What started out as mediocre tennis, turned into a full-blown, lengthy battle in the third set, with Australian James Duckworth often using his serve to dig himself out of many key points in the match against former University of Kentucky standout and wild card entry Eric Quigley to win 7-6 (5), 3-6, 7-5 at the Kentucky Bank Tennis Championships on Monday in Lexington.
Up 6-5 in the third set, with Quigley serving and the crowd chanting its support, Duckworth, last year's tournament runner up and this year's No. 6 seed, had to change tactics and dig deep to end the match with winners.
"It was tough playing in front of a hometown crowd, but I like playing in front of a lot of people," the 22-year-old Duckworth said. "They were cheering for him, not against me."
Needless to say, Quigley was disappointed, but he enjoyed being back on the courts where he won four high school championships and garnered the "winningest" record in UK tennis history and playing in front of his home crowd.
"It was great to be back where I played so much in college and a junior," he said.
Quigley said he felt like he had chances, but Duckworth stepped on the gas toward the end to close the two-and-half hour match.
Both men came out looking nervous and tight but by the third set they seemed to have worked out their jitters, trading long service games, but with Duckworth collecting his game first to close out the match.
Ex-Cat Witten up next
Former University of Kentucky star Jesse Witten will headline the men's matches on Tuesday. The 31-year-old will face Eric Crepaldi of Italy at 7 p.m. on Court 1.
Witten, who played at UK from 2001 to 2005, was the team's first five-time All American and the first UK SEC men's player of the year.
Their match will be followed by doubles, with Quigley and Kevin Metka, 22, who currently plays for Ohio State, taking on former Florida Gator Sekou Bangoura, 22, and former University of Michigan player Evan King.
Women open play Tuesday
The women's singles division at the Kentucky Bank Tennis Championships, which starts Tuesday, promises to be a showdown this week as several players compete not only for the tournament title but also for the golden ticket to the U.S. Open.
The USTA Pro Circuit is awarding wild cards into the U.S. Open main draw to the American man and woman who earn the most ranking points in a series of selected tournaments. And for the women, Lexington is the final stop of three.
Leading the charge is Nicole Gibbs, who defeated Melanie Oudin, 6-4, 6-4, this past weekend in the finals of the second leg of the series, in Carson, Calif. The two players, on opposite ends of the draw here, might have the opportunity to meet again this week in the finals.
Gibbs (80 points) is followed by Oudin (48), Louisa Chirico (44) and Madison Brengle (37) in the standings. Players earn points as they advance through the draw, with the winner awarded 80 points. The series is the best two out of three, with points only taken from the players' top two showings.
In the first round Tuesday night at 7 p.m., No. 2 seed Brengle, a 24-year-old from Dover, Del., will play Kentuckian Julie Ditty, who came out of retirement this summer. A 35-year-old from Ashland, Ditty reached a career high ranking of 89th in 2008 and has won more USTA Pro Circuit/ITF Circuit titles than anyone, nine in singles and 30 in doubles.
Brengle, who turned pro when she was 17, is ranked 154th and has five singles and five doubles titles on the ITF tour and saw her career-high ranking of 136th earlier this year.
Oudin and Chirico, a wild-card entrant, will face each other first round on Wednesday, with the loser knocked out of both the singles division and the running for the wild card. Chirico, an 18-year-old from Harrison, N.Y., was a top junior player who is now ranked 240th on the pro circuit.
Oudin, a 22-year-old from Marietta, Ga., is ranked 156th. At just 17, Oudin captured the singles title here in Lexington in 2008. In 2009, she made it to the fourth round of Wimbledon and followed that up two months later by reaching the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open. Ranked as high as 31st in the world in 2010, Oudin is also a U.S. Open mixed doubles champion, winning that title with partner Jack Sock in 2011.
"I obviously have some great memories in Lexington," Oudin said, "so I'm looking forward to having a good week here.
"It's very nice to have a loyal following in Lexington. I really appreciate people cheering for me. I love playing in the South since I'm from Atlanta and just feel very at home."
The No. 1 seed in the women's division, 27-year-old Jarmila Gajdosova of Australia, is ranked 149th. She has won 15 singles titles in her career. The veteran player has been on the pro circuit for almost 10 years and has a career-high ranking of 25th. Her accolades include a 2013 Australian Open mixed doubles championship with partner Matt Ebden.
In the first round on Wednesday, she will play Mayo Hibi, an 18-year-old from Japan, who is ranked 274th and has three titles.