Kodat & Damm:
Lifelong friends lead Team USA
Arthur Kapetanakis | October 1, 2019
After becoming the youngest team to win a US Open men’s doubles match in the Open era, Martin Damm and Toby Kodat faced a different sort of pressure at the Junior Davis Cup Finals.
With a target on their backs, the ITF Top-10 juniors saved a combined seven match points in the knockout rounds as they led Team USA to the final at the USTA National Campus.
“The US Open, we really went in there with absolutely nothing to lose,” said Kodat (pictured above, left). In New York, the Bradenton-born pair defeated fellow Americans Mitchell Krueger and Tim Smyczek, 7-6, 7-5, in Round 1.
“Here, it’s different. We’re playing guys our age.” added Damm (above, right), who turned 16 on Monday. Kodat will be 17 in January.
Both born into Czech tennis families—Damm is the son of former pro Martin Damm, while Kodat’s father and coach, Ales, coached stepdaughter Nicole Vaidisova into the WTA’s Top 10—the lifelong friends met so long ago, they can’t even remember.ADVERTISEMENT
“Super young. We were babies probably,” recalled Kodat, who did not drop a single set in four matches in the week-long competition. “We’ve been always close, and it definitely helps for our tennis, to play doubles with such a good friend like that, good relationship on the court.”
“I think that’s where we have an advantage over most teams,” said Damm, who notched a combined five wins at No. 1 singles and in doubles play. “We’ve known each other since very young, we’ve played different sports together. Our chemistry and our relationship is huge on the court.”
They started playing competitive doubles together around age 12, with a Les Petits As final run serving as an early highlight and sign of things to come.
“Ever since then we’ve played tournaments together,” Damm explained. “We started playing ITFs at the same time, so we played there. And then as we got our rankings higher, we played the bigger tournaments, and then we just stick together. I think now we’re going to play almost every tournament that we play together.”
One of those bigger tournaments was the USTA Boys’ 18s National Championships in Kalamazoo, Mich. They won the title there as the top seeds to earn their US Open main-draw wild card.
Going forward, both IMG-based young men plan to play more professional tournaments as they ease out of the ITF junior circuit. The Australian Open will be Damm’s last junior event, while Kodat is still mapping out his plans for 2020. Neither intends to play college tennis, though both are keeping it in mind as a backup plan.
Team USA captain and USTA National Coach Philippe Oudshoorn called the pair “the best doubles team in the tournament.” Speaking on the special nature of team play, the former University of Virginia student-athlete and assistant coach brought up one of his favorite quotes, from the 2007 movie “Into the Wild”: “Happiness is only real when shared.”
With their paths intertwined, Damm and Kodat are firmly on course to share more joy in the near future.
More from the 2019 Junior Davis and Fed Cup: