UBITENNIS EXCLUSIVE Denis Kudla: “Sandgren Is Not What He Is Being Accused Of”
I interviewed the Former No. 54, Denis Kudla, before his quarterfinal doubles match with Treat Huey against Reilly Opelka and Taylor Fritz.
You had a solid start to the year in Australia, where you were 2 sets up against 5th seed Dominic Thiem. What happened there?
It was a definitely a good start, I mean, I had a two-sets-to-love lead against the World No. 5. I had my chances, but it was one of the hottest days of the tournament. My legs kind of gave out on me, it was my fifth match over a week and a half. I was a little bit tired. It’s never easy to qualify and go deep in a tournament. His experience kind of just took over. He’s an animal, everyone knows he’s a beast. It was just unfortunate that I couldn’t keep it up for three sets in a row. I was very happy with the way I was playing and definitely gained a lot of confidence from it regardless.
You’re currently ranked No. 190, is that due to injury last year?
No, not really. The past year, year and a half, I’ve been struggling with motivation a little bit, a little bit with decision-making on the court, and I felt that I wasn’t improving at the rate I needed to improve at. Everyone has been getting a lot better, especially the younger guys are starting to find their game and getting better. That’s just how tennis works, it’s a constant cycle. I know I have been at a high level, and this year I am confident to get back up there if I continue putting in a lot of hard work and build off of Australia.
Is your goal this year to get back to Top 100?
I don’t want to put a ranking goal on it, but it’s definitely a big goal in the back of my mind, to get back to main draws of slams and play more of an ATP schedule as much as I can.
You’re well known for your run at Wimbledon a couple of years ago, where you beat Alexander Zverev in the second round, do you remember that match?
Yeah, that was Sascha’s first time that he won a round at a slam actually. I remember we both finished late the day round before. I beat Cuevas in five, he beat Gabashvili in five. He was very young then, but we had practiced already at that point in Saddlebrook where I train. I had more experience than him then. We had a tough four-setter, and I think it was the hottest day ever recorded at Wimbledon. Nothing crazy, something around 90 degrees (Fahrenheit) but surprising for London. I remember coming out hot, winning the first, he won the second. He got on a roll in the third. I came back and that third set was a big decider because I think we were both struggling when the fourth set would come about. I was able to come out on the top in the fourth. It was definitely a big win even though he wasn’t where he is now.
Tennys Sandgren has had this huge quarterfinal run. Did you think he had it in him, to beat Wawrinka and Thiem?
Yeah, definitely. I think tennis is so deep and I think a lot of people don’t know how good everyone is. Guys around 200, 300, there are so many guys out there that can play great. Before Mackenzie McDonald played Dimitrov, I thought he could beat him. I told people: ‘Don’t be surprised if he wins’ because he’s playing lights out, and can play at a very high level, and so can Sandgren. Those Australian courts favor guys who are playing very well. It’s such a fast surface and just feels good to play there. He played Wawrinka, who wasn’t 100% fit, but still took advantage of the opportunity. A lot of guys would choke, but Tennys didn’t and he took care of business. I was able to give him some thoughts about Thiem and thought they would match up well. Sandgren was serving great and it was an unbelievable match. It just shows that anybody can upset anybody on any given day in tennis. Right now, it is more true than ever, just because of the depth of the game.
Today on Twitter, you sort of defended Sandgren. Could you just summarize or clarify what you said?
I think that everything that is happening is overshadowing what happened at the Australian Open. I think that it should not have been brought up during the Australian Open, before one of the biggest matches of his career. I think it (Sandgren’s tweets) was a mistake and something that happened a long time ago. I don’t want to get into that, but I think that it shouldn’t have been brought up right away. After the tournament, people can do whatever. I still don’t think that it’s something that should be all over media. It just sucks that the stress he probably went through, if he was reading it before his first quarterfinal match at a slam… it’s not something you want to be doing. I would blame media for bringing that up or whoever brought that up. It was unfortunate, and I think that everyone knows in the tennis world who Tennys really is. He is not what he is being accused of, he’s a great guy and a lot of people like him. It’s just sad that it is getting blown out of proportion online, and it is just crazy.