The Fifth Third Bank Tennis Championships, beginning this weekend, will feature two local wild cards who are familiar with success at the tournament's venue.
Wild cards were awarded to the University of Kentucky' junior-to-be, Eric Quigley, an All-American in singles and doubles, and to Lexington Catholic senior-to-be Samantha Maddox, who won the state title in May at UK's Hilary J. Boone Tennis Complex.
For the 16th consecutive year Lexington hosts the $100,000 tournament, one of only three in the world to offer equal purses to men and women. The Fifth Third is one of 94 events that make up the United States Tennis Association Pro Circuit.
Maddox made her Pro Circuit debut at last year's Fifth Third and lost in the qualifying round.
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"I think I have an advantage this year because I'll come in less nervous and have my Lexington crowd supporting me," Maddox said.
Maddox, who has committed to the College of Charleston, might have a scheduling conflict with a national tourney she has entered, depending on how far she advances.
"The (Fifth Third) is something I have watched every year growing up," Maddox said of her decision to not turn down her wild-card invitation. "I used to come every single night and watch. ... To get a chance to play with them, without a doubt, there's no way I'd ever miss it."
Quigley received a main-draw wild card and is likely to first take the court on Tuesday, dubbed "Big Blue Night" by event organizers.
The No. 1 singles player for UK, Quigley enjoyed a stellar sophomore campaign, notching 42 wins, reaching the round of 16 in the NCAA singles tournament and finishing as the No. 10 singles player, according to the Intercollegiate Tennis Association.
Quigley didn't attend a Fifth Third news conference Wednesday because he was in Peoria, Ill., as a member of the 13-man USTA Summer Collegiate Team that features elite college players.
The Fifth Third boasts arguably one of the toughest men's and women's draws in the event's history.
American Jesse Levine (No. 158), a former University of Florida standout, headlines the men's competition. Levine is joined by Brazil's Joao Souza (No. 139), former Fifth Third champion Takao Suzuki (No. 296) and last year's runner-up, Alex Kuznetsov (No. 237), among the top male entries.
Taiwan's Kai-Chen Chang (No. 82) is the top-ranked woman. Uzbekistan native Varvara Lepchenko (No. 102) and 2007 Fifth Third Champion Stephanie Dubois (No. 127) of Canada are among the top female entrants.
Seeding and schedules will be announced after this weekend's qualifying rounds.