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)