Playing at home is not always what it is built up to be. Just ask Arlington native Denis Kudla playing at the Citi Open.
Before he even turned professional in 2010, Kudla was attempting to win at the Rock Creek Tennis Park in Northern D.C. From Arlington, and living in the DMV area throughout his entire life, this was his local tournament.
It took 10 years, two qualifying attempts, five main draw appearances, and two doubles chances but on Tuesday the 25-year-old finally broke through at his home tournament. Not breaking through for a title, but just a win.
“It was incredible. For me this is always a place that I’ve wanted to win, you know I’ve always struggled here. My record was completely awful coming into today. Today it just came together, I had a good feeling about it,” Kudla told reporters after the match. “I like to play my game and good things can happen and I’m just glad everything connected and I couldn’t be more thrilled about this win.”
Before his first round match he was 0-8 at this ATP 500-level tournament. In singles competition he had only won one set in the main draw. He tripled that total by beating Slovakian Lukas Lacko 6-7 (3), 6-1, 6-4 in the first round of the Citi Open.
This match was not without some difficulty either. Kudla had to deal with the rain from yesterday delaying and eventually postponing his match after they played the first game. He would go on to hold every service game in the first set but still dropped it in a 10-point tiebreaker.
Coming back in three sets Kudla finally got a big obstacle out of his way.
“Getting this monkey off of my back is huge. I think it is going to free me up and usually I’m pretty free just like any of these players up here. Some magic can happen on the court and I’m hoping it will carry to the next round.“
Who knows why this year is special for Kudla. Had it not been for his proximity to the tournament, he likely would not have come back. The difference could very well be the magic from the Washington Capitals Stanley Cup playoff run lingering for a long-hurting Capitals’ fan.
“I was thinking about that at the match today. I think it was when I had double break point, five all, 15-40 and I was like ‘you know I mean if the Caps can do it, DC turned, its going to happen. Before maybe it was just the whole curse, the whole city, every athlete was cursed to win anything important here. Things are changing. As athletes you find inspiration in other athletes in other sports and I’m definitely finding it in the Caps.”
That energy that he found at 4:00 a.m. in Europe while he was playing in a tournament back in June. Every night, despite being on tour, he stayed up watching the Capitals win their first ever championship. When they won he was in the middle of Challenger Event and the next day the celebration probably had a factor into why he lost in a three-set tiebreaker.
He even considered coming back from Europe for tickets to see the Capitals during the Stanley Cup.
“I was up until 4:00 in the morning watching all of those games, every single one. The D.C. drought is real so it is something you just don’t miss. I didn’t care about any tournament. A challenger, a tournament, it will always be there but a Stanley Cup it may never happen again, you never know. I was going to do it. The flights were expensive, a couple grand round trip. Nosebleeds were $900 and just the party after. I pretty much saved myself a couple days of a pretty bad hangover and a couple grand so it’s okay I guess. I have a little regret, a little bit honestly. I could never say I was here but I watched the whole parade. I watched 10 hours of it; I watched every single game, so I still felt like I was still part of it.”
The D.C. curse is over and it is perhaps over for Kudla at his home tournament. Later in the week he plays No. 12 seed and No. 35 in the world Karen Khachanov for the right to play in the Round of 16.
“It is possible to be from here and win a match.”
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MORE CITI OPEN COVERAGE:
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- Murray Withdraws: Former No. 1 cites exhaustion
- Loaded Field: Murray, Wawrinka, Stephens come to D.C.