Frances Tiafoe celebrates winning a crucial point against Grigor Dimitrov during their 4th round clash at the Australian Open
The Champion of Charlottesville: Denis Kudla Returns For Charlottesville Men’s Pro Tennis Challenger
Steve Fogleman, Tennis Atlantic
Denis Kudla says it’s great to be back in Charlottesville.
“I was on the ATP tour main circuit pretty much all of last year, playing a lot of tour events and my ranking dropped a little bit,” he told me on Sunday in Charlottesville, Virginia. “I’m glad to be back here. I know I’ve played well here in the last couple of years I’ve played and I really look forward to getting going.”
Played well is an understatement for Kudla. The Arlington, Virginia native won the Petit A’s tournament here when he was 9 years old, and won the grown-up version of the tournament, the Charlottesville Men’s Pro Challenger, when he was 20.
“It’s strange that I won my very first tournament here in Charlottesvile when I was 9 years old,” he reflected. “I’m 24 now and still back here playing. It’s pretty special.”
He was practicing with fellow Junior Tennis Champions Center alum Frances Tiafoe before our interview. Kudla was a JTCC prodigy while Tiafoe was a kid growing up in and around the facility. This year, Tiafoe is the tournament’s top seed. I wondered if Tiafoe saw him as a big brother.
“I would say I’ve been around him his whole life,” he replied. “I wouldn’t say big brother, but I definitely try to be some kind of mentor. He’s playing unbelievable and I’m still learning stuff from him.”
Goals for 2017 involve “trying to get back in the top 100 and solidify my spot there again, try to stay healthy, that’s the biggest thing,” he said. “It’s a long road, lots of up and downs, just try to stay away from the downs.”
Cubs or Indians in the World Series?
“I want the Cubs to win, but I think the Indians are going to take it.”
A long-time Philadelphia Eagles fan, Kudla also shared his thoughts on rookie quarterback Carson Wentz. “I like him. He came out a little too hot, but he came back to Earth. I think he’s got a great future.”
Sounds like my assessment of some of the guys on the tour. Kudla opens the tournament against Tommy Paul tomorrow afternoon on courts he’s known since a babe.
Anna Kalinskaya had an easy peasy day yesterday in taking two titles at the ITF International Hardcourts in College Park, Maryland. First up was a two set 6-2, 2-1 win in retirement against Romanian Elena Ruse. The tournament’s top seed, she followed up the singles win with a 6-3, 7-5 doubles title with teammate Evgeniya Levashova, besting the American team of Gabrielle Andrews and Mia Horvit.
After the match, Kalinskaya told me that the timing of the title was fortuitous. “It’s great, because I feel more confident now for the US Open.” She admitted it was a nice treat to have more energy for the doubles match to follow than she normally would.
Her opponent, Elena Ruse, who retired, was still in very good spirits and clutched a Wimbledon towel, a spoil of war from her semifinal run through the junior tournament this summer. Ruse, whose middle name is Gabriela, prefers to be known as Gabby.
“My leg was bad”, she explained. “In the second round, I felt something in my leg, put on some tape and everything was good. Today, I felt so bad. I hope I will be much better for US Open”.
And what about that Wimbledon towel?
“It was my second Grand Slam and I played amazing. I love grass courts and I hope I will be there next year”.
Does she hope to have a special US Open towel to remind her of a great run through New York? “Of course”, she said.
Reilly Opelka, an unseeded American, posted an impressive 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (4) comeback win over Tim Van Rijthoven to capture the boys title. Both players did a nice job of holding serve throughout. Opelka’s serve really bailed him out in the final two stanzas. I missed the end of the match, but I was impressed with the resolve of both players. Opelka reminds me a little of Sam Querrey or John Isner.
Let me give you some reminders about junior tournaments:
1) They hang towels anywhere they can: There’s no one to hand your towel to, so you hang it yourself: from a fence post, for example. But if you’re playing indoors, there is no fence. Then, you find something else. A door knob or a fire alarm will do.
