The Kentucky Bank Tennis Championships return to Lexington for the 21st year in a row this weekend, featuring professional players from all corners of the world.
The men’s tournament offers $75,000 in prize money while the women’s event provides $60,000. Any athlete who gains entry to the main draw will walk away with some amount of prize money.
On top of a potential paycheck, players are also competing for a chance to play in one of the four Grand Slam tournaments, next month’s U.S. Open.
Lexington is one of the many stops on the U.S. Open Wild Card Challenge. Over the course of a five-week period, players who compete in select tournaments earn points based upon performance, and whoever collects the most points in the challenge earns a wild-card entry into the U.S. Open.
The winner of the women’s tournament will earn 80 points toward her challenge total while the men’s winner will earn 90. Those points could prove to be vital since the women’s challenge ends after this week and the men’s challenge has one week to go after this.
The tournament will begin with qualifying rounds Saturday through Monday, with the men’s main draw beginning Monday night, and the women’s main draw on Tuesday morning. Four men and four women who win all three of their matches in the qualifying rounds will get to compete in the main draw.
The men’s and women’s tournaments each feature 32 singles players and 16 doubles teams in their main draws.
Four players competing in the men’s U.S. Open challenge will be in Lexington this week, including overall leader Tommy Paul.
Paul, a 20-year-old from Boca Raton, Fla., reached the semifinals at the $75,000 challenger in Winnetka, Ill., to earn his 29 current points. Paul will start the tournament in the qualifying rounds.
Other U.S. Open challengers competing in Lexington this week include Marcus Giron, Ray Sarmiento, and Kevin King.
Denis Kudla, a 24-year-old born in Ukraine, is arguably the top player in this week’s tournament. Kudla competed in the 2016 Summer Olympics and reached the final qualifying round at this year’s Wimbledon tournament.
Kudla also competed in the 2015 Wimbledon tournament, where he reached the fourth round, his career-best grand slam finish. Kudla previously won the Lexington tournament in 2012.
University of Kentucky tennis fans might see a familiar face in the qualifying rounds when Eric Quigley takes the court for his first match. Quigley was the 2012 NCAA singles runner-up, and earned All-America status five times during his career at UK.
Four of the top six players in the U.S. Open challenge will compete in the Lexington tournament, led by Sofia Kenin.
The 18-year-old from Pembroke Pines, Fla., has a 32-point lead after her win at the $60,000 event in Stockton, Calif. Kenin also competed at Wimbledon and the French Open in the qualifying rounds this year.
Kenin will be challenged by top-seeded Danielle Collins, who won two NCAA singles titles during her career at the University of Virginia. Collins collected eight points from the $60,000 event in Stockton, Calif.
Fans should also watch out for 15-year-old American Amanda Anisimova. Anisimova competed in the main draw at Roland Garros after winning the French Open Wild Card Challenge this year.
Anisimova, from Aventura, Fla., became the youngest player to compete in the French Open main draw since Alize Cornet in 2005.
▪ As of Friday afternoon, no rain was in the forecast for the entire week of the tournament. If rain were to fall during the tournament, they would likely move play inside the Hilary J. Boone Tennis Complex like they do for UK matches.
▪ On top of exciting tennis, fans will have the chance to participate in the many promotions officials have set up for the week of the tournament. The calendar of events, as well as details of the promotions, can be found on the tournament’s website at LexingtonChallenger.com.
Chris Leach: 859-231-1326, @chrisleach250
Kentucky Bank Tennis Championships
When: Saturday through Aug. 6
Where: UK’s Hilary J. Boone Tennis Complex
Tickets: One-day general admission, $10. Weeklong general admission, $50. Qualifying rounds this weekend are free.