The Koz Interviews Marin Cilic

Cliic US Open 2014In a Slam final devoid any of the “Big Four” players on the court since 2008, 14th-seeded Marin Cilic of Croatia captured his first major final, beating 10th-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 at the U.S. Open by triggering 17 aces and belting forehands in excess of 100 miles per hour with a reassembled plan and self-confidence inspired by mentor Goran Ivanisevic.

The 6’6’’ twenty-five year-old Cilic earned a $3 million winner’s check and will rise from No. 16 to No. 9. Cilic is first man from outside the top 10 to win a Grand Slam title in a decade. Dave “Koz” Kozlowski caught up with the new champion after the match.

 

 

 

Is The Big 4 Era Coming To An End?

08-31-2014-0117Who would have thunk this one?

A US Open Men’s Final between Kei Nishikori and Marin Cilic? With both Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer going out on the same day?

Wow! Just Wow!

Furthermore, you have to wonder if this chain of events marks the decline of the Big 4 era in tennis, where the courts were ruled by Federer, Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray.

You have to go back to 2005 when Marat Safin took out Lleyton Hewett in the Australian Open to find a Grand Slam Final without a member of the Big 4.

And you need to go back to 2003 when Andy Roddick won his only Slam to find no Big 4 members playing on the last day in Flushing.

” I think it’s exciting for the game, you know, to have different faces from time to time,” Federer said after his loss. “At the same time, I think people still enjoy seeing the guys they have seen for a while or often in the big matches. But I think it’s definitely refreshing to some extent. It’s big for Croatia and big for Japan I guess on some level, especially on sporting terms and tennis terms. Everybody who gets to this stage of this kind of a competition deserves to be there because they have put in the work and they hoped for the break, and this is it for both of them. I hope they can play a good final.”

The folks at CBS are probably not happy, since there are no Americans or household names in the finals. And unless you are a huge tennis fan, you probably won’t have the same interest.

However, this may be good for the sport. As much as tennis thrived, especially in Europe, with the Big 4 headlining and everyone else getting union scale, there is always room for change.

The sport needs new stars to come up through the rankings. With Federer clearly on the backside of his career, Nadal’s injuries, and Murray’s decline, it leaves Djokovic as the only member of the group on at the top of his game and he is going through changes in his personal life with marriage and a baby on the way.

Simply put the field has caught up to the varsity here. And it’s good to see others at the top. It’s good for tennis in general and interest in the sport in other parts of the work.

With Michael Change in his corner Nishkori looks like the next up and coming star in the sport.

“This is definitely huge for Japan,” Djokovic said. “It’s a big country. Over a hundred million people. This can definitely be a great encouragement for tennis in that country. He’s been around for last couple of years. He’s been making a lot of success. But playing finals of a Grand Slam and now fighting for title is definitely something different. You know, he has gotten to another level, and I’m sure that people will praise him.”

And Cilic, who dropped bombs on Federer out there has brought himself up to the top of the game.

” I just think he was quite erratic before,” Federer said. “You know, especially from the baseline. I think in some ways his game has little margin, I find, because he takes the ball early. If he doesn’t feel well on the half volleys it’s tough for him. But I feel like he’s cleaned up his return game to some degree. I think he’s serving much more consistent throughout an entire match and entire tournament; whereas before he could have a good day, bad day, good set, bad set. I think his mental approach has been one of always a true professional, always super fair play on the court. Always well-behaved. Always a guy I kind of liked watching play.”

So there you have it, a reason to watch on Monday. Too bad the American men’s varsity isn’t up to par, but maybe someday it will return.

In the meantime, a page may have turned and now let’s enjoy the next chapter of tennis’s book.

US Open Late Night

Mens FinalsCilicDef.Nishikori in straight setsTick tock. Tick tock.

There’s always a night of the US Open where we get clipped. An evening where a match for one reason or another goes to the wee hours of the morning.

Last night was that night.

It started out innocent enough with no rain and everything going off on time. The first match with Victoria Azarenka winning over Aleksandra Krunic went three sets.

And the second match between No. 5 seed Milos Raonic and No. 10 seed Kei Nishikori seemed innocent enough.

In the end, though, we witnessed history. The 5 set epic won by Nishikori 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-7(6), 7-5, 6-4 lasted four hours and 19 minutes and ended at 2:26 am, tying it for the latest ending in US Open History with John Isner’s first case of Kohlschreiber back in 2012 and in 1993, in a second-round match between Mats Wilander and Mikael Pernfors.

Sure the match was exciting, but the time in the press room under Arthur Ashe Stadium was even more interesting.

You could hear a sigh of relief from the 20 or so reporters left as the match completed. No one really cared who won, rather everyone just wanted to go home.

There were reporters sleeping at their desks and some even snoring pretty loud and the coffee flowed but since the coffee pots were not marked, we had to guess which one was regular and decaf. (The one on the right was regular).

As the match continued, this version of US Open Survivor became a test of wills. Some left, but when you invested this much time into a match, you had to stay to the end.

And there were times we thought we were getting out of there early. But Raonic couldn’t do it and Nishikori kept battling.

And when the fifth set started with about 34 minutes to go for the record, you were rooting for it just to go 35.

We didn’t get it. We got a tie and that’s good enough.

And it’s back to the grind today. Hopefully Roger Federer and Caroline Wozniacki will have better times today in their matches.

We can only hope.