2) The delays of chasing down running balls: They aren’t a bunch of time-wasters in the Juniors like they are in the pros. In fact, they often quick-pitch and sometimes opponents have to tell the player on the other side of the net to slow down. No commercial breaks and speedy changeovers means the matches move quickly. The balls are the one impediment to the smooth progress of the game. No ball kids means everyone is a ball-kid: fans, line judges, and even the Chair will occasionally hop down to kick a nearby ball in a server’s direction. Imagine that in a pro match.
Also, players who want to slow down the pace of a match can do just that depending on how passively they gather up the balls before service. A player about to return serve can also slow down the game depending on how quickly or not they return the ball from their side of the net. It’s a moment to catch your breath, if nothing else.
3) Keep your own score: Just like when you’re playing your buddy on the concrete courts behind the middle school. Like a broken clock, the flip scoreboard is only accurate once every two games when the players flip it on the changeover. We all take electronic scoreboards for granted until they’re gone. Or, you could always ask Colette Lewis of ZooTennis.com. She keeps a reporter’s note book up-to-date with score and stats.
3) The Fans: They’re aren’t too many of them at a match, and they are probably related to the player on court, so watch what you say. Yesterday was unusual in terms of light turnout. The stars of the host Junior Tennis Champions Center had been eliminated in the semis, and the torrential downpour moved the finals inside. And by inside, I mean you had to walk through four buildings to find the courts. I walked through two buildings full of tennis lessons in progress, each time saying thinking, ‘No, this can’t be it’. Finally, I walked into the last tennis barn on the property, saw Colette Lewis, and knew I had arrived!
It was a pleasure to watch Colette at work yesterday. There’s no one like her in the world of tennis, and everything I learned about junior tennis, I learned from her. She also has a very diligent assistant, when he’s not busy with other duties.
For me, this Saturday used to be about Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day in New York. After watching title-match tennis a short drive from home, this seemed like a much better way to spend the Saturday before the US Open instead.
—Stephan Fogleman, Tennis East Coast
Big Fight From Jordi Arconada of @TheJTCC @CitiOpen Final Round Qualies
Stephan Fogleman, Tennis East Coast
Jordi Arconada (Photo: @Tennis_Shots for TennisEastCoast.com)
All in all, Jordi Arconada had a great weekend. Awarded a wild card to his first ATP tour-level event on Thursday, he proceeded to notch his first tour win over Michael Llodra on Saturday on an outer court. Today, he played a full three-set match on Stadium Court, before losing to Alex Kuznetsov 3-6, 6-1, 6-0 in 1:17.
Local fans, friends and Junior Tennis Champions Center classmates and alumni were enthralled with the excitement and the experience his punchy performance provided them this weekend.
Jordi Arconada’s a name to remember.
Tennis fans look forward to seeing him play at many Citi Opens Yet to Come.
N.B. — Chris Levy (@Tennis_Shots) has been on loan to us for the Citi Open. It was a blessing to have him on hand to capture Arconada in action today. Yesterday’s match was over so quickly, the talented photographer never stood a chance to take up his position.
Blink and You’ll Miss It: Jordi Arconada of @TheJTCC Wins Pro Debut in 18 Minutes @CitiOpen
Stephan Fogleman, Tennis East Coast
I was thrilled when he won his first game and then proceeded to grab his first break of serve against tour veteran Michael Llodra. I thought the match would go on for quite some time. This was not going to be a typical blow-out qualifying win by an experienced player over a crafty young upstart. I saw on my phone that Kozlov and Groth were headed for a second set tiebreak and decided to duck over to Stadium Court for a few.
I’m now wishing I hadn’t.
A game later, Llodra called for the trainer and called it quits. Arconada got the win in retirement by a score of 3-2.
A win is definitely a win, especially when you’ve made a total of $104 on the ATP tour and your opponent has banked $8.45 million.
He’s one match away from joining his very good friend, Francis Tiafoe, in the main draw.
Tomorrow, Arconada takes on another tour vet in Alex Kuznetsov in an All-American affair. OK, an All-Americas affair. Though they reside in Maryland and sister Usue now represents the USA, Jordi is still very Argentinian. The ‘Neymar’ jerseys in the crowd should have given that away. (Tip o’ the pen to @ARhyneMoment)
Kuznetsov will be wondering why no one is cheering him on.
