APTOS — For a second it looked like Daniel Evans was going to run away with the Comerica Challenger title, but people familiar with American Bradley Klahn knew that he wasn’t out of it yet.
The Stanford standout won his third three-set match of the tournament, 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-4, by surviving a match point in the second set to earn his first challenger win on Sunday afternoon at the Seascape Sports Club.
The 22-year-old, whose birthday is just a week away, had twice made it to a challenger final during this summer, first in Binghamton and then Winnetka, but came up short in both.
On Sunday he finally had the chance to hoist the $14,400 first place check over his head.
“I’m really happy to keep putting myself in this position,” said Klahn. “I hadn’t made it past the quarterfinals of a challenger event before this summer. So to make two finals and be in another final today and finally come through is a really good feeling, and it just shows that I’ve come a long way. That’s what I’m most happy about is the improvement that I’ve made this summer.”
Since graduating from Stanford last year, where he won the 2010 NCAA singles championship, and turning to the pro game Klahn has been making a name for himself. Last year he became the first men’s qualifying wild card to win a round at the U.S. Open in New York. He’s climbed more than 100 spots since the beginning of 2013. He moved from 148 in the world to 123 by winning on Sunday.
“I think that I’ve been playing with a lot more confidence,” said Klahn. “I have a clearer idea of what I’m trying to do on the court, and sticking with that regardless of what happens. I really think that’s the big thing is the confidence, my serve and forehand and also trusting my backhand a little more.”
Klahn will need that newfound confidence in the coming weeks when he sets foot in New York for this year’s U.S. Open. The Poway native earned a wildcard by defeating Wayne Odesnik in the quarterfinal round.
“I had a good result there last year,” said Klahn, “and I think that should give me a lot of confidence going into this year that I can compete at that level.
“Those top 100 guys are tough. Those are the best tennis players in the world. You’re going to have to bring you’re A-game every day.”
Early in Sunday’s match it was Evans who brought in his A-game. After the two players split the first six sets, Evans was finally able to break Klahn’s serve to take the 4-3 lead in the first set. The 23-year-old rising star from England won the next game with ease relying on his serve, and also getting some help from a few errors from Klahn. His streak continued in the next game and he was once again able to break Klahn’s speedy serve.
“(Dan) is a crafty player,” said Klahn. “He serves well, and I really wasn’t getting in any of my return games. That puts pressure on me to always hold serve. I just tried to get back to the basics in the second set. I thought I served really well in the second set.”
In the second set both players had their serve on point, and were trading games back and forth until Evans took the 6-5 lead late in the set. Evans took the 30-0 lead, and looked like he was about to avenge his finals loss from Vancouver from just a week ago, but Klahn kept his composure and fought back into the game by scoring three straight points to take the 40-30 lead.
With a chance to win the game and force the tiebreaker Klahn struggled to return an Evan’s backhand and sent the bright colored ball into the stands as he yelled, “Oh yeah!” Sarcastically.
But Klahn regained his focus and was able to outlast Evans to force the tiebreaker. The tiebreaker was more of the same as neither player was able to break the other’s serve until Klahn made an error to give Evans the 4-3. Again Klahn had to fight back, and once again he delivered.
He won the tiebreaker 7-5, and bought himself another chance at the title.
This time there would be no runner up trophy for the former Cardinal.
For the first time in the match, Klahn was able to break Evans powerful serve, and that was all he would need for the 6-4 set and match win.
Evans was trying to follow in the footsteps of the number one player in the United Kingdom and 2013 Wimbledon Champion Andy Murray, who was a winner at Seascape in 2005. Evans would have been just the second player from the United Kingdom to win the Comerica Challenger.
“It was a really incredible match,” said Klahn. “It was played at a really high level from both of us, Dan played a really great match. He’s a really tricky player. I thought it was a really fantastic match and I though I raised my level when I needed to.”
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Bradley Klahn Comerica Challenger tennis Seascape sports club