December 15th, 2014

Florida’s Kenin, Kozlov Win Orange Bowl Tennis 18s

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It was a Florida sweep in the Metropolia Orange Bowl 18s finals on Sunday in Plantation, Fla., when No. 2 seed Stefan Kozlov defeated Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 in the boys’ final, and No. 13 seed Sofia “Sonya” Kenin topped American qualifier Ingrid Neel 6-3, 6-3 in the girls’ final.

Kenin and Kozlov both hail from Pembroke Pines, Fla., and it was the first time an American pair swept the 18s titles since 2004 (Timothy Neilly and Jessica Kirkland).

For the 16-year-old Kozlov, who has had pro success this year on the USTA Pro Circuit, it was redemption for previous losses in all three of his Orange Bowl finals appearances — in the Boys’ 12s, 14s and 18s.

“It meant a lot,” said Kozlov, who this year lost in the Australian Open and Wimbledon junior boys’ final, and admitted he struggled with nerves in losing the first set. “Losing in the finals here three times and in two Slam finals this year, I’m just really relieved, to be honest, that I finally won this, and hopefully won’t have to come back next year.”

In the semifinals Kozlov defeated 6-foot-10 Eddie Herr Boys’ 18s winner and fellow American Reilly Opelka. The lanky Tsitsipas, who in the semifinals upended world No. 1 Andrey Rublev of Russia, in the final showed off a big serve and groundstrokes, but Kozlov showed he was the more fit player in the third set.

“I was extremely exhausted…after the third set started, I didn’t have any power,” Tsitsipas said. “I played good players out there. I hope next year I’ll do better and go again to the final in this tournament.”

Kozlov also won the doubles title with Bradenton’s Michael Mmoh, coming from behind in the second set to defeat Korea’s Yunseong Chung and Seong Chan Hong 6-4, 7-6(5).

“Everything came through in those last few points, and it was a great way to end (Kozlov’s) junior career, especially,” Mmoh said.

Kenin, also 16 years old, shocked new world No. 1 junior and fellow American CiCi Bellis in the semifinals before handling the qualifier Neel in the straight-set final.

“I honestly was not expecting to get to the finals,” Kenin said. “I was just hoping to take one match at a time. I was in the semis, and it was great. I played my best friend, CiCi, and I pulled it through, surprisingly, so it’s been a really great week. I’m so happy.”

Neel looked to physically struggle in the final, playing her ninth match in nine days and contributing 12 double faults.

The world No. 1 Bellis won the Girls’ 18s double title with Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic, defeating Slovakia’s Tereza Mihalikova and the Czech Republic’s Miriam Kolodziejova 7-5, 2-6 [10-4] in the final.

Floridians Emma Decoste (Stuart) and Kariann Pierre-Louis (Miami) won the girls’ 16s doubles title, in the final upsetting top seeds Sofia Munera Sanchez of Colombia and Camila Vargas Gomez of Peru 6-1, 7-5.

Californian Sam Riffice won the Boys’ 16s singles title after a 6-1, 1-6, 7-5 win over No. 10 seed Mattias Siimar of Estonia, joining Grigor Dimitrov as the only players to win the Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl 16s titles in the same year.

Bianca Andreescu was the fourth straight Canadian to win the Girls’ 16s title at the Orange Bowl, in the final grinding out a 7-5, 6-3 victory over No. 11 seed Dominique Schaefer of Peru.