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By Chris Oddo

Alex Kuznetsov (May 2, 2013) -- Last season the French Open wildcard set in motion a period of unprecedented success for American Brian Baker. In 2013, 26-year-old Alex Kuznetsov hopes it will have a similar effect on his career.

10 Things: Alex Kuznetsov

Kuznetsov defeated Peter Polansky at the Tallahassee Challenger on Wednesday, 6-2, 6-7(4), 6-1 to clinch the wildcard Har-Tru USTA Pro Circuit Wild Card Challenge. The three-tournament competition rewards the winner of the most ranking points from Sarasota, Savannah and Tallahassee challenger events with a wildcard berth into the 2013 French Open.

“It’s very exciting. I worked really hard for this,” Kuznetsov said. “I had some good results in Sarasota and Savannah and hopefully I can have one more here in Tallahassee and have a lot of confidence heading to Paris.”

Kuznetsov won the Sarasota Challenger, defeating American Wayne Odesnik in the final, 6-0, 6-2. He reached the quarterfinals of the Savannah Challenger, which gave him a big lead over Odesnik for the coveted French Open spot.

His victory, coupled with Odesnik's loss to Facundo Arguello on Wednesday, sealed the deal.

“Two weeks ago I was really struggling with my game, but after winning in Sarasota, I really gained some confidence,” Kuznetsov added. “This will be my first French Open main draw. I like how they did this challenge; the wild card isn’t given, it’s earned. I’m thankful to the USTA for giving me this opportunity.”

Kuznetsov, a former junior standout, reached the finals of the French Open junior tournament in 2004, losing to Gael Monfils. But a near fatal car crash in 2005 left the young prodigy badly injured and with a titanium rod inserted in his femur. He was 18 at the time, and he returned to tennis later in the year, but the recovery would take time.

Kuznetsov reached a career-high ranking of 158 in 2007. Currently at 176, he's not far from breaking through that number.

But Kuznetsov prefers to focus on process rather than prospects.

“I am not really looking for a rankings goal,” he said in a Q and A with Tennis Grandstand. “It’s really mainly for me to continue improving. I’ve done ranking goals for myself before. But I feel the reason I’ve been doing well these last couple of weeks is because I’ve been really focused on my game and how I’m playing, and not necessarily the rankings. That takes care of itself if you’re playing well, I feel. I just want to keep improving, keep working hard off the court, and keep getting stronger and fitter.”

 In 2012, he lost in the second round of qualifying at the French Open. He has made four career main draw appearances (at the Australian Open and the U.S. Open only), but only one since 2007. At the Australian Open in 2012, he qualified and lost to Rafael Nadal in straight sets.

(Photo Credit: Getty)


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