Julie Ditty

Ditty Wins Opening Doubles Match at US Open

With a new coach and training base, American Julie Ditty believes her best tennis still to come.

Playing with Liga Dekmeijere of Latvia, the duo reeled off six consecutive games and held the lead for the entire match as they advanced into the second round of the US Open, defeating the team of American Meghann Shaughnessy and Alicia Molik of Australia, 7-6 (4), 6-1.

“I think Liga and I are a good pair on the court,” said Ditty. “Because I’m left-handed, it helps to play with a right-handed player. I like to set up the points up more for my partner, and she can be aggressive with her shots.”

Dekmeijere and Ditty were playing against a team who are both coming back from long-standing injuries and illnesses, but who have both reached the top 5 in the doubles rankings. Molik is also a two-time Grand Slam winner in doubles (at the Australian Open in 2005 and Roland Garros in 2007).

“It helped me to talk to people who saw them play their match last week in New Haven,” said Dekmeijere. “Of course, I’m focused on my game, but I needed to know some pointers, and what their strengths or weaknesses were.”

After breaking Molik’s serve while leading 3-2, Ditty served for the set at 5-3, only to have her seen broken with a Shaughnessy forehand that clipped the line. In the tiebreak, two overhead winners by Dekmeijere sent the American-Latvian pair up an early minibreak. On their first set point while leading 6-4, a forehand volley winner by Ditty gave the pair the opening set.

Molik held serve in a 9 deuce game to start the second set, but it was the last game the American-Australian duo would win in the match. Finding the range on their ground strokes and volleys, Dekmeijere and Ditty never faced another game point for the rest of the match, as a mistimed forehand by Shaughnessy sealed the match.

Although she has struggled on the singles court in 2009, Ditty has been producing the best doubles result of her career and currently sits at a career high ranking of No. 66. She reached the semifinals in doubles at a WTA event in Auckland and won a round in Roland Garros and Wimbledon, the latter with Dekmeijere. The highlight of her year came during Fed Cup in February, where she helped the US win the final match of their first round tie against Argentina, playing an instrumental role in helping the US Fed Cup team reach the finals this year.

“I still feel like things are getting better and still feel like I’m working towards something,” said Ditty.

Part of Ditty’s improved attitude can largely be attributed to her new coaching situation. Having traveled alone for most of the year, Ditty recently started traveling with a new coach, Carlos Drada. After playing more tournaments than almost anyone on tour last year (36) and spending time training in different cities including Seattle and San Francisco, Ditty moved to Lexington, Kentucky, at the beginning of August and intends to make the city her new base.

“I’m so much happier now,” said Ditty. “I have a great coach and Lexington is really close to my family. It’s great to have everything that I need right there.”

Ditty and Dekmeijere await the winner of a first round doubles between Lucie Safarova and Galina Voskoboeva, and the No. 12 seeds, Vania King and Monica Niculescu.

Newport Beach Breakers Clinch Advanta World TeamTennis Pro League Playoff Berth With 21-20 Supertiebreaker Win Over Rival Sacramento At Breakers Stadium At Newport Beach Country Club

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif., July 19, 2009 – The toughest games to win in tennis are typically the ones that close out a match or, in Sunday’s instance with respect to the Newport Beach Breakers, the games that clinch an Advanta World TeamTennis Pro League playoff berth. For Breakers coach Trevor Kronemann, there is no better money player and closer in World TeamTennis history than Ramon Delgado.

Thus, the Breakers’ WTT playoff-clinching celebration ensued in dramatic fashion as reigning WTT Male MVP Delgado rallied his team with a final-set victory in regulation and one-game overtime and Supertiebreaker wins that capped a 21-20 victory over the rival Sacramento Capitals at Breakers Stadium at Newport Beach Country Club.

The Breakers (8-4) clinched the Western Conference’s final playoff spot with the four-match season sweep of Sacramento. The Breakers last made the playoffs in 2006, the last of three consecutive years in which the team reached the WTT Finals. The Breakers last won the King Trophy (WTT championship) in 2004.

