TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – May 3, 2013 – There hasn’t been better entertainment at the Tallahassee Tennis Challenger than the show Denis Kudla and Ryan Harrison put on Friday night.
Under the lights at the Forestmeadows Tennis Complex, the No. 7 seed Kudla halted Harrison’s eight-match win streak 6-4, 5-7, 6-3 in front of a spirited crowd.
Kudla will meet German Cedrik-Marcel Stebe in the final after the world No. 180 fought off two set points to defeat defending champion and No. 5 seed Tim Smyczek of the U.S., 7-5, 6-0 during the day session.
Kudla outpowered the No. 2 seed, staying consistent down the stretch against the player who had won at the Savannah challenger a week ago.
“I had a little bit of a shaky start, but both of us served well and were controlling the court with our shots,” said Kudla, who will go after his third challenger title Saturday. “There were some interesting points in the third set, but I really tried to go for my opportunities and playing ahead.”
Stebe is a former top 100 player, being ranked as high as No. 71 just last February. He’s playing for his fourth challenger title having captured three in the fall of 2011.
“Right from the beginning I had the feeling that it all depended on me and what I was doing on the court,” Stebe said. “He's a solid player. I just knew that I had to be tough and play a lot of good points with him.”
A doubles semifinal opened the day’s play with Australian Greg Jones and Canadian Peter Polansky beating a pair of Americans in Sekou Bangoura and Reid Carleton 7-5, 6-1.
They’ll take on the top seeds in Austin Krajicek and Tennys Sandgren after the American pair denied Sean Thornley and David Rice of Great Britain with a 6-4, 7-6 (7) win.
The left-handed Stebe took six weeks away from the game earlier this year to nurse a hip flexor injury after taking much of the fall of 2012 off to recover from a bad back. Because of the breaks, his ranking has dropped some 100 places, making him an underdog in Saturday’s final.
“When I had that good run in 2011 winning three challengers, the same thing happened to me: I wasn’t seeded and no one expected me to win,” Stebe recalled. “I just have come in seeing where my game is and fight my way into the tournament. To be underestimated, it helps me a little bit.”
Defending champion Smyczek, the world No. 120, said the German fine-turned his effort against him to come away with the win.
After saving set points, “I felt like he never looked back,” Smyczek said. “He seemed like he really started to find his game and I felt pretty deflated after not converting. He just started steamrolling me, really. To his credit, he fought hard.”
“We’ve never played,” Kudla said of his match up against Stebe. “He’s a solid player who has showed that he can play at the top level. I need to take it to him; he’s not going to give it to me.”
TALLAHASSEE TENNIS CHALLENGER - TALLAHASSEE, FL, USA
APRIL 27 - MAY 04, 2013
RESULTS - APRIL 29, 2013
Singles – Semifinals
 Denis Kudla, United States, def.  Ryan Harrison, United States, 6-4, 5-7, 6-3
Cedrik-Marcel Stebe, Germany, def.  Tim Smyczek, United States, 7-5, 6-0
Doubles – Semifinals
 Austin Krajicek and Tennys Sandgren, United States, def. Sean Thornley and David Rice, Great Britain, 6-4, 7-6 (7)
Greg Jones, Australia, and Peter Polansky, Canada, def. Reid Carleton and Sekou Bangoura, United States, 7-5, 6-1
More about the Tallahassee Tennis Challenger:
The Tallahassee Tennis Challenger is a $50,000 event on the USTA Pro Circuit, April 27-May 4 at the Forestmeadows Tennis Complex. Last year the tournament was won by American Tim Smyczek. Players such as Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Mardy Fish, James Blake, John Isner and Donald Young have appeared at the event, which benefits the D. Mark Vogter, M.D., Memorial Endowment for the Neuro-Intensive Care Unit at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare.
More about the USTA Pro Circuit:
With approximately 90 tournaments hosted annually throughout the country and prize money ranging from $10,000 to $100,000, the USTA Pro Circuit is the pathway to the US Open and tour-level competition for aspiring tennis players and a frequent battleground for established professionals. The USTA launched its Pro Circuit 34 years ago to provide players with the opportunity to gain professional ranking points, and it has since grown to become the largest developmental tennis circuit in the world, offering nearly $3 million in prize money. Last year, more than 1,000 men and women from more than 70 countries competed in cities nationwide. Mardy Fish, Maria Sharapova, John Isner, Caroline Wozniacki, Sam Querrey, Li Na and Andy Murray are among today’s top stars who began their careers on the USTA Pro Circuit.