Henrik Wiersholm is still looking for the solution to the problem Stefan Kozlov poses after Kozlov defeated him 6-2, 6-3 to take the boys singles title.
Kozlov, who lost in last year's final to Mitchell Krueger, ran his record against Wiersholm to 8-0.
"I thought he would come out here and just fire out balls, because he hasn't beaten me," said the second seed. "He played a little different that I thought he would play. I guess he had a lot more pressure than me today. I had a lot of pressure on me too, but I'm getting better at loosening it away."
The 15-year-old Kozlov, who trains with Wiersholm at the USTA's Boca Raton National Center, never trailed in the final, getting a break in the fourth game of the first set. Wiersholm didn't serve with the same effectiveness as he did in his quarterfinal win over top seed Noah Rubin and Saturday's semifinal win over No. 4 seed Naoki Nakagawa, and Kozlov made him pay by moving in and hitting return winners on Wiersholm's second serve.
Wiersholm fell behind 3-0 in the second set, but got back on serve, only to be broken in the next game to give Kozlov a 4-2 lead. Kozlov saved a break point to make it 5-2, and after Wiersholm held, Kozlov earned three match points. He botched the first, undecided on what to do with a mid-court volley, but on his second match point, Kozlov hit a drop shot winner to claim his first Grade 1 title.
The friendship between the two players was evident throughout the match, particularly when they reassured each other on close line calls. But that respect didn't help Wiersholm, who admitted his losing streak to Kozlov was starting to get to him.
"It's all mental now, once it goes to 8-0," said Wiersholm, 16. "I can't really perform how I want to because I'm caught up in it. I lost seven times to this guy, I can't lose again. It's tough to rationalize winning when you haven't won before. So yeah, that was part of the thing today."
Wiersholm also mentioned that Kozlov prevented him from getting any rhythm, and Kozlov agreed.
"He couldn't find his rhythm throughout the whole match," said Kozlov. "I try to keep him off balance, try to hit a lot of winners, so he doesn't get in his groove. But in the second set, he almost got it back even, and then I started playing better again."
Kozlov, who reached the final of the Grade A Copa Gerdau last month after several months off due to an elbow injury, has an ambitious goal for 2013.
"I think I'm going to play the (junior) slams and some Futures," said Kozlov, who is scheduled to play his first Easter Bowl match Tuesday. "My goal is to be at the top of the ITF list."
Hopefully, it is not the elbow again. Too bad, he can't defend his quarterfinalist points. Top 10 is so close and yet so far. Somebody needs to step up and take advantage. Come on Michael, Francis, and Will!
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Tough loss for McNally, but happy for Hance. I took a liking to Hance ever since I saw that commercial. He was too adorable For those who have no idea what I'm talking about:
Connor Hance and Jaeda Daniel earned precious USTA gold balls Saturday, claiming the 14s titles at the Asics Easter Bowl with hard-fought three set victories on the stadium court of the Sunrise Country Club.
Hance, the No. 2 seed from Torrance, Calif., beat top seed John McNally of Cincinnati 4-6, 7-6(3), 6-4, in a nearly three-hour marathon, saving a match point in the second set.
McNally was serving for the match at 5-4 in the second set, and at 30-all had hit one of his big forehands to force an error from Hance and set up a match point. He missed his first serve, then his second, and two forehand errors later, the score was 5-5.
"You really can't live life like that," McNally said, when asked if he had regrets about the match point. "Crap happens. I would say another word, but....that's what my papa tells me. It's part of tennis. You're going to have matches where you come back from match points and you're going to have matches where you blow match points. It's just a part of tennis, a learning process. I did get tight, I'm not going to lie. It's match point and I got tight on that second serve."
Hance, who had never played McNally before, said it wasn't until 5-3 in the second set that he felt he had a handle on the match and a workable strategy.
"He was dictating points, running me left and right and left and right," said Hance, 14. "At 5-3, I sort of realized he went inside in a lot on his forehands, so I just started guessing inside in every time. I got a lot more balls back then, but he was still dictating the points. I was just running for my life, pretty much, on his serve. Coming back from 5-3 gave me a lot of confidence, even though I still went down another break."
McNally served for the match a second time after breaking Hance for a 6-5 lead, but he got no closer than deuce in that game. The tiebreaker was 3-3 at the change of ends, but Hance played flawlessly in the next four points, with a big first serve and a gorgeous backhand drop volley winner to earn three set points. He converted the first with a big overhead, and approached the third set with confidence.
"I do a lot of fitness in my practices, so I'm in pretty good shape. I never cramp or anything," said Hance, who trains with his father Ken at the South Bay Tennis Center in Torrance. "In the third set, I kept doing what I was doing and I think he was a little more tired than I was."
Hance was down 2-0 in the third set, but won five of the next six games to go up 5-3. Down 0-40 serving at 3-5, McNally fought off four match points in an eight-deuce game, going for the sidelines and hitting them with both his forehand and his backhand.
Serving for the match, Hance double faulted on the opening point, but that was the only sign of nerves, and when he earned his fifth match point at 40-15, he stayed aggressive, hitting a forceful backhand that McNally couldn't handle.
"Connor's just a very good player," said McNally, who trains with Wil Lofgren at Queen City Racquet Club. "He mixes up his shots well and he played amazing at the net today. It was probably the best I've ever seen him volley. When I got my first serve in, he got it right back and neutralized the point. He made me go for a little too much, and I started missing my forehands, which probably cost me the match."
Hance was equally impressed with McNally's game.
"John's just a great player," said Hance, who adds his Easter Bowl gold ball to the one he captured at the 12s Clay Courts in 2011. "He's got all the shots."
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