|FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES: Nicola Kuhn (centre) with tennis legend John McEnroe at Wimbledon in July. Also pictured are men's singles finalist Milos Raonic (second right), Nico's coach Fran Martinez (extreme left) and Raonic's coach Carlos Moya, himself a former world No.1|
And the 16-year-old Spanish sensation's stunning form comes at the ideal time with the junior United States Open scheduled to begin at Flushing Meadows this weekend. .
Nico, his country's top-ranked junior and ranked No.17 in the world at 18-and-under level, headed for the States brimming with confidence. "I am very happy with my form,'' insisted the star pupil of former world No.1 Juan Carlos Ferrero's Equilite Academy in Villena.
"Last year's US Open was my first Grand Slam experience and I learnt a lot from it. I'll be spending much of my time working on my game and my fitness - and I am confident I can do well.''
Multi-lingual Nico, whose international pedigree includes Spanish, Austrian, German, Russian and even British connections, had to play through three qualifying rounds last year and went out in the first round of the main competition. This time, he goes straight into the main draw seeded as a genuine contender for the title - an achievement that would make him one of the youngest players to win a junior Grand Slam.
In his first taste of the senior ATP Challenger circuit, the blond six-footer celebrated his wild card entry by beating world No.320 Juan Pablo Paz of Argentina in the first round at Meerbusch in Germany two weeks ago.
He followed that up by storming into the semi-final of last week's ITF Futures tournament in Santander.
The seven ranking points that went with the Challenger victory lifted Nico to No.1015 behind the legendary Novak Djokovic - a jump of nearly 1,000 places since the beginning of the year. And the six points he amassed in Santander will lift him another 100-plus places when the next rankings list is published. .
Although he lost 6-2 6-3 at Meerbusch to eventual tournament winner Florian Mayer, the Kuhn kid was far from outclassed by a 32-year-old player who has beaten both Andy Murray and Rafel Nadal and has twice reached the Wimbledon quarter-finals.
|Kid Kuhn in action at the Meeerbusch Challenger tournament|
None of Mayer's subsequent opponents at Meerbusch did any better than Kuhn, who has targeted a place in the top 600 by the end of the year.
In his first taste of the senior Challenger circuit, Spain’s top junior celebrated his wild card entry by beating world No.320 Juan Pablo Paz of Argentina in the first round at Meerbusch in Germany.
The seven ranking points that went with the victory lifted Nico to No.1015 behind the legendary Novak Djokovic - a jump of nearly 1,000 places since the beginning of the year.
And although he lost 6-2 6-3 at Meerbusch to eventual tournament winner Florian Mayer, the young pretender was far from outclassed by a player twice his age, who has beaten both Andy Murray and Rafel Nadal in the past - and twice reached the Wimbledon quarter-finals.
|Nico on his way to the junior French Open |
semi final at Roland Garros earlier this year
Nico said of the Mayer experience: "It was a match with some opportunities. I broke him two or three times on his serve, but couldn't hold mine because I can't serve as hard as he does. I also made some mistakes and he also had some luck.
"The second set was more open till 3-3, then he went a gear higher and I couldn't break him back. I feel I have the level, but I need to improve my fitness. He said I played good and I should continue like this.''
None of Mayer's subsequent opponents at Meerbusch did any better than Kuhn, who has targeted a place in the ATP top 600 by the end of the year.
Kid Kuhn, whose dad is German and mother Russian, was born in Austria three months before his parents moved to the Costa Blanca and settled in a predominantly British expat community in the Costa Blanca holiday resort of Torrevieja.
With a multi-national background like that, Nico could open up a whole new world of fame if all goes well in New York.