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Junior Slam Champions, World No. 1 Junior Headline Kalamazoo Field

French Open boys champion Tommy Paul, Wimbledon boys champion Reilly Opelka and Taylor Fritz, the International Tennis Federation's No. 1 junior, are competing this year in the 73rd edition of the USTA Boys Nationals in Kalamazoo, but the strength of the field is such that none of the three will be the top seed in the 18s division.

Tournament Director Mark Riley with Taylor Fritz (left) and Frances Tiafoe in 2014
© ZooTennis.com
That honor belongs to 17-year-old Frances Tiafoe, whose ATP ranking of 274, thanks to outstanding results in Challenger competition this spring, is among the best in the tournament's history. Tiafoe, a quarterfinalist last year in the 18s, has not played a junior tournament since last year's US Open, where he reached the semifinals, his best showing at a junior slam. The College Park, Maryland resident has already played in the main draw of a slam however, winning the USTA's Har-Tru French Open Wild Card Challenge this spring by going 9-3 in Challenger play.

Fritz, the No. 2 seed, reached the boys singles final at the French Open and the semifinals at Wimbledon two years in a row, while also picking up his first ATP victory this summer, beating No. 66 Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain in Nottingham. The 17-year-old from California has spent the three weeks leading up to Kalamazoo playing singles and doubles for the Mylan World Team Tennis San Diego Aviators.

Fritz is looking forward to competing against the top US juniors and for the US Open main draw wild card that goes to the winner.

"We're all excited to go and play for the wild card," Fritz said. "In my mind that's the best part of the tournament, being able to play against the best players who skip out on a lot of the junior tournaments a lot of the times, and compete for the US Open main draw wild card, which could be a huge deal and could be a huge career-starter for all of us."

Stefan Kozlov, a 2014 singles semifinalist at Kalamazoo, is another 17-year-old seeking the US Open main draw wild card. He received a main draw wild card last year, when he and singles champion Noah Rubin won the doubles title. Kozlov, who hasn't played a junior tournament since winning the Orange Bowl title in December, also has a stellar ATP ranking of 356, and has posted wins over both Ryan Harrison and Tim Smyczek since last year's appearance in Kalamazoo.

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Page updated on Monday, March 11, 2019
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