 6-4, but Kozlov netted a second serve return, then hit a backhand to give Tatlot new life.  The 18-year-old right-hander hit a forehand wide to give Kozlov a third match point, but a nervous backhand way long made it 7-7.  Kozlov earned his fourth match point in the tiebreaker with a good first serve, and finally converted it when Tatlot's forehand went long.

"I think I played a pretty good match," Kozlov said. "I started well, went after my game plan pretty well. Second set, after the rain delay, I didn't play so well, but I put together a couple of games where I really played well but didn't break.  But it was a good tiebreaker."

Asked if he had a special talent for ending a match in a second set tiebreaker after doing that three days in a row, Kozlov was doubtful.

"I like to think I'm going to win a tiebreaker, but it's probably just a coin flip," Kozlov said.

After falling to the ground after his victory over No. 2 seed Hyeon Chung on Friday, Kozlov was much more subdued in his celebration after beating Tatlot, even though it meant reaching his second junior slam final, and he was determined to focus on preparing for a different outcome after losing to Alexander Zverev of Germany in the Australian Open final.

"Last time in Australia was my first time, and everything was great and I enjoyed it so much," Kozlov said. "This tournament I'm enjoying a lot also, but I'm really focused about tomorrow. All the experience has paid off, and last year I think I should have won (at Wimbledon), and I'm feeling really comfortable and happy to be here."

Rubin will be playing in his first junior slam final after defeating 16-year-old Taylor Fritz 6-4, 6-2 in the second match on Court 3, which also experienced a rain delay.

Rubin broke the big serving Californian in the seventh game, and didn't face a break point himself in the first set. Taking the ball early and untroubled by Fritz's pace, the 18-year-old New Yorker never gave Fritz an opportunity to control any part of the match.

When Fritz was broken in the third game of the second set, Rubin didn't lose focus or concentration, but continued to attack, taking advantage of Fritz's errors and returning well.

"I thought I was really focused the entire match, the most focused I've been in a while," said Rubin, who turned 18 in February. "I played very solid tennis. I was proud of myself for playing this way, because Taylor's one of those guys if he's on, he's on, and you've got to be ready. He came out with tremendous serves in the beginning and I knew I had to watch out for that one break, that's what I needed, and it got me the first set."

Fritz, who hit 132 on the radar gun in his first service game and 133 later in the first set, couldn't find his first serve often enough to pressure Rubin.

"On my serve, I didn't make him work hard enough to break me," said Fritz. "I feel like I kind of gave it away too much. One game, I just didn't make first serves, one game I made errors. When he got into the point, I just made mistakes. I would rather have had him just beat me rather than I make too many unforced errors. I was just way to erratic on my service games."

Leading 5-1 in the second set, the rain began again, and this time the delay was longer, over an hour and a half.   Because of a problem with the net, which is always removed when the tarps are put over the courts, the match was resumed on court 8, with no radar gun or hawkeye available.

Fritz held to make it 5-2, and earned his first break points of the match, but Rubin saved all three, and ten minutes after the resumption of play, the match was over.

"He's out there and just going for it," said Rubin. "Probably if we'd have continued the match without the rain--I'm not saying he wouldn't come back, but it would have been very tough. But when he has a second opportunity, he's just going to go for it, and that's what he did. He played a very good first game to hold. Anything could have happened, he could have broke me, held for 5-4 and that's even more pressure. So it was nice that I played well."

Rubin and Kozlov haven't played since the quarterfinals of the 16s at the International Spring Championships in Carson in 2011, when Rubin was 15 and Kozlov 13. Rubin won that match 6-4, 6-4 and went on to take the title, but with so many years since that match, both players are discounting the result.

Rubin admits Kozlov's previous experience in a junior slam final provides a edge.

"I definitely think he has an advantage. He's been out there," said Rubin. "But I think I've played a few more matches than he has. So we'll see what my maturity can do."

Kristina Schmiedlova of Slovakia and Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia meet in girls final Sunday

Neither of the girls finalists have been to a junior slam final, with unseeded Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia meeting No. 8 seed Kristina Schmiedlova of Slovakia in the girls championship match, which is a rematch of last week's Grade 1 final in Roehampton.

Schmiedlova defeated unseeded Elena Ruse of Romania 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in Saturday's semifinals, while Ostapenko continued to cruise through seeded opponents, defeating No. 12 seed Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic 6-1, 6-2.

At Roehampton, Ostapenko defeated Schmiedlova 6-2, 6-3 but the 17-year-old, who won the Eddie Herr Grade 1 last December, said the match was a difficult one.

“I think she’s a really good player,” said Ostapenko. “I played against her last week, also in the finals, at Roehampton. I think if I play my best game then I have chances to win. I won the Roehampton match, but it was not really an easy match. I had to focus for every point because she’s quite a good player.”

Schmiedlova is determined to alter her strategy on Sunday after the Roehampton defeat.

"She played very aggressive, so I will have to change something," said the 16-year-old, whose is the younger sister of WTA No. 58 Anna Schmiedlova. "I will ask my coach and he will say."

Schmiedlova admits she is growing fond of the surface.

"Last year I didn't like grass, because I lost in the first round here," said the two-time French Open girls quarterfinalist. "I used to prefer clay. But now, after these two tournaments, I'm going to say that I like grass, yeah. It's maybe my favorite surface now."

Ostapenko believes the surface rewards her aggressive baseline game.

“I can serve really well and I play aggressive, it’s my style," said Ostapenko, who has lost only one set this week. "So maybe it’s easier for me to win here than for the others. Every match was tough but I try my best to focus on every point. On the grass sometimes you have to go to the net and finish the point.”

Schmiedlova, who cites her serve as her biggest strength on grass, said she is tired after two weeks on the grass, citing pain in her arm and both legs. But she is looking forward to the final on Sunday.

"It's amazing, I never expected this before Wimbledon," Schmiedlova said. "It's the final. We both will be nervous, our first finals match. I believe in myself, so I hope I will win tomorrow."

The doubles finals, usually played on Saturday, will be contested on Sunday this year due to the rain early in the week.  Kozlov and Andrey Rublev, the top seeds, will play No. 3 seed Orlando Luz and Marcelo Zormann of Brazil after the boys singles final is finished.  Kozlov and Rublev were down 3-0 and two service breaks to No. 7 seeds Petros Chrysochos of Cyprus and Nino Serdarusic of Croatia in the second set, but fought back to win in straight sets 6-2, 7-5.  Luz and Zormann defeated unseeded Naoki Nakagawa of Japan and Tim van Rijthoven of the Netherlands 6-3, 5-7, 6-2.

The girls doubles final will be between two unseeded teams.  Tami Grende of Indonesia and Qiu Yu Ye of China will meet Maria Bouzkova of the Czech Republic and Dalma Galfi of Hungary in the girls championship match. Grende and Ye defeated unseeded Usue Arconada of the US and Fanny Stollar of Hungary 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, while Bouzkova and Galfi outlasted No. 2 seeds Priscilla Hon of Australia and Jil Belen Teichmann of Switzerland 6-1, 4-6, 9-7.

The boys final will open play on Court 1 at 1 p.m. Sunday, followed by the girls final. The doubles finals are scheduled as court 18's second and third matches of the day.

For complete draws, see the Wimbledon website.