16-year-old Rudolf Molleker writes history in Hamburg

Tennis - Rudolf qualified for the main draw, and will be the first player born in 2000 who played an ATP match

by Jovica Ilic
16-year-old Rudolf Molleker writes history in Hamburg

Rudolf Molleker, born in 2000, is one of the most talented players in Germany and it was perfectly normal to see him in the qualifying draw of the ATP 500 event in Hamburg (he is ranked 926th). This 16-year-old is currently the 5th best player of his generation, after Felix-Auger-Aliassime, Nicola Kuhn, Alen Avidzba, and Yshai Oliel, but there's something he will achieve before any of his coevals.

Namely, Rudolf prevailed against 2014 champion Leonardo Mayer by 7-6 3-6 6-3 in 2 hours and 20 minutes to enter the main draw, becoming the first player born in 2000 who will perform in an ATP match! In addition, Rudolf is the 10th youngest qualifier in the ATP tournaments since 1990, even younger than Rafael Nadal.

This is a huge step forward in the development of this promising youngster, as he never had a chance to experience the action at this level, playing only on the Futures Tour so far and winning 11 matches, reaching 1 semi-final last year.

In June, Rudolf won 2 Grade 1 junior titles on clay (he is a former Top 10 in juniors) and that was perfect preparation for Hamburg, where he defeated Casper Ruud and Leonardo Mayer en route to the main draw, where he will face Russian Karen Khachanov on Tuesday.

Molleker really had to dig deep against much more experienced Argentine, serving at only 55% and facing 12 break points. He managed to save 10 of these, and he could convert only 2 break points out of 10 he created, as they were engaged in a close battle from start to finish.

In fact, Mayer won 7 points more, but obviously not the most important ones. Leonardo converted his 4th break point in the 5th game to open up a 5-3 gap, but he lost his serve in game 10 while serving for the set, as Rudolf showed great mental strength for such a young player.

Carried by this boost, German won the tie break 7-2, scoring 2 mini-breaks, and this was probably the crucial moment of the entire encounter. In the second set, Mayer lost just 6 points on serve and he earned 6 break points, finally converting the last one in game 8, moving 5-3 in front and sealing the set with a love service game a few minutes later.

He was now the favorite to win the whole match, but Rudolf simply refused to surrender, giving his best in order to stay in touch. The crucial moment occurred in the 6th game when teen broke for a 4-2 advantage, and he saved a break point in game 9 to bring the victory home, punching a ticket for the main draw, taking some nice amount of points and the opportunity to play an ATP 500 event, probably on the Centre court on Tuesday.

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Rudolf Molleker