'Rafa, I'm sorry for leaving our practice session,' says Stefan Kozlov

Tennis - Nadal and Kozlov trained when the American got a chance to play in the main draw in Acapulco

by Jovica Ilic
'Rafa, I'm sorry for leaving our practice session,' says Stefan Kozlov

Rafael Nadal trained with Stefan Kozlov ahead of his first-round clash at the ATP 500 event in Acapulco. The 21-time Major champion is playing his first tournament since that incredible victory over Daniil Medvedev in the Australian Open final, seeking the fourth Acapulco title.

Nadal and Kozlov could not finish their practice set, as the American got a call from the organizers to prepare for the main draw action, entering the tournament as a lucky loser. At 24, Stefan is trying to raise his game to a higher level and finally crack the top-100 five years after his career-best ranking!

Kozlov scored a victory at the Australian Open and reached the Delray Beach quarter-final last week before receiving the good news in Acapulco while training with the 21-time Major winner. Kozlov faced Grigor Dimitrov in the opening round and survived cramps and drama in a 7-6, 5-7, 6-3 triumph in three hours and 21 minutes!

Rafael Nadal trained with Stefan Kozlov in Acapulco.

The American scored two points more than the Bulgarian, and there was nothing to separate them after four breaks on each side. The opening set lasted for an hour and 20 minutes, and Kozlov claimed it 10-8 in the tie break after fending off two set points.

The younger player led 3-1 in the second set before Dimitrov climbed back to level the score at 3-3. Stefan broke again in game eight top move 5-3 ahead and serve for the victory, only to lose four straight games and hand the set to Grigor.

Experiencing massive cramps, Kozlov kept fighting and survived a marathon in the deciding set's first game to remain on the positive side. Barely moving, the players were engaged in a tight battle before Stefan scored a break to open a 4-2 lead.

Kozlov stayed focused in games seven and nine, serving well and moving over the top with a hold at 5-3 to advance into the second round and set Rafael Nadal clash. The Spaniard seeks the fourth Acapulco title, defeating Denis Kudla in the opening round and hoping for more against the American.

Nadal and Kozlov have never met before, and the Spaniard should be a clear favorite to reach the quarter-final and extend his perfect run so far in 2022.

Stefan Kozlov