Australia’s Jordan Thompson has over the past three weeks taken his ranking from no. 108 to no. 73. That is on the back of three-straight finals appearances including two titles from the last two tournaments.
Thompson reached the final at the Calgary tournament, then followed that up with a title in Traralgon and Canberra. All of these tournaments were at the $75,000 USD level. Making the Traralgon final was an impressive feat considering he was playing the Calgary final Monday morning Australian time and had to dash from Canada to Victoria, Australia.
In Thompson’s most recent tournament he defeated Spain’s 18-year-old Nicola Kuhn. It looked like the match would be a cakewalk after Thompson took the first set 6-1. Kuhn was able to fight back to force Thompson to a 6-1, 5-7, 6-4 victory.
The match was played in front of a good crowd at the Canberra Tennis Centre and the wind was less of an issue compared to the previous few days.
Thompson opened by serving out his first game to love. Kuhn, the 2017 French Open boys’ singles runner-up gave up his first game after he netted a forehand when facing two break points. Another unforced error from Kuhn gave Thompson his second break for 4-0.
After holding serve again, Thompson had raced to a 5-0 lead. Kuhn managed to hold serve in the next game to force Thompson to serve out the first set, which he did to love.
It remained to be seen if Kuhn would be able to make a match of this. To his credit, the Spaniard did fight back.
Kuhn took the first game of the second set after Thompson hit a shot just long on game point. In the second game, Kuhn went to the net after Thompson hit short, this showed his attacking intent. He put away a volley for 15-15, then back-to-back unforced errors from Thomson saw Kuhn move to 15-40. Kuhn hit long on his first opportunity. On the next point a long rally ensued and after Kuhn’s shot hit the line, Thompson hit his next shot long to give Kuhn his first break.
Kuhn would comfortably hold serve in the next game to lead 3-0, a bit swing in momentum. Thompson would hold serve and then break Kuhn to get back on serve. Thompson held again for 3-3.
Both players would hold serve two more times to take the score to 5-5. Kuhn started the 11th game with a forehand winner that took the line. An unforced error from Kuhn followed for 15-15. Kuhn again hit a forehand winner to move to 30-15, followed by a service return that was hit long by Thompson. It was looking likely he would hold serve from 40-15. Thompson attempted a drop shot that Kuhn easily chased down and he also hit a drop shot for a winner and a 6-5 advantage.
Thompson opened the next game with an unforced error hitting well long from a backhand. The Australian then picked up the tempo and forced an error from Kuhn for 15-15. Another unforced error saw Kuhn move to within two points from taking the second set. A framed Thompson forehand that landed over the back of the western stand saw Kuhn one point from the set. Thompson served then rushed the net, that caught Kuhn off-guard and he hit into the net. On the breakpoint, Thompson was backing away as he hit the ball and it went into the net. Kuhn let out a roar to signal that he had won the set. Game on…
Kuhn had shown he could match it with Thompson, he had after all defeated the top seed for the tournament the day before in the semifinals, defeating Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka the world no. 91.
The Spaniard, the world no. 336 ranked player opened the serving in the final set and held serve comfortably. Thompson in his first game of the set hit wide then followed that up with a double fault to give Kuhn a sniff of opportunity at 0-30. Thompson got the next point with a wide kicking serve that Kuhn could not get back. After Kuhn tagged the line with his shot he saw an opportunity to charge the net and Thompson hit his shot into the net to set up two break points for Kuhn. Thompson decided to serve and follow his serve to the net. Kuhn ripped a forehand return that dipped sharply and Thompson sent his volley well wide. Kuhn was now up 2-0.
Thompson stepped in to hit some shots close to the line and after forcing Kuhn wide drew the error as Kuhn hit into the net from a wide position. An ace followed for 15-15, then after several shots, Thompson ripped a forehand that sent Kuhn wide. Thompson quickly moved to the next to volley for a winner. An unforced error from Kuhn gave Thompson two break back points. One was saved when Kuhn’s first serve was framed by Jordan with the ball sailing wide. The next point saw Kuhn send a forehand into the net for a 2-1 scoreline with Thompson serving next.
The Australian held and then had Kuhn facing another break point which the Spaniard saved with style hitting a sharp-angled backhand winner. Thompson then sweetly struck a forehand down the line to catch Kuhn, he lunged at the ball seeing it fall short of the net. On break point a Kuhn forehand ballooned off the net and landed on the service line, Thompson stepped in to hit a winner and move ahead 3-2.
The Austrian-born Spaniard took advantage of a Thompson unforced error to open the next game. He followed up with two forehand winners to set up three break points. Kuhn belted a forehand return that Thompson was not able to handle, the players were back on serve and the Austrian was pumped up. He served out to love to edge closer to claiming the title.
A shot into the net by Kuhn which then bounced wide saw Thompson move to 15-30, this was his chance to set up a break point. After a long rally Kuhn dumped the ball into the net. Two break points for the Australian. Kuhn saved one as he got aggressive, he came to the net twice, a lob sent him back the first time, but then he came forward again to volley a winner. Another shot into the net from Kuhn saw Thompson pumping his fist as he knew he was about to serve for the title.
A section of the crowd was cheering wildly for Thommo as he went out to serve for the title, his third for 2018 on the ATP Challenger tour.
Kuhn was not giving in, he moved Thompson around before forcing an error, Thompson answered with a good wide first serve to see Kuhn hit his return long. On the next point, the Spaniard mistimed a forehand and Thompson pumped his fist as the shot sailed well long. The next point saw Kuhn slice his return long once again. Thompson turned to his coach with his fist clenched. He now had a championship point. Kuhn saved one with an inside-out forehand that clipped the line. The title was his when Kuhn poked at a first serve and sent in into the net.
Thompson was the winner, 6-1, 5-7, 6-4. The match lasting 1:55:46. The ace count was 4 to 3 in favour of Kuhn, both players served well, with Thompson landing an impressive 82% of his first serves, and Kuhn serving at 71%.
Kuhn mentioned in the after match speech that he was coming back from a broken leg (toe). He is a player to watch out for in future years. He said his aim is to crack the top-200 before the end of the year to be able to take part in Grand Slam qualifying. Kuhn may have been ranked higher if not for his injury. He had been awarded wildcards for the Barcelona ATP 500 and the Madrid Masters earlier in the year but was forced to miss those events due to his injury.
“It was very tough, I thought I was really good in first set but knew he’d pick up the pace in the second and he definitely made it a battle,” Thompson said.
“There’s not many 18-year-olds in the world as good as him. He’s a much better player than what he’s ranked, he’s still very young so I’m sure we’ll see him rise through rankings.”
“I actually thought last year was better. It has been a little bit of a rough year playing mainly on the Challenger tour,” Thompson said.
“I’ve done really well on the Challenger tour but it’s essentially not where I want to be. You play these events to get into the big ones.
“[Now] is the closest I’ve been [to my career-best ranking of world No. 63] all year, so I’ve been working hard and doing all the right things and am not far away but also not that close.”
The MC pointed out during the presentations that Thompson is the first player since Carlos Berlocq from Argentina to win 50 matches on the ATP Challenger Tour in one season.
Below are more photos from the final. To view even more, or to purchase photos visit https://photos.keatingmedia.com.au/Canberra-Events/Sports/Apis-Canberra-International-4-November-2018-mens-singles/