The week behind us was very successful for the players who never won Challenger title before, as we got 4 new champions at this rank of competition. The most important one came in Braunschweig, where Spaniard Nicola Kuhn (played under the German flag until two years ago) won the title in what has been his only 2nd Challenger tournament in a career! Nicola, born in 2000, is the third player at the age of 17 or under who claimed the crown in 2017, after Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime, and at the age of 17 years and 3 months, he is the 14th youngest champion on the Challenger Tour since 1978! Nicola came to Braunschweig after reaching 2 semi-finals on the Futures, and instead of playing junior Wimbledon (he decided to end his junior career after Roland Garros) he went to Germany to try to qualify for only his second Challenger tournament, ranked 501st.
He scored 2 solid wins to reach the main draw and he continued with a good run, beating Goncalo Oliveira and Carlos Berlocq in straight sets, for the place in the quarter-final. On the same day he beat Berlocq, Kuhn has to come back on the court to play his quarter-final match against Jozef Kovalik, and it turned out to be a real marathon.
The match lasted 2 hours and 42 minutes and the youngster prevailed by 7-6 5-7 7-6, despite being 4-0 down in the final set (he lost 16 out of the first 18 points of the decider)! The closing moments of the match were super excited as well, as Kuhn failed to convert 5 match points, but he managed to win the tie break by 8-6 and to move into the last 4.
There, he took down Marton Fucsovic, ranked 109th, by 7-5 4-6 6-4, for the place in the final, here he faced Viktor Galovic. Croat, who won his first title last week in Recanati, was off to a better start, taking the opening set 6-2 with two breaks before Nicola raised his level in the second set to play much better on his serve, keeping the pressure on his rival.
Galovic got broken in the 11th game and that was all Nicola needed to send the match into a decider, where his rival had to retire due to injury. With this title (Alexander Zverev won his first Challenger here in 2014, also at the age of 17), Kuhn gathered a massive 130 points, propelling himself to 242nd place in the ATP rankings, just behind Felix Auger-Aliassime, the other huge talent born in 2000.
His goal for this season was to crack the Top 200 and it is now clear that he is well capable of doing that, probably a lot faster than he could have imagined. ALSO READ: ATP RANKINGS 17-07-2017: Federer moves to 3rd. The battle for No.1 is on!