Photo: Susan MullaneNaiktha Bains (AUS) and Stefan Kozlov (USA)
Stefan Kozlov - The 15-year-old American, who was born in Skopje, Macedonia, was a clear choice for Player of the Day on Thursday. Kozlov showed incredible conviction in fighting through a nearly three-hour encounter with Australian Akira Santillan 76(5) 46 63.
By the third set, Kozlov was seeking treatment for a sore knee and arm, fatigued, and in his effort to ward of cramps consumed too many bananas, energy bars and drink to where he did get sick on court. But he persevered through it all.
Afterwards, Kozlov tweeted “Pulled out one of my toughest matches ever today down 1-0 in Jr. Davis cup. 1-1 now with Australia, up to the boys now to take the decider.” Unfortunately for the Americans, Tommy Paul and Henrik Wiersholm weren’t able to bypass Marc Polmans and Oliver Anderson, who claimed a close 76(5) 75 win, which handed the Americans their first tie defeat of the week.
When asked what motivated him to the win, Kozlov said, “I just think of all the hard work I’ve been through so far preparing for this tournament, how exhausted I am after doing fitness, and why I do it. Down 1-0 I’m just not giving up and it kind of work today.”
Naiktha Bains - The 15-year-old Bains, who is playing on her second straight Junior Fed Cup by BNP Paribas team, was born in Leeds, England, but her family moved to Brisbane, Australia when she was 8-years-old, and these days her accent is a mixture of English and Australian. Her dad, who is a property investor, always travels with her, although he carefully stays enough in the background to offer support, but not get in the way of her team experience.
Last year, Bains did “distance education,” but this year she wanted to go back to school. “I’m at Clayfield College and I’m in year 11. I missed some of my school friends and I thought it’s a lot easier because you have the teachers there and I can go into a classroom, put my hand up and ask for help.” On Thursday, Bains played the No. 1 spot for second-seeded Australia against eighth-seeded Brazil and scored a 63 63 win over Leticia Vidal in singles, and teamed with Priscilla Hon, who lost her singles match to Luisa Stefani 26 64 62, to win the doubles point.
The Australians won all three of their ties for direct entry into the semifinals. “I feel really good and am really happy we managed to qualify today,” Bains said. “We were 1-all, but both Priscilla and me were really pumped for the doubles.