IRVING — A few nice wins go a long way for young American Denis Kudla. The 20-year-old from Arlington, Va., turned pro two years ago and is slowly working his way up the rankings.Kudla, currently at No. 160, battled through qualifying this week at the Dallas Tennis Classic. On Thursday, he shook off a slow start to beat No. 109-ranked Matthias Bachinger of Germany 0-6, 6-2, 7-6 (4) and move into the quarterfinals of the ATP Challenger event at the Four Seasons Resort and Club.“After the first set, I thought ‘first things first, try to win a game,’ ” said Kudla, who was born in Kiev, Ukraine, and moved to the United States with his parents at the age of 1. “He didn’t miss a ball. I don’t know much about him, but I expected him to miss a little bit. … I played way too defensive. I thought I’d change my game and be a little more aggressive in the second set and that’s what worked.”In the third set, Bachinger broke Kudla to go up 4-2, but Kudla broke right back, then fought off two match points on his serve at 4-5 to pull even. In the tiebreaker, Kudla jumped out to a 4-0 lead, but Bachinger won three straight points to cut the lead to 4-3.Kudla then won the next point on an umpire’s overrule that irritated Bachinger. At 5-4, Kudla made perhaps his best shot of the match when he ended a long rally by closing in and hitting a sharp-angled volley for a winner. He then served out the match.“I’ve had a little bit of a rough start to the year; not awful, but not what I did last year,” said Kudla, who lost to fellow American Jack Sock in the finals of the U.S. Open junior championship in 2010, shortly before turning pro.“My game wasn’t where I wanted it to be. I came in here to the quallies instead of taking a wild card because I wanted to get some matches under my belt, and I’ve started playing better and better. My game can still improve for sure. I’m just happy that I can get these wins against some really good players.”Kudla will play wild card Bobby Reynolds, who defeated Igor Sijsling of the Netherlands 7-6 (5), 6-4. Also advancing were wild card Philipp Petzschner of Germany, who beat No. 4 seed and No. 44-ranked Viktor Troicki of Serbia 6-4, 6-4.No. 3 seed Denis Istomin of Uzbekisan beat Lukas Lacko, 7-5, 6-3, and No. 5 seed Jurgen Melzer of Austria knocked off American wild card Robby Ginepri 6-0, 6-4. Olivier Rochus of Belgium defeated No. 7 seed Alejandro Falla of Columbia 6-3, 6-1, and Sergiy Stakhovsky of Ukraine beat Belgian Steve Darcis, 7-6 (5), 7-5.Kudla, whose last main-draw victory came in the first round at the Challenger of Dallas in early February, is in the same USTA development program as Aledo’s Mitchell Krueger in Boca Raton, Fla.“He’s a good player; he’s a huge hitter,” Kudla said of the 19-year-old Krueger. “We hadn’t played for a while and I was shocked by how hard he can hit the ball. It’s unbelievable. … Now it’s just consistency for him and being able to find the range of the game. I think he can do it for sure.”That’s a process Kudla knows well. After the 2010 U.S. Open, he turned pro and made one of his first professional appearances at the Futures of Mansfield. Since then, Kudla has dropped weight and lifted his game.“Yeah, if I’m not in top physical shape, I’m not going to win matches,” Kudla said. “That’s the biggest thing for me. I somewhat model my game after [David] Ferrer, being a machine out there and the game will take care of itself. I might not be the most talented guy out here, but physically, I can control that and be in the best shape possible.”The Dallas Tennis Classic will continue through Sunday. Tickets are available at Dallastennisclassic.com.
Rusty Hall, 817-390-7816 Twitter: @RustyHall10s