Congrats to Alex for entering the top 150 for the first time in his career.
BINGHAMTON — Alex Kuznetsov readily admittedly that had his opponent Stephane Bohli not retired with an injury during their second-round match Wednesday, he might not have even been playing in Sunday’s singles final of the Levene, Gouldin & Thompson Tennis Challenger.
Good fortune may have kept him in the tournament. Good play got him a championship.
Kuznetsov outlasted Bradley Klahn in a match that last just over two hours, capturing the LG&T title with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 victory at Recreation Park.
It was his second Pro Circuit title of the season for the 26-year-old American, and gives him the early lead in the four-tournament Pro Circuit series in which the best performing American will earn a wild card into the U.S. Open. The victory followed back-to-back straight sets victories for Kuznetsov, including a 6-1, 6-4 victory over top-seeded Rhyne Williams in Saturday’s semifinal.
“It was a tough match, I think I played my best that I have the whole week,” said Kuznetsov, the sixth seed who was ranked 157th in the ATP World Tour rankings coming into the week. “I think my serve got me out of a lot of tough moments. Bradley’s got a really explosive game, I couldn’t leave too many second serves hanging against him.”
Kuznetsov did serve well. He was broken only once the entire match, that coming in the second set.
In the third set, he didn’t face a single break point. Klahn, however, was facing a seemingly constant battle throughout the match to hold his serve.
The fifth seed and 161st-ranked Klahn finally paid the price for good in the third set when he was broken to fall behind 4-2 following a gorgeous volley by Kuznetsov off a passing attempt by Klahn. Kuznetsov then held serve the rest of the match in prevailing.
“I felt my serve let me down today,” said Klahn, who faced 16 break points on his serve compared to just three for Kuznetsov. “I was able to come up clutch on a lot of the break points and did a good job of competing… but when you put yourself in that situation over and over again, you’re bound to come up short on one of them.
“You can’t give a good player like that too many chances on your serve.”
Both players held serve through the first eight games of the match before Kuznetsov got a break when Klahn double-faulted while serving at 15-40 in the ninth game. Kuznetsov easily held serve in the next game to win the first set, 6-4.
Kuznetsov appeared positioned to gain control in the second set. With the set knotted at 3, Klahn faced three break points on his serve, but managed to get out of the jam and hold. He then broke Kuznetsov’s serve to go up 5-3 before holding serve to tie the match at a set apiece.
At that point, Kuznetsov thought back to his second-round match with Bohli, in which Kuznetsov lost the first set 6-2 before Bohli had to retire with a groin injury.
“I was telling myself I had nothing to lose, I could have been out of this tournament in the second round,” Kuznetsov said. “So just take it how it goes, I felt a little relaxed with you and my play picked up.”
It wasn’t a lost day for Klahn, who was seeking to become the first player in the 20-year history of the tournament to win both the singles and doubles titles in the same year. He teamed with Michael Venus to defeat the top-seeded pair of Adam Feeney and John-Patrick Smith, 6-3, 6-4, in the doubles final.
“Anytime you get to play for two championships on the last day, it’s a good week,” Klahn said. “You want to get both but Alex played a really good match. I was able to shake it off well, get that taste out of my mouth and end the week on a great note.”