(May 22, 2013) A standout player at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, MD, 13-year-old Pasquale Procaccino is looking to make a difference in the tennis community. As he likes to say, “playing tennis, hitting the ball, sharing with others is lots of fun and is great for helping focus on all parts of life.”
And one of Pasquale’s goals is to share that fun with kids of all ages and backgrounds. So when – as part of the Junior Tennis Champions Center outreach program called “Game On” – he found himself teaching his peers tennis on courts that were cracked, full of weeds and covered with trash, he decided to act.
Pasquale has organized a fundraiser on Friday evening, May 24th, 2013 at the Royal Restaurant in Old Town Alexandria (734 N St. Asaph St, Alexandria, VA 22314 (703) 548-1616) to help fund expanding the “Game On” program to more locations in the greater Washington, DC area, and then eventually to repair and resurface those courts that first motivated him to act.
The owners of the restaurant said they will contribute a portion of dinner sales from other diners that evening not related to the fundraiser to help the cause.
“It seemed like such a good experience for them,” Pasquale said of his time with his peers. “If they could plan on nicer courts, enjoy nicer equipment, they could enjoy it much more.”
The Junior Tennis Champions Center inspires kids to become champions on and off the court with the “Game On” outreach program, which teaches tennis to inner city children ages 5 – 12. Tennis is more than just life itself, it is life. The discipline, commitment, focus, and desire we need to become successful in life mirrors the skills you must have to become a successful on the courts.
The JTTC is located at the Tennis Center at College Park, Md., a USTA Regional Training Center. It is also the home of the University of Maryland tennis teams. The award-winning facility is recognized as one of the most comprehensive tennis venues in the United States.
Pasquale has been training at the TCCP in the Champs program after school for 3 years and regularly competes in Mid-Atlantic junior tournaments. He attends Burgundy Farm Country Day School in Alexandria and will graduate from the 8th grade this spring. He will attend TCCP full time next year and plans to enter T.C. Williams High School in the fall of 2014. In addition to his strong commitment to tennis, Pasquale is an avid piano player, participating in festivals and competitions several times a year.
Slow and steady wins the race.
Shortly after winning the prestigious junior Boys 16’s Orange Bowl title in 2009, 16-year-old Denis Kudla decided he was ready for the pro game. In the three years that followed, Kudla, who is currently at a career high world No. 203, has slowly but steadily risen in the rankings. The now 19-year-old has struggled to make an impact on the ATP Tour but is improving with each year and appears ready for a breakout season.
My introduction to Kudla was at the 2009 Legg Mason Tennis Classic in Washington, D.C. The then 17-year-old Kudla had just taken a set off French journeyman Sebastien De Chaunac in the first round of qualifiers on center court and fans began to gather to observe this latest American hopeful.
As the much older and more experienced De Chaunac argued after close calls and expressed frustration throughout the match, Kudla remained poised and displayed maturity beyond what his age, Lleyton Hewitt style backwards-hat and long hair image would signify. Despite eventually losing 6-3, 4-6, 6-2, the crowd left with a sense that the future was bright for the kid.
Born in Kiev, Ukraine, Kudla moved to Virginia with his family at a young age and began playing tennis at seven-years-old. He would become a member of the renowned Junior Tennis Champions Center located at the USTA Regional certified training facility at College Park, MD. Kudla led a contingent of highly talented young players there and experienced a stellar junior career that culiminated in a 2010 U.S. Open Boys runner-up trophy, losing to fellow American up-and-comer Jack Sock – the first all-American boys’ final at Flushing Meadows since Andy Roddick defeated Robby Ginepri in 2000.
While young American players such as 19-year-olds Ryan Harrison and Sock grab headlines and are touted as the nation’s future, Kudla has quietly amassed a respectable resume, with consecutive wins over hard-serving Ivo Karlovic and the precocious Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov at the 2011 Campbell’s Hall of Fame Championships. Kudla mainly plays on the Challenger Tour, fighting for those precious ATP points, and has only played in one Grand Slam main draw match – losing to veteran Tommy Haas in the first round of this year’s Australian Open, but if the early months of 2012 are any indication, this can be his year in the spotlight.
This week Kudla qualified for the SAP Open in San Jose, CA and defeated Sock to set up a second round marquee matchup against Andy Roddick on Wednesday night.
“I learned that I can do anything if I believe, and if I put my mind to it a lot can be done with hard work and strong mentality towards a goal,” Kudla told Tennis Grandstand. “This is where I thought I would be [in my career] and my goals are to break top 100 and hopefully top 50.”
The reserved, yet highly driven Kudla is out to make a name for himself and has a chance to make it happen against the 17th-ranked Roddick. As Kudla’s confidence continues to rise, so will his rankings, just as it has ever since he turned pro.
This race is just getting started.