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15 July 2017

Nicola Kuhn is blond, he's brilliant - and he's an ATP tennis champion at 17

.Blond and brilliant..budding superstar Nicola Kuhn on his way to glory at the Braunschweig Open
Four years ago, the legendary Boris Becker took a peek at a promising young tennis talent of German extraction and asserted that Nicola Kuhn was ''a better player than I was at his age.''

Becker remains the only unseeded play to win the Wimbledon men's singles -  an astounding feat he accomplished at the age of 17. However, tennis has changed so much since 1985 that nobody realistically expects Herr Becker's 1985 cruise  to glory ever to be repeated.

Apart that is, from blond six-footer Kuhn, the Spanish-reared son of a German father and Russian mother, who this week achieved the next best thing by winning a major ATP Challenger title at the age of just 17 years and three months. 

That's four months younger than Becker was when he beat Kevin Curren in that memorable SW19 final 32 years ago.

And what's more, the unseeded Kuhn was the youngest player in the €127,000 Sparkassen Open draw and had to battle through the qualifying tournament to join a first-round field that included eight of the world's Top 100 players.

Few people expected the Torrevieja teenager to reach the first-round proper, let alone advance to the later stages. But this afternoon (July 15), an enraptured German crowd saluted the unlikely champion, who at number 501 in the world, was the lowest-ranked player in the tournament.

On his seven-match glory run, Kuhn even had the audacity to see off  Slovakian star Jozef Kovalik, whose recent successes include a victory over Wimbledon finalist Marin Cilic at the Chennai ATP 250 tournament.

Th only disappointment is that his moment of glory was dimmed by the retirement of opponent Viktor Galovic through injury in the final set. But Kuhn, after losing the first set 6-2, was already in a winning position at 4-2 in the decider when Galovic conceded defeat.
The 32-man lineup at Braunschweig traditionally includes several players who exited early from the Wimbledon main draw - and this year was no different, with Andy Murray's second-round victim Dustin Brown among the more familiar names in the draw.
Kid Kuhn - playing in only his second Challenger tournament - found himself  face to face with at least one player TWICE his age as he battled to tame experienced professionals seven and eight years his senior.
Yet the Torrevieja youngster, the lowest ranked player in the competition, demonstrated his world-class potential by flattening the opposition in a week-long victory spree. His unlikely victims even included Slovakian Jozef Kovalik, who beat Wimbledon finalist Marin Cilic at the Chennai ATP 250 tournament earlier this year.
Kuhn's hopes seemed to be over when he trailed 0-4 in the deciding set against Kovalik in the quarter-final. But remarkably, he managed to break back twice and squeeze out a nailbiting 8-6 win in the tie-break.
Nico and fans in Germany
"This has been the best week of my life, that's for sure,'' insisted Nico, who won his first ITF Futures tournament in Hungary only last month.
"I always wanted to play in an event like this at a young age but I certainly didn't expect to come through the qualifiers and then win the entire tournament!

"My original goal for this year was to make the ATP top 200 but with that now in sight it would be great to have some success perhaps in an ATP 250 tournament. 

''My preparations for Braunschweig were really good particularly from the fitness side. I played some great tennis and was also mentally very tough throughout the tournament.''

Nico, started every round in Germany as underdog against experienced pros aged between 22 and 34, whose average ranking was more than 300 places above his own ATP status.
The125 ranking points he receives for winning the tournament lifted him 259 places to number 242 in the world rankings this week. And he'll no doubt savour that achievement just as much as he will enjoy spending his €18,290 winners' cheque.
For the record, Kuhn's astonishing week-long run to today's (Saturday) final against 26-year-old Galovic went like this...
Qualifying 1st round - bye;
Qualifying 2nd round: Beat Julian Onken (Germany, ATP rank 791) 6-4 6-3
Qualifying 3rd round: Beat Michael Linzer (Austria, ATP 275) 6-3 6-3
First round: Beat Goncalo Oliveira (Portugal, ATP 277) 6-4 6-2
Second round: Beat Carlos Berlocq (Argentina, ATP 80) 6-4 7-5
Quarter-final: Beat Jozef Kovalik (Croatia, ATP 159) 7-6 5-7 7-6
Semi-final: Beat Marco Fucsovics (Hungary ATP 109) 7-5 4-6 6-4
Final: Beat Viktor Galovic (Croatia, ATP 491) 2-6, 7-5,4-2 RETIRED.
FINAL WORD on kid Kuhn from losing finalist Galovic: "Yeah, at his age I was at home playing PlayStation"

5 July 2017

Kuhn and Kecmanovic: Introducing the Special Ks of 21st century tennis

Nicola Kuhn....with Miomir Kecmanovic a future Special K of men's tennis
 Tennis superkid Nicola Kuhn has taken two more giant steps towards his target of reaching the world's top 200 by the end of this year.

