Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Kozlov, 16, falls in Valencia opener on ATP tour

Stefan Kozlov, shown during the recent Sacramento Challenger,
lost to 37th-ranked Martin Klizan in the Valencia Open 500.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Sixteen-year-old phenom Stefan Kozlov shouldn't feel too bad about losing to Martin Klizan 6-3, 6-3 on Monday in the first round of the Valencia (Spain) Open 500 on an indoor hardcourt.
   Klizan, a 25-year-old left-hander from Slovakia ranked No. 37, knocked off Rafael Nadal three weeks ago in the Beijing quarterfinals before losing to Tomas Berdych in the semis.
   True, Nadal was playing in his first tournament since his shocking loss to 19-year-old Nick Kyrgios in the fourth round at Wimbledon. Nadal, a left-hander with a vicious two-handed backhand, returned from a right wrist injury.
   While Klizan was advancing in Beijing, Kozlov was making a stunning march to the final of the $100,000 Sacramento Pro Circuit Challenger at the Natomas Racquet Club.
   He lost 6-3, 6-4 to top-seeded Sam Querrey, who predicted afterward that Kozlov eventually would reach the top 10. He is ranked No. 441 after starting the year at No. 1,081.    Valencia marked Kozlov's second main-draw appearance on the elite ATP World Tour. At 15 in July, he fell to Polish veteran Michal Przysiezny 6-3, 6-7 (9), 6-4 in the first round round on grass at Newport, R.I.
   “In five or six years, I think he will be very good," Przysiezny, then ranked No. 113, told reporters. "I wish him all the best. Normally you can’t practice with a 15-year-old, and here I almost lost the match. … He hit unbelievable a few shots. It was very tough for me to play from the baseline. If I serve good, he returns deep.”
   Klizan, the 2006 French Open junior champion, won his second career title in Munich in April.

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