“Once again, Ramon is just unbelievable in this format,” Kronemann said. “Amazing. Absolutely amazing. At some point, you’re a skeptic and you wonder how many times he can come back. Now I’m a believer. I’ve been around World TeamTennis for 20 years and I’ve never seen anything like it. He’s the greatest World TeamTennis player that’s ever played. He skipped the Davis Cup to play WTT this year. We recognize that and we want to do it for him, too.”

The Breakers will play at the Springfield Lasers (11-0), WTT’s only perfect team, in the WTT playoffs’ Western Conference final on July 24. The teams met in Springfield on July 6 as the Lasers pulled off the second-largest comeback in WTT history, rallying from a 20-12 deficit heading into the final set and emerging victorious, 22-21 in a Supertiebreaker. Springfield then topped the Breakers two days later at Breakers Stadium, 22-17 in overtime.

“We were up eight games. I don’t think we do anything different,” Kronemann said. “If they run the table and go 14-0, all the pressure is on them. We want to redeem ourselves. It’s going to come down to who wants it more.”

Down 16-14, the match was left on the racket of Delgado, the only holdover from the Breakers’ 2004 WTT title team who had already beaten Michael Chang, Sam Querrey and Andre Agassi over the past week. Facing Sacramento’s Sam Warburg, Delgado fended off two break points and won three consecutive points, capped by an ace, to win the first game of the set. Warburg fought off three set points-against to force a tiebreaker, which Delgado controlled and won, 5-1.

Delgado’s win forced overtime on Warburg’s serve, which was broken by Delgado at deuce (also Sacramento’s match point with no-ad scoring) with a running forehand down the line past the charging Warburg. Tied 20-20, the Breakers played their third Supertiebreaker of the season. Delgado again proved too good for Warburg and clinched the Breakers’ playoff berth with a 7-3 Supertiebreaker triumph.

“I am really stressed out there. Really nervous. Really anxious. At least it looks like I am in control out there,” Delgado said. “I think (the win over) Querrey was a real turning point for me. Querrey gave me the confidence, and when I am playing like this, I feel like I can compete with anybody in World TeamTennis. My priority is to beat Springfield and then go to (Washington) D.C. (for the WTT finals).”

Trailing 15-9 after Sacramento (5-7) won the first three sets of the match by 5-3 scores, the Breakers’ comeback attempt began with Julie Ditty and Marie-Eve Pelletier in women’s doubles. The tandem stormed through Sacramento’s Coco Vandeweghe and Angela Haynes to win 5-1 – the set highlighted by Ditty returning three consecutive reflex volleys, the last of which broke Sacramento to increase their set lead to 4-1.

“We knew we had to perform well tonight,” said Ditty, the first-year Breakers player. “We took it to them. You have to have positive energy out here.”

Knowing it had to win to keep its playoff hopes alive against a Breakers team that won 11 of the 15 sets through the teams’ first three meetings this season, Sacramento was all business from the start as Capitals coach Wayne Bryan (father of Mike and Bob Bryan, the world’s No. 1 men’s doubles team) led the cheers.

Wimbledon mixed doubles champion Mark Knowles and Irvine’s Angela Haynes broke the service of the Breakers’ Kaes Van’t Hof and Ditty at 3-3 – the Breakers double-faulted on game-point at deuce – and captured a close first set in mixed doubles, 5-3.

Then, 17-year-old Vandeweghe, the niece of ex-UCLA and NBA standout Kiki Vandeweghe, avenged an earlier women’s singles loss this season to Pelletier and put together her best set of tennis of the team’s four season matchups in a 5-3 singles win. Again, the set was tied 3-3 before Vandeweghe broke Pelletier and closed out the set with a big first serve.

The Breakers dropped the match’s middle set, 5-3 in men’s doubles, a set typically owned by Delgado and Van’t Hof and typically dropped by Sacramento. Before Sunday, Sacramento sported the worst men’s doubles win percentage in WTT while the Breakers’ dynamic duo had won nine of their last 10 sets and was WTT’s top doubles team (53-of-89 games won, 60%).

