Take a good look at the American players who are in Friday's Fifth Third Bank Tennis Championships singles quarterfinals: Denis Kudla, Christian Harrison and Michael McClune —who knocked off former University of Kentucky All-American Eric Quigley late Thursday night in a rain-delayed match — in the men's draw; Mallory Burdette, Madison Keys, Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Shelby Rogers on the women's side.
Two of those names could well be in the U.S. Open draw by virtue of a new USTA competition based on performance at select Pro Circuit events.
In addition to playing for money, points and a title, they all are gunning for a new, automatic wild card into the Open that goes to one man and one woman with the most cumulative points from at least two Challenger events. And, with the selection of the Lexington Challenger as the second event of four for the men's competition and second of only three for the women's, suddenly there's a little extra excitement in the air.
Rogers — winner at the first women's stop (at Yakima, Wash.) two weeks ago and a 7-5, 6-3 second-round winner Thursday over Japan's Aiko Nakamura — said, "I try not to think about it ... I don't need the added pressure."
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Burdette, who's returning for her senior year at powerhouse Stanford, finds this new opportunity for a U.S. Open wild card "exciting ... but I just need to take care of business."
Kudla, the top remaining men's seed at No. 4, likes this new USTA. "This gives everyone a chance and rewards the guy who's playing the best this summer," he said.