Saturday, 15 July 2017

Shades of Becker as Nicola Kuhn, 17, joins ATP champions elite

.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 peak 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 four months. 

That's three 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 Braunschweig 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  Croatian 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
“I am really tired right now, but extremely happy,” he said afterwards. “I really enjoy the support from the spectators. That’s great and helps my game.”
Nico started every round as underdog against players 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 will lift him to around number 263 in the world when the new rankings are announced next 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"

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Kuhn and Kecmanovic: 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.'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.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Weary tennis champ Kuhn pulls out of Wimbledon

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.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Tennis superkid Nico is Juan to watch at Wimbledon

SIMPLY THE BEST: Nicola Kuhn (left) on the training court with his mentor, ex-world No.1 Juan Carlos Ferrero

TENNIS tug-o'-war kid Nicola Kuhn celebrated his official switch to Spanish citizenship by winning the nation's top  junior tournament on Sunday. And in the process he blew away the challenge of top-seed Jay Clarke, the Derby youngster being touted in Britain as a future Andy Murray. 
Just three weeks after his 16th birthday, the most prodigious young talent in Spain won the Juan Carlos Ferrero Trophy at Villena – the country's only Grade 1 tournament for players aged 18 and under. 
It was his second tennis crown in a row after he bagged the Grade 2 title at Vinaros, near Castellon the previous week.
And to emphasise his huge talent, the superfit six-footer from Torrevieja was the youngest competitor in each tournament.
The back-to-back titles earned Kuhn a mammoth 250 ITF ranking points, rocketing him to No.21 in the world rankings, one of only two players in the top 100 born in the 21st century.  His success has also and providing a timely morale-booster for his first tilt at the French Open at Roland Garros next month.
The son of a German father and Russian mother, Nico and his family have lived in Torrevieja since he was three months old. However, he switched his tennis allegiance to Germany when the country he regards as home felt unable to help with his colossal travel and equipment costs.
Over the past four years the Kuhn kid has led the German juniors to a string of successes, including the Final of last year's Junior Davis Cup, in which he was voted the tournament's Most Valuable Player.
Despite those successes, Nico never felt totally comfortable playing for Germany, even though he speaks the language fluently, along with English and Russian.
I have always felt more Spanish than anything – and Spain has always been my home,'' he says. And with major sponsors like La Liga, Nike and Yonex now backing his progress, last year he began the process of switching to playing under the Spanish flag.
The process proved to be far more complicated than Nico and his parents had expected – not least the red tape involved in obtaining a Spanish passport in addition to the one Nico already had.
The official switch finally came last week, coinciding with the Juan Carlos Ferrero tournament – which also happens to be his 'home' base. He has trained and studied at former world No.1 Ferrero's's academy since he was 12 and his victory in Sunday's final against fellow Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina confirmed him as Spain's top junior player.
The manner of his victory in the final was not ideal, Fokina retiring with a back injury with Kuhn takng the first set 6-3 and leading 1-0 in the second set.
But the No.7 seed had been in supreme form all week, as epitomised by his 6-1, 6-3 thrashing of 17-year-old Clarke, Britain's No.1 junior,– in the quarter-final.
Nico, who began 2016 ranked No.70, is well ahead of schedule in his declared aim of reaching the world Top 10 this year. He has also set his sights on climbing into the ATP's top 600 and providing a springboard to fulfilling his lifelong dream of becoming a top professional player.
At his current rate of progress, it seems merely a matter of when, rather than if King Kuhn will achieve his ultimate ambition. He has already sampled the Grand Slam atmosphere at the 2015 US Open and this year's Australian Open. 
Now he feels he is ready to make a serious challenge for a major junior title - and  has earmarked Wimbledon in July as his prime target this summer.
He has little or no experience of playing on grass but will practise on carpet to replicate the All England Club's surface. And he says: "I believe I can do well there.'' 

Saturday, 6 February 2016

A touch of grass: Nico the new Nadal eyes Wimbledon take-off

Tennis sensation Nicola Kuhn aims to put the experience of his 21,000-mile round trip to the Australian Open  to good use - by soaring to new heights in his quest to become Spain's next Rafa Nadal.