Results:

Mixed Doubles – Mark Knowles/Angela Haynes (S) def. Kaes Van’t Hof/Julie Ditty (NB), 5-3

Women’s Singles – Coco Vandeweghe (S) def. Marie-Eve Pelletier (NB), 5-3

Men’s Doubles – Sam Warburg/Knowles (S) def. Ramon Delgado/Van’t Hof (NB), 5-3

Women’s Doubles – Ditty/Pelletier (NB) def. Haynes/Vandeweghe (S), 5-1
Men’s Singles – Delgado (NB) def. Warburg (S), 5-4 (5-1 tiebreak)

Overtime – Delgado (NB) def. Warburg (S), 1-0

Supertiebreaker – Delgado (NB) def. Warburg (S), 7-3

Final: Newport Beach Breakers 21, Sacramento Capitals 20 (STB)

Limited tickets are available for the Newport Beach Breakers Series Finale Presented by HOM Real Estate Group – Tuesday, July 21 against John McEnroe and the WTT Eastern Conference champion New York Sportimes (9-3) and Wednesday, July 22, in which Maria Sharapova will play for the Breakers against the Kansas City Explorers. Tickets are $60 for general admission or $45 for the top three rows, and can be purchased by calling 714/352-6301 or visiting www.newporteachbreakers.com.

The Breakers encourage the community to drop off old, unused cell phones at Breakers Stadium on July 21 and July 22 to support soldiers needing cell phones overseas through the Wounded Warrior Project, which raises awareness, program funds and aid for the needs of severely injured service men and women. All used cell phones will be collected at the Wounded Warrior Project expo booth on-site. Each cell phone donated will grant one entry to win a trip to the 2009 Smash Hits on Dec. 8 in Baton Rouge, LA. The Smash Hits is Elton John and Billie Jean King’s annual event that raises money for the fight against HIV and AIDS.

The Breakers are in their third year of operation under the auspices of Hoag Hospital Foundation, which has been granted the rights to manage the Breakers through 2009 by WTT with profits from the team’s season operations benefiting Hoag Hospital. Breakers Stadium (capacity 2,000) is located at Newport Beach Country Club along Pacific Coast Highway, with views overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Breakers supporters can congregate online and expand the team’s fan base through the team’s official fan pages on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#/pages/Newport-Beach-CA/Newport-Beach-Breakers/73887254402?ref=ts), MySpace (www.myspace.com/newportbeachbreakers) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/nbbreakers). Register to become a fan or follower of the Breakers at each fan page and use them to meet and chat with new friends and tennis fans and stay up to date on all team and player information related to the Breakers.

About Newport Beach Breakers
The Newport Beach Breakers are one of 10 nationwide teams that make up the World TeamTennis (WTT) Pro League and are co-owned by WTT founder Billie Jean King. In July 2009, the Breakers will play seven home matches at Breakers Stadium at Newport Beach Country Club, and will be managed by Newport Beach-based Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian through the 2009 WTT season. Profits from the team’s operations for the season will go towards Hoag Hospital Foundation, the Breakers’ primary beneficiary. Hoag Hospital’s expert involvement with professional sports also extends to its organization of the PGA Champions Tour’s Toshiba Classic held annually in March. For tickets, sponsorship and more information, visit www.NewportBeachBreakers.com or call 714/352-6301.

DELGADO OUTDUELS CHANG, NEWPORT BEACH BREAKERS BEAT SACRAMENTO FOR THE THIRD TIME, 22-16, IN ADVANTA WORLD TEAMTENNIS PRO LEAGUE ACTION AT BREAKERS STADIUM AT NEWPORT BEACH COUNTRY CLUB

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif., July 11, 2009 – A titanic clash between two Advanta World TeamTennis Pro League Western Conference playoff contenders reached the ultimate climax at the midpoint of the season when reigning WTT Male MVP Ramon Delgado and 1989 French Open champion and International Tennis Hall of Famer Michael Chang took the court with second-place in the conference on the line.

For the second consecutive night, Delgado beat Chang in men’s singles, and for the third time this season, the Newport Beach Breakers stymied the Sacramento Capitals and strengthened their hold on second place in the West with a 22-16 victory at Breakers Stadium at Newport Beach Country Club.

At the season’s midpoint, the Breakers (5-2) lead the Capitals (3-3) by 1½ games for second in the West and remain 1½ games behind the Springfield Lasers (6-0), WTT’s only unbeaten team. A night after Delgado beat Chang 5-4 in Sacramento, Delgado closed out tonight’s match with a 5-1 set over Chang.

