Slovenian tennis player Blaz Kavcic punched his ticket to the U.S. Open after winning the National Bank Challenger tennis tournament in Winnipeg on Sunday.
The win gave the 30-year old enough ranking points to move into the top 100, which earns him a spot at next month’s grand slam.
Kavcic took on the role as villain in Sunday’s final at the Winnipeg Lawn Tennis Club, as his opponent was Canadian Peter Polansky of Thornhill, Ont. — the first Canadian man to reach the final at the National Bank Challenger event. Kavcic won the final 7-5, 3-6, 7-5 to claim the $10,800 top prize.
"You often play against guys who have home crowds behind them. In tennis, we get used to it so it’s not a big deal. The Canadian people are educated about tennis — they also clapped for me when I made a good point but of course, they would cheer for him more. They weren’t super one-sided so it was easy to play," Kavcic said.
Polansky says it’s always a great experience playing on Canadian soil. Although he had an opportunity to make history by becoming the first Canadian to win the National Bank Challenger, he says he didn’t feel any extra pressure.
"I don’t really think too much about that kind of stuff," said the 29-year old Polansky, who defeated fellow Canadian Brayden Schnur in the quarter-final.
It was Kavcic’s second time in Winnipeg for the event and his second time that he has reached the final. The Slovenian lost last year’s championship game in three sets to Go Soeda of Japan. But Kavcic was close to not returning to Winnipeg for this year’s event, as a broken bone in his foot last year almost cost him his career.
He says the bone is on the side of his foot and that if it was fully broken, doctors would have had to take out the bone and he no longer would have been able to compete. Luckily for Kavcic, a part of the bone was still intact, which meant his career could continue as well.
"To come back in one year and make it back to the top 100, it’s an amazing feeling," he says.
But there’s another reason Kavcic almost skipped out on the event. Last month at the Challenger Fergana tournament in Uzbekistan, Kavcic got sick and had to be put on antibiotics.
He says his physical condition still isn’t where it was before he got sick and that the weeks leading up to the National Bank Challenger, he wasn’t happy with his performance. He was worried if he came to Winnipeg for the tournament, he would "embarrass" himself.
However, his coach wouldn’t take no for an answer.
"My coach convinced me to come here because I played good here last year and he thought maybe I’d get some feel back," says Kavcic, who lost in a Wimbledon qualifier to Riccardo Bellotti on June 26.
Kavcic says he has a couple events before the U.S. Open and that he plans to use them to prepare for the grand slam.
"I want to play grand slams because we all know the money is there," said Kavcic.