The Spanish teenager, who has opted out of the ITF junior circuit in order to boost his assault on vital ATP ranking points, pulled out of junior Wimbledon after reaching both boys' finals at the French Open last month.

Instead, he launched a double assault on the world's experienced pros - beating a string of older players in reaching the semi-finals of both the Belgian F1 and German F5 Futures events.

Kuhn, 17, was left cursing his luck at Kamen in Germany when heavy rain turned the clay courts into a dirty mud surface during the later stages of the competition. And despite a courageous fightback, he was finally beaten in three sets by eventual winner Alexander Vasilenko of Russia.

The six points Kuhn receives for reaching the last four in Germany should lift him to around 480 in the world when the next ATP ranking list is announced next Monday. He moved up to 501 on the strength of reaching the semi-final at Havre in Belgium, where he bowed out against the world's No.1 junior Miomir Kecmanovic, despite romping away with the first set 6-1.

Kecmanovic and Kuhn, who is five months younger than the Serbian, are rapidly establishing one of the game's most intriguing rivalries, each having won two of their four encounters - all of them exciting three-set marathons.

Kecmanovic...world's top junior

Perhaps the most exciting of all their matches was the junior French Open semi-final, where Kuhn triumphed 7-6, 2-6, 7-6 after an exhausting nailbiter at Roland Garros. 
Ironically, that Paris confrontation was probably the final junior tournament for both the Special K's, whose focus is now firmly on a place in the prestigious Next Generation finals at the end of 2018.

HEAD TO HEAD. Miomir Kecmanovic (born Belgrade, Aug 17 1999) v Nicola Kuhn (born Innsbruck, March 20 2000))

2015: Osaka Mayor's Cup - World Super Junior Tennis (hard) Winner KUHN 2-6 6-4 6-3.

2016: Junior US Open quarter final (hard): Winner: KECMANOVIC 6-2 5-7 6-4.

2017: Junior French Open semi final (clay): Winner KUHN 7-6 (5) 2-6 7-6 (4).

2017: Belgium F1 Futures (Havre) semi final (clay): Winner KECMANOVIC 1-6 6-3 6-1.


13 June 2017

Weary champ Kuhn pulls out of Wimbledon in quest for pro tennis glory

Nicola Kuhn: The junior French Open doubles champion has pulled out of Wimbledon

Weary tennis champion Nicola Kuhn has played his last match as a junior after making both the singles and doubles finals at the French Open last week.

The Spanish whizkid and doubles partner Zsombor Piros were crowned junior champions at Roland Garros after a convincing 6-4 6-4 victory over US pair Danny Thomas and Vasil Kirkov in the final.

Three hours earlier, exhausted Nico missed out on the coveted singles crown, losing 7-6 6-3 to lanky Australian Alexei Popyrin after coming through a near-impossible three-match playing schedule the previous day.

Ironically, Torrevieja's blond  belter became a victim of his own success after storming into both finals on Friday, during which he dispatched the top seed, world number one Miomir Kecmanovic in a nailbiting singles semi-final.

And this week Nico announced that he was withdrawing from next month's junior Wimbledon, at which he would have been among the top seeds.

The build-up at Roland Garros reached its peak last Friday, when Kuhn inflicted a rare defeat on Kecmanovic, then teamed up with Piros to plough through two tough doubles matches and set up a Saturday showdown with Thomas and Kirkov.

Austrian-born Kuhn, whose colourful background embraces a German father, Russian mother and Spanish residency since he was three months old, went into Saturday's matches on the back of nine straight wins over the previous five days. But after effectively playing EIGHT sets of pressure tennis on Friday, something had to give.

The crunch came in his singles showdown on Saturday morning with the lanky Popyrin, whose route to the final had been eased by an early exit from the doubles and a relatively easy singles semi-final against Spain's Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.
Ironically, Kuhn might well have won the singles crown had he accepted an offer from Piros to ease his playing burden by withdrawing the partnership from the doubles.
Nico had been urged by his family not to take on the enormous task of competing for both the singles and doubles titles. And as his schedule began to get out of hand, Piros – who had already been knocked out of the singles - offered to abandon his own progress by withdrawing the partnership from the doubles.
Kuhn, who was 17 in March,  will be eligible to play at junior level until the end of 2019 but says he will no longer compete  in 18-and-under tournaments after pulling out of next month's junior Wimbledon in the wake of his Paris exertions.

He would have been among the top seeds for the junior singles title at Wimbledon but the lure of full-time professionalism and stronger opponents has not surprisingly won the day.

