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Former Pepperdine star wins Pro Classic in three sets

There’s something about Southern California and Claremont that brings out the best tennis in former Pepperdine standout and German Sebastian Fanselow.

Following his three-set win over UCLA freshman Evan Zhu to capture the USTA Claremont Club Pro Classic Futures title, the 24-year-old Fanselow said he was happy and eager to begin his annual September-April residency in Los Angeles.

“I put a lot of pressure on myself over the summer in Germany and things didn’t go well for me,” said Fanselow after his 7-5, 6-7 (3), 6-3 victory snapped Zhu’s eight-match winning streak in Claremont. “I’m just happy to get back on the court and play, and I told myself to go out and have no pressure and take it match by match. I wasn’t feeling great at the start, but I just kept getting better and better.”

Back in January, Fanselow upset top-seeded Nick Meister on his way to a quarterfinal run at the $25,000 Long Beach Pro Circuit Futures tournament.

Said Fanselow, who also made the doubles final in the $10,000 Futures Tournament and will play the next two weeks in Irvine and Fountain Valley. “This is a great starting point. I wasn’t expecting this at all. I just wanted to get a couple of matches in. But that’s how it happens. When I put the least amount of pressure on myself, that’s when I play my best.”

Zhu, an 18-year-old from Irvine, was attempting to win his ninth match in 10 days. After an hour and 20 minute tight first set that saw Fanselow win 7-5, Zhu came back in the second set to record a huge break at 5-all to serve for the second set. But Fanselow broke back to force a tiebreaker and then saw Zhu go up 5-0 before winning it 7-3.

The third set was also tight and played at a very high level. On game-point serving at 2-3, Fanselow won the point of the match on a long rally that took the players side to side and back and forth, with Fanselow finally putting a backhand passing shot down the line.

The ATP World Tour ranked No. 517 Fanselow then broke for 4-3, held serve at love with a game-winning ace and then served out the match.

“Until that point, I couldn’t feel like he was tiring and we were both getting tired together,” Fanselow said of Zhu. “Winning such a physical point at 3-all, I think he went down a little in energy.”

Said Zhu, who was the fifth current or former Bruin in five years to make the final at Claremont. “I think he picked it up a little and I made some mistakes I shouldn’t have made. I’ll try to stay stronger next time.”

Asked what he learned about himself this week, Zhu said, “That I can hang with these guys and it gives me confidence going into the next tournament.”

Fanselow is coached by former Pepperdine men’s assistant coach and former UCLA player Jason Cook, who was on hand at the match sitting a few feet from his former college coach Billy Martin.

Sunday’s Final Singles Result

Sebastian Fanselow, Germany (4), def. Evan Zhu, U.S. (q), 7-5, 6-7 (3), 6-3

Friday’s Final Doubles Result

Alexios Halebian, U.S./Luis Patino, Mexico (1) def. Sebastian Bader, Austria/Sebastian Fanselow, Germany (2), 7-5, 6-4