Sunday, August 11, 2013

Klahn cashes in this time for first Challenger title

After winning his first Challenger title, ex-Stanford star Bradley
Klahn poses with tournament player coordinator Brian Cory, left,
and Comerica Bank executive Michael Fulton. Photo by Paul Bauman
   APTOS, Calif. -- Bradley Klahn doesn't have to look far for help managing his ever-increasing prize money.
   His father, Dennis, is the group controller for Teledyne RD Instruments, the leading manufacturer of accoustic Doppler products for aquatic applications, in the San Diego suburb of Poway.
   His mother, Nancy, is a retired certified public accountant who played at Iowa. She introduced Bradley to tennis at the advanced age of 11 by registering him for a summer round-robin league.
   His only sibling, Brian, is majoring in accounting at Santa Clara, where he'll be a senior in the fall. Brian does not play on the tennis team.
   Of course, Bradley knows something about finance himself, having graduated from Stanford last year in economics.
   Klahn took another step in his promising career today with his first Challenger title. Challengers are equivalent to Triple A in baseball.
   Using his wicked left-handed serve and forehand, Klahn outlasted Daniel Evans of Great Britain 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4 in the $100,000 Comerica Bank Challenger at the scenic Seascape Sports Club. Both players were unseeded.
Daniel Evans of Great Britain lost for the second
straight week after holding one or more
championship points. Photo by Paul Bauman
   The victory hardly could have been more gratifying for Klahn. Playing near Stanford, he saved a championship point after losing two Challenger finals last month.
   "I'm really happy that I just kept putting myself in this position," the 22-year-old Klahn, who still lives in Poway, said as he patiently answered questions from four reporters in a 20-minute stand-up interview. "I hadn't made it past the quarterfinals in a Challenger event before this summer, so to make two finals and a semi, and then to be in another final today and finally come through is a really good feeling. It just shows that I've come a long way. I guess that's what I'm most happy with, the improvement over the summer."
   Klahn's college coach, John Whitlinger, and other Stanford supporters made the one-hour drive south to idyllic Aptos on the Pacific Ocean for the final.
   "I had a great four years (at Stanford)," said Klahn, who won the NCAA singles title as a sophomore before undergoing surgery for a herniated disc as a junior. "I had a lot of fun and have a lot of memories. I still have a lot of good friends in the area, so it's nice to come back here. It kind of feels like a second home to me. I've spent so much time in this area. When I do get a chance, I try to see as many of my old friends as I can."
Israelis Jonathan Erlich, left, and Andy Ram, the 2008
Australian Open doubles champions, congratulate
each other after winning the Comerica title.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Next for Klahn is the U.S. Open in two weeks. He clinched a wild card into the year's final Grand Slam tournament by reaching the semifinals of the Comerica Bank Challenger to earn the most ranking points on the summer Challenger circuit.
   It already will be Klahn's third main-draw appearance in the U.S. Open and fourth overall in the past four years. He made a splash at Flushing Meadows last year, becoming the first men's qualifying wild card to win a round in the main draw. Klahn upset left-hander Jurgen Melzer, ranked 36th in the world at the time after reaching a career-high No. 8 in 2011, in five sets before falling to then-No. 14 Richard Gasquet 6-3, 6-3, 6-1.
   "I'm a different player from back then," Klahn said. "I had a good result there last year and was playing well. That should give me a lot of confidence this year that I can compete at that level. Top-hundred guys are tough. You're going to have to bring your A-game every day, but especially with a result like I had here, I'm feeling confident going to New York."   
   Klahn earned $14,400 for winning the Comerica title to bring his career total to $197,888. It's his second-biggest payday after the $37,000 he pocketed in last year's U.S. Open (he forfeited $19,000 after losing to countryman Sam Querrey in the first round of the 2010 U.S. Open as an amateur wild card). Ranked No. 693 when he turned pro in June 2012, he will rise from No. 147 to a career high of about No. 125 when the weekly rankings are released Monday. 
   Klahn called his first meeting with Evans "an incredible match. I thought it was a really high level from both of us throughout the match. Dan played a great match. He's a tricky player. He has a really good slice that he can move you around with, and he's got an all-court game and big serve.
   "I knew it was going to be a tricky match, and obviously him having a match point, I was happy to escape that and get through the tiebreaker. I thought it was a fantastic match overall, and I thought I raised my level when I really needed to."
   It was the second straight week in which Evans, only 5-foot-9 (1.75 meters), lost after holding one or more championship points. He held three in Vancouver against Canada's Vasek Pospisil.
   "That's a little bothersome," lamented the 23-year-old Evans, who owns one career Challenger title. "But this isn't the juniors anymore. You have to suck it up."
   Evans won the last four games of the first set as Klahn committed a flurry of ghastly errors. It appeared Klahn was on his way to a straight-set loss when, in the first game of the second set, he dumped a backhand return of Evans' second serve in the bottom of the net, lost the game at love and yelled in frustration.
   Evans continued his strong play on the first point of the next game. Klahn rushed the net, but Evans hit a dipping topspin shot with his one-handed backhand that was too good.
   From then on, it was a different match.
   Both players held serve to 6-5 for Evans. With Klahn serving to stay in the match, he came within two points of losing four times before Evans earned a match point with a backhand passing shot down the line. Evans squandered it, though, by netting a run-around forehand.
   Klahn finally held serve to force a tiebreaker, which began with Evans double-faulting and ended with the Birmingham, England, native netting an inside-out forehand on his serve.
   In the third set, both players held serve again to 5-4 for Klahn. Evans then suffered his only service break of the match, spraying a run-around forehand on Klahn's first match point.     
   "He's a crafty player," Klahn said, explaining Evans' streak in the first set. "He serves well, and I wasn't making that many returns. That puts pressure on me to always hold serve. He played a couple good games to break me at 3-all and then again at 5-3. I just tried to get back to the basics in the second (set), just take care of my serve. I thought I served exceptionally well in the second and third set."
   Indeed, all of Klahn's eight aces came in the last two sets, and his first-serve percentage in each set rose from 59 to 72 to 81. He committed only one double fault in the match, and that came harmlessly at 3-3, 40-0 in the third set.      
   Evans finished with six aces and eight double faults, but the only double fault that hurt him came at the beginning of the tiebreaker. He was done in by his errant run-around and inside-out forehands.
   "I probably shouldn't have hit (a run-around forehand) on match point," conceded Evans, who will rise from No. 194 to a career high of about No. 170 in the world. "I probably should have sliced. But that shot wins me matches. It lost one for me today."
   Third-seeded Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram, the 2008 Australian Open champions from Israel, won the doubles title with a 6-3, 6-7 (6), 1-0 (10-2) victory over fourth-seeded Chris Guccione and Matt Reid of Australia.
   Guccione, a 6-foot-7 (2.01-meter) left-hander with a devastating serve, played in his fifth consecutive Comerica doubles final. He won the title from 2009 through 2011 with Carsten Ball, a Southern California native who plays for Australia, and lost last year with Frank Moser of Germany. Guccione also captured the singles crown in 2009.

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