Tick Tock…

 

The Koz with Stefan Kozlow

Stefan Kozlov is an American Player to watch. At age 14 he was the youngest player in the Wimbledon Junior Championships and the Junior US Open. He has already turned professional and collected his first ATP points. Dave “Koz” Kozlowski recently caught up with the American rising star.

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The Koz with Jameson Corsillo

Nine year old Jameson Corsillo of Boca Raton, FL is a “Rising Star” recently winning the Little Mo International.

He already has had a life time of mind-boggling tennis experiences from playing in exhibitions with John McEnroe, Andy Roddick and also with Bob & Mike Bryans to being featured in Sports Illustrated sports kid and doing a photo shoot on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Nicknamed “The Bullet” because of his incredible speed, he has massed nearly 100 trophies for Tennis, baseball, soccer, basketball & BMX Bike racing.

The fearless tike has a dream to ride every single roller coaster around the world when he’s on the ATP world tour!

Dave “KOZ” Kozlowski caught up with the young champion for a phone interview.

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The Koz with Bud Collins

The Koz had the pleasure to interview Bud Collins at the US Open last week for Indie Tennis and Tennis Ledger.

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Steve Flink Wrapup

Dave “KOZ” Kozlowski caught up with pre-eminent tennis journalist STEVE FLINK to review the women’s & men’s US OPEN singles finals.

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Annacone

Excerpt from Roger Federer: Back On Top due out Oct. 31,2012.

Roger Federer went through a few coaches for a bunch of different reasons, before locating Paul Annacone, including Peter Carter, Darren Cahill, Jose Higueras and Tony Roche.

But perhaps it was out of necessity – or a bit of desperation – that Federer and Annacone attempted a relationship.

Of course, people might define “desperation” differently. At the time Annacone was hired in a “test period,” as Federer said, Federer had won Wimbledon six times, the US Open five times, the French Open once and four Australian titles.

But in 2010, he lost at Wimbledon in the quarterfinals to Tomas Berdych and to Robin Soderling in the French quarters, dropping Federer to – gasp – No. 3 in the world. It was his lowest ranking in seven years.

And so on came Annacone, 47 at the time as Annacone worked out the remainder of his contract as men’s head coach at the Lawn Tennis Association in Great Britain.

Annacone was no stranger to coaching. He was the former coach to Pete Sampras and British great, Tim Henman. In the days that followed Annacone’s hiring, let’s just say Annacone seemed more excited about the opportunity.

“I’ve been looking to add someone to my team and I’ve decided to spend some days with Paul Annacone,” Federer told his website.

Annacone, meanwhile, told the New York Times, “Sometimes, I wake up and go ‘Wow’, and I do feel kind of blessed to have had this opportunity. But I think part of my good fortune, I hope, is because of my work ethic and personality and the perspective that I view the game with and the history I have soaked up as a bit of a sponge in the last 25 years.”

Annacone was ranked as high as No. 12 in the world during his playing days and was subsequently put in charge of player development for both the United States Tennis Association and the British Lawn Tennis Association. Big jobs.

Yet Annacone’s hiring on the Federer team was historic. It made him the deli meat in the sandwich of two of the most significant eras of tennis in the history of the game. He got to work with Sampras and Federer, after all, who won Grand Slam events like the Yankees win the World Series.

Annacone was a net-rushing player before a herniated disk in his back cut short his career. One of the characteristics in both Sampras‘ game and Henman‘s game was the ability to move forward, thereby giving him an appeal to Federer at the time. Clearly, Federer wanted to end points sooner as he pushed past 30. That was never more evident than at Wimbledon this year and especially in the final against Murray.

“It’s important to question yourself, and that’s what I’ve always been doing since I got to world No. 1 in 2004,” Federer said after losing in the French Open in 2010.

It was nothing new to Annacone to prove himself. He took over as Sampras’s coach on an interim basis in March 1995, when Sampras’ coach Tim Gullickson became ill. Sampras was already No. 1, but with Annacone’s support won eight more Grand Slam titles.

Annacone told the author that Federer and Sampras have more in common than not. He called both, “immense talents and objective evaluators of winning and losing.”

So far, so good for the relationship.

Will Annacone be his most influential coach? Maybe. He will have to go far to outdo Carter, originally from Australia. Carter coached Federer in his formative tenn years and worked with him on his serve volley and slice. He also served as Swiss Davis Cup coach before dying much too young in 2002 at 37 in a car crash. his loss had an enormous impact on Federer.

The Koz with Sara Errani & Roberta Vinci

Number two seeds Italians Sara Errani & Roberta Vinci captured their second Slam Women’s Doubles Title with a 6-4, 6-2 victory over number seeds Andrea Hlavackova & Lucie Hradecka. Dave “KOZ” Kozlowski caught with the champions at the National Billie Jean King Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, NY.

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The Koz with Samantha Crawford

Seventeen year old Samantha Crawford of Atlanta, GA captured the 2012 US Open Girls’ Junior Championship with a 7-5, 6-3 victory over No. 12 seed Anett Kontaveit of Estonia.

Crawford, who currently trains at the USTA National Training Center in Boca Raton, Fla., is the second consecutive American to win the US Open Junior Girls’ title, and the third in the past five years.

The Georgia resident has played in two USTA Pro Circuit $50,000 events in 2012, reaching a final and a semifinal.  Dave “KOZ” Kozlowski spoke with the new US Open Junior Girls Champion.

 

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