From being stranded at sea to facing Nadal in Mexico: Stefan Kozlov’s whirlwind 24 hours
Stefan Kozlov has endured one of the most bizarre 24 hours which saw him be rescued at sea, train with Rafael Nadal and then battle through cramping to progress at the Mexican Open.
24-year-old American Kozlov had been involved in the qualifying rounds of the Mexican Open but ultimately lost to Oscar Otte to seemingly end his hopes of competing. However, due to Maxime Cressy’s withdrawal, Kozlov’s participation was reignited.
While taking a break in a training session with 21-time Grand Slam icon Nadal, Kozlov “intuitively” checked his phone whilst Nadal was changing strings. Much to his surprise, Kozlov saw that he was a late inclusion as the third lucky loser.
This comes after the American was involved in a jet ski accident earlier in the day where he capsized the ski and was swimming away from the rocks as he awaited rescue from the manager.
The excitement-filled day eventually caught up with him as he collapsed with cramping in his marathon match against former World number three Gregor Dimitrov.
As he was about to serve for the match, Kozlov dropped to the ground in pain as he suffered cramping in both of his now-locked quadriceps.
Despite losing the second set and limping through the deciding third set, Kozlov saved six break points in the first game of the third set and recovered to win the game 7-6 (10-8), 7-5, 6-3 in three hours and 21 minutes, the longest match in the tournament’s history.
Speaking to the ATP Tour, Kozlov said “He [Nadal] jokingly told me ‘You can’t go, we have to finish the set.’
“I quipped back: ‘No Rafa, I have to go, but I’ll put this down as a win because I was one point ahead.’
“I went as quickly as I could to prepare as well as possible. And I had to borrow clothes from the tournament staff, as many clothes as I could get my hands on to be able to play because I didn’t have anything that was dry,” the American revealed.
“I wasn’t expecting to play, at all. Two guys had already dropped out of the tournament, I didn’t think there would be a third lucky loser. That’s why I was on the beach all day.
Kozlov will now face the practice partner he ditched, Nadal, in the next round.
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) February 22, 2022
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