Rafael Nadal Australian Open 2022

ATP rising star recounts ‘craziest experience’ involving Rafael Nadal in Acapulco

Stefan Kozlov has experienced a night that he will truly never forget in Acapulco, his hitting practice with Rafael Nadal being just one part in a myriad of highs and lows. 

The world number 130 fell to Oscar Otte in the final round of qualifying for Acapulco and thought his shot at the main draw was over.

But when Maxime Cressy withdrew from the event late, Kozlov took his spot as a lucky loser and defeated 2014 champion Grigor Dimitrov in an incredible encounter.

“One of the craziest experiences of my life,” Kozlov said after suffering through cramps to eventually overcome Dimitrov 7-6 (10-8), 5-7, 6-3.



The contest went for three hours and 21 minutes, making it the longest match ever at the ATP 500 tournament.

Immediately following the battle, Kozlov explained just how unexpected the events of the night were.

“I’m practising with Rafa [Nadal] across the street, we’re playing a set,” the American said of what occurred before the match.

“It’s like 3-3, 15-0, Rafa breaks a string, goes to his bag, I just happen to check my phone for whatever reason.

“Then I have 20 text messages from [officials] and they’re just like ‘get over here!’

“So i drop all my stuff, I tell Rafa, he’s got a big smile on his face.

“You know, he’s super excited for me because he knew I was the number one lucky loser.

“So we stopped practice, I got over here, had about 30 minutes to get ready and just came out and gave it my all.”

After reaching two Junior Slam finals in 2014 and peaking at world number two in the ITF junior rankings, Kozlov looked set to find success on the ATP tour.

Now, after sitting outside the top 200 for more than three years, this highest ever ranking victory could kickstart something new for Kozlov.

“Words can’t describe it honestly,” he continued on the win.

“It means so much, it’s such a cool feeling.

“I’m thankful, it’s hard to explain.

“Yesterday I was serving to qualify and I lost, it was a tough night.

“Then I come out here today with a crowd like this to play tennis.

“It was just such a wonderful experience, I’m just so thankful.”

Kozlov will almost certainly face none other than Nadal next as the three-time Acapulco champion faces another American lucky loser in Denis Kudla in the first round, the winner of which will take on Kozlov.

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