Tournament director and Bay Club SF Director of Tennis Ross Wisser wasn’t exaggerating or indulging in hype when he told IT that the response to Mukesh Patel’s KPSF Open was “unbelievable” – the singles final of the $100,000 ATP Challenger dedicated to the memory of Bay Area tennis lover Kunal Patel attracted a standing-room only crowd to the popular club, with fans and onlookers coming up with all kinds of creative ways to sneak a peek at the action.
The final itself was a memorable battle, with China’s Ze Zhang using his flat two-handed backhand to rifle winners past Canadian Vasek Pospisil and gain a 7-5, 3-6, 6-2 victory. While the lanky crowd favorite Pospisil served big, Zhang had the advantage off the ground, especially on the backhand side, where he was more consistent and capable of grabbing control of points.
Pospisil – who en route to the final knocked out young American hopefuls Reilly Opelka, Frances Tiafoe and Michael Mmoh – went up a break in the early stages of the first two sets, but even in the second Zhang rallied back briefly before the Canadian regained the upper hand. The third set was smooth sailing for Zhang, whose shotmaking – including a pivotal passing shot – garnered “oohs” and “ahs” from appreciative fans.
Zhang’s win capped an eight-day campaign – he came up through qualifying to become only the second Chinese player, after Di Wu last January, to win an ATP Challenger Tour event. Not only that, but he competed in the doubles final as well, where he and countryman Mao-Xin Gong fell to Aussies Matt Reid and John-Patrick Smith. In the wake of the 2013 closure of the SAP Open, the enthusiastic response to the KPSF Open proved beyond a doubt that the Bay Area is eager to host top-flight men’s tennis.