The Breakers holding a slim 17-15 lead heading into the final set, the intensity and shot-making Delgado and Chang exhibited over the final set of men’s singles was a notch above anything seen at Breakers Stadium this season. Chang may have retired from the ATP Tour in 2003, but the grunting and fist-pumping returned Saturday night.

Each player dug deeper and raised their game. Serves and baseline winners were crisper than anything each had hit earlier in their doubles set. All groundstrokes were fiercely chased down, whether or not they were returned. In the end, it was Delgado who reigned supreme as his groundstrokes moved Chang side to side and were hit too well and too deep. The two shook hands at the match’s end after a hard-fought set.

“There’s definitely respect there,” Breakers coach Trevor Kronemann said. “Kaes (Van’t Hof), on the bench, said it to me perfectly when he said this is as close to a WTT rivalry as it gets. Ramon continues to be the World TeamTennis stud that he has been and will be.”

Added Delgado, who was 1-1 vs. Chang on the ATP Tour: “It was very intense. To me, it’s an honor to play against him. I practiced with him last week and it was great. He’s a legend and a great champion. I was happy with the score. Against him, I wanted a bigger lead (going into the final set). I have some tough matches coming up; I’ve got Robert Kendrick. I’ve got Andre Agassi. But I’m feeling good. If I feel like this, I think I can compete against anybody.”
2-2-2
BREAKERS DEFEAT SACRAMENTO FOR THE THIRD TIME THIS SEASON, 22-16

The Breakers hosted their first marquee player of the season Saturday with Chang, an Orange County resident and former World No. 2. Chang partnered with Mark Knowles in men’s doubles to win the third set, 5-4, and pull the Capitals within 14-10 after three sets. Chang, 37, made his WTT debut Friday in a defeat to the Breakers and has enjoyed his WTT experience these past two nights.

“It’s great. I had a fun time last night, although we got munched pretty bad,” Chang said. “It’s nice to be back playing close to home. This is really my backyard. I’m not from the home team, but I feel like I’m a hometown player here. It’s been a fun format. Takes a little bit of getting used to. But it’s nice to play in a team format, which is something, obviously, we don’t get a chance to see that much out on tour, other than playing Davis Cup or maybe a couple other events. Obviously, now being retired, I have a little more flexibility on my time schedule. Billie Jean has been asking me for a long time to be able to come out and play World TeamTennis.”

The Breakers, which won eight of the ten sets played in the teams’ first two meetings, got off to a first-set victory for the first time at home this season through its new mixed doubles combination of Newport Beach native Kaes Van’t Hof and Breakers first-year player Julie Ditty, who entered the mixed doubles lineup for the first time Friday night at Sacramento. The Breakers tandem triumphed 5-3 in the set against Irvine’s Angela Haynes and Knowles, who won the mixed doubles championship at Wimbledon last week.

As Ditty has taken over mixed doubles duties, teammate Marie-Eve Pelletier has assumed the women’s singles role for the Breakers and improved to 2-0 in her singles sets this season after downing 17-year-old Coco Vandeweghe, niece of former UCLA basketball and NBA standout Kiki Vandeweghe, 5-2. On Friday, Pelletier took a singles set from Sacramento’s other female player, Haynes.

“You’ve got to make decisions and we’re lucky it’s kind of worked,” Kronemann said. “We’re just looking for that positive energy, that fire. It’s a confidence issue and Marie-Eve has played very good singles the last two nights. We’ve got a team, and it’s cohesive and it’s working.”

Haynes and Vandeweghe followed up the Chang-Knowles doubles win in the third set with a rally of their own, winning the last four games to take the fourth set, 5-3, trim the Breakers’ lead to 17-15, and set the stage for a Delgado-Chang, fifth-set showdown.