Nothing personal, Alex. But this is Big Jordi Country now.
No Sharing the Spotlight @CitiOpen Today For Jordi Arconada
Stephan Fogleman, Tennis East Coast
The Washington Nationals sit in first place atop the National League East. The Washington Kastles go for their fourth consecutive title tomorrow night. Things are so good, DC Sports Fans might forget another show of athletic competition is going on around them this weekend. The Citi Open features 30 qualifying matches today and tomorrow, and admission won’t even set you back $20.
Among the likes of Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper and the retiring Bobby Reynolds, you can add one more name to DC Summer Sports Legend:
Strangely, Jordi Arconada becomes the biggest local name this weekend at Citi Open. Arconada came up short against his good friend and classmate, Francis Tiafoe, at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Maryland last month as part of the Citi Open Wild Card Challenge Final.
Today was supposed to be the day the much-heralded Tiafoe made his ATP debut as a qualifier. That’s what DC fans thought he’d earned by winning the Wild Card Challenge, until the BB&T Atlanta Open threw him a qualifying wild card (and threw a curveball to Citi Open/JTCC fans) last week. He promptly won his first match there, depriving DC fans of being able to say they were there to see it happen.
DC had to do one better, and I’m glad they did. They granted Tiafoe a main draw slot, setting up his historic first on Monday. The qualifying wild card Tiafoe had earned in defeating Arconada went to Arconada, as it should.
Another JTCC prodigy and Jordi’s sister, Usue Arconada, won her first WTA match here last year at Citi Open and was expected to play today. But she’s gone to tear it up in Austin.
That leaves Jordi Arconada as the Big Deal today. Often overshadowed by his sister, Usue, and BFF Francis, it is Jordi who will be lavished with support by area fans this weekend.
Sure, there’s the boisterous and sizable contingent of Virginia Cava-Cheerleaders who will bring the love for UVA’s Justin and Ryan Shane at their first ATP tour-level event appearance, but most eyes will be on Arconada.
For one, he’s 17. Every fan wants to say he saw a future star way back when. He’s also playing Michael Llodra, a 34-year-old Frenchman with 5 ATP titles, and get this….a 10-year old daughter.
Everyone loves the battle of the vet versus the kid. This is that battle.
And for once, a brother of a rising tennis star and best friend of another, he doesn’t have to share the spotlight.
CITI OPEN – WASHINGTON DC, USA
USD 1,654,295.00 (ATP)
USD 250,000.00 (WTA)
28 JULY – 3 AUGUST 2014
ORDER OF PLAY – SATURDAY, JULY 26, 2014
STADIUM COURT start 10:00 am
ATP – Qualifying – S Groth (AUS) vs [WC] S Kozlov (USA)
Not Before 11:30 am
ATP – Qualifying – R Ginepri (USA) vs S Diez (CAN)
ATP – Qualifying – A Kuznetsov (USA) vs [WC] R Shane (USA)
WTA – Qualifying – A Mueller (USA) vs T Townsend (USA)
GRANDSTAND 1 start 10:00 am
ATP – Qualifying – Y Bhambri (IND) vs S Bangoura (USA)
ATP – Qualifying – [WC] J Shane (USA) vs Z Zhang (CHN)
Not Before 1:00 pm
ATP – Qualifying – S Singh (IND) vs E Gomez (ECU)
WTA – Qualifying – [WC] T Black (USA) vs L Chirico (USA)
GRANDSTAND 2 start 10:00 am
ATP – Qualifying – Y Sugita (JPN) vs T Garanganga (ZIM)
ATP – Qualifying – J Donaldson (USA) vs G Lama (CHI)
WTA – Qualifying – M Larcher de Brito (POR) vs S Dubois (CAN)
WTA – Qualifying – T Smitkova (CZE) vs P Rampre (SLO)
COURT 1 start 10:00 am
ATP – Qualifying – A Benneteau (FRA) vs I Marchenko (UKR)
ATP – Qualifying – [WC] J Arconada (ARG) vs M Llodra (FRA)
WTA – Qualifying – S Marand (USA) vs H Kuwata (JPN)
WTA – Qualifying – T Paszek (AUT) vs E Webley-Smith (GBR)
COURT 2 start 10:00 am
ATP – Qualifying – M Copil (ROU) vs S Myneni (IND)
ATP – Qualifying – R Ram (USA) vs M Shabaz (USA)
WTA – Qualifying – O Rogowska (AUS) vs J Coin (FRA)
WTA – Qualifying – A Rodionova (AUS) vs G Dabrowski (CAN)
INTERNATIONAL TENNIS FEDERATION JUNIOR TOURNAMENT TO RETURN TO JUNIOR TENNIS CHAMPIONS CENTER IN AUGUST
Prince George’s County Announced as Official Title Sponsor
(College Park, MD) July 15, 2014 — Today the Junior Tennis Champions Center (JTCC) announced that Prince George’s County will become the official title sponsor of the International Tennis Federation (ITF) Grade 1 Junior Tournament, which returns to College Park, Md. for the third consecutive year. The Prince George’s County International Junior Tennis Championships will take place at the College Park Tennis Club.
