PLANTATION, Fla. (AP)—Francis Tiafoe became the youngest boys' singles champion in the history of the Orange Bowl International, winning Sunday at 15.
Tiafoe, from College Park, Md., beat Stefan Kozlov of Pembroke Pines, Fla., 7-6 (3), 0-6, 6-3 in the first all-America Orange Bowl boys' final since 2004. It also was the first time two 15-year-olds played each other in the singles final in the tournament's 67-year history.
Serving for the title, Tiafoe smacked an ace down the middle, tossed his racket and roared.
“Before serving, I was like, ‘I’m just going to hit it as hard as I can down the T. It doesn’t matter where it goes.’ I hit it as hard as I can, and it was probably the best serve I hit the whole match. It was unbelievable,” Tiafoe said. “I didn’t know what to do. I was too excited. I, like, slammed it. I never slammed a racket from excitement before.”
Kozlov, the top-ranked American junior, will end the year at No. 5 in the world junior rankings, two spots ahead of Tiafoe, who projects to jump from No. 35 to No. 7.
“I’ve had a really tough week, played some long matches. My body’s obviously not fully grown yet, and that’s going to be a huge role the next time you guys see me. I’m going to be a lot stronger, and this won’t happen again,” said Kozlov. “He’s in really good shape. I think if I played someone else, we would have been both dying.
“I don’t mind losing to him, because he’s a great player. But I’ll get some revenge later.”
In the girls' final, Russia's Varvara Flink beat Serbia's Ivana Jorovic 6-1, 2-6, 6-4. With Jorovic serving at match-point down, Flink hit her return into the net but pointed out to the chair umpire that the ball had torn open. By rule, the point was replayed, and Flink won the do-over.
“I was lucky with it, but that’s why I missed the ball, because I felt that it was broken. If the rally is done but the ball is broken, you replay the point,” said Flink, who will finish the year ranked No. 3 in the world among juniors. “It’s an unbelievable feeling, because I was really fighting for this match. My opponent was great and congrats to her for the final.”
Tornado Alicia Black, from Boca Raton, Fla., and Naiktha Bains, of Australia, won the Girls’ 18s doubles title, beating Sofia Kenin, of Pembroke Pines, Fla., and Kaitlyn McCarthy, of Cary, N.C., 6-0, 6-1.
Black projects to jump to No. 5 in the world junior rankings to become the top-ranked American junior girl with the doubles title, won with a first-time partner.
“It feels amazing to win an Orange Bowl title,” Black said. “We get along really well.”
“Yeah, we do,” Bains said. “And that really helps on the court. We have good teamwork, and we work together really well.”