Photo: Susan MullaneStefan Kozlov (USA)
For the first time in nine years, the Metropolia Orange Bowl International will see an all-American boys’ final after Stefan Kozlov and Francis Tiafoe both stormed to semi-final wins on the clay courts of Plantation, Florida.
Kozlov, 15, scored his third win of the season over top seed and World No.1 Alexander Zverev, brushing the German aside with a 76(2) 60 victory that put him through to the first Grade A final of his ITF Junior career.
"I've never seen anything work like that before,'' a smiling Kozlov told the Florida Sun Sentinel newspaper after his victory. "I think he kind of gave up mentally. I know him from previous times that if I get a big lead he wouldn't fight back.''
Kozlov’s final opponent, Francis Tiafoe, fought through a three set semifinal encounter with Johan Sebastien Tatlot. Having previously stunned third seed Filipo Baldi (ITA) and then dispatched seventh seed Roman Safiullin, both in straight sets, Tiafoe lost his first set of the tournament to the French second seed, before rallying to clinch a 46 62 62 victory.
The last all-American under-18 boys’ final was in 2004, when Timothy Neilly took on Donald Young.
In the girls’ final, doubles partners Ivana Jorovic of Serbia and Russia’s Varvara Flink will face each other across the net after both fought through to testing straight sets wins. Jorovic overcame the last American girl standing when she beat Sonya Kenin 62 76(6), despite the unseeded Kenin pushing her very hard in the second set.
"Everybody thinks because she's small, she's not good,'' Jorovic told the Florida Sun Sentinel in praise of her opponent. "She's an unbelievable player and has a good future. She runs for everything. She's a fighter.''
Flink, seeded one to Jorovic’s two, proved too strong for Ioana Ducu of Romania 64 64. The win came just a day after Flink’s 17th birthday but the demands of playing in such a prestigious junior event has left her little time to celebrate.
Flink told the Florida Sun Sentinel that she believed the clay surface would help her against Jorovic, whose game she knows well. "I lost a Grade A final in Japan to [Jorovic], but it was a hard court,'' Flink said. "She's more of a hitter and I'm more all [court]. Hopefully, the clay will help me.''