Spain has been spoilt for choice when it comes to tennis stars in the men’s game. Rafael Nadal has anchored a generation of talent that also includes David Ferrer, Nicolas Almagro, Pablo Carreno Busta, Albert Ramos-Vinolas and Feliciano Lopez.
Nadal’s generation ably stepped in to replace the successful period where the likes of Albert Costa, Alex Corretja and Juan Carlos Ferrero consistently played at the top of the game. Yet whilst Nadal and co. have been incredibly successful there had been some concern that there was a lack of juniors ready to step in for the future.
Fortunately for Spanish tennis fans it appears a new young talent is now quickly making his way up the rankings. Step forward Nicola Kuhn.
The 17 year-old, who represented Germany until 2016, recently won his first career Challenger title. He won the Braunschweig title by virtue of a retirement win over Viktor Galovic, who retired due to a leg injury with Kuhn leading by a break in the deciding set.
That may have been slightly fortuitous, but there was nothing fortuitous about the way that Kuhn reached the final. Forced to come through qualifying, as his entry rank of No.501 was not strong enough for a main draw berth, Kuhn then tore through the field.
He secured a win over fellow qualifier Goncalo Oliveira before winning arguably the landmark ranking win of his career in the second round. He defeated No.80 Carlos Berlocq. The Argentine is a veteran clay specialist with an incredible 17 Challenger titles on the red dirt. Kuhn beat him 6-4, 7-5.
Fresh from the high of the Berlocq win came a tough match with another clay specialist in Jozef Kovalik, a player who has a win over Wimbledon finalist Marin Cilic this year. After a brutal three set battle, Kuhn emerged the victor 7-6, 5-7, 7-6. Another tough encounter with Marton Fucscovics saw Kuhn move into the final 7-5, 4-6, 6-4.
This one tournament does not prove Kuhn a star for the future, but it does show promise and a snap-shot of a number of attributes Kuhn will hope become permanent fixtures in his game.
It shows that on-form, he is capable of producing straight set wins over current Top 100 players. Evidenced in his match against Kovalik, Kuhn proved that he does not let career milestones faze him. Despite beating Berlocq Kuhn had the desire, discipline, and energy required to continue his run. His win over Fucsovics demonstrates that his physical level, at just 17, is already of a high standard as he is capable of maintaining levels in hard conditions in consecutive lengthy clay court matches.
Of course such a talented junior did not exactly appear from nowhere. Kuhn was a runner-up in the recent Roland Garros Boy’s Singles final. After a run that saw him defeat Junior No.1 Miomir Kecmanovic, Kuhn was beaten by Alexei Popyrin in the final. Unsurprisingly for a Spanish player it seems Kuhn’s greatest chance of success may indeed lie on clay.
These wins propelled him from a ranking outside the Top 500 to one inside the Top 250 this week. The microcosm that is a single week on the Challenger circuit does not guarantee the young Spaniard a future in the game, and enough talented youngsters have proved that success at junior level is far from a guaranteed ticket to a successful pro career.
Kuhn has nonetheless made a noticeable breakthrough in a professional tournament for the first time and the signs look good for him to headline the next generation of male players in Spain.
Dominic Thiem To Return At Marbella Challenger, Joins Wawrinka In Stacked Field
Dominic Thiem will be joining Stan Wawrinka in making his return to action at the Marbella challenger next week.
Dominic Thiem will finally make his return to the ATP tour at the Marbella challenger next week.
The Austrian hasn’t played a tennis match since retiring at the grass court event in Mallorca last June due to a wrist injury.
Despite being scheduled to play at the Australian Open and at the Indian Wells-Miami swing, Thiem had to postpone his return as he wasn’t quite ready to compete in matches.
However now Thiem has decided to return as he will begin his clay court swing next week at the Marbella Challenger.
The former Roland Garros finalist took to Instagram to announce the news as he looks to climb back up the rankings.
