Fritz and Kozlov Join Tiafoe and Paul in 18s Semifinals at Kalamazoo; Tsygura and Rotsaert Reach 16s Final Four
©Colette Lewis 2015--
No. 2 seed Taylor Fritz and No. 3 seed Stefan Kozlov picked up straight-set quarterfinal victories on a beautiful Friday afternoon at Stowe Stadium, joining No. 1 seed Frances Tiafoe and No. 4 seed Tommy Paul in Saturday's semifinals.
Kozlov defeated No. 12 seed Eduardo Nava 6-3, 6-2 to reach the semifinals for the second consecutive year, while Fritz overpowered No. 5 seed Michael Mmoh 6-2, 6-3.
Kozlov needed all his variety and savvy to keep Nava at bay, having no previous experience with Nava, who trains in Spain.
"Not let him hit big every ball," was Kozlov's answer to the question of how to play someone like Nava, who hits out on every ball. "Try to make him hit bad a little bit, throw in a couple of slices. I think I served really well today, and he couldn't return anything. I had to keep him thinking a lot, because if I just gave him forehands up the middle, he's going to blow me off the court. We didn't have that many long rallies to be honest, because he would miss, or he would hit a winner. I was just trying to be a wall and get everything back."
Kozlov beat Fritz last year in the 18s quarterfinals, but lost to him in the quarterfinals of a California Futures in January 6-4, 6-4.
"It should be a good one," said Kozlov. He's obviously the World No. 1 junior, he's playing well, he's got a lot weapons. I'm kind of the underdog here. At the Los Angeles Futures and he played a great match. That was one of his best matches, he told me after the match he played really well. We're pretty good friends, so it should be a good one."
"I played well, I played a very good match," said Fritz, who injured his knee in his first match last Saturday, but has been able to play through any discomfort. "It [the knee] was off and on, some shots it hurt on in the first set, but in the second set, it felt great. I wasn't bending low on my serve or anything like that, but it's definitely getting better every day. Yesterday, I actually saw an improvement in it, and I was doing lunges on it, thinking oh my gosh, this is great."
In the second set, Fritz had to work hard for his first hold, giving Mmoh hope that he could advance to the semifinals for the second straight year. But Fritz broke in the fourth game, and played his aggressive baseline game, while also coming forward to end points.
"Mmoh's so fast that I have to come in to finish some points," said Fritz, who credited his recent three-week stint with the San Diego Aviators of World Team Tennis with improving several aspects of his game. "With Mmoh you've got to come in, because he's going to get the extra shots back."
Mmoh fought off three match points serving at 2-5, and two more with Fritz serving for it, after a forehand winner, a backhand winner and an ace gave him three match points. Fritz missed a forehand on the fourth match point and Mmoh outlasted Fritz in a long rally on the fifth, but the sixth match point ended it, with Fritz going behind Mmoh for a forehand winner.
Fritz doesn't expect the previous two meetings to have much impact on Saturday's semifinal.
"Last year I rolled my ankle and I just should have defaulted," Fritz said of his quarterfinal loss last year. "I was just limping around the court."
As for the January Futures win, "he definitely didn't play his best," Fritz said. "It was kind of a weird match, because I played the exact opposite of my game. I really pushed the ball the whole time. We were pushing backhands crosscourt the whole match. I don't know how this one is going to go. I think it's definitely going to be very close."
Rotsaert, who said reaching the 18s Clay Court final last month gave him confidence coming into the tournament, was down a break at 4-3 in the second set and 2-1 in the third set, but each time he immediately broke back.
"I had to stay positive," said the 15-year-old, who lived in England as a child, before returning to the US, with his most recent residence in Boca Raton, Florida. "I was a little nervous at the start, making a lot of unforced errors. The courts are a little fast and I wasn't used to that. I had that problem in the last match I played in the round of 16, but I told myself I was going to fight. I thought of my game plan, going back to basics, one point at a time, and slowly, slowly I started playing a little better and by the end I was actually playing some pretty good tennis."
Sculley's tennis went in the opposite direction, with his forehand, usually so reliable in putting away short balls, began to go off. Whether due to fatigue or Rotsaert's improved play, Sculley's errors began to pile up and he lost the final five games of the match.
Rotsaert's performance this year has made up for a disappointing Kalamazoo debut in 2014.
"Last year, I came here, beat a seed, and I had to withdraw because of my back," Rotsaert said. "It was really a heart-breaker for me, so I'm really, really happy to be here. It's awesome. It's such a prestigious event."
Rotsaert suffered his back injury last year when he was playing his semifinal opponent this year, No. 8 seed Kyrylo Tsygura, who advanced with a 6-0, 6-3 win over No. 16 seed Jason Lui Friday morning.
"In the second set, when he made it 2-all, I kind of felt a little bit of pressure, and I faced a break point at 2-all," said Tsygura, whose nickname is K-Money. "But I just stuck to my aggressive game plan the whole match, so I just came in an hit a volley winner. This is definitely one of the best matches I've ever played played in my life."
Tsygura believes his variety is a key factor in his success.
"I don't give two of the same balls to my opponent," Tsygura said. "Max two balls of the same. I just change it up and they always have to hit different shots and it can eventually frustrate them and they'll start going for too much. I've always been pretty crafty, and I'd say it's the best part of my game, that I can do different shots."
At last month's Team USA playoffs on clay in Boca Raton, Rotsaert defeated Tsygura 6-2, 6-1, and he is confident going into Saturday's match.
"I think it's all up to me," Rotsaert said. "I think if I play my brand of tennis, trying to come in, try aggressive and not let the other person dictate, I think I have a very good shot."
The doubles finals are set for Saturday. In the 16s, No. 7 seeds William Howells and Danny Thomas will play No. 8 seeds Bryce Pereira and Ivan Thamma. Howells and Thomas defeated unseeded Cody Lin and Andrew Ton 6-3, 6-4 in Friday's semifinals and Pereira and Thamma came back to eliminate No. 14 seed Jackson Allen and Carson Haskins 3-6, 6-2, 6-2.
The boys 18s doubles final, with a main draw wild card into the US Open men's doubles tournament on the line, will feature No. 2 seeds Taylor Fritz and Reilly Opelka against No. 6 seeds Joshua Sheehy and Parker Wynn. Fritz and Opelka defeated No. 7 seeds Brandon Holt and Riley Smith 7-6(3), 6-2 and Sheehy and Wynn beat No. 12 seeds Oliver Crawford and Johnathan Small 6-4, 7-6(6).
Complete results are available at ustaboys.com.
Saturday will begin with both boys 16s semifinals (Patrick Kypson and JJ Wolf advance to the semifinals with wins on Thursday) at 9:30 am, followed by both 18s semifinals as the 16s finish. Frances Tiafoe and Tommy Paul reached the semifinals with wins on Thursday.
The 16s doubles final will begin at 1:30 pm, followed by the 18s doubles final.
Live streaming is available through a link on ustaboys.com.