Arlington’s Denis Kudla took a major step in his young pro career Tuesday, advancing to the second round of Wimbledon by withstanding a barrage of aces and wild swings of momentum to defeat James Duckworth of Australia in five sets.
Kudla’s 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 4-6, 6-1 victory was his first win in the main draw of a Grand Slam event. And he earned his opportunity the hard way, by winning three qualifying matches last week just to claim a spot in the 128-player men’s draw.
With Tuesday’s achievement, the 20-year-old Kudla is expected to break into the top 100 for the first time in his career. He entered Wimbledon ranked No. 105.
Kudla was born in the Ukraine but moved to the United States with his family at a young age. He trained at College Park’s Junior Tennis Champions Center from age 8 and turned pro at 16 rather than pursue college tennis.
He has been playing exceeding well these past six weeks, winning three qualifying matches on clay to earn a spot in the main draw of the recent French Open. And he handled the tricky transition to grass well, reaching the quarterfinals of the prestigious Wimbledon tune-up at London’s Queen’s Club before falling to No. 7 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
On that performance alone, Kudla established a strong case for being granted a wild-card into Wimbledon’s main draw. Failing to get it, he earned his spot, along with fellow American male qualifiers Bobby Reynolds, who plays for the Washington Kastles; Alex Kuznetsov, also born in the Ukraine; and Wayne Odesnik.
Just 5-11 and 165 pounds, small for a present-day touring pro, Kudla has developed a knack for weathering on-court setbacks and out-working opponents — qualities that are essential in Grand Slam events’ best-of-five-sets matches.
Up next for Kudla is Ivan Dodig of Croatia, 28, who advanced to the second round when his opponent, 16th-seeded Philipp Kohlschreiber, retired early in the fifth set. Dodig is ranked No. 54.