After a short one-week hiatus from professional competition, the ITF Pro Circuit began the 2016 season with a bang. With the Australian Open right around the corner, many players are somewhere in the continent of Australia right now in preparation for the first Grand Slam of the season. However, many lower-ranked players returned to action this week after a short turnaround, hoping to gain some valuable ranking points that could be the difference maker between making or not making the cut-off.
Kozlov Wins Maiden ITF Singles Title; Makes Futures History
One of those players is one of the United States' best tennis prospects: Stefan Kozlov. The former junior world number two is one of a handful of Americans hoping to make a major breakthrough in 2015. After blasting through the main draw of the USA F1 Futures event held in Los Angeles, Kozlov would have to play Canada's Philip Bester in order to capture his maiden ITF singles title in four attempts. Despite being broken three times, the 17-year-old had the majority of his success on the receiving end, breaking his more experienced Canadian counterpart time and time again before edging him to take the opening set 7-6(7). A 27-year-old German-born Canadian, Bester has spent most of his professional career playing at the ITF Pro Circuit or ATP Challenger Tour level, and showed his experience by staying with Kozlov until ceasing his opportunities when they presented themselves, ultimately taking the second set 7-6(3). However, the third set was a story of youth trumps experience as Kozlov broke twice and never faced a break point en route to winning the decider 6-3 and with that, the match and championship. With a 7-6(7), 6-7(3), 6-3 win over Bester, not only did Kozlov capture his maiden ITF Pro Circuit title; he also made Futures history by becoming the first player since 1998 to win a Futures event that offered more than $15,000 in prize money.
Konecny Victorious in Antalya
Elsewhere, the Czech Republic's Michal Konecny completed double duty on Sunday to capture the Turkey F1 Futures event in Antalya. Due to inclement weather, Konecny was forced to play two matches in order to win the championship, which consequently resulted in two masterclass showings from the 26-year-old left-hander. Beginning at 9:30 AM sharp, he completely dismantled Miliaan Niesten 6-0, 6-1 in 56 minutes, thus booking a place in the showpiece. From there, he battled his way past Croatia's Mate Delic in a match that could have swung either way, winning it 6-4, 7-6(5) to capture his 11th ITF singles title - and his sixth in a span of twelve months. To confirm how close this straight sets match was - Konecny won 73 points and Delic won 69 points.
Golubic, Champion of Hong Kong
In the only final completed on a Saturday, Switzerland's Viktorija Golubic outclassed Risa Osaki to capture her ninth ITF singles title, defeating her Japanese counterpart 6-3, 6-3. Coming into this match, Golubic had only lost one set all-week, and had won the doubles title with Stephanie Vogt less than 24 hours prior. Breaking six times and winning a respectable 61% of points behind her first serve, the Swiss number three was admittedly never at her best, but managed to play at a level that was high enough to see her past the finish line.
Moore Outlasts Schaefer, Captures Title in Antalya
In a battle of the top two seeds in the final, second seed Tara Moore outlasted top seed Anne Schaefer 2-6, 7-5, 6-0 to capture the $10,000 title in Antalya. Despite having a slow start, Moore came back from a set and a break down three times before finally clinching a decisive break that would help her win the second set 7-5. From there, the Brit never looked back, running away with the match and title - the eighth of her career thus far.
A Look at Next Week's Tournaments
Next week, the ITF Pro Circuit will be back in full force, with thirteen tournaments ranging from the sunny Floridian city of Daytona Beach to the Indian city of Aurangabad.
Come back next week to find out what happened at these tournaments and more in VAVEL USA's weekly ITF roundup!