Written by Phil Cerroni
By Phil Cerroni
0-6, 6-2, 7-6
The ATP Dallas Tennis Classic was well into round 2 of main draw play when veteran German athlete, Matthias Bachinger faced off against 20 year old American, Denis Kudla in an exciting, neck-in-neck contest.
The first set went completely in Bachinger’s favor with a final score of 6-0.
“He didn’t miss a ball,” Kudla said. “I don’t know much about him, but I expected him to miss a bit.”
Besides Bachinger’s strong play, Kudla did not take the initiative, playing a mainly defensive game that left his backcourt relatively open.
Despite his slow start, Kudla quickly took the lead in the second set with powerful shots and managed to keep it with aggressive play. He spent the set wearing Bachinger down, always ready for both his volleys and short lobs. Set score: 6-2.
“That’s what I based my game around, being physical. If I’m not in my top shape, I don’t win matches,” Kudla said. “I kind of somewhat modeled my game after Ferrer – be the machine out there and the game will take care of itself. I know I’m not the most talented guy out here, but if physically I can control that and be in the best shape possible, I will.”
The young American’s athleticism shone when, after a long rally, he chased the ball across the baseline and, while still facing away from Bachinger, executed a 270 degree forehand stroke for a pretty, if somewhat lucky, score.
By the third set, both players were quick on their feet, and 40-40 trading advantage was common. Compensating, Kudla added looking for the empty spaces to his high operational tempo, and despite faults and Bachinger’s intelligent, basics-oriented play, Kudla pulled through with 6-6 in the set and 6-4 in the tiebreaker.
The match point was beautiful forehand shot that looked like it would go straight to the baseline, bounced over the sideline in the vicinity of the hash mark, instead.
Part of the reason, Kudla was able to mitigate the damage from what was sometimes sloppy offensive play was his ability to consistently plug the holes in his defense.
“When you’re aggressive and coming like that, you’re going to get the lobs, you’re going to get the overheads, so for the most part it’s what I was expecting,” Kudla explained.
Kudla has a healthy fear going into the third round but enough confidence to turn it into a weapon and not a liability.
“I’ve had kind of a little bit of a rough start to the year,” he said. “I came in the qualifiers, not taking a wild card and trying to get some matches under my belt. I’m just happy that I can get these wins out of the way against really good players – 7-6 in the third nail biters.”