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Saturday, October 24, 2015

Kozlov Wins Belarus Futures Title; Sock, Johnson Reach ATP Finals; Qualifying Underway at ITF Grade 4 in Atlanta

Stefan Kozlov claimed his first professional singles title today in the $15,000 Belarus Futures,  defeating No. 2 seed Dzmitry Zhyrmont, who beat him in last week's final, 6-1, 7-6(1).  The 17-year-old,  the No. 5 seed in both this week's and last week's Futures tournaments in Belarus, had reached the final of the $100,000 Sacramento Challenger last year, so when those points dropped off, his ATP ranking fell from the mid-400s to the mid-500s. But with his results these past two weeks, he will move closer to his career high of 354, reached this summer.

Stefan Kozlov poses with Belarus Futures trophy (photo via Twitter)

Grace Min is the only American in the singles finals of the three North American pro tournaments this week.  Min, the No. 3 seed, beat unseeded Robin Anderson 6-3, 6-3 in the semifinals of the Florence, SC $25,000 tournament and will play unseeded Paula Goncalves of Brazil in Sunday's final.

Keri Wong (Clemson) and Bosnia's Ema Burgic Bucko(Baylor) won the doubles title over Diana Marcinkevica of Latvia and Chiara Scholl, 7-6(6), 6-1.  Burgic Bucko and Wong, who, like Marcinkevica and Scholl, were unseeded, did not drop a set in their four wins this week.

At the $50,000 ATP Challenger in Las Vegas, No. 8 seed Dennis Novikov lost a tough one to Grega Zemlja of Slovenia 6-4, 2-6, 7-6(5). Zemlja hit 12 aces and no double faults, while Novikov had 13 aces, but 7 double faults.  At 5-5 in the final set tiebreaker, Novikov missed a forehand just long during a rally to give Zemlja a match point, which the 29-year-old converted when Novikov again missed a forehand, although it was a more aggressive attempt than his previous error. The unseeded Zemlja will play No. 7 seed Thiemo de Bakker of the Netherlands in Sunday's final.

In the semifinals of the $50,000 women's tournament in Saguenay, Canada, Americans Maria Sanchez and Nadja Gilchrist both lost today. Sanchez, the No. 6 seed, fell to unseeded Amra Sadikovic of Switzerland 1-6, 7-6(1), 6-1, while qualifier Gilchrist lost to unseeded Jovana Jaksic of Serbia 7-5, 7-5.   Sanchez also lost in the doubles final. She and partner Sharon Fichman of Canada, the top seeds, were beaten by unseeded Mihaela Buznarescu of Romania and Justyna Jegiolka of Poland 7-6(6), 4-6, 10-7.

Better news for Americans in the ATP events in Europe, with both Jack Sock and Steve Johnson reaching finals.  No. 7 seed Sock breezed past No. 2 seed Richard Gasquet of France 6-4, 6-2 and will play top seed and defending champion Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic in Sunday's final in Stockholm. Sock will also contest the doubles final in the ATP 250-level event, with partner Nick Monroe.

Johnson reached the first ATP final of his career at the ATP 500 tournament in Vienna, defeating Ernests Gulbis of Latvia 6-3, 7-6(4) in the semifinals. He will play top seed David Ferrer of Spain in Sunday's final.

After a week off after the Pan American Closed, the fall ITF Junior Circuit in the US resumes at the Grade 4 in Atlanta.  Two rounds of qualifying were completed today, with the matchups for the final round of qualifying Sunday available under the Results tab here.