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Black, Kozlov Among Favorites at Eddie Herr International ITF; Strong Fields for 12s, 14s and 16s Divisions

Since 2012, when the tournament moved to the Har-Tru courts at the IMG Bollettieri Academy in Bradenton, an American has yet to reach the finals of the ITF Grade 1 Eddie Herr International.

Stefan Kozlov is a top American hope in the 18s division
© ZooTennis.com
Fifteen-year-olds Stefan Kozlov and Tornado Alicia Black, both former Eddie Herr champions, lead the US field attempting to end that streak this year. Black, who broke through this fall by reaching the US Open girls final, followed that eye-opening performance with a title at the ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed. Now ranked No. 11 in the ITF Junior rankings, Black won the Eddie Herr girls 16s title in 2011.

Kozlov, who won the 12s title back in 2009, has confined his play to the Futures circuit since a first-round loss at the US Open Junior Championships this year. He has reached the quarterfinals in three of those Futures events, including the Bradenton tournament held earlier this month on the same Bollettieri Academy courts where the Eddie Herr ITF competition is played. Kozlov's friend and rival Michael Mmoh is even more familiar with the atmosphere, with the 15-year-old training full time at the academy. Mmoh won his first Grade A tournament in Japan last month, and is also, like Kozlov, in the top 20 of the ITF Junior rankings.

In addition to Kozlov and Mmoh, Francis Tiafoe is another 15-year-old American to watch. Tiafoe won the Pan American Closed, beating Mmoh in the semifinals, with his results sending his ITF ranking into the Top 40. Spencer Papa, a quarterfinalist last year, Martin Redlicki, the 2013 US Open boys doubles champion, as well as Danny Kerznerman, Alex Rybakov, Julian Zlobinsky, Sameer Kumar and Henrik Wiersholm are the other Americans receiving direct acceptance into the main draw.

ITF World No. 1 Alexander Zverev of Germany is entered, as is No. 7 Johan Sebastien Tatlot, a 17-year-old from France who recently won a Futures title and leads a strong group of French competitors. Filippo Baldi of Italy is another contender; a semifinalist at the Australian Open this year, the 17-year-old also reached the semifinals of the Orange Bowl in 2012. Last year's 16s champion Keong Kang of Korea will try his luck on a new surface, as only the 18s matches are contested on Har-Tru.

The most in-form player in the boys field is 16-year-old Andrey Rublev of Russia, who won the Bradenton Futures tournament. Rublev, the reigning Orange Bowl and European 16s champion, has shown his affinity for the surface and is a favorite despite his loss in the first round of qualifying last year.

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