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Keys and Kudla notch Day 2 Wimbledon wins

June 25, 2013 03:46 PM
Madison Keys serves to Britain's Heather Watson during her first-round match.
Denis Kudla plays a backhand during his opening-round win against Australian James Duckworth.
By Matt Cronin, special to USTA.com

WIMBLEDON, England -- Part of learning to deal with tour life is walking out onto a foreign court to face a popular local player without becoming distracted by the vocal fan base. When Madison Keys began her warm-up against Britain’s Heather Watson on Wimbledon’s Court 2 on Tuesday morning, some fans were already chirping.
"Yeah, the first ball, I missed it into the net," said Keys. Someone was like, ‘Yes, Come on!"  
Surrounded by the partisan and vocal crowd, the 18-year-old admitted to being nervous at the start, but she quickly composed herself and played a powerful and heady match in a 6-3, 7-5 victory. She cracked one first serve at 117 mph, ripped her forehand and hit some critical returns, ending the match with 23 winners, eight of them aces.
Keys is just learning to play on grass, but with her big game, she would appear to have a bright future on the surface.
"I’m still trying to get used to it," she said. "I haven't played lots of matches on grass. But I love to serve on grass, [and] love that there's not long points like on red clay. I’m getting used to it and liking it more and more."
Keys has been traveling for the past nine weeks with a USTA Player Development group that includes fellow Americans Jamie Hampton, Sloane Stephens, Melanie Oudin, Varvara Lepchenko, Taylor Townsend and Shelby Rogers. She’s not a tour veteran, so having coaches and her countrywomen to pal around with certainly helps her to relax and properly prepare for her matches.
"I just really love that being in different countries, we still have a support group, and there are people to be around," said Keys. "I think it would be very hard if there were just one or two of us the entire time we were here."
Serena Williams recently was asked to describe herself in one word, and the 16-time Grand Slam champion said she was "spectacular." The easy-going Keys, on the other hand, chose another word.
"Sarcastic," she said. "I'll miss a serve really, really long. I'll ask myself, questioning if it was in, if I could hit it any farther out. Just things like that."
It was an up-and-down Tuesday overall for the U.S., with five-set losses suffered by Sam Querrey (to Bernard Tomic), and Wayne Odesnik (to Jimmy Wang). Ryan Harrison lost in four lengthy sets to Jeremy Chardy, and Mallory Burdette suffered a marathon three-set loss to Urszula Radwanska.
Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Michael Russell and Alex Kuznetsov also suffered losses, and in a battle between two Americans, Bobby Reynolds overcame Steve Johnson, 1-6, 7-6 (4), 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-4.
But there also were bright spots for the red, white and blue contingent, as veteran James Blake scored his first win at Wimbledon in five years with a straight-sets victory over Thiemo de Bakker, and defending Wimbledon champion Serena Williams romped over Mandy Minella, Alison Riske won her first main-draw match at a Grand Slam event, when Romani Oprandri retired in the third set with a hand injury, and qualifier Dennis Kudla grabbed a 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 4-6, 6-1 victory over James Duckworth.
Another USTA Player Development product, the 20-year-old Kudla, came into the tournament ranked No. 105, and with this win is assured of cracking the Top 100 for the first time in his young career. A self-styled grinder who prides himself on his work ethic, Kudla is being coached during the tournament by former U.S. Davis Cup Captain Tom Gullikson, filling in for Kudla’s regular coach Diego Moyano, who was unable to travel to Wimbledon this year. Kudla joked that Gullikson, who reached the Wimbledon men’s final with brother Tim in 1983, was encouraging him to employ "old school style" of constantly moving forward.
"I may not do it 100 percent, but I did my best," said Kudla.
Kudla has taken a substantial leap in the rankings this season. He came into the year ranked No. 250 and has won 35 matches on a variety of surfaces and in all levels of tournaments. Recently, he won the USTA Tallahassee Challenger, qualified for Roland Garros, reached the quarterfinal of Queens, qualified for Wimbledon and has now won a round.
"Things are just clicking, and I’m starting to play well and understand the game better," Kudla said. "Maybe the experience is helping me. Right now I feel like I can play some high-quality tennis [and] maybe play at a Top-50 or 40 level. Hopefully I can get to that ranking someday."
Kudla travels with a group of other young U.S. players, including Jack Sock, Rhyne Williams, Bradley Klahn and Steve Johnson. He likes being part of the pack, and he believes that going head-to-head with his peer group is one of the reasons for his recent rise in the rankings.
"We’re all around the same position, and we are constantly raising the bar," Kudla said. "I think part of the reason we’re doing so well is because of each other. We’re pretty competitive. Outside of tennis, we are really close, but once we get on court, we like to beat each other and do the best we can."
To learn more about up-and-coming U.S. players and to receive the latest US Open news and information, as well as exclusive merchandise offers to the US Open Shop, sign up to become a US Open Insider
For more Pro Tennis coverage, including coverage of Americans at the 2013 Wimbledon, go to the USTA.com Pro Tennis page


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