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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Kozlov, Baughman, Tiafoe Reach Eddie Herr ITF Boys Quarterfinals; Black, Kenin in Girls Final Eight

©Colette Lewis 2013--
Bradenton, FL--

Third seed Stefan Kozlov survived qualifier Reilly Opelka's big serving game on Thursday, but the 15-year-old isn't looking at himself as the favorite, despite losses by top seed Alexander Zverev and No. 2 seed Johan Sebastien Tatlot earlier in the week.

"I think there are a lot of great players who are maybe more favorites to win this than me," said Kozlov, who defeated USTA Boca Raton roommate Opelka 3-6, 6-3, 6-3. "Hopefully I can do some work, but I have a very tough opponent tomorrow in Andrey (Rublev). He's playing unbelievable, and it's going to be tough. He's obviously older than me, so I don't think I'm the favorite here."

Against Opelka, Kozlov had to find his way into the match after Opelka got the only break late in the first set and served it out at love.

The two had not played in organized competition in more than two years, when Opelka was far from the 6-foot-8 presence he is now.

"He's crazy tall," said Kozlov, who just won a qualifying wild card into the Delray Beach ATP tournament. "He's gotten so much better and I was really not expecting him to play this well and serve this well. I think the balls and conditions helped him a lot. They didn't help me at all, because the balls were bouncing so high and got dead. It was a lot tougher for me, but he played very well."

Kozlov was able to get into some longer rallies in the second set, and won the majority of them, but Opelka held his own, showing some touch around the net to complement his power.  In the opening game of the third set, Opelka saved four break points and held serve after a lengthy game that featured a major disagreement on a first serve.

Kozlov was holding his serve with less difficulty, and he earned two breaks in the second set, one on a great passing shot for a 2-1 lead, and the second on a couple of unforced errors by Opelka for 5-2.  Kozlov had a match point serving at 5-2 after a rare ace, but netted a nervous-looking backhand and lost the game on a Opelka drop shot Kozlov couldn't track down.

Given new life, Opelka couldn't capitalize, and Kozlov soon had two more match points at 15-40. Opelka saved those two, but not the fourth, although the resolution of that point was decidedly anticlimatic. Kozlov's forehand return landed near the baseline, with Opelka calling the ball out immediately. Kozlov asked to see the mark and after he looked at it, called for the roving official look to at it, and after a few moments, the ball was called good. The pair shook hands near the baseline and proceeded to their chairs to collect their racquet bags.

The 16-year-old Opelka, a qualifier who had won five matches in five days, impressed his roommate this week.

"I got pretty lucky to get through this one," said Kozlov. "I was expecting aces and expecting a good serve, so if he would miss it, I would be happy and try work the point from there. His serve is obviously very good, and whenever he would hit a good one, I would just let it go."

Kozlov is joined in the quarterfinals by fellow 15-year-old Francis Tiafoe, a 6-1, 7-5 winner over Burundi's Guy Orly Iradukunda, and wild card Deiton Baughman, who defeated his second seed of the week, No. 10 Lucas Miedler of Austria, 7-6(8), 6-3.

Baughman, who reached the quarterfinals of the Orange Bowl last year, said he is comfortable on the green clay, despite growing up in Southern California.

"When I was younger, my dad made sure I played on it a lot, as much as possible," said the 17-year-old, who trains at the IMG Bollettieri Academy. "Over the last year or so, I've been training on it a lot, especially here at IMG, and it suits my game a lot."

Baughman saved nine set points in the opening set, serving for it at 5-4, 40-0 and 6-5, 40-0.

"He had a couple more set points after I got it back to deuce," said Baughman. "I just played really well and I feel he got a little nervous, and in the tiebreaker I played well on the big points."

Baughman got an early break in the second set, and finished strong.

"Overall it was a clean match," said Baughman. "I wouldn't say it's my best of the tournament, but it definitely was a clean match."

Baughman will play Tiafoe, with Kozlov and Rublev also in the bottom half of the draw.

"Last time we played it was for third and fourth place for Nike Junior Tour," said Baughman. "I was like 14 and he was like 9," Baughman joked. "I beat him up pretty good, but he's been playing some good tennis since then and it should be fun. I'm looking forward to the opportunity."

The top half of the boys draw features the only remaining qualifier, with Matias Zukas of Argentina going against No. 12 seed Naoki Nakagawa of Japan. Unseeded Fajing Sun of China will play No. 9 seed Kamil Majchrzak of Poland, who beat No. 5 seed Michael Mmoh 6-4, 6-3.

Second seed Tornado Alicia Black and top seed Varvara Flink of Russia won in straight sets, with Black posting another impressive win, this time over qualifier Julia Terziyska of Bulgaria 6-1, 6-1. Flink also defeated a qualifier, Seone Mendez of Australia, 6-0, 7-6(6).

Black will meet unseeded Jacqueline Cristian of Romania in the quarterfinals, while Flink plays No. 11 seed Akvile Parazinskaite of Lithuania. Parazinskaite won the day's longest match, beating Natalia Vikhlyantseva of Russia 4-6, 6-2, 6-4.

Fifteen-year-old Sofia Kenin reached her second consecutive Grade 1 quarterfinal, beating Chloe Ouellet-Pizer 6-3, 6-3. She will play No. 12 seed Sandra Samir of Egypt, who defeated wild card Emma Higuchi 6-3, 6-2. Unseeded Elena Ruse of Romania faces No. 10 seed Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia to round out the quarterfinals.

The doubles semifinals will feature one US team, unseeded Michaela Gordon and Higuchi, and two mixed teams: Kozlov, with Australian Omar Jasika, and Stephen Madonia, with China's Runhao Hua. Madonia and Hua, a wild card team that trains at IMG, beat No. 3 seeds Tiafoe and Mmoh 6-2, 2-6, 10-8. The only seeded team remaining in the girls doubles is No. 8, Flink and Jacqueline Cabaj Awad of Sweden.

The No. 1 seeds in the younger divisions all remain on track for an Eddie Herr title, with the quarterfinals set for Friday.  Top seeds in the 12s, Russia's Anastasia Potapova and Belarus' Zgirovsky, again posted straight set victories.  In the 14s, No. 1 seed Kayla Day won a tough one from No. 15 seed Maria Mateas 7-6(3), 7-5, and boys No. 1 seed Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia advanced to the quarterfinals with a 6-3, 6-1 win over No. 15 seed Vasil Kirkov.

In the 16s, top boys seed Yunseong Chung outlasted unseeded Raheel Manji of Canada 5-7, 6-3, 7-5, and girls top seed Helen Altick also had a difficult third round, defeating unseeded Rebecca Weissmann 6-0, 3-6, 6-3.

For complete results, see eddieherr.com.