“Hosting a premier international junior sporting event for the third straight year is consistent with the Junior Tennis Champions Center’s pursuit of excellence” said JTCC Chief Executive Officer, Ray Benton. “We are thrilled to be able to showcase our stellar facility and again serve as the North American host venue.”
The tournament will take place two weeks prior to the junior US Open tournament, and will attract the finest male and female junior players from around the world. Some of the players who will be competing in this event are top world ranked juniors: Francis Tiafoe, Usue Arconada and Raveena Kingsley. The Prince George’s County International Junior Tennis Championships is slated to begin with the local wildcard qualifying tournament from Aug. 11 to Aug. 13, which will lead into the Qualifying tournament from Aug. 16 to Aug 17. The main draw will kick off on Aug. 18 and conclude on Aug. 24.
“Prince George’s County is quickly becoming known throughout the world as Tennis County USA, thanks to the amazing work of the Junior Tennis Champions Center,” said Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker, III. “We are proud to support one of the United States Tennis Association’s premier tennis tournament and we welcome this year’s cadre of players from around the world to College Park. This tournament is another example of why Prince George’s County is the place to be!”
Additional sponsors of the Prince George’s County International Junior Tennis Championships include the United States Tennis Association (USTA), International Tennis Federation (ITF), Laurel Springs School and Holiday Inn of College Park.
—B. Brand, JTCC
Tiafoe, Arconada Win Inaugural @CitiOpen Wild Card Challenge @TheJTCC
Stephan Fogleman, Tennis East Coast
Last month, when the Citi Open announced that the Junior Tennis Champions Center would host their first annual Wild Card Challenge, the JTCC trotted out their big names as marquee participants. Francis Tiafoe and Usue Arconada headlined the event, and the JTCC didn’t disappoint. Yesterday, Tiafoe and Arconada nabbed qualifying wild cards to the Citi Open in Washington next month, and they both did it in straight sets on a scorching day on the blue hard courts on which they train.
For Arconada, it’s a return trip to Washington. Last year, she became the second-youngest player in WTA history to win her debut qualifying match. Last year, she was given a wild card. This year, she earned it by besting Skylar Morton 7-6(4), 7-5 in the final of a 29-player tournament. Morton was noticeably affected by the heat in the second set of yesterday’s final, wherein she got sick right before serving for set point of the second set.
“I had a pretty nice run. I had some good matches. Had a good match against Skylar today and that was great. We had a long match in the sun. It was really hot out there, but I got it through.”
As far as the heat, Arconada said that “Skylar had a little trouble with the heat. She’s been training here for the past 6 months while she’s taking a break from college. I was feeling a little nauseous after she threw up. I did not like seeing that”.
And what’s it like playing against a friend like Morton in a meaningful match?
“It’s pretty hard, but when you step on the court, you don’t think about your friendship”, she said.