"No more junior tennis for me,'' he joked in an email to me this week. "It is all work and no pay and I am done with it!''

Kuhn and his back-up team, headed by coach Pedro Caprotta, will now focus all their attention on the men's circuit and maximising Nico's assault on the ATP rankings. 

He is currently listed 521 in the world behind No.1 Andy Murray and has targeted a place in the top 200 by the end of the year, which could well make him the highest ranked 17 year old on the planet.

10 June 2017

Weary champion Nicola Kuhn counts cost of too much tennis

Shining stars: Zsombor Piros (left) and Nicola Kuhn celebrate their French Open junior doubles success
Exhausted tennis hero Nicola Kuhn missed out on becoming a double Grand Slam champion on Saturday after refusing his playing partner's offer to help ease his path to the French Open singles title.

All-action Kuhn and Hungarian teenager Zsombor Piros, the top seeds, went on to win the junior boys' doubles crown at Roland Garros – but a near-impossible playing schedule during the week eventually cost Nico a 7-6 6-3 defeat in the singles final.

Paris singles champ Alexei Popyrin (left) with runner-up Nicola Kuhn 
Torrrevieja-based Kuhn, 17, one of the tennis world's top emerging talents, had been urged by his family not to take on the enormous task of competing in both singles and doubles. And when all-conquering Nico found himself facing a bottleneck of THREE important matches on Friday, Piros – who had already been knocked out of the singles - generously offered to abandon his own progress by withdrawing the partnership from the doubles.

Ever-keen Kuhn decided, however, to take on the near-impossible triple challenge and went on to win all three matches – a singles semi-final against world No.1 Miomir Kecmanovic plus a doubles quarter and semi-final.

The strain of arguably the most exhausting schedule faced by any competitor at Roland Garros finally took its toll on Saturday morning, when a clearly weary Kuhn lost 7-6 6-4 to lanky Australian Alexei Popyrin in the singles final.

Three hours later came the happy ending as he and Piros took the boys' doubles crown, convincingly beating American duo Danny Thomas and Vasil Kirkov 6-4 6-4 in the final.

Kuhn will be eligible to play at junior level until the end of 2019 but is unlikely to compete in under-18 tournaments after next month's Wimbledon.

Currrently ranked 529 places behind world number one Andy Murray, he has targeted a place in the ATP top 200 this year – an achievement that could well make him the highest-ranked 17-year-old in the world.

9 June 2017

Grand Slam kid Kuhn, 17, chases French tennis double

Spanish tennis sensation Nicola Kuhn beat the world's No.1 junior in three nailbiting sets to reach his first Grand Slam final in Paris today.

The 17-year-old Torrevieja superkid defeated US-based Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic 7-6 2-6 7-6 - extending his winning run of matches at the 2017 French |Open to eight junior singles and doubles matches.

A couple of hours after beating Kecmanovic at Roland Garros, Kuhn was back on court with doubles partner Zhombor Piros - beating American pair Sam Riffice and Gianni Ross 6-4 6-4 to advance to his second final of the day.

Kuhn, who won his first professional title in Hungary two weeks ago and has since leapt to 530 in the ATP men's rankings, has now lost just one of his last 13 singles matches, eight of which have been on the professional circuit.

Blond-haired Nico, who was 17 in March, fought back impressively against Kecmanovic after going a service break behind to the American-based Serb in both the first and final sets. The Innsbruck-born Spaniard, son of a German father and Russian mother, went on to win the tiebreaks 7-5 and 7-4 to demonstrate that intense pressure brings out the best of him. 

In the boys' singles final, he will face Australia's Alexei Popyrin,  who beat Spaniard Alejandro Davidovitch Fokina 6-4 6-2 in the other semi.

8 June 2017

Semi special Kuhn on path to double tennis glory in Paris

Nicola Kuhn confirmed his status as one of the world's hottest young tennis talents by storming into the Junior French Open semi-final at Roland Garros on Thursday morning.
And on a sensational day during which the Torrevieja kid had to play THREE matches, he and playing partner Zhombor Piros also stormed into the last four of the junior doubles.
Kuhn, who has now chalked up seven successive victories at Roland Garros, thrashed Australian contender Blake Ellis in a morning singles showdown – 'bageling' the 2016 Australian Open doubles champion 6-0 in the first set to crown a week of triumphs.
   In earlier rounds he despatched German Marvin Moeller (7-5 6-1), Japan's Naoki Tajima (5-7 6-2 6-4) and Chun Hsin Tseng of Taipei (6-1 6-3).
Kuhn, 17, was seeded 11 in the boys' singles, despite holding an ATP world ranking at senior level bettered only by top seed Miomir Kecmanovic  of Serbia, who will face Nico in Friday's semi-final.
The seedings were no doubt influenced by Nico's lack of junior action this year as he concentrates on climbing the ATP men's ladder. Roland Garros is his first junior tournament of 2017, as a result of which has seen him drop in the rankings from world number five to number 96.