Results:
Mixed Doubles – Kaes Van’t Hof/Julie Ditty (NB) def. Mark Knowles-Angela Haynes (S), 5-3
Women’s Singles – Marie-Eve Pelletier (NB) def. Coco Vandeweghe (S), 5-2
Men’s Doubles – Michael Chang/Knowles (S) def. Ramon Delgado/Van’t Hof (NB), 5-4 (5-2 tiebreak)
Women’s Doubles – Haynes/Vandeweghe (S) def. Ditty/Pelletier (NB), 5-3
Men’s Singles – Delgado (NB) def. Chang (S), 5-1
Final: Newport Beach Breakers 22, Sacramento Capitals 16

The Breakers’ next home match is at 7:05 p.m. Friday, July 17 against Andre Agassi and the Philadelphia Freedoms. The July 17 match is sold out, but a limited amount of tickets for the Breakers’ final three home matches of the season – July 19 vs. Sacramento, July 21 vs. New York Sportimes, and July 22 vs. Kansas City – and team information can be obtained at www.NewportBeachBreakers.com or by calling the ticket sales office at 714-352-6301.

Meanwhile, the Breakers hit the road for three matches in three days, beginning with a Monday meeting in New York against John McEnroe and the Sportimes. On Tuesday, July 14, the Breakers play against Serena Williams, last week’s Wimbledon women’s singles champion, and the Washington Kastles in Washington D.C. On Wednesday, July 15, the Breakers play at the St. Louis Aces.

The Breakers are in their third year of operation under the auspices of Hoag Hospital Foundation, which has been granted the rights to manage the Breakers through 2009 by WTT with profits from the team’s season operations benefiting Hoag Hospital. Breakers Stadium (capacity 2,000) is located at Newport Beach Country Club along Pacific Coast Highway, with views overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

3-3-3
BREAKERS DEFEAT SACRAMENTO FOR THE THIRD TIME THIS SEASON, 22-16

Breakers supporters can congregate online and expand the team’s fan base through the team’s official fan pages on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#/pages/Newport-Beach-CA/Newport-Beach-Breakers/73887254402?ref=ts), MySpace (www.myspace.com/newportbeachbreakers)
and Twitter (www.twitter.com/nbbreakers). Register to become a fan or follower of the Breakers at each fan page and use them to meet and chat with new friends and tennis fans and stay up to date on all team and player information related to the Breakers.

About Newport Beach Breakers
The Newport Beach Breakers are one of 10 nationwide teams that make up the World TeamTennis (WTT) Pro League and are co-owned by WTT founder Billie Jean King. In July 2009, the Breakers will play seven home matches at Breakers Stadium at Newport Beach Country Club, and will be managed by Newport Beach-based Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian through the 2009 WTT season. Profits from the team’s operations for the season will go towards Hoag Hospital Foundation, the Breakers’ primary beneficiary. Hoag Hospital’s expert involvement with professional sports also extends to its organization of the PGA Champions Tour’s Toshiba Classic held annually in March. For tickets, sponsorship and more information, visit www.NewportBeachBreakers.com or call 714/352-6301.

About Advanta WTT Pro League
The 34th season of the Advanta WTT Pro League runs July 2-26, concluding with the Advanta WTT Finals on July 26 in Washington, D.C., where teams battle for the coveted King Trophy.

WTT is well known for introducing innovative elements to tennis including instant replay, co-ed format, multi-colored courts, cumulative and no-ad scoring, on-court coaching, Supertiebreakers and names on the back of players’ shirts.

Team matches consist of five events, with one set each of men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles. The first team to reach five games wins each set. A nine-point tiebreaker is played if a set reaches four-all. One point is awarded for each game won. If necessary, Overtime and a Supertiebreaker are played to determine the winner of the match.
Advanta is the title sponsor of the Advanta WTT Pro League.  Official Advanta WTT Pro League sponsors for the 2009 season include DecoTurf, FirmGreen Energy, GEICO, Turfer Athletic and Wilson Racquet Sports. The United States Tennis Association is a minority owner and promotional partner of World TeamTennis. WTT and the USTA are teaming up on number of initiatives, including development of the youth market through junior team tennis programs.

For more information on the Advanta WTT Pro League, visit www.wtt.com.

Hitting The Books Or The Courts: Top American Players Weigh In

At this year’s US Open tennis championships, many of the top American junior players found themselves facing a pivotal fork in the road. Players including Asia Muhammed and Kristie Ahn, are now entering their junior and senior years of high school. With a full year of classes (if not more) ahead of them, they have already been contacted by some of the best universities in the country, including Stanford and Princeton, with guarantees of full athletic scholarships if they commit to playing on their tennis team. However, these teenagers already possess a game well beyond their years. They already have the ability to compete at the professional level and are aware of the relatively small time frame they have to utilize their talents. This ultimately begs a crucial question for these players and their families: Is it best to turn pro or go to college?

