Kozlov won “Survivor I” over a field of 149 players

Kozlov won “Survivor I” over a field of 149 players

[frame align=”left”]Stefan Kozlov[/frame]

Kozlov won “Survivor I” over a field of 149 players

Stefan Kozlov, the Pembroke Pines (FL) 15-year-old tennis phenom, won the “Survivor Series I” pre-qualifying title over a record field of 149 players at the Delray Swim & Tennis Club.

The tournament is a pre-qualifying tournament for the Delray Beach Open

Kozlov found himself down 5-2 in the third set to 18-year-old Spencer Papa, but put on a furious rally to claw his way to a 6-4, 2-6, 7-5 win.

“I actually don’t know how I got through this match,” said Kozlov, who was born in Macedonia. “It was one of the toughest matches I have ever had. It was a coin flip really, we were both pretty tired. But I gave it my all.”

Kozlov is the No. 13-ranked junior in the International Tennis Federation (ITF) world rankings, and along with Papa, trains at the USTA’s Training Center Headquarters in Boca Raton. The two have won a pair of major international doubles titles together this year.
Papa, the No. 4 seed, is one of the nation’s top recruits and signed with Tulsa this week. The Edmond, OK native is rated by the ITF as the No. 7 U.S. player and No. 56 in the world.

To reach the final, Kozlov won six matches in four days, but didn’t face a seeded player until the semifinals when he beat Survivor II champion and No. 8 seed Juan Rocha 6-2, 6-3.

In the other semifinal, Papa downed two-time Survivor winner and former University of Miami star Eric Hechtman, 6-3, 6-2.

Rocha, the No. 8 seeded player, faced his stiffest competition in the round of 16 where he met Miami Gulliver Prep senior Chase Perez-Blanco, the 2013 Florida Boys 18s state champion who is headed to the University of Florida next year. But Rocha dismissed Perez-Blanco in straight sets (6-1, 6-4) to move toward his second semifinal in as many years.

[frame align=”left”]Stefan Kozlov[/frame][frame align=”right”]Papa[/frame]Hechtman, now a coach at the Royal Palm Tennis Club in Miami, survived back-to-back thrillers against No. 2 seed Bernard Tefel (7-6, 7-6) in the round of 16 and then Duke-bound Martin Redlicki, (7-5, 7-6) in the quarterfinals to earn his sixth semifinal – Hectman owns two “Survivor Series” titles, and has reached a pair of finals and semifinals.

But in the end it was Kozlov and Papa, 2013 doubles champions at the ITF’s Asuncion and Banana Bowls, who rose to the top of the draw.

“I want to congratulate Spencer,” said Kozlov, who helped stretch out Papa when the Oklahoman experienced cramping in the final games of the match. “It was an unbelievable tournament.”

With the win comes a wildcard for Kozlov into the Delray Beach Open’s qualifying tournament, scheduled for February 15-16, 2014. The four top finishers in that 32-player field receive slots in the Delray Beach ATP World Tour event.

Kozlov will be trying to qualify to play in his second career ATP event. He played in the 2013 Newport ATP event, taking a set off of veteran Michal Przysiezny and saving four match points before going down to the 29-year-old Pole.

Players have a final shot at earning a wild card by entering the “Survivor Series II” pre-qualifying tournament that will be held January 25-27, 2014.

For complete results, go to:http://tennislink.usta.com/tournaments/TournamentHome/Tournament.aspx?T=127652