Tiafoe also defeated a friend yesterday to win the Wild Card Challenge, and it happened to be Usue’s brother, Jordi Arconada. Tiafoe showed off his dazzling forehand in the 6-1, 7-6 win. This will be Tiafoe’s first time as a player at Citi Open, a tournament he’s been attending as a fan since he was five years old.
Look at you, JTCC. Looking strong!
It hit 90° at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Maryland yesterday. That was fitting, because it was Citi Open Weather. The Citi Open is held in late July-early August just 10 miles away at Rock Creek Park in Washington, DC.
The Citi Open Wild Card Challenge will be staged here at the Center in College Park from June 14-17. The facility has already earned a USTA award as an outstanding venue and is finally getting the credit it deserves for cultivating champions, as the name suggests.
The Wild Card Challenge will result in the winners advancing to the qualifying draws of the Citi Open, an ATP 500 level and WTA International level event.
Yesterday, two of the centers protégés and seven-time grand slam champ Mats Wilander spoke about the event. JTCC CEO Ray Benton and Citi Open tournament director Jeff Newman also discussed the genesis and planning of the event. It was the brainchild of Benton, who wanted to return to the Wild Card event that the Legg Mason Tennis Classic had employed almost 20 years ago.
“We used to have a Wild Card Challenge, for quite some time, starting in 1995”, Newman said. “It was really meant to be a platform for the best talent in the area. We’re showcasing the best talent in the world, and we wanted to have a connection to provide an opportunity for local talent. We had Paul Golstein, Alex Kim and others.”
“Frankly, the talent got less. And Ray Benton gets the credit for reviving it with the talent that he’s brought and developed in this area. It felt like the right opportunity to bring it back.”
Newman also said the Citi Open will be more player-friendly than ever this year.
“We’re continuing to develop some areas that the public doesn’t see. Our player experience is critical as an ATP 500 and a WTA event. Our medical facilities and our locker room facilities are being upgraded.”
The Challenge is open to all USTA players 14 and up. There is a registration fee of $75, but participants who enter this event and the US Open National Playoffs will receive a discount. The Challenge is two weeks after the USONP Playoffs and the Mid-Atlantic portion of the USONP competition will also be decided on the same courts here in College Park. For players already training for the USONP, this is a mighty second chance sweepstakes. In fact, the Challenge offers a big prize of its own. At the USONP, you have to win your sectional tournament and then you go to New Haven to battle it out for a spot in the US Open qualies. At the Challenge, you win out in College Park and you’re in Citi Open qualies.
For some locals, myself included, playing at Citi Open on the hard courts beats driving by Flushing Meadows to go to New Haven to hope to get to Flushing Meadows.
Francis Tiafoe leads the men’s side. After an Easter Bowl win at Indian Wells, he’s happy to be back at home. “I’ve been going to the tournament since I was about 6 years old”, Tiafoe said. “I hope I can play well at the event.”
Having grown up (literally) at the JTCC, you would think Tiafoe is a lock. Instead, he is guardedly optimistic.
“I definitely know these courts better than anyone else. I’m going to go one match at a time and hope for the best.”
Surprisingly, Tiafoe says his life hasn’t really changed since he arrived to conquer the ITF scene.
“My life hasn’t changed much”, Tiafoe recounted. “I’m still just a 16-year-old kid having fun playing tennis. It’s been nice having some wins and getting some more confidence in my game.”
Usue Arconada is ‘excited’ to play in the Wild Card Challenge. Last year, she was granted a qualifying wild card by Citi Open officials and more than earned her keep in winning her first WTA match in straight sets.
Like Tiafoe, Arconada is another heavy favorite at the Wild Card Challenge.
“I train here every day, so I know these courts pretty well”, she said.
What a bonus it was to chat with Mats Wilander yesterday.
Wilander was hired as an advisor here as “somebody who’s done it all”, he said. “I turned pro very young, so I think I know what these kids go through. They’re not worrying about the best guy. They’re trying to fulfill every players potential.”
Mats has rolled out Wilander on Wheels for a fourth summer. He travels by RV across the US (and Europe), appearing at dozens of tennis clubs.