For many in the tennis community, college tennis is almost seen as a consolation prize; for those who lack the ability to make it on the pro tour, they have the opportunity to receive a free education. The odds of becoming a successful player on the pro tour after college are slim at best. Out of the tens of thousands of women who competed at the college level over the last 15 years, only five of them have ever cracked the top 100 in the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) rankings. Only two of these girls (Jill Craybas and Julie Ditty) actually graduated from their school of choice; the rest dropped out by their sophomore year to pursue their careers. This year’s NCAA champion, Amanda McDowell of Georgia Tech, is currently ranked No. 797 in the world

“The level of play in college tennis is not nearly what it used to be 15 or 20 years ago,” said Lisa Raymond, the 1992 and 1993 NCAA women’s singles champion. “Players don’t have that same opportunity to compete and develop their games anymore.”

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The lack of strong competition at the college level has prompted top American junior Asia Muhammed to turn professional this summer. In declaring their pro status and accepting prize money, she is no longer allowed to compete at the amateur level. This means she is not only giving up her chances to play college tennis, but is also forfeiting any athletic scholarship opportunities should she choose to go to college in the future.

“America is the only place where college tennis is really even an option,” said Muhammed, 17. In Europe or Australia, you turn professional when you’re young and then go back to college if you haven’t made it on tour. There isn’t that intermediate step.”

Despite now having the chance to pursue her dreams of tennis stardom, players like Muhammed now have to face the realization of the cost and time commitment that it takes to compete at this level. Unlike most sports, professional tennis tournaments are held year round at locations all over the world. The majority of players travel for at least 30 weeks a year, completely on their own, and often in foreign locations where they don’t know the language. The international travel, combined with the coaching that takes place at home, leads to a staggering bill that is often placed on the shoulders of their families.

“I would say that it costs about $50,000 a year to compete on the tour, and if that’s if you’re doing it very cheaply,” said Mashona Washington, a 31 year old player from Houston. “If you travel with a coach, you can pretty much double that amount.”

Muhammed is also coached partly by her father, which brings up a potentially harmful situation. Although she doesn’t have to pay for a coach, Muhammed now faces the responsibility of becoming the primary breadwinner in their family while not even out of her teen years. In many cases, the decision to turn pro is that of the parents and not the child themselves.

“There are some girls who are turning pro right now and there isn’t anything about their game that stands out,” said Raymond. “Being a professional athlete can be an incredibly tough life at times. I think it’s important for most of these girls to at least go to college initially and be able to mature as people. Playing with the pros and actually becoming a pro are two completely different things.”

Factors such as this have prompted Kristie Ahn to keep her amateur status and plan on attending college for all four years, regardless of her professional results.

“I don’t see the big rush to turn pro right away,” said Ahn. “Rather than focusing on the pros, I’m just glad to have the honor of being of the top junior players in the country.”

While many of her contemporaries have shuttled off to tennis academies in California and Florida, Ahn has heeded the advice of her family and remained at home in New Jersey. She takes classes at home and limits her tournament schedule to roughly one event per month. While Ahn has yet to make a decision about attending a particular college, she believes that she can find a balance between attending college and competing in professional events.

“Everybody says that college is the best four years of your life and I really want to experience that,” said Ahn. “Even if the level of play in college isn’t that strong, I can still play pro events during the summer.”

While there will always be exceptions to the rule, Dr. Jack Ditty, the tournament director in Ashland, feels that many players are short changing themselves by not getting an education.

“So many of these girls invest their entire lives into tennis and leave with no money, nothing to show for it, and no education,” said Dr. Ditty. “What kind of life is that?”

He cites his daughter Julie, a current pro on the WTA Tour, as an example that a player can get a college degree and still be successful in tennis. After graduating from Vanderbilt in 2002 with a degree in early childhood education, Julie turned pro. After five years of competing on tour, she had a breakout year in 2007 and finished just outside of the top 100. In January of 2008, she made her main draw debut in a Grand Slam at the Australian Open. At the age of 29, she became the oldest player in WTA history to make their debut showing at a Grand Slam.

