The US Open is DELIVERING — Remembering Julie Ditty Qualls — Must-click women’s tennis links
The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, September 7, 2021
NEW YORK — Happy Tuesday, everyone! I hope you had a great Labor Day weekend, but I’m super-stoked to come at you with some Tennis Tuesday — especially with the tennis that’s coming from New York. We have our Elite Eight set and, unsurprisingly, my predictions last week were a complete joke. This is where we currently stand
(Q) Emma Raducanu vs. (11) Belinda Bencic
(4) Karolina Pliskova vs. (17) Maria Sakkari
(5) Elina Svitolina vs. Leylah Fernandez
(8) Barbora Krejcikova vs. (2) Aryna Sabalenka
Because I have to, my predictions for the rest of the tournament:
Bencic vs. Pliskova
Svitolina vs. Sabalenka
Svitolina def. Pliskova, but honestly I can see Pliskova winning too. We’re guaranteed a first-time US Open champion (and a 7/8 shot at a first-time Slam champ!) regardless, so PLAY BALL!
I was fortunate enough to be in New York for most of the first week getting to support a variety of Five at The IX alums, most notably Sloane Stephens. It was really exciting to watch Sloane recapture a lot of the form that brought her to the 2017 title, but her draw was insane from the get-go. First, she had to play her best friend and 2017 runner-up Madison Keys, which ended in a 6-3, 1-6, 7-6(7) victory. However, the biggest upset that day was me thinking the feed on the big screen was only that nor was I not chomping on my gum like a cow and/or failing at shielding my face from the camera.
She also then had to play Coco Gauff in round 2 and played an extremely solid match while Hurricane Ida was pummeling the entire city. She then started off strong against 2016 champion Angelique Kerber before falling in three sets. It was a strong tournament for Sloane, especially off the forehand wing, but it was after her loss that had many people talking.
Sloane revealed she received over 2,000 hateful messages on social media, which is, like I’ve mentioned plenty, 50 shades of normal for professional players. Ben Rothenberg makes two valid points: women receive a lot worse hate and the more the sport embraces the gambling, the more blurred the line gets. This is the same portion of the media that has essentially forced Naomi Osaka off the court for the unforeseeable future.
I wasn’t actually planning on going into that topic, but instead wanted to focus on the incredible US Open we’re having. There have been countless quality matches and comebacks from Shelby Rogers’ epic comeback to stun No. 1 Ashleigh Barty to Emma Raducanu simply destroying the field to Leylah Fernandez taking advantage of her first moments under the lights of millions around the world.
David Kane detailed how the tennis this past week has been at a ridiculous level. I mean, the Stephens-Keys match was the match their 2017 final should’ve been and that was the first match on Ashe of the entire tournament! I think the real reason the matches have been so good is pretty basic: the actual star of the tournament have been the fans.
The US Open is perhaps the biggest tournament of the year in terms of fan buzz and activity. The 2020 event was held behind closed doors and looking back after this past week, there was absolutely no energy. It’s really nice to see not only the fans get behind players, but vice versa. I think there was no better example than Rogers’ and Ashe’s reaction to her win over Barty:
There’s only eight singles players left, but I hope the crowd is buzzing as much, if not harder than when there were 128. Across both women’s and mixed doubles, we have quite a few Five at The IX alums left:
Gaby Dabrowski/Luisa Stefani (QF vs. Marie Bouzkova/Lucie Hradecka)
Giuliana Olmos vs. Ellen Perez in the QF and speaking of Perez, she was on FIRE in her opening round mixed doubles match:
This Week in Women’s Tennis
Diede De Groot captured both gold medals at the Tokyo Paralympic Games, winning the singles gold medal over Yui Kamiji and partnering with Aniek van Koot to rout Lucy Shuker and Jordanne Whiley for the doubles. The singles bronze medal went to Whiley and in doubles, Kamiji and Momoko Ohtani.
The WTA announced more changes to the ranking system as they work towards pushing back to pre-COVID metrics. Something that I would like to see once they get their website in order? Live rankings after tournament rounds.
