Can Nicola Kuhn Make a Deep Run in Szczecin?

Nicola Kuhn Szczecin
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Szczecin, Poland–

Spain has a great generation of 1997-born players like Jaume Munar, Carlos Taberner, Pedro Martinez, and Bernabe Zapata Miralles. Before these four and the prospects that are coming to the main tour now like Carlos Alcaraz, for a while it seemed like the future of Spanish tennis would be in the hands of Alejandro Davidovich Fokina and Nicola Kuhn. The former reached the quarterfinals at Roland Garros this year and has fully established himself as a dangerous main tour competitor. The latter made headlines when he won a Challenger title as a 17-year-old, but had a long dip in form. However, it looks like things might be getting better soon for the 21-year-old.

Kuhn had to qualify for the main draw of the 2021 Pekao Szczecin Open. In the opening round, he faced doubles specialist Nathaniel Lammons, who earned his right to be in the draw by signing up as an alternate. The American only rarely plays singles but he was able to keep up with the Spaniard quite well in a 4-6 3-6 loss. Kuhn was also expected to defeat Matteo Martineau, even despite his lack of form this year. It wasn’t the brightest of performances but it was enough for the Spaniard to secure a 6-4 6-1 victory.

The 21-year-old had never faced a Top 50 player in an official match before, and drawing top-seeded Albert Ramos-Vinolas seemed to be the end of the road for him. His countryman won the ATP 250 event in Estoril this year and seemed to be in really good shape coming into the Pekao Szczecin Open. Ramos-Vinolas took the first set 6-1 and broke to lead 2-0 in the second.

Controlling the baseline

“It was a crazy match, because I had never played a top 50 opponent before. From the second set onwards, I played more freely and didn’t allow him to take over the initiative,” said the Spaniard, who managed to turn it around and take the next two sets 6-4 each. The dynamics of the match changed completely as Kuhn completely dominated the baseline rallies. The 21-year-old is famous for his backhand, but it was the other wing that just kept bringing him points. Even closer to the finish line, the Spaniard showed very little signs of nerves.

Can this victory reignite the spark that once made Kuhn one of the most interesting up-and-coming talents? “My goal is to play each match as if it was my last one. I need to give everything I have. This is a great tournament, so I’m even more motivated,” he said after defeating Ramos-Vinolas on Tuesday.

The 21-year-old will now face another qualifier, Alex Rybakov. The lefty American played college tennis for Texas Christian University and has been putting up very solid results on the Challenger tour in the past few weeks. Kuhn will have to avoid a common decline after a great performance, but if he was to maintain the level at which he performed to beat Ramos-Vinolas, the sky is the limit for him in this event.

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materiaƂy prasowe Pekao Szczecin Open