It would seem only fitting that on July 4th, the holiday known as Independence Day in the United States, three American boys - Stefan Kozlov, Noah Rubin and Taylor Harry Fritz - waved the stars-and-stripes at Wimbledon and earned passage into the semifinals.
The 16-year-old Kozlov, the sixth seed, took out second seed Hyeon Chung of Korea 64 76(6) to earn a spot against eighth seed Johan Sebastien Tatlot of France. Tatlot ended the Wimbledon run of British wildcard Joshua Sapwell with a 76(5) 61 win.
The 18-year-old Rubin ousted Tim Van Rijthoven of the Netherlands 76(6) 76(5) and will face Fritz in the semifinals. The 16-year-old Fritz came through a tight 75 67(5) 75 battle with Filippo Baldi of Italy.
Both Rubin and Kozlov were proud to be among the American boys to make it through to the final four.
Rubin said, “Hopefully, will have two Americans in the final, that would be nice.”
Rubin had originally said he was finished playing the juniors after last year’s U.S. Open. But then he changed his mind and decided to play at Roland Garros and Wimbledon.
Being that Rubin hadn’t played any junior tournaments since the U.S. Open he had to play the qualifying event to earn a spot into the boys’ main draw and now he’s into his first junior Grand Slam semifinal.
“It’s a great experience to be here, ”Rubin said. “I’m into the Wimbledon semifinals and not too many people have the opportunity to say that. It is what it is. I played it and I’m doing what I can do. My best previous win was by coming out of the qualifying.”
Rubin was down 3-0 in the second set tiebreak, but managed to rally to get the job done in straight sets.
“It’s grass and he’s a big guy with a tremendous serve, so I knew it was going to be a close one,” Rubin said. “I just had to keep focused.”
Rubin’s prior best result at a junior Grand Slam was reaching the 2012 Roland Garros quarterfinals.
“Year after year, I look back and I believe I’ve made some jumps,”said Noah, of how his game is improving. “No matter how big and how small they are, they were jumps. I feel I’ve been improving and my game has become a lot more professional.”
While the Grand Slam junior semifinals is new territory for Rubin and Fritz, it is an experience that Kozlov has already achieved. At this year’s Australian Open he made it to the finals.
“I think it helps me a lot that I’ve been in the Australian Open final experience-wise,” Kozlov said. “I know what I need to do to stay tough tomorrow. I like my chances against Sebastien, but it will be a tough match.”
In the girls’ competition, Jelena Ostapenko’s quarterfinal defeat of American Tornado Ali Black puts the Latvian into her first junior Grand Slam semifinal. Her previous best result was reaching the quarterfinals at this year’s Australian Open.
“I feel excited to be in the Wimbledon semifinals because I really like to play here,” Ostapenko said. “I like the atmosphere here. Everything, the people are nice here.”
The 17-year-old Ostapenko believes that her game was more suited to grass than Black’s because she likes to be the aggressor in matches.
“I was trying to play more aggressive,” Ostapenko said. “I think it was tougher for her because she likes to play many balls and on grass you don’t have to hit so many balls.”