Chris Oddo gives some great stats as we head into the meat of the US Open’s second week.
Is Victoria Azarenka a The IX subscriber? The future Hall of Famer spoke out about mandatory vaccines and she’s spot on despite hesitancy from compatriot Aryna Sabalenka.
David Kane wrote up a solid feature on Danielle Collins and the progress she’s made this summer without a coach, so you know I had to share.
Wildcard Alycia Parks tied the fastest women’s serve served at the US Open. Pretty casual in your Open debut.
WorldTeamTennnis coach Murphy Jensen was the most recent guest on Kamau Murray’s tennis.com podcast to discuss his sobriety and the steps it finally took for him to get there.
Apparently the US Open was Yaroslava Shvedova’s final tournament following her return from maternity leave:
Learn more about the US Open’s signature drink, the Honey Deuce, or as I call it “$20 of heaven in a glass.”
The Intercollegiate Tennis Association announced their entries for the 2021 ITA Women’s All-American Championships, with NCAA champion Emma Navarro and Texas star Lulu Sun missing on the list. Navarro is expected to return to school as of now, but rumor has it Sun has turned pro.
In other college news, Five at The IX alum Erica Perkins Jasper was a guest on the College Tennis Coaches podcast to discuss her path to athletic administration and how to best navigate the coach-administration relationship.
Tweet(s) of the Week
Sloane Stephens x US Open pressers: It must be love
Five at The IX: Remembering Julie Ditty Qualls
I figured I would mix things up and put our F@TI feature on a different path this week. Julie Ditty Qualls peaked at No. 89 in the WTA singles rankings and No. 66 in the WTA doubles rankings. She won 9 ITF singles and 30 ITF doubles titles, while reaching another 7 ITF singles and 22 ITF doubles finals. She passed away last week after a lengthly battle with breast cancer. Here are some facts about the legend from Ashland, Kentucky. You’ll be missed so much, Julie.
She brought Vanderbilt to new heights
Ditty Qualls entered Vanderbilt University and quickly became a force, helping the team reach their second-ever team Sweet Sixteen berth and becoming the fourth player to make the NCAA Singles Championship. She would eventually put herself towards the top of the Commodore record books, guiding the team to their first-ever NCAA team championship match and collecting All-American honors her three years. After retiring in 2012, she returned to Nashville as a Volunteer Assistant Coach for the 2012-13 season.
She’s a USTA Pro Circuit legend
Ditty Qualls is the winningest player in USTA Pro Circuit history, capturing 38 singles and doubles titles combined. She won her first singles and doubles titles in the summer of 2001. Her final singles title would be her biggest – a $75,000 ITF event in Albuquerque, while she continued to excel in doubles, winning her last event in 2011. Among her victims in those finals? Angelique Kerber, who could only win 1 game in their 2007 Palm Desert final. In doubles finals, she played with or against top players like Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Hsieh Su-Wei, Lucie Hradecka, Alisa Kleybanova, Casey Dellacqua and Abigail Spears.
She got better with age
Not many can say that on the tennis court, but Ditty Qualls found her best tennis in her late 20s and early 30s. She’s the sixth-oldest woman in WTA history to make their Top 100 debut, which she did at 28 following her career-best showing, a semifinal at the WTA 250 in Quebec City, Canada. Not even two years later, she was called up to represent the United States in Billie Jean King Cup play, where she and Liezel Huber won the decisive doubles rubber against Argentina to keep the team alive, where they would eventually reach the final.
She constantly gave back
Ditty Qualls loved giving back to the Ashland, Kentucky community she grew up in. Whether it was free tennis clinics, coaching juniors until the week before she passed, being active in the local Partners In Pride charity or fixing bike trails, she was a mainstay in the community. The Ashland Tennis Hall of Fame was opened in 2021 and fittingly made her their first recipient. She’s also members of the Vanderbilt, Tennessee Sports, Kentucky High School Sports and Southern Tennis Halls of Fame, as well.
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