LOS ANGELES (Jan. 10, 2016) – Stefan Kozlov survived a shaky service performance to capture his first USTA Pro Circuit $25,000 Futures title in the United States as he beat No. 4-seeded Philip Bester of Canada in an exciting two-hour, 50-minute match, 7-6 (7), 6-7 (3), 6-3, on Sunday at the Southern California Pro Futures Tournament at USC.
“I served very bad today compared to what I did during the week and it got me into a lot of trouble,” said the No. 6-seeded Kozlov, who pocketed $3,600 with the victory. “I got up 3-1 in the second set and just got tight because I thought I had already won. But he was able to come back. It was a really tough match today.”
Kozlov, 17, hit more doubles faults (five) than aces (four) on the day. He did come up big on his service return, especially in the third set, on the fast USC courts.
Kozlov survived three set points against him in the first set as Bester took a commanding 6-3 lead in the tiebreaker. Down 5-6, Kozlov benefitted from a Bester double fault on a net cord and the two changed sides all even. At 7-8 and Bester serving, Kozlov hit a short return that barely cleared the net on a rushing Bester who dropped the low backhand volley into the net giving the first set to Kozlov.
Kozlov, who won an ITF $15,000 level pro event in Belarus back in October, said he hadn’t played well in his only other Futures final in the U.S., losing a 6-0 third-set in Florida in May of last year. In 2014, Kozlov lost in his only Challenger-level final, the $100,000 Sacramento Challenger, falling 6-3, 6-4 to American Sam Querrey.
“I always have a tough time playing these finals in the U.S. for some reason,” Kozlov said. “Today I had a great team around me and was able to come through.”
Just like the first set, Bester went up in the tiebreaker 6-3. But the 27-year-old didn’t mess around, this time ending it on his first set point of the second set nailing an ace right down the T.
Kozlov will now rest and get ready for the Long Beach Pro Futures event this week, before heading off to the Maui Challenger.
Sunday’s Final Singles Score
Stefan Kozlov (6), U.S., def. Philip Bester (4), Canada, 7-6 (7), 6-7 (3), 6-3
Saturday’s Final Doubles Score
Evan King, U.S. / Raymond Sarmiento (4), U.S., def. Jean-Yves Aubone, U.S. / Dennis Nevolo, U.S., 6-4, 3-6, 11-9
$25,000 Men SINGLES:
Prize Money Points
Winner $3,600 27
Runner-up $2,120 15
Semifinalist $1,255 8
Quarterfinalist $730 3
Round of 16 $430 1
Round of 32 $260 —
DOUBLES: Prize Money (per team)
Round of 16 $180
Written by Steve Pratt