Sponsored by IMG Academy

Friday, January 8, 2016

Two All-American Finals in Grade 1 Coffee Bowl; Kozlov Reaches Semis in Los Angeles Futures; Fritz into Challenger Final

Two 14-year-old Americans, Amanda Anisimova and Hurricane Tyra Black, will face off for an ITF Grade 1 title on Saturday after semifinal victories Friday in Costa Rica. The boys final will also be an all-US contest, with JJ Wolf facing Ulises Blanch.

Black, the No. 10 seed, defeated No. 8 seed Dominique Schaefer of Peru 6-1, 6-4 in the afternoon match, with Schaefer unable to get her slice and dice game in gear against Black. The 17-year-old Schaefer, who played for the US until 2014 and was Black's doubles partner this week, can frustrate any opponent with her drop shots and forehand slices, but her unforced error count was much too high to give Black any trouble today.

Anisimova, the top seed, trailed No. 14 seed Ellie Douglas 6-3, 4-0 before finding her form, mounting a furious comeback to take a 3-6, 7-5, 6-0 victory, with Douglas never getting to match point despite her big lead.  Anisimova eliminated the errors that were giving Douglas so many points and began to use her massive ground strokes to take control of the rallies.  Once she located her confidence, Anisimova was unstoppable, with winner after winner coming off her racquet.

Black and Anisimova were on the USA's 14-and-under team that finished second to Russia at the World Junior Tennis competition in the Czech Republic last summer. In 2013, they split their two meetings, with Black taking their semifinal encounter en route to the Junior Orange Bowl 12s title and Anisimova winning in the semifinals on her way to the USTA 12s Spring Nationals title.

In the boys early semifinal, JJ Wolf picked up his second straight win over No. 3 seed Zeke Clark, winning the final 11 games of his 2-6, 6-2, 6-0 victory.  Wolf, the No. 10 seed, had all kinds of trouble in the opening set, perhaps due to what looked on the live stream like windy conditions. He couldn't stay in the long rallies that Clark prefers and after Wolf went down a break at 2-1 in the second set, it looked as if Clark would avenge his 6-1, 7-5 semifinal loss in the Pan American Closed last October.

But Wolf's forehand began to heat up, and once it did, Clark didn't have much say in how the points would play out.

Wolf will play No. 2 seed Ulises Blanch, who defeated unseeded Juan Martin Jalif of Argentina 6-4, 6-4 in the night match. Blanch trailed 4-2 in the first set, but took the final four games. The second set was very close, but Blanch got the only break of the set with Jalif serving at 4-5.

Blanch and Wolf have both reached one Grade 1 final previously: Wolf at the Pan American Closed and Blanch nearly a year ago at the Copa Barranquilla in Colombia. One will get his first Grade 1 title Saturday night.  Blanch is also in the doubles final with partner Juan Carlos Manuel Aguilar of Bolivia.

The finals will be streamed Saturday night, beginning with the girls final at 7 p.m. Eastern time. The tournament website has the complete order of play and the draws.

At the $25,000 Futures in Los Angeles, No. 6 seed Stefan Kozlov reached the semifinals, defeating junior nemesis Gianluigi Quinzi of Italy 6-3, 3-6, 6-1.  Kozlov, who at 17 is exactly two years younger than Quinzi, had lost to the Italian three times in the juniors, all in Grade A events.  Kozlov will play top seed Tennys Sandgren in the semifinals Saturday, after Sandgren saved a match point in his 5-7, 6-4, 7-6(2) win over former Pepperdine All-American Sebastian Fanselow of Germany.  The other semifinal will feature unseeded Clay Thompson against No. 4 seed Philip Bester of Canada. Thompson beat Ed Corrie(Texas) 6-2, 6-2 and Bester eliminated the last active college player in the draw, Ryan Shane of Virginia, 6-2, 6-3. Bester and Thompson have split their previous two meetings, back in 2014.  

For quotes from Kozlov and Shane, see this recap of the day's action from Steve Pratt.

Taylor Fritz, who is competing in the Australian Open men's qualifying next week, has reached his fourth ATP Challenger final since last October at the $75,000 tournament in Happy Valley. Fritz, the No. 8 seed, defeated qualifier Andrew Whittington of Australia 6-0, 6-2 in 53 minutes to advance to the final against either top seed Dudi Sela of Israel or Marton Fucsovics of Hungary, the 2010 Wimbledon junior champion.

Two current collegians are competing in ATP events this week, with TCU's Cameron Norrie receiving a wild card into qualifying in Auckland and Illinois' Aleks Vukic getting a qualifying wild card into Sydney. Both won their first matches, with Norrie beating Chung Hyo Woo of Korea 6-1, 6-2, in what must be said is an extraordinarily weak ATP qualifying draw, and Vukic getting his first ATP Top 100 win with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory over No. 62 Sergiy Stakhovsky of Ukraine.

Also, congratulations to Sloane Stephens for collecting her second WTA title, beating Caroline Wozniacki in a rain-delayed semifinal 6-2, 7-6(5) and Julia Goerges 7-5, 6-2 in the same-day final in Auckland. Alison Riske plays in the WTA Shenzhen final against top seed Agnieszka Radwanska later tonight.