Stefan Kozlov, this year's winner, was the runner-up at the 2012 USTA International Spring Championships.
© Cynthia Lum
Top 400 WTA player Mayo Hibi has been working with former WTA pro Debbie Graham.
© Cynthia Lum
By Steve Pratt, special to USTA.com
CARSON, Calif. – Stefan Kozlov’s dominance over Henrik Wiersholm continued on one of the biggest stages in junior tennis Sunday, this time in the final of the ninth annual USTA International Spring Championships.
The 15-year-old Kozlov, from Pembroke Pines, Fla., dominated his USTA National Training Center practice partner and buddy, 16-year-old Wiersholm, from Kirkland, Wash., beating him for the eighth consecutive time, 6-2, 6-3, at the Home Depot Center to capture the coveted Carson boys’ 18s singles title.
In the girls’ final, recently turned 17-year-old Mayo Hibi, of Irvine, Calif., played flawless tennis to take out Jamie Loeb, of Ossining, N.Y., 6-2, 6-1, to win the girls’ 18s championship.
Kozlov was a finalist here a year ago, falling to Mitchell Krueger on the final day. He controlled the play on Sunday and overcame a mental lapse up 3-0 in the second set to record the win.
"At 3-0, 30-love I kind of made some unforced errors and thought he might be able to get back in it," Kozlov said. "He couldn’t find his rhythm. I tried to keep him off balance and to hit a lot of winners."
Wiersholm said losing to someone over and over again can take its toll on a player.
"The more I play him the more chances I’ll have, but it’s all mental now," he said. "Once it gets to 8-0, 7-0, whatever, it just gets into your head. You can’t really perform how you want to. It’s like, ‘I’ve lost seven times to this guy, I can’t lose again.’ You just can’t focus on winning when you haven’t won before."
He added: "There’s not much to say. The score kind of says it all. I don’t think it was my highest level but part of that was him throwing me off my rhythm. That’s why he’s such a good player."
Kozlov admitted there was pressure on him to do well after making the final last year.
"I kind of had a little bit of pressure too because I thought he would just come out and start spraying balls, but he played a little bit different than I thought he would," the No. 2-seeded Kozlov said. "He had more pressure than me today but I’m starting to get better at staying loose and dealing with it."
Kozlov said he hopes to make it into the Top 12 of the International Tennis Federation junior rankings after winning the title, and that his goals are to eventually get into the Top 10 and do well at the remaining three junior Grand Slams, as well as play some USTA Pro Circuit and ITF Futures professional tournaments.
In the girls’ final, former Carson 16s finalist Hibi just couldn’t seem to miss in her win over University of North Carolina-bound Loeb.
"I haven’t played a junior event in a while, so it’s good to get a win in my first one back," said Hibi, currently ranked in the Top 400 of the WTA rankings.
Hibi said working with former WTA pro Debbie Graham has upped her game.
"She’s been on the tour and knows what it takes to get to that level," Hibi said. "She knows what you need to beat the top players. She’s played players like Lindsay Davenport and I’m going to have to play players like that. She knows what I have to work on."
Loeb said Hibi didn’t give her any free points.
"If I hit a better shot she came up with an even better one," she said. "It was tough. She played a very good match. She missed one slice all day and got to a lot of my balls."
It’s onto the USTS Spring Nationals at the Easter Bowl next week in the desert for all four players. "I think it’s good for me to get back out there tomorrow," Loeb said. "I tend to spend too much time on my losses and dwell on it. So having a match tomorrow gives me a chance to forget about it. It’s not that I played horrible, Mayo just played that much better."
Boys' 18 Singles (Final)
Stefan Kozlov (2), Pembroke Pines, Fla., def. Henrik Wiersholm, Kirkland, Wash., 6-2, 6-3
Girls' 18 Singles (Final)
Mayo Hibi, Irvine, Calif., def. Jamie Loeb (5), Ossining, N.Y., 6-2, 6-1