Top seed Becker ousted in Sacramento Challenger
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- On paper, it was a stunning upset.
Daniel Kosakowski, a 20-year-old wild card who turned pro last year in Sacramento, ousted Benjamin Becker, a 31-year-old veteran seeded first, 7-5, 6-3 Tuesday in the first round of the $100,000 RelyAid Natomas Challenger at the Natomas Racquet Club.
Becker is ranked No. 85 in the world after reaching a career-high No. 38 five years ago. Kosakowski, meanwhile, is No. 304.
Most glaring of all, Becker has won 97 matches on the ATP World Tour, the major leagues of men's professional tennis, to Kosakowski's one.
But considering recent history, Kosakowski's victory wasn't all that surprising on a day featuring the exits of three more seeds, the world's fastest server, a former Sacramento champion and several U.S. prospects. Kosakowski's triumph might have even been predictable. He has been on fire while Becker has been recovering from his latest injury.
Kosakowski, a Los Angeles-area native whose parents are Polish, has won 11 straight matches and 13 of his last 14. He reached the final round of qualifying at the U.S. Open in August, beating 82nd-ranked Aljaz Bedene of Slovenia in the second round. Becker was the second top-100 win of Kosakowski's career.
Last month, Kosakowski won $10,000 Futures tournaments in the Los Angeles suburbs of Claremont and Costa Mesa in consecutive weeks.
"I was working on a lot of things in the summer, and things are starting to click now," said Kosakowski, who turned pro after winning the $15,000 Futures tournament in Sacramento in June 2011. "I got a lot of confidence from the Open. I know what I'm doing on the court and executing my game plan."
Kosakowski, who won 24 of 25 points on his first serve against Becker and displayed a sensational one-handed backhand, added that he worked on his "serve and trying to be more aggressive with the backhand, trying not to give up too many freebies or short balls."
Becker, meanwhile, tore a groin muscle three weeks ago playing in a Davis Cup doubles match for his native Germany. He lost with Philipp Petzschner, but host Germany beat Australia 3-2 on clay to qualify for the elite World Group next year.
"When I came here, I didn't know if I could play," said Becker, a right-hander with a two-handed backhand who underwent two operations on his left elbow last year and missed seven months. "I'm happy I didn't have any pain today, but I'm not happy with the way I played. I expected not to play my best, obviously. That's how it goes when you have a tough first round.
"I saw he won a few tournaments (recently)," added Becker, who's best known for ending Andre Agassi's career in the third round of the 2006 U.S. Open. "He had a lot of confidence, and he could see that my confidence was not very high. I'm trying to get it back and hopefully have a better week next week (in the Tiburon Challenger in the San Francisco Bay Area)."
Despite their age difference, Becker and Kosakowski have a few things in common. Both are undersized former college stars.
Becker, who's listed at 5-foot-10 and 158 pounds, is one of the few pros who played for four years in college. As a junior at Baylor in Waco, Texas, he won the 2004 NCAA singles crown and helped the Bears capture their only team title.
Kosakowski said he's 6-foot and 180, but he appears to be 5-9 and about 160. He turned pro after one year at UCLA, where he was named first-team All-Pacific-10 Conference and the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year.