Meanwhile, Kuhn and Hungarian Pilos - the top seeds - eased their way into the doubles semis with TWO victories on a day when Kuhn saw more action than any other player in the entire tournament.

 They had to fight back from a set down in both matches, winning the deciding tie-break sets 10-2 and 10-5 respectively.
Kuhn, who rarely plays doubles, has been in blistering singles form since teaming up with his old coach Pedro Caprotta at Torrevieja Tennis Club earlier this year. He spent five years living and training at former world No.1 Juan Carlos Ferrero's Equelite Tennis Academy in Villena before the switch.
' 'I wanted to make a change because I thought it would be best for me and my tennis,'' says Nico. “At the moment it is proving so. These things happen, there are times when you need a different direction and look for a change.''
Kuhn, who recently became only the second player born this century to win a men's professional title, is currently ranked 530 by the ATP. American-based Kecmanovic is ranked 466 but it is honours even in previous contests, Kuhn having beaten the Serb in three sets in Osaka in 2015 and Kecmanovic reaping revenge, also in three sets, in last year's Junior US Open quarter final. 

24 May 2017

All systems pro as Kid Kuhn joins tennis elite

TORREVIEJA tennis sensation Nicola Kuhn has joined the elite list of juniors to win a men's professional title – just two months after his 17th birthday.

Blond-haired Kuhn, youngest player in the entire draw, thrashed Davis Cup star Attila Balasz 6-4 6-0 in a one-sided final to take the $15,000 Hungary F2 Futures crown on the shores of picturesque Lake Balaton.

Top-seed Balasz, 11 years older than the 6ft 1in Kuhn and seven times champion of Hungary, had no answer to Nico's versatility and confidence as the Spanish teenager powered to victory in just 104 minutes.

Hungary F2 Futures champion ...and Nico is hungry for more success  
the previous four days, unseeded Kuhn had seen off four other experienced east European pros, all of them at least three years his senior,

Saturday's glorious achievement came just two weeks after Nico produced the shock of the Mutua Madrid Open in beating world number 61 Nikoloz Basilashvili 7-5 6-0 in the qualifying competition.

The Basilashvili win catapulted him exactly 100 places up the ATP ladder to world number 612 – and the 18 ranking points he earned for Saturday's Futures victory in Hungary will lift him to the fringe of the top 500 when next week's rankings are announced.

Kuhn, who has targeted a top 200 ranking by the end of this year, has been virtually unstoppable since severing his six-year tie with the prestigious Equelite Tennis Academy in Villena earlier this year.

The academy, run by former world No.1 Juan Carlos Ferrero, was a major influence in Innsbruck-born Nico's development – but constant commuting between La Mata and Villena took its toll on him and his parents, who moved to the Costa Blanca when Nico was three months old. The family eventually decided to put Nico's future into the hands of Torrevieja-based Pedro Caprota, the man who coached him before he moved to Villena, along with a new fitness coach, Cristian Ramajo, a new nutritionist and a new physiotherapist.

Nico is now playing the best tennis of his life and becomes only the second player born this century to win a pro title. He began the year as the world's fifth-ranked junior, but is now concentrating on climbing the ATP rankings list and thus avoiding the qualifying rat-race at senior level.

Top team: Nico with coach Pedro Caprota
I wanted to make a change because I thought it would be best for me and my tennis,'' he says of the decision to leave the Ferrero set-up. “At the moment it is proving so. These things happen, there are times when you need a different direction and look for a change.''
Nico, who is seeded number five at this week's F3 Hungary Futures tournament at Balatonalmadi, plans to compete in only two junior competitions this year – the French Open and Wimbledon.

His lack of recent action at junior level has seen him drop from number five to 28 in the world rankings. However, he's more than happy with the compensation of having climbed almost 200 ATP places this month.

Balasz was ranked almost 400 slots higher than Kuhn before Saturday's final - but the ease of Nico's victory in Hungary and the earlier win over Basilashvili suggests that the Torry teenager is a far better player than his current ranking suggests.

''Right now the biggest handicap for me is the physical one,'' he confesses as he prepares to take on the biggest, strongest and most experienced stars of men's tennis. “It is something that the team and I are training to improve. The opponents I have faced recently are already men - and I am still a child.

Right now my priority is to win the maximum possible matches and to keep improving''.