Kozlov Blasting Forehands Now, Powers Past Broady and Kudla

Kozlov Finals
By Scoop Malinowski

Stefan Kozlov looked like a dispirited, broken player at the US Open where he lost first round of qualies to Guido Andreozzi in straight sets. One tennis observer said he though Kozlov looked “finished… he has no weapons.”

Kozlov took a month off and returned to Challengers, winning Las Vegas over one of the red hot Tour players Liam Broady. This week in Charlottesville, VA he’s beaten Broady again, in another marathon battle 64 46 64 and is now ahead of Denis Kudla in the quarterfinal match 64 42.

There is a noticeable difference in Kozlov now. He’s blasting winners now off both wings, especially the forehand wing which was a previously criticized, flawed stroke. And to many tennis observers, Kozlov’s forehand was far too defensive. Also his serve has a heavier heft to it and it’s setting up many easy finish second balls.

But that forehand is a cracker now. Where not long ago Kozlov looked like a junior finessing and flimflamming his way to wins over heavier hitters, he now looks like a bonafide ATP machine ready for the main Tour. The counter punching is still there, the defensive savvy, the cat and mouse cleverness, deep returns off first serves to set up baseline dueling. You can see Kozlov’s game evolving and maturing. And now Kozlov’s results are ascending in the right direction. He just finished Kudla 64 63 and will play the winner of Smyczek vs Laaksonen in the semis.

He is ranked 126 after falling to the 150 region of the rankings. But I see him as a totally different, more explosive player right now than he looked over the last couple of years.

I asked his dad and co-coach Andrei what happened after the US Open and he said “we changed coach.”

I then asked to who? The reply: “It’s a secret…Andrei Kozlov and ???”

Could it be…. Andre Agassi?

It certainly looks like Kozlov is pulverizing the ball like Andre Agassi.

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  • El Dude · November 3, 2017 at 5:46 pm

    That's good to hear. How often does a young player have a complete makeover in such a short time?

    Maybe Borna Coric needs the same coach.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 3, 2017 at 5:52 pm

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Not really a makeover just the addition of power now. The power was lacking before on the forehand side, it was too spinny and almost like a push. But it's a potent stroke now. I would guess only a guy like Andre Agassi could have made this kind of influence on Kozlov. Remember, Kozlov was just in Vegas for the Vegas challenger, which he won. And I know the Kozlov's had been trying to connect Stefan with Andre for years, fruitlessly. I can think of no other mystery coach who could have done such a brilliant job in such a short amount of time.

  • Duke Carnoustie · November 4, 2017 at 3:36 pm

    How about Sock? Who cares if it is Edmund, Pouille, Verdasco, Benneteau and Krajinovic? Winning Paris masters would be huge.

    I suspect he comes up short though since Krajinovic is really rolling. What a matchup.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 4, 2017 at 6:17 pm

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Sock and roll baby. I never gave up on Sock and never will. I know he has the stuff of greatness and the stuff of legends. This week we are seeing him take another step closer. Doesn't matter who he beats in the final. Just like Nadal beating Puerta in his first French Open final did not discredit or diminish the victory. A Paris indoors title is still a Paris indoors title. Anybody who dares to try to discredit it because he beat Krajinovic, if he beats the Serbian, is an imbecile. The draw was deep and there were a lot of players who needed points and who needed to win this title.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 4, 2017 at 7:11 pm

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Tomic is in the Bratislava draw for next week. So is Baghdatis. Smyczek vs Sandgren in Charlottesville final. Kudla and 17 yr old black lefty Danny Thomas in the doubles final as wildcards.

  • jg · November 4, 2017 at 8:27 pm

    Danny Thomas looked pretty good, who is he?

    I thought Kozlov looked good too, he was a bit off today but he is putting more on the ball, he does look a little like Agassi out there, especially the backhand and the service motion looks familiar, maybe he’s watching the videos

  • Chazz · November 4, 2017 at 9:07 pm

    Sock’s comeback down 2 breaks in the 3rd against Edmund seems to have been a turning point. That was something we had never seen from Sock before. Since that match he has been a machine. His game along with his mental toughness have been elite this week. He is using angles so well, and hitting his opponents off the court. Must be the girlfriend, lol.

  • catherine · November 5, 2017 at 4:41 am

    Inspired no doubt by the presence of S Graf in Zhuhai Julia Goerges sinks Co Co 7-5 6-1.

  • catherine · November 5, 2017 at 5:05 am

    I’ve noticed far too much warm hugging at the net in Zhuhai. This must stop or people will begin to think women players don’t actually all hate each other :)

  • scoopmalinowski · November 5, 2017 at 6:53 am

    Thomas hits it hard and he came up with the goods to beat Paes. Major win. T h2h e kid did not crumble. Paes and Purav were desperate to win that match.

  • scoopmalinowski · November 5, 2017 at 6:55 am

    Agree Catherine. Tennis needs more tension and bad blood which adds intrigue. But the positivity and warmth if Fedal is clearly spreading to the wta imo.

  • catherine · November 5, 2017 at 7:31 am

    CoCo collapso in that match. She lead 5-3 and then won one more game I think. You could see her give up. Needs a new coach ? A shrink ?

    Julia’s a popular player – big Chinese support there. Not sure why, unless it’s her personality. She’s much more outgoing than the German she has just displaced as No 1.

