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.
Kuhn, youngest player in the entire draw, thrashed Davis Cup star Attila Balasz 7-5 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.
Over 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.
Tha 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 of late 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.
Nico is seeded number five at this week’s F3 Hungary Futures tournament at Balatonalmadi and 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.’