Two Floridians captured USTA Pro Circuit titles over the weekend as Katerina Stewart won her first championship of the 2018 season in Tampa, and ATP regular Denis Kudla, who has been as high as No. 53 on the ATP rankings, won his first at the pro circuit level since 2015.
Coral Gables’ Stewart, who recently left the United States Military Academy at West Point to take another shot at pro tennis, at the SGI $15,000 women’s tournament in Tampa defeated No. 3 seed Jessica Pegula 6-4, 6-0 in the final for her 10th career USTA Pro Circuit title.
The No. 2-seeded Stewart put a hold on her pro career in 2016 to enter West Point, and left the academy late last year.
“My team and I are putting together a good plan. We are taking things slow, and we are not rushing anything,” she told Lancaster Online late last year about her return to pro tennis. “I see things different now than what I did before. Maybe I put too much pressure on myself before. As of now, everything happens for a reason.”
The 20-year-old did not drop a set all week. She improved to 10-3 in career USTA Pro Circuit finals, winning her first since the $25,000 event in Fort Worth last August. She has now won her last five finals dating to 2015. The 24-year-old Pegula dropped to 0-4 in career singles finals, appearing in her first championship round since 2012.
Stewart is projected to rise into the 380s on next week’s WTA rankings.
The Tampa doubles title went to unseeded Americans Caty McNally and University of Virginia recruit Natasha Subhash, who in the final upset the No. 4-seeded American pair of Stewart and Rasheeda McAdoo 3-6, 6-3, 10-6. The 16-year-olds also ousted the top-seeded team of Americans Quinn Gleason and Ingrid Neel 6-1, 6-2 in the semifinals.
Tampa’s Kudla won the Banque Nationale de Drummondville $75,000 ATP Challenger Tour event in Drummondville, Quebec, Canada, in the Sunday final defeating unseeded Frenchman Benjamin Bonzi 6-0, 7-5.
Seeded No. 5, Kudla earned the title via two three-set victories in his first two matches, then was gifted a walkover in the semifinals against No. 8 seed Brayden Schnur of Canada.
The 25-year-old improved to 8-6 in career ITF/USTA Pro Circuit finals, and rose to No. 144 on the ATP rankings. This week he heads to Miami to participate in the Miami Open qualifying draw where he will start against No. 6 seed Gastao Elias.
For more info on the USTA Pro Circuit go to www.usta.com/en/home/pro/pro-tennis-events/ProCircuit.html.