25 Jan 2014

Zverev and Kulichkova are champions in Australia

News Article

By Simon Cambers

Photo: Corinne DubreuilAlexander Zverev (GER)

Germany’s Alexander Zverev and Russia’s Elizaveta Kulichkova were crowned as champions at the Australian Open on Saturday, the first Grand Slam singles title for both.

Top seed Zverev beat 15-year-old American Stefan Kozlov 63 60 to become the first German to win the title since Daniel Elsner in 1997.

And fourth seed Kulichkova defeated unseeded Jana Fett of Croatia 62 61 to become only the third Russian, after Anastasia Pavyluchenkova and Ksenia Pervak, to win the girls’ trophy.

For the 16-year-old Zverev it was sweet revenge for his losses by Kozlov in the Orange Bowl and at Wimbledon last year, leaving him understandably delighted with his efforts.

“It means a lot,” he said. “I have been waiting for a Grand Slam victory for a long time. I was in the finals in Paris and semis at the US Open but could never make it to a victory, but now I did. I think I played a pretty solid and a pretty good match here.”

After a tight start, Zverev broke serve and took the first set, only for Kozlov, who was appearing in his first Slam final, to roll his left ankle at the start of the second set.

Though he was able to continue, he was not as free in his movement and Zverev took advantage to cruise through the second set and clinch victory.

The American went into the match with problems in his other ankle but said he was beaten by the better player on the day.

“I think everything just piled up on me today,” he said. “I think I should have lost first round. I was down match point; second round I was down a set and 3‑0.

“It kind of all just fell on me today. I guess I'm a little tired. I played a lot of matches and only had one day off. I'm not fully developed yet, but I guess it was all right.”

“I'm obviously very happy with the week. I'm just a little tired and want to get home.”

Zverev said he was now hoping to make some inroads on the men’s professional circuits and said he believed the gap between the juniors and professionals was not insurmountable.

“I don't even think there is a big difference between us and maybe someone who's 100, 150 in the world,” he said.

“They're just way more confident. Sometimes we just have too much respect for them (though) there is a reason for that. They're Top 100 in the world and they already made it and we're just in the beginning of our tennis career. 

“But on a good day I think me and Stefan and of course some other guys can really play with them.”

In the girls’ final, Kulichkova ran out a comfortable winner, adding the singles title to the doubles crown she won on Saturday.

The Russian, who has a WTA ranking of No. 264, said at the start of the week she believed she could win the title and she showed why she was so confident with a convincing victory.

After breaking the Fett serve in the fourth game she broke again to take the opening set and then after dropping serve at the start of the second, won six straight games to clinch victory.

“It feels really perfect,” the 17-year-old said. “I'm pretty happy about what I've done and I think it's a great achievement for everyone, for every junior.  I was pretty sure I felt I could do that, but still, it's really, really great.”

At the moment of victory, there were no wild celebrations, just a quiet belief that she had done what she knew she could do.

“I felt I'm going to do this,” she said. “I was pretty sure. I was really confident. I was the girl who was expected to win. I wouldn't be happy if I had not won. That's why I was not jumping up and down and stuff.”

Kulichkova, who said she had probably played her last junior event, said on court she would see the crowd next year, in the professional event and hopes to climb the rankings in the rest of 2014.

“Somewhere around Top 100 at the end of this year would be good, would be perfect,” she said. “But I don’t hurry. I'll see how it goes. I'm happy about how it goes now, so just I'll continue my work and I'll see what happens.”

Fett was disappointed she had not been able to play her best tennis on the day but was more than satisfied with her efforts throughout the week.

“I gave my best today and lost to a player who played very, very well,” she said. “It's OK, doesn’t matter. It's a great week for me.

“At the start of the week, I thought, the biggest thing that can happen is quarter-finals. Then I played semis and final and I was like, OK, I'm so happy now. Just relax and play. But it was still a bit pressure.”