Challenger Q&A: Klahn Captures Winnetka Crown
In 2013, Bradley Klahn stepped onto the hard courts of Winnetka and reached his first ATP Challenger Tour final.
Six years later, the American finally found his way to the winners' circle in the Chicago suburb. Klahn completed a perfect week at the Nielsen Pro Tennis Championships with a 6-2, 7-5 victory over Jason Kubler on Sunday, capturing his eighth Challenger crown.
Klahn, who was mired in a significant slump entering the week, having lost nine of 10 matches since early April, rediscovered his top form in a hurry. The California native did not drop a set en route to securing both the singles title and the doubles trophy alongside JC Aragone. Not only did he defeat the always dangerous Kubler in the final, but he also topped fourth seed Denis Istomin and sixth seed Bjorn Fratangelo along the way.
Klahn extends his win streak in Challenger finals to three straight, having prevailed exactly one year ago in Gatineau, Canada, followed by a season-ending triumph on the hard courts of Houston. The 28-year-old rises to No. 84 in the ATP Rankings and will look to continue climbing as the U.S. summer hard court season kicks into high gear.
The American spoke to broadcaster Mike Cation following the final...
This is the second time you're in the final in Winnetka. It has to feel good to come back and get the title.
It's a great feeling to come out on top this time around. Winnetka is always a special place for me. It was my first Challenger final here in 2013. I have family not too far down the road and coming back to midwest I just love it here. The people and just the whole tournament is great. It's a great springboard for my summer. I'm really excited for what the rest of the summer holds.
It was a weird second set in the final. You were cruising, up a set and a break, but the forehand got a little shaky. All of a sudden, everything was on his terms.
I feel like I lost my energy a little bit. Up 3-1, I was thinking a little ahead of myself. I was serving really well and he didn't have a great read on it. I was trying to force first serves and put too much pressure on myself. I thought my feet stopped a little bit and I didn't have the same energy on my forehand. I let him back into the match and allowed him to dictate the course of the points. But, that being said, I went into scrap mode and just make some balls. Just to show him that while I may have lost my game a little bit, mentally I was going to be competing for every point. It was a matter of time.
It was a weird situation today, because you had a five-set epic at Wimbledon between Djokovic and Federer. Roger was trying to serve it out in the fifth, you walked by and I said to you, 'Hey, you're not watching the end of the match?' You said to me that you had your own final to focus on. It's one of these weird situations and it shows how important every final is, regardless of the stage or level.
Obviously they are two of the greatest ever and it's a huge match. But for me, it's about staying in my routine like any other match. It's a much smaller occasion, but this was a huge thing for me to get over the hump and get some match wins and a title. Like I said, it's a great way to kick off the summer and keep the momentum that I made on the grass. I had things to do to make sure I took care of my preparations before my match. My focus today was on the 2pm final and getting the job done.
You've been open with your anxiety. How do you manage that in a final?
There's always more nerves and anxiety that comes with a final. I've done well enough over the years in finals and I've been fortunate enough to come through victorious on a few occasions as well. I know that when I came back from injury, I lost my first two or three finals, which was a burden to overcome. That is, not just getting there, but wanting to finish the job. It's often much easier said than done.
It's a big deal to be in a final and these opportunities don't come every week. It's important to acknowledge that and embrace it more. You're going to feel a little tight and you may not bring your best stuff. Some of those short forehands and slice backhands are going to happen, but that's perfectly fine. The ultimate goal is to get the win. I did that well and managed the stresses and anxieties.
It hasn't been the first half of 2019 that you wanted. How does a result like this help you going into the U.S. hard courts?
There's no way to sugarcoat it. It hasn't been the start to the year that I envisioned in the first six months. It's been a struggle with getting off course and losing my game. I was a little unsure of myself. But I thought that even on the grass, in Antalya and Wimbledon, I just had a lighter attitude towards everything. I enjoyed being out there. Just getting a match win in Turkey freed myself up. I'm still here and a Top 100 player. It reminded me of some of the things I do well on court.
With the match at Wimbledon, Goffin had a great tournament. His results speak for themself. Just to get out there with him, knowing that I needed to play my 'A' game to have a chance to win. I did that, playing without hesitation and aggressively. The result wasn't what I wanted, but it gave me confidence going into the hard-court summer. Then, getting the win in singles and doubles in Winnetka has extra meaninig considering what I've gone through the past six months. Now I'm going to enjoy it and go on to Newport and build each week. There's always a next week in tennis.
How does confidence work for you after a title? This is No. 8 for you, so how do you try to capitalise on it? And also for the reverse side, when you're in such a bad spot, how do you try to get out of a negative streak?
To capitalise on it, the biggest thing is using it as confidence and just taking all the little victories from this week. It's a huge accomplishment. The way I positioned my game is something that I can build on each week. That said, not every week is going to go this way. There are going to be first round losses too. It's about managing those emotions and taking a positive from a loss just as much as winning a title. If my game is improving and I'm feeling more confident throughout the whole match, that's where I know that I'm building momentum.