And the Costa Blanca-based son of a German dad and Russian mum  has a hunch that Wimbledon 2016 could be the tournament that launches him as a genuine Grand Slam contender of the future.

Nico, one of only two 15-year-olds in the world's Top 50 juniors, celebrated his flying visit to the Southern Hemisphere's only Grand Slam tournament by reaching the Junior Doubles quarter final in Melbourne.

That unexpected success alongside Japan's top junior Toru Horie followed a singles horror show in which Austrian-born Nico failed to progress beyond the last 64 after being given the medical all-clear to compete following a foot stress fracture.

Just being there in Melbourne was a great experience but I definitely needed more preparation time,'' he told me just hours after arriving back in Spain. “One thing is for sure. Next year I will try to get there a week before the tournament.''

In a ploy designed to counter the effects of jet-lag, blond six-footer Kuhn – a top pupil of former world No.1 Juan Carlos Ferrero's Equelite Tennis Academy in Villena, near Valencia - stayed up all night at home in Torrevieja immediately before boarding his flight from Madrid to Doha en route to Australia.

DOUBLES DELIGHT: Nicola Kuhn (right) and Toru Horie
The outcome of the eat now, sleep later exercise was particularly hard to swallow as, three days later, Nico was beaten by Canada's Jack Mingjie Lin after powering into a commanding 4-1 first-set lead in his opening match in Melbourne.

Lin went on to hit a streak of sensational form to take the match 6-4 6-3 and the lad from La Mata, who speaks Spanish, English, German and Russian fluently, generously conceded: “You can't do a lot to break someone's serve when your opponent is banging down three aces in his service games.''

However, Kuhn's overall game was about to come up with an unlikely ace of its own – a winning doubles partnership with Horie.

Playing two matches in one day has been a bit too much physically in my career so far,'' Nico admits. “Now I find I can handle that sort of demand, so when Toru Horie suggested we partnered up for the Australian Open, I thought 'why not?' We had a tremendous match against each other in the Junior Davis Cup finals in October, when I won after saving two match points, and we also get on pretty well together.

Our first match was a little crazy,'' reflected Nico on the new Horie alliance. “Basically we were both playing our own game but as things settled, it seemed to work OK and we started to feel more like a team.''

The first-round victory over Turkey's Irgi Kirkin and Aussie Alexei Popyrin and a shock success against No.4 seeds Yousef Hossam and Alberto Lim, took the unlikely lads into the last eight.

Kuhn and Horie finally capitulated to the eventual champions, local heroes Alex De Minaur and Blake Ellis, but Nico believes he and the highly-ranked Horie are destined for more success as a doubles pair.

Kuhn, who will be 16 next month, still has three more years' eligibility as a Junior, though his involvement with the ITF circuit is likely to be limited from now on as he pushes to climb the official Association of Tennis Professsionals ladder.

My target is to be in ATP top 600 by the end of the year,'' he says, ''and also hopefully to reach the Junior Top 10.''

Climbing 1400 places up the ATP ladder (he is currently ranked 2009) will probably necessitate winning two Futures tournaments against adult professional opposition.

However, he already has enough ranking points to qualify for the main draw of all four junior Grand Slams and sees this summer's Wimbledon as the brightest ray of sunshine on the immediate horizon.

The next Grand Slam challenge is the French Open at Roland Garros but Wimbledon is the one I am really looking forward to,'' he says. “I think I can do well there, even though playing on grass will be a new experience.''

More immediate on the agenda is the passport that will finally enable Nico to play under the flag of Spain, the country he has always regarded as home. His parents Alfred and Rita moved to Torrevieja when he was three months old and by his third birthday was already wielding his first tennis racket, a gift from mum and dad.

As the silverware mounted while still at junior school, the tennis authorities in his father's homeland Germany offered to finance Nico's rapidly increasing travel and equipment expenses – something their cash-strapped Spanish counterparts could not afford. And for the past four years Kaiser Kuhn has provided the main thrust of a highly successful German junior team.

The pinnacle was his record run of 11 successive singles victories in leading his father's homeland to the Final of the Junior Davis Cup and winning the tournament's Most Valuable Player award into the bargain.

