Tuesday, October 1, 2013

No. 1 seed Kudla falls in Sacramento Challenger

   SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Denis Kudla took a step or two down to play in the $100,000 Sacramento Pro Circuit Challenger.
Daniel Cox shocked top seed
Denis Kudla in the first round
of the Sacramento Challenger.
Photos by Paul Bauman
   Daniel Cox took a step up.
   You'd never have known it by the way they played on Monday, though. Cox, an alternate, stunned the top-seeded Kudla 7-5, 6-0 in the first round at the Natomas Racquet Club.
   Cox, ranked No. 263 in the world, replaced Michael Venus in the draw. Venus, ranked No. 358, lost in the quarterfinals of the $50,000 Napa Valley Challenger on Friday after the deadline to sign up for qualifying in Sacramento.
   The 95th-ranked Kudla played at the top level of men's tennis all summer, reaching the second round at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. Cox, meanwhile, has won five titles and gained another final on the Futures circuit since July 1.
   But on Monday, the blond, 5-foot-7 (1.70-meter) Cox glided around the court and rifled forehand passing shots while Kudla sprayed groundstrokes and became increasingly agitated.
   It added up to the second-biggest victory of the 23-year-old Englishman's career. Cox toppled then-No. 67 Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil in the first round of qualifying at Nottingham on grass in 2008.
   "I played very smart today, very solid," Cox crowed. "I felt very good out there."
   Kudla felt the opposite.
   "I just wasn't in the right state of mind today," moaned the 21-year-old Kudla, who moved from his native Ukraine to Fairfax, Va., on his first birthday. "That definitely hurt me, and he played well. I just have to learn from it and move on."
Kudla complained that he "wasn't in the
right state of mind."
   Kudla's anguish peaked with Cox serving at 5-5 in the first set. After netting a backhand on his third break point, the 5-foot-11 (1.80-meter) Kudla angrily bounced his racket off the court. Cox proceeded to win the last eight games of the match.
   It's the second consecutive year that the top seed has lost in the first round of the Sacramento Challenger, and both times, the winner's first name was Daniel. In 2012, Daniel Kosakowski eliminated Benjamin Becker, who was recovering from a torn groin muscle. Kudla, though, said he was fine physically.
   Just last week, Cox played in the main draw of a Challenger for the first time this year. He fell 6-1, 6-1 to second-seeded Tim Smyczek in the second round at Napa.
   "I learned from my loss last week," Cox said. "I just trained very hard and worked on some of the things I needed to work on, and it's paid off this week.
   "I was working on my serve, and I felt I needed to be a little stronger from the baseline. This is a level up for me, so I have to step it up a little."
   When asked what he learned from his loss in Napa, Cox replied: "I learned that you don't get any free points at this level. In the Futures, you probably get five, six, seven chances a set. Here, you probably get one or two, so the margins are very small. That's the main difference from the Futures to the Challengers."
Hometown favorite Collin Altamirano,
17, put up a fight against James McGee.
   Joining Cox in the second round were Samuel Groth of Australia and James McGee of Ireland.
   Groth, who owns the world's fastest serve (163.4 mph or 263 kph), dismissed Denys Molchanov of Urkaine 6-3, 6-2. McGee held off hometown favorite Collin Altamirano, a 17-year-old wild card, 7-5, 3-6, 6-3.
   McGee, 26, shocked American Ryan Harrison, who reached a career-high No. 43 in the world at 20 years old last year, in the first round of the $100,000 Aptos Challenger in August. After overcoming a 5-1 deficit in the third set against Harrison, McGee lost 6-2, 6-1 to fellow qualifier Farrukh Dustov of Uzbekistan in the second round.
   Altamirano won the USTA Boys 18 National Championships in Kalamazoo, Mich., in August to earn an automatic berth in the main draw of the U.S. Open. He lost in the first round to No. 22 seed Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 but reached the boys singles quarterfinals at Flushing Meadows.
   Following are the singles qualifying draw, singles and doubles main draws and today's schedule in the $100,000 Sacramento Pro Circuit Challenger at the Natomas Racquet Club:

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