WASHINGTON (WDVM) – Long before he was a professional tennis player competing in grand slam tournaments, Denis Kudla was a little boy attending the Citi Open in Washington, D.C.
“‘He was having an opportunity to be a ball boy here. And he rejected,” Denis’ father Vladimir Kudla told WDVM. “He said no I’m not going to do this. I’m not going to bring the balls, I’m going to play here. That will stick in my mind forever.”
On Thursday, 28-year-old Kudla advanced to the quarterfinals of the Citi Open for just second time in his nine appearances in the Washington tournament.
Watching from the stands, Kudla’s coach, friends and parents rejoiced when he defeated 20-year-old Brandon Nakashima in three sets (3-6, 7-6, 6-4).
“First time we came when he was I think nine years old and we watched Agassi,” Kudla’s mother Lucy Zagubina said. “Since that, he said I’m going to win this tournament.”
Kudla may have his best chance to win this tournament as ever, though his path runs through Rafael Nadal’s region of the bracket. Nadal is ranked No. 3 in the world.
“I would love to win this tournament, it’s my favorite tournament,” Kudla, donning a Nationals hat in his post match press conference, told WDVM. “Now being back in the quarterfinals, seeing this tournament as a spectator for 10 plus years and being able to play it now, I don’t know how many times I’ve played, but I’ve played it a lot. A special place, and playing in front of friends and family which is never easy, and being able to perform in front of them and see how happy they are, how happy I am, it makes it that much more meaningful to me.”
Kudla will face Ilya Ivashka or Mackenzie McDonald in the quarterfinals Friday.