“If I had to do it all over again, I would definitely still have gone to college,” said Ditty. “It takes the pressure off me as a player because in the worst case scenario, I have a degree to fall back on. I don’t know if I would have achieved more as a pro by starting earlier, but by finishing up at Vanderbilt, I now have something that will last me for the rest of my life.”

Mondays With Bob Greene: I played unbelievable tennis against Novak

STARS

Andy Roddick won the China Open by beating Dudi Sela 6-4 6-7 (6) 6-3 in Beijing, China

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga beat Novak Djokovic 7-6 (4) 6-4 to win the Thailand Open in Bangkok, Thailand

Jelena Jankovic beat Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-3 6-2 to win the China open women’s singles in Beijing

Maria Kirilenko defeated Samantha Stosur to win the Hansol Korea Open in Seoul, South Korea, 2-6 6-1 6-4

Alberto Martin beat Julian Reister 6-2 6-0 to win the ATP Challenger Trophy 2008 in Trnava, Slovakia

John McEnroe won the Vivium Victory Challenge in Luxembourg, beating Henri Leconte 6-1 6-4

Jim Courier beat Todd Martin 6-2 3-6 10-5 (match tiebreak) to win the Citadel Group Championships at The Palisades in Charlotte, North Carolina

SAYINGS

“I’ve been dreaming about this, so I’m very happy. I played unbelievable tennis against Novak. It’s one of the great moments of my life.” – Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, after beating Novak Djokovic to win the Thailand Open, his first ATP singles title.

“I lost to a great player. Bravo to Jo and his team for his first ATP title. I’m sure we’ll be seeing him again often in the future.” – Novak Djokovic.

“This feels really good. It’s been a lot of years since I’ve won one of these events, so many that I can’t even remember the last one I won.” – John McEnroe, after beating Henri Leconte to win the Vivium Victory Challenge.

“At first I couldn’t believe it. I thought that maybe they were joking or something. Me, playing with all these great players like Borg, McEnroe, Guillermo Vilas and Henri Leconte, is incredible. When I started to play tennis, Borg was my idol, so this is the most fantastic thing for me.” – Johny Goudenbour, who was given a wild card to play in a BlackRock Tour of Champions event in Luxembourg.

“If I was more consistent I think I would be ranked higher, maybe Top 10 or Top 15. But I have time to improve. I’m only 21 and I’ll get more experience in the time to come.” – Maria Kirilenko, after winning her third singles title of the year.

“Svetlana beat me two times this year. I was really motivated to get a win against her, and winning in two sets is very satisfying.” – Jelena Jankovic, after beating Svetlana Kuznetsova to win the China Open.

“I’m disappointed. I wasn’t moving the ball or doing the right things on the court. I love playing here, so it was disappointing to not play well in the final.” – Svetlana Kuznetsova.

“This was a good win for me. It was in China and in front of my home crowd. There were lots of fans supporting me, which gave me even more motivation.” – Zheng Jie, after upsetting Ana Ivanovic in the China Open.

“I was defending a lot. It was like running a marathon out there. She was really aggressive and was dominating a lot. I didn’t even realize how much I was running out there.” – Ana Ivanovic, after losing to Zheng Jie.

“I had a lot of pressure on me during those years and I was too young for it. … This time, win or lose, I’m just trying to enjoy it. I’m going to have more fun. And I think this will be good for Japanese tennis too.” – Kimiko Date-Krumm, on her returning to tennis after a 12-year hiatus following her retirement.

“I didn’t feel comfortable on court. Unfortunately, I didn’t win. The other guy was better than me.” – Marat Safin, after suffering a 6-4 7-6 first-round loss to Philipp Petzschner at the Thailand Open.

“Roger (Federer) has said he wants to put the Davis Cup into his calendar, but he wants to see all the details first. He will do anything possible to be there.” – Swiss Tennis spokeswoman Sandra Perez on whether Federer will play in a first-round Davis Cup tie against the United States.

“I will have to digest this one and make sure I go back on the right track for the next few tournaments.” – Amelie Mauresmo, a former world number one who has lost her last two first-round matches.

“People tend to think athletes have a glamorous life, traveling all the time to international destinations and staying at five-star hotels. But in reality it is not all that great. We do go through some difficult moments in our careers, with struggles, intrigues and fights, like in any other job.” – Fernando Meligeni, who has written a book about his 14-year career as a professional tennis player.

