CARSON, Calif., (Sunday, April 7, 2013) – Stefan Kozlov’s dominance over Henrik Wiersholm continued on one of the biggest stages in junior tennis on Sunday in the final of the ninth annual USTA International Spring Championships.
The 15-year-old Kozlov from Pembroke Pines, Fla., dominated his USTA National Training Center practice partner and buddy, 16-year-old Wiersholm from Kirkland, Wash., beating him for the eighth consecutive time, 6-2, 6-3, at the Home Depot Center to capture the coveted Carson boys’ 18s singles title.
In the girls’ final, recently turned 17-year-old Mayo Hibi of Irvine, Calif., played flawless tennis to take out Jamie Loeb of Ossining, N.Y., 6-2, 6-1, to win the girls’ 18s championship.
Kozlov was a finalist here a year ago, falling to Mitchell Krueger on the final day. He controlled the play on Sunday and overcame a mental lapse up 3-0 in the second set to record the win.
“At 3-0, 30-love I kind of made some unforced errors and thought he might be able to get back in it,” Kozlov said. “He couldn’t find his rhythm. I tried to keep him off balance and to hit a lot of winners.”
Wiersholm said losing to someone over and over again can take its toll on a player. “The more I play him the more chances I’ll have, but it’s all mental now,” he said. “Once it gets to 8-0, 7-0, whatever, it just gets into your head. You can’t really perform how you want to. It’s like, ‘I’ve lost seven times to this guy, I can’t lose again.’ You just can’t focus on winning when you haven’t won before.”
He added: “There’s not much to say. The score kind of says it all. I don’t think it was my highest level, but part of that was him throwing me off my rhythm. That’s why he’s such a good player.”
Kozlov admitted there was pressure on him to do well after making the final last year. “I kind of had a little bit of pressure too because I thought he would just come out and start spraying balls, but he played a little bit different than I thought he would,” the No. 2-seeded Kozlov said. “He had more pressure than me today but I’m starting to get better at staying loose and dealing with it.”
Kozlov said he hopes to make it into the Top 12 of the International Tennis Federation junior rankings after winning the title, and that his goals are to eventually get into the Top 10 and do well at the remaining three junior Grand Slams, as well as play some USTA Pro Circuit and ITF Futures professional tournaments.
In the girls’ final, former Carson 16s finalist Hibi just couldn’t seem to miss in her win over University of North Carolina-bound Loeb. “I haven’t played a junior event in awhile so it’s good to get a win in my first one back,” said Hibi, currently ranked around No. 370 on the WTA Tour.
Hibi said working with former WTA pro Debbie Graham has upped her game.
“She’s been on the Tour and knows what it takes to get to that level,” Hibi said. “She knows what you need to beat the top players. She’s played players like Lindsay Davenport and I’m going to have to play players like that. She knows what I have to work on.”
Loeb said Hibi didn’t give her any free points. ”If I hit a better shot she came up with an even better one,” she said. “It was tough. She played a very good match. She missed one slice all day and got to a lot of my balls.”
It’s onto the USTS Spring Nationals at the Easter Bowl next week in the desert for all four players. “I think it’s good for me to get back out there tomorrow,” Loeb said. “I tend to spend too much time on my losses and dwell on it. So having a match tomorrow gives me a chance to forget about it. It’s not that I played horrible, Mayo just played that much better.”
CARSON, Calif., (Wednesday, April 4, 2012) â€“ Ever wonder what happened to the cute little boy who played Andre Agassi and Steffi Grafâ€™s son in that 2004 Genworth Financial commercial co-starring Taylor Dent?
Well Connor Hance, who turned 13 in November and lives just eight miles away, has put the acting and commercials on hiatus and has been making some noise on the junior tennis circuit of late, especially on Wednesday when he upset No. 1-seeded Ruadhan De Bruges of Australia, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, in the third round of the boysâ€™ 16s at the eighth annual USTA International Spring Championships being played at the Home Depot Center.
â€œI started to play more aggressive and drive the ball more,â€ said Hance, of what he changed after dropping the first set. â€œAnd I started getting my first serve in. That was the difference.â€
Both Hanceâ€™s parents are teaching professionals at the South Bay Tennis Center in Torrance. His father Ken and mother Courtney were both on hand to watch him record the shocking win. â€œI just kept saying to myself please keep the ball in play because I knew his opponent was tiring,â€ Courtney said. â€œAnd he did and it worked out for him. Itâ€™s pretty exciting.â€
The qualifier Hance, who won the 2011 USTA Clay Court Nationals in the 12s, will next face No. 10 seed Logan Smith of Carlsbad, Calif., in the quarterfinals on Thursday. Connorâ€™s sister Kenadi is a top-ranked 14s player who lost in the 16s on Tuesday. During his match, she said he gave up acting and really started focusing on his tennis several years ago when he lost out on the role of actor Steve Carellâ€™s son in the 2007 feature film â€œEvan Almighty,â€ only because he didnâ€™t look anything like Carell.
Another 13-year-old who was turning heads but in the girlsâ€™ 18s on Wednesday was Tornado Ali Black, who was given a wild card into the tournament and is currently ranked No. 141 in the ITF world rankings.
Black, who has a younger sister who is a top-ranked 12s player named Hurricane, is from Englewood, Colo., and won the Eddie Herr 16s back in December. She has already signed a pro contract with Octagon and is being coached by USTA coach Freddie Rodriguez who was on site Wednesday to watch her upset No. 13 seeded Kelsey Laurente of Miramar, Fla., 6-3, 6-1, in the second round.
Defending 18s champion Samantha Crawford, the No. 5 seed, was beaten in straight sets by Makenzie Craft of Frisco, Texas, 7-6 (4), 6-3. The unseeded Craft said she went two full months to start the year without hitting a ball as she was recovering from three torn ligaments in her left ankle.
â€œI beat Kyle McPhillips last year at Claremont, but I would say this is my biggest win,â€ Kraft said. â€œI was trying to stay focused. I really wasnâ€™t thinking about what I was doing out there. Before the match I was just hoping to keep it close. Samantha obviously didnâ€™t play her best. It might take three or four hours for it to set in.â€