Colette Lewis @zootennis 1h
No. 2 B18s seed Stefan Kozlov has another long 3-setter but adv to 3rd rd with 75, 36, 63 win over qualifier Stefan Doehler #ISC2013
Stefan and 3-setters, feels like 2012 all over again.
In the 16s, William Blumberg(1) def. Connor Hance(15) 76(5) 61. Connor
Two young pro prospects who may someday follow the same path met in the first round on Tuesday in the boys’ 18s division and battled for more than two-and-a-half hours, before No. 2-seeded Stefan Kozlov, 15, of Pembroke Pines, Fla., pulled away from 16-year-old wild-card Ernesto Escobedo from West Covina, Calif., winning 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.
Kozlov was a finalist here last year as a 14 year old, a year before he turned professional. He currently trains at the USTA National Training Center in Boca Raton, Fla.
"I really like playing here. The conditions fit my game great," Kozlov said. "I had never played Ernesto before, but he has a big game. I’ve seen forehands like that in the juniors, but not that often."
Just two weeks ago, Kozlov made the final of an ITF Grade A event at the Copa Gerdau tournament in Porto Alegre, Brazil, losing to the top-seeded player from Italy in the final.
Escobedo is currently ranked in the 900s on the ATP Tour and was playing in his first ITF junior event of the year. He has instead decided to concentrate on ITF Pro Futures-level events, playing in four of them already this year, including two in Southern California.
An International Spring Championships finalist in 2012, 15-year-old Stefan Kozlov thought he was on his way out in the first round this year. Against wild card Ernesto Escobedo, Kozlov had dropped the first set, and had squandered a 3-1 lead in the second, losing three straight games.
Serving at 3-4, Kozlov was at deuce after a double fault, but he survived, winning the next two points. It was the boost of confidence he needed, and he took the next five games, and eventually, a 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory.
"In the second set, down a set and 4-3 deuce, I thought I was going down," said Kozlov, who reached the final of the ITF Grade A Copa Gerdau on Brazilian clay just ten days ago. "I started playing a lot more freely after I won that game, and I just came through some how, started playing well in the third set."
The 16-year-old Escobedo, who reached the semifinals of a Futures in Mexico in January and has an ATP ranking inside the Top 1000, immediately put Kozlov under pressure, winning the first three games of the match. Although the weather conditions on Tuesday were much better than on Monday, when the wind created havoc, Kozlov made a number of unforced errors and had difficulty staying in the longer points in the opening set.
Kozlov recovered to take the next three games, but serving at 4-5 in the first set, he threw in two double faults, the second to give Escobedo set point number two. Kozlov tried the surprise tactic of serving and volleying, but his backhand volley went wide, giving Escobedo the first set.
Late in the second set, Kozlov took a 5-4 lead when Escobedo made a series of unforced errors in one of his few loose games and Kozlov served out the set, hitting an ace to close it out.
With Kozlov finding more rhythm on both his serve and his ground game, he challenged Escobedo early in the third set, and Escobedo was unable to stay with him. Broken the first two times he served, Escobedo began flexing his left leg with what looked like a cramp, and Kozlov had two points to take a 4-0 lead, but Escobedo hung tough, broke and held to make it 3-2.
The match was well past two hours and many of the points included lengthy baseline rallies that challenged both players' stamina.
"I played three-hour matches in South America and doubles and felt fine," said Kozlov, who found the hard courts at the Home Depot Center more physically demanding. "Here, I played one match and am feeling it in a lot of places."
Although Escobedo, from West Covina, Calif., continued to fight, he couldn't get that second break back, with Kozlov serving better when he needed to. Kozlov held for 5-3, and Escobedo couldn't hold, netting a backhand at 30-40 to end the two and a half hour contest.
"I'm not complaining, but I thought maybe I should have made it not as long," said Kozlov, who did not play for three months at the end of last year due to an elbow injury. "It was a long first round and when I play tomorrow, it's going to be a little tougher."