For Julie Ditty, US Open Run Is A Sign Of Things To Come
After struggling with self-doubt about whether she belonged with the top girls on the WTA Tour, Julie Ditty is starting to produce the results that her former coach, Pat Van der Meer, said she is more than capable of.
Julie Ditty’s fairytale run continued on Friday at the US Open with a second round win in the Women’s Doubles event. According to Van der Meer, results like these are just a sign of things to come.
“I really believe that Julie has the ability to start reaching the quarterfinals and better in doubles at the Grand Slams on a regular basis,” said Van der Meer. “She’s just as good as any of the other girls out there.”
Ditty and fellow American Carly Gullickson defeated the team of Tathiana Garbin and Tamira Paszek 7-5, 6-4, marking the first time that either Ditty or Gullickson have reached the third round at a Grand Slam. Attacking Garbin’s weak service deliveries, the pair broke Garbin three times and came back from 4-2 in the second set.
Gullickson was the star player in the match, attacking the net throughout the match as she frequently poached across the net for winning volleys. Ditty said that Gullickson’s strong play helped carry them to victory on Court 8.
“She was really helping me out on the court today,” said Ditty. “I was struggling out there, but sometimes you have to win ugly and I’m just really happy to be in the third round.”
While many of the doubles teams competing at the US Open choose to play from the baseline, Ditty and Gullickson have adopted a more traditional form of doubles play. Both players served and volleyed on their first serves and looked for opportunities to attack the net throughout the match.
Ray Ruffels, who has helped coach Ditty throughout the summer, said the more conventional doubles play they have used will help them in the long run.
“Part of the reasons so many players stand back is because the volleying at the women’s level is pretty poor overall,” said Ruffels. “There’s so many specific shots like drop volleys or short angles that you can use against a team who is at the baseline. Because both Julie and Carly are so good up at the net, there’s no reason why they can’t be successful playing the way they are right now.”
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Ditty said that she and Gullickson have also been successful this week because of their strong friendship. The pair first met when Gullickson, as a 12 year old, would train with Ditty at Vanderbilt University, where she was an All-American NCAA player. While both Ditty and Gullickson have been competing together on tour for the last few years, this is the first time they have played doubles together.
“I almost feel like she’s my sister,” Ditty said. “We have a great friendship off the court and you always want to play with somebody that you get along with.”
Finishing up her first full year of competing exclusively on the WTA Tour, Ditty said that she has struggled with the higher level of competition.
“It’s been a real eye opener to me,” said Ditty after her first round win on Wednesday. “The girls at this level are so much stronger and they have the belief that they belong out here, which is something I struggle with at times.”
After winning three titles and compiling a 29-13 record in 2007 on the USTA Pro Circuit, the tennis equivalent of Triple A in baseball, Ditty has gone 2-15 in main draw matches on the WTA Tour in 2008, with the majority of her wins this year coming in the qualifying rounds.
“It was really important for Julie to make that jump to the next level,” Van der Meer. “She was getting too comfortable playing in the same tournaments.”
In the final tournament of her first 12 months on the WTA Tour, Van der Meer said the mental and technical aspects of Ditty’s game are beginning to come together.
“We’ve told her so many times how good she is and I think she’s finally starting to get that confidence,” said Van der Meer. “She’s starting to use her left-handedness by incorporating slice and topspin more as well. It might be too late this year because the season is winding down, but I really believe that Julie is ready to have a breakout year on tour next year.”