“As an American player it meant a lot to me to break the record. It’s nice to have the opportunity to play so many great pro circuit events in this country. I’ve played most of the pro circuit events held in the US and have met a lot of wonderful people, and have a lot of good memories from the different tournaments.” – Julie Ditty, after becoming the new record-holder of the most career USTA Pro Circuit titles.

SERVING WITH THE STARS

Johny Goudenbour’s day job is with the local tourist board in Luxembourg. But he lived a dream this past week at the Vivium Victory Challenge, a stop on the BlackRock Tour of Champions. Goudenbour was Luxembourg’s highest ranked tennis player for six consecutive years in the 1980s, and he reached a career high world ranking of 304. Now 45 years old, Goudenbour still plays inter-club level tennis in neighboring Germany, but his main job these days is putting together cultural films promoting his home town. He was surprised when he received a telephone call offering him a wild card into the seniors tournament being played in Luxembourg. Goudenbour upset both Carl-Uwe Steeb and Cedric Pioline before losing to Henri Leconte 6-2 7-5.

SECURITY CONCERNS

With tennis tournaments scheduled for the country in November, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) has expressed its concern to Pakistan about security. A Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) offical said the ITF did not call for cancellation of the events, but asked for details on security arrangements in view of travel advisories issued by the United States, European and other countries. A record number of players from Great Britain, Australia, Germany, Russia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Tanzania, Romania, Kazakistan, Iran, Sri Lanka, South Korea, Taiwan and India have entered the first tournament, which will be held in Islamabad.

SUING ATP?

His lawyer says Nikolay Davydenko is considering suing the ATP to get the men’s tennis organization to pay the Russian’s legal costs following a 13-month gambling inquiry that found no evidence that he did anything wrong. Attorney Frank Immenga said Davydenko wants the ATP to issue a more positive press statement and “maybe apologize,” according to the Bloomberg news agency. Davydenko also is considering taking action against Betfair Ltd., the British gambling site, for making public details of its probe into a Davydenko match.

STILL TOUGH

Andy Roddick says the game of tennis in the United States is in good health despite no American man winning a Grand Slam title in five years. Roddick was the last American man to win a major, the US Open in 2003. But the former world number one notes that the United States has three players in the top 25 and two in the top ten. Plus, he points out that the US won the Davis Cup in 2007 and the fact that the brothers Bob and Mike Bryan are the world’s top-ranked doubles team. “If you compare us with other countries, we’re very, very strong,” Roddick said.

SINO STAR

Zheng Jie is proving her Wimbledon showing was no surprise. The right-hander upset second-seeded Ana Ivanovic 7-6 (4) 2-6 6-4 at the China Open in a quarterfinal baseline slugfest that lasted six minutes short of three hours. It was Zheng’s second straight win over her Serbian opponent in as many 2008 meetings. She beat Ivanovic at Wimbledon to become the first Chinese player to topple a reigning world number one. It also was her first Top 10 win. In the Beijing tournament, she also beat Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, giving Zheng her second and third career wins over players ranked in the Top 10.

SPORTS HALL INDUCTEE

Billie Jean King is in yet another hall of fame. The tennis great is one of four athletes elected to the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame (BASHOF). Others included in the 2009 class are baseball pitcher Gaylord Perry, football tight end Dave Casper and quarterback Craig Morton. The four will be inducted at a banquet March 9 in San Francisco.

SELECTED

Two-time Grand Slam champion Rod Laver has been elected a Life Trustee of the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum in Newport, Rhode Island. Nine new members have been elected to the Hall’s board of directors: Douglas Fonte, Lucy Garvin, Elizabeth Jeffett, Ted Leonsis , Andrew McElwee Jr., David Westin, Allen Brill, David Tyree and Nancy von Auersperg. Returning to the board are Robert Downey, Steve Lessing and Sue Ann Weinberg.

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SKIPPING OUT

Simone Bolelli has been banned by the Italian Tennis Federation from national team events for skipping the country’s Davis Cup matches with Latvia. Bolelli, ranked 45th in the world, chose instead to play tour events in Bangkok, Thailand, and in Tokyo, Japan. Bolelli said