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Andrei Kozlov Discusses Stefan’s 2021 Revival

After losing at US Open qualies in the first round, suddenly Kozlov has ignited to perform some of the best tennis of his life. Kozlov just won his second ATP Challenger title since the middle of September – Charlottesville this past Sunday, Columbus (and also a Las Vegas final).

For a former junior phenom who surged to 115 in the ATP at age seventeen but then crashed to 550, this year has been a stunning revival for the now 23 year old who is back into the ATP top 200 again.

I was curious to learn how such a reversal could happen so I asked Stefan’s father and coach Andrei Kozlov two questions …

What was the turning point?

And what are the main reasons why the turning point happened this year (in the last quarter of 2021)?

Andrei Kozlov tried to explain… as it’s difficult to put into sentences the most important duration of his son’s up and down professional tennis career…

“I think it’s a very good question. I think it’s because we start again from the beginning. Stefan was no. 2, 3 junior in the world. Everybody was thinking he’s very good player. USTA help him (starting around age 14). The problem was I didn’t have the money to travel with him then. I have to work at my Academy. I don’t want to say I’m a very good coach. But I make him no. 2 in the world. Me. Martina Hingis at 2018 Australian Open asked me, ‘Why are you not traveling with Stefan?’ I was there coaching Camila Giorgi. I wasn’t traveling with him then because too many people were around him. I made him a very good player. He won Eddie Herr, Orange Bowl. And Martina say to me, ‘Why not travel with Stefan?'”

“Right now Stefan play very good. After some years away, now he come back and stay at my home. He stay in the room here. He train with me. He sees how we are poor, not too much money. Broke contract with Nike, no Porsche. The Nike contract was $50,000 a year – he relax. He went from having a lot of money to no money. I say again, I’m not super coach to make him very good player. But I know what to say to him, how life is. Coaches from USTA – if he goes, he goes – he’s not hungry anymore – OK, if he doesn’t make it, we have other guys. Right now, I say again, Stefan Kozlov start to play again because he’s hungry. He like me so much, I know this. But this is the problem, I have to work at my academy (in Pembroke Pines, FL) to pay the bills. I can’t travel all the time (Andrei was in Charlottesville but not in Knoxville this week). We have good relationship.”

“He reads good books about mental. He’s a smart guy. He was very mentally tough at sixteen when he won Orange Bowl. People compare him to Donald Young but no, he’s so different. At Kalamazoo first time at fifteen, Stefan lost to an eighteen year old three inches taller. Where is he now? It was pressure for Stefan. If he lost a match, people say things. It put pressure on him, it kills my head. It kill his head too. Now he’s very strong. He doesn’t care what people say about him now.”

“Stefan is not Donald Young. It bothered him when he was compared. And when they played in Indian Wells (1R) in 2017 and they say on Google it was the worst tiebreak ever played. Stefan lost first set 75 and then they played a tiebreak. He was sensitive. What people said about him bothered him.”

“Stefan is very intelligent guy. He was asked this week about if he’s thinking about the Australian Open wildcard into the main draw, which he is leading the race with most points. And Stefan say, ‘No, it doesn’t bother me, I don’t think about this, I don’t think about money. I just enjoy playing tennis.’ This is where he is right now, in his mind.”

“I see Tsitsipas, he fight with his father every week but he’s still doing well, still with him. If he says F*** you to his father, it’s okay. They have good relationship. His father motivate him every day.”

“Martina Hingis stopped to work with her mother (Melanie Molitor in 1999) who was always her coach. When Martina stop with her mom, she went down, in my opinion.”

(Note: According to tennis journalist Richard Pagliaro, after Hingis dismissed her mother as coach, she played Wimbledon in her first tournament solo and lost first round to Jelena Dokic 60 62.)

“I say if I help Stefan from age 14-18 (USTA years), he be very good. If you see him play now, he’s like Federer, using drop shots, serve and volley. He’s playing top 50 tennis now. But he needs support.”

“(His latest success) is not a coach around him, it’s himself. He’s now a different person. In junior, he beat Rublev, Zverev at Wimbledon – I was there. I was there when he beat Zverev three times in the year.”

“Sonia Kenin – I trained her age 8-12 then she stay with her father. This year she stop with her father and she’s done. Now I hear she is back with her father as coach. Same with Caroline Garcia, she stop with her father and go to Nadal academy, and she’s done.”

“Yesterday Stefan play Vukic again. He beat him on Sunday in Charlottesville 62 63 and last night they play at 9 pm. Stefan won first set 63 and then lost second set and was down 3-4, 15-40 in the third set and he came back and won 7-5.”

Kozlov will play Aidan McHugh in the second round. His main rival in the USTA AO Open Main Draw Wildcard race JJ Wolf lost first round in Knoxville 62 63 to Christian Harrison (ALT). Michael Mmoh and Aleks Kovacevic are still alive in the points race.

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  • Cory · November 14, 2021 at 2:52 am

    It’s always interesting to hear about the unavoidable struggles of a talented (but broke) player trying to travel, pay for a coach, and keep the train moving forward. Interesting to hear how this Nike contract was enough $ to satisfy for the moment and preclude his hunger. Tennis players inside the top 300 are like hungry wolves. You slip up and dozens of other wolves are right there to run over and past you for the prize. Like anything else competitive, it’s dog-eat-dog.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 14, 2021 at 7:39 am

    Cory, yes the poor struggling players rarely speak about their plights until after they overcome it. The Pierce family mortgaging their home and living in a motel to support Mary’s tennis. Young Djokovic supposedly taking support from Serbian mafia. Young players selling cuts of future earnings to gain immediate assistance. Players like Osaka somehow making it though they never had any money to pay coaches during teen years. Sandgren blowing those seven match points also blew over a half a million in prize money from QF to SF…



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