  • Chazz · November 5, 2017 at 8:55 am

    Coco can be a head case. I’m surprised she lost to Georges but not surprised she gave up at some point. Probably a shrink is her only hope, not a new coach.

  • Joe Blow · November 5, 2017 at 9:34 am

    Coco is a spoiled brat that comes from a big Sports family in the US. Another American player that thinks all they need to do is show up, and everyone will crumble in front of them.

    As soon as she reaches a point in the tournament where she is the favorite or 50/50 to win, she chokes.

    Ryan Harrison anointed the next great player had the same sh***y attitude. It’s like “ I’ve arrived, just start handing over the trophies, and endorsement money”. At least Coco got to the teens in ranking

  • catherine · November 5, 2017 at 10:08 am

    Anyone who wants to beat CoCo should read Julia’s interview after the match. It’s all there.

  • Hartt · November 5, 2017 at 11:20 am

    Scoop must be over the moon with Sock winning the Paris Masters. He played very well in the third set, made some amazing shots. I can say that I did predict Jack would be top 10 this season, but must admit I had pretty well given up a few months ago.

    So Jack wins a Masters, makes top 10, and will play in the WTF. Good going!

  • Chazz · November 5, 2017 at 11:46 am

    Catherine, can you post a transcript or video of that interview? It sounds interesting.

    Sock put it all together today. You’re right Hartt, he hit some incredible shots, probably more than usual. His 3rd set antics were a bit over the top but he was feeling the magnitude of the moment so I can’t really blame him for that. I’m still not sure if he’s built to go deep in a slam because of the best of 5 format, but when he’s on his game, he can give anyone trouble in a best of 3. ATP finals will be really good for him if he can stay at this level. I had never seen Krajinovic play before and he was really impressive in the 1st and 2nd sets. He just looked tired in the 3rd. It sure seems like he could surge like Shapo did a couple months ago.

  • Chazz · November 5, 2017 at 11:54 am

    Scoop, I think we can change Sock’s grade to an A now. Funny how one tournament changes things that quickly. #8 in the world is quite a jump from #22 a week ago.

  • catherine · November 5, 2017 at 1:02 pm

    Scoop – I’m afraid I can’t do that technology :) but if you want to read what Julia said most of it is on the WTA website in the report on the match. No video as far as I know.
    I was interested in Julia saying that she felt she could control CoCo’s emotions – that being able to handle those was an important factor in being able to turn the match around. Also her strategy to negate CoCo’s power play on her serve, taking away her pace because CoCo feeds off pace.

    Basically, give CoCo room to beat herself and she will.

    Julia’s struggled a lot this year, early exits at GSs etc,but she never gave up, hired a new team and persisted and it’s paid off. Can’t see her soaring up the rankings but maybe she can hover around top 20.

  • Hartt · November 5, 2017 at 1:06 pm

    I watched all of Krajinovic’s matches in the main draw for this tourney and agree that he was pretty impressive. He had to play qualies, so even with a WO from Nadal, that is a lot of tennis in a week, so it’s not surprising he was tired in the third set. He has a nice, all-round game, and when his BH is working, it is a big shot for him.

    Filip was a promising junior, but his pro career was hampered by injuries. He had shoulder surgery in 2011 and was out during much of 2011 and 2012. Then he had wrist surgery last year.

    But he has had success on the Challenger tour, especially this year with 5 titles and 43 match wins. All that match play must have helped this week. So he has the basis to do well, as long as he can avoid further injuries.

  • catherine · November 5, 2017 at 1:13 pm

    Scoop – sorry, Julia’s press conference is on youtube – I didn’t spot it.

  • Chazz · November 5, 2017 at 1:17 pm

    Catherine, I will try to find the interview. It’s rare to hear strategy like that.

    Hartt, a couple things that stood out to me about Filip – he has long arms and really good court movement. Those make it really difficult to hit winners on him, as Sock found out in the first couple sets. his UFEs really hurt him in the latter part of the match.

  • Hartt · November 5, 2017 at 2:16 pm

    One thing I like about Krajinovic is that he is not allergic to the net. I don’t know what the final stat was, but at one time during the match he had 11/13 net points. I did a little research on Filip and in his ATP bio they said that he went to the IMG Nick Bollettieri Academy from age 13 to 19. No wonder he speaks English with a bit of an American accent.

  • Chazz · November 5, 2017 at 5:41 pm

    Here it is Catherine, I found it: Interesting comments. Coco was actually up 5-2, then when it was 5-4 she threw her racquet. At 5-6 she hit a ball into the crowd. She totally unraveled after struggling to put Julia away in the first set.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 5, 2017 at 6:36 pm

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    That's pretty interesting stuff to hear Goerges actually say she felt she was in control of Coco's emotions. Very rare to hear a player say something so blunt and honest, exposing a frailty in the opponent. Usually players are very careful to say anything even remotely offensive or controversial about an opponent. My respect for Goerges just shot up several notches.

  • catherine · November 6, 2017 at 5:54 am

    Well, it’s hardly a secret that CoCo can self-destruct at certain moments. I imagine Goerges and her team worked on that and Julia executed the strategy and went on and won. Ashleigh Barty isn’t really experienced enough yet and she let CoCo mow her down. Ash could have taken a few notes from Julia’s match and what she said though.

    Julia might turn to coaching some time in the future :)



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