You might not recognize the player above, but be prepared to see a lot of him in the future. That is Stefan Kozlov, and as a 15 year old, he may be the United States best shot at a future number 1 ranked player. He played his first ATP World Tour match today, and it was a great showing for the youngster.
Kozlov vs Przysiezny- I’ve talked a little bit about Stefan before, but today I’m going to focus on the young American. He was born in Macedonia, but soon after moved to Pembroke Pines, Florida, where he now resides. He trains at the USTA player development camp in Boca Raton, and is moving up the ranks quickly. After taking out the number 2 ranked junior in the world, Alexander Zverev, and reaching the quarterfinals of the Wimbledon Juniors, Kozlov was awarded a wild card into the Hall of Fame Championships in Newport. He played the world number 119 Michal Przysiezny in the first round, and he really impressed. Playing somebody 14 years his elder, Kozlov(Know as “Koz” by his friends”) hung in with the big boys like he had been there his whole life. After losing a tight first set 3-6. Kozlov stormed back to go up 4-0 in the second. The polish man, who we call Przy because his nam is a mouthful, fought back with some great first strike tennis to even the score at 4-4. Kozlov saved numerous break points on the fast Newport grass before the two players eventually got to a tiebreak.
Had the match ended there it still would have been a great showing for Stefan, but that wasn’t enough for him. Down 3-6 in the tiebreak, and visibly tired, Koz came back to win the breaker 11-9, saving 4 match points in the process. He plays a very smart game Kozlov, mixing up the pace and changing the rhythm often. I think his backhand is his best shot; it resembles that of Wimbledon champ Andy Murray. He has a rock solid 2 hander, but also has a fantastic 1 handed slice. He was coming to the net often, and he has fantastic hands. The grass in Newport is much quicker than Wimbledon, and although you would think that would hurt the young Kozlov, he used it to his advantage.
The third set looked like it would go quickly in favor of Pryz, as Kozlov looked fatigued and was down 0-3. However, the youngster wasn’t going to let that happen. He won 4 games in a row with some fantastic tennis, taking advantage of a few errors from the Pryz. He hit a great forehand pass to break serve at 4-3, and the crowd was really getting behind the American.
Unfortunately the 15 year olds body couldn’t quite handle the last few games of the match, as he started to cramp badly. He fought to the end, but went down 4-6 in the third set. He earned numerous fans, and even though he was on the ground after the match, he can hold his head high after pushing a top 120 player to the limit.
As for he future, Kozlov still has a long junior career ahead of him. He has said that he might play a couple futures this year, but he will stay for the most part on the junior circuit. Currently ranked #17 in the world, Kozlov is the highest ranked American, and the #1 ranked 15 year old in the world. American tennis may have hope after all.