That was to be Nico's final team appearance for Germany pending the long-anticipated arrival of the Spanish passport which will enable him to switch his national allegiance to the country he has always regarded as home.

Ironically, Nico is due to play in an ATP Futures tournament in Murcia on the day those passport formalities are scheduled for completion – adding yet another complication to the mass of red tape he has had to endure to be accepted on the international stage simply as El Nico, the blond  tennis kid from Torrevieja who made good.


Friday, 15 January 2016

German or Spanish? Passport mix-up leaves tennis superkid NIco in limbo

Costa Blanca tennis sensation Nicola Kuhn must compete in next week's Australian Junior Open championship as a German – thanks to Spanish administrative bungling.

Kuhn, arguably the best 15-year-old player on the planet, has lived in Torrevieja since he was three months old. Yet he has been competing in team events for his father Alfred's homeland since he was 12, when the Germans beat the cash-strapped Spanish tennis authorities to the ball by offering to contribute to Nico's ever-increasing travel and equipment expenses.

Two years ago, the blond Costa kid led his adopted country to the World Under 14 title and last October powered Germany into the Junior Davis Cup final, winning 11 singles matches on the trot and picking up the tournament’s Most Valuable Player award.

Despite a truly international background, Austrian-born Nico's heart has always been with Spain. His mother Rita is Russian but he admits: “I have always felt more Spanish than anything.'' 

He has been given permission to compete for Spain as an individual in future tournaments, subject to obtaining a Spanish passport .
The paperwork should have been a formality but as those of us who live here are only too well aware, nothing ever runs smoothly in Spain – and El Nico is still waiting for the elusive document several months after applying for it.

Ideally, he would be competing as a Spaniard in Australia, the first Grand Slam tournament of 2016, but following frustrating bureaucratic delays, his father Alfred concedes: "As long as Nico has to wait for his Spanish passport, he has to play under the German flag.''
Young Kuhn also faces two years in limbo before he can put his German international allegiance fully behind him and compete in team events for Spain.

By the time he was 12, Nico had amassed a treasure chest of silverware in local tournaments. Hooked on tennis since Rita and Alfred bought him a racket for his third birthday, he joined the prestigious Equelite Tennis Academy run by former world No.1 Juan Carlos Ferrero.

For the past three years he has commuted almost daily between his home in La Mata and the academy in Villena. That adds up to a round trip of 208 kilometres for his regular chauffeurs, namely his overworked parents

And after a sensational 2015 and three months before his 16th birthday, Nico began 2016 as one of only two 15 year-olds in the world’s top 50 junior (18 and under) players. He also has a chance to make tennis history in Melbourne as one of the youngest players ever to win a Junior Grand Slam title.
Kuhn's 2015 form earned him enough ranking points to go straight into the main draw for the Australian Junior Open – and after disposing of three of the current World Top 10 in that record victory sequence in the Junior Davis Cup, he looks capable of beating any of the main contenders.
Nico's coach Fran Martinez, intent of keeping the youngster's feet firmly on the ground, plays down suggestions that he is the world’s best player born in the 21st century. Yet official ITF records show that he has achieved more at the age of 15 than Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer,
Andy Murray or Rafael Nadal managed in their youth.

Nico’s mentor Ferrero predicts: "I think he can be a great player and can reach a very high level if he continues working with the same mentality."

Boris Becker, who won Wimbledon at the age of 17, went even further after watching Kuhn in action a couple of years ago. ''He’s a better player than I was at his age,’’ conceded the
German legend.
Kuhn’s remarkable progress in 2015 won him the title of Alicante province's Most Promising sports star – and prompted Spain's national football authority La Liga to provide an extra kick by roping him into a new sponsorship package involving three top junior sports stars.
''I am not 100 per cent happy,’’ Nico says of his current international status as a German player.
''The ITF rule says I can’t play team competitions for Spain for two years - but I can
play under the Spanish flag.
''As for my tennis, I know I can get great results. But I need to work hard and focus on the next year.’’

Saturday, 21 November 2015


                                                           JACK WHITEHALL - comedian 

ISCO - Real Madrid footballer