The world number 50 will face tough competition with former Roland Garros champion Stan Wawrinka also making his comeback at the event in Spain next week.
At the blockbuster event there will also be the likes of Holger Rune, Pablo Cuevas, Jaume Munar and Lucas Pouille competing.
The winner of the event will receive 125 ranking points but much more importantly for Thiem and Wawrinka much needed match practice ahead of a busy European clay-court swing.
Thiem will be the top seed while Wawrinka will be unseeded with their being a possibility of the two heavyweights meeting in the opening round.
Play will start on Monday with Jaume Munar being the defending champion.
Roberto Bautista Agut reaches his second career final in Doha
Roberto Bautista Agut reached the second final of his career at the Qatar Exxon Mobil with a 6-3 6-3 win over defending champion Andrey Rublev.
Bautista Agut broke serve in the fourth game with a forehand winner to open up a 3-1 lead and held on his next service games to close out the first set 6-3 after 29 minutes.
The Spaniard started the second set with an early break. Rublev broke straight back in the second game and won his next two service games to take a 3-2 lead. Bautista Agut saved two break points to hold serve before getting two consecutive breaks to claim the second set 6-3.
Rublev was playing his first match this week after two walkovers. The Russian player claimed the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam last week.
“It was very difficult to play tennis today, with the windy conditions, but I put a lot of pressure on his second serve and played really good tennis. I played a long match yesterday against Dominic Thiem, but I felt fresh and I had a lot of power on the court. This is one of my favourite tournaments. I played one of my best matches here in Qatar two years ago, and I hope I can win one more match tomorrow”, said Bautista Agut.
Bautista Agut set up a final against Nikoloz Basilashvili, who beat Taylor Fritz 7-6 (7-3) 6-1.
Basilashvili, who beat Roger Federer in the quarter final, rallied from one break down to win the tie-break of the first set 7-3. The Georgian player broke twice in the second and sixth games to close out the second set 6-1. “To reach the final means a lot. I am playing well and I am relaxed. It’s great to play in front of a crowd and a nice atmosphere”, said Basilshvili.
Andy Murray defeated in the final of the Biella Challenger
The former world number was runner-up to the Ukrainian Ilya Marchenko. Both will feature in next week’s event in the same location
Andy Murray suffered a surprising defeat in the final of this week’s tournament in Biella. Playing his second Challenger event in 16 years (the other one occurred in Mallorca in 2019 when, limping on a battered hip, he lost against Matteo Viola in the eighth of finals). Before today’s runner-up finish, he had played twice against his opponent, Illya Marchenko from Ukraine (N.212 in the ATP Rankings), both times at the Australian Open, in 2011 and 2017 respectively, winning both times.
But it was the Ukrainian who got off to a flying start, while the Scotsman looked a bit cumbersome and immediately lost his serve, giving a nice boost of confidence to his opponent, who broke his serve once more in the fifth game, taking a 4-1 lead. Murray couldn’t control his changes of pace, while Marchenko was pretty much spotless. The 6-2 score in his favour was the logical consequence, as confirmed by the numbers, which saw him win 83% of points on his first serve (against a meagre 53% for Murray), with no break points allowed.
In the first game of the second set, Marchenko immediately leapt ahead, breaking the Brit’s serve and even earning a chance for a 3-0 lead. Murray managed to stay close and started to play in a more conservative way, with great humility, in an attempt to reduce the number of unforced errors. Murray saved a match point at 3-5 with his second serve, exploiting Marchenko’s clumsiness with the backhand, but couldn’t do the same on the return, conceding defeat at the third match point. must defend with the second. Luckily for him, Marchenko is a bit clumsy in his preparation steps and puts up a not particularly difficult backhand. The former world number one will try to exact revenge in the same location starting tomorrow, as a Challenger 125 will take place once more in Biella, with players like Lorenzo Musetti (the seventh seed), Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (ATP N.54) and Sebastian Korda (N.88).
Report by Massimo Gaiba; edited by Tommaso Villa
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