Shortly after Madison Brengle took home the women’s singles title at the Oracle Challenger Series Newport Beach presented by RBC Wealth Management, another American stepped on court hoping to make it a double for the USA. Thai-Son Kwiatkowski produced more fireworks than the Fourth of July, with an impressive display of power and serving.
The former University of Virginia Cavalier dispatched Colombian Daniel Elahi Galan 6-4, 6-1 in under an hour, but a last-minute decision a week ago could have changed the story.
“I almost didn’t come to this tournament,” said Kwiatkowski during the trophy ceremony. “I had a really bad week of training last week and my girlfriend dumped me two weeks ago so to win this is amazing.”
He came into today’s final after already achieving a big milestone, as he was previously 0-5 in ATP Challenger semifinals. But he knew not to take his opponent lightly and to focus on his game.
“He qualified for the Australian Open last week so I knew he’s super match tough and playing well. I was incredibly nervous, it was my first ATP Challenger final. I just tried to not think about what was on the line and play every point. It was super difficult, it was a little bit cooler than yesterday. But I hung in there really well.”
In the first set, the American came out firing, capitalized on a key opportunity and held his nerve when his back was against the wall to edge his opponent 6-4.
“I took the opportunity to break and I was able to stave off a couple break points myself. It was really big to get the first set under my belt. I got a little bit more confidence and was playing looser, but it’s always really tough to finish a match under these circumstances.”
The second set was much more straightforward, as Kwiatkowski’s aggression and big serving flummoxed Galan. For the match, Kwiatkowski won 80% of both his first and second serve points and only faced two break points midway through the first set.
“I feel like I served really well this week. When I serve well, I’m going to be tough to beat. I put a lot of work into it last week, so it’s amazing for it to fall into place like that.”
He broke Galan in the third game of the second set and didn’t look back, taking the match 6-4, 6-1. When the last ball was hit, a Galan forehand into the net, Kwiatkowski calmly shook his opponent’s hand, went to his chair and broke down in tears.
“It means so much. It’s been a difficult last few months emotionally. Just to come and play well this week was the only goal, and to win it is unbelievable.”
During the trophy ceremony, he thanked Oracle for helping collegiate players transition into the pro ranks.
“It was really tough for me to transition from college to pros. To go from having a team in an environment where it’s not about yourself, for me I found it a bit tough. But Oracle helps bring that team environment back – they’re really helping the Americans and we’re all embracing that. All the events they put on are really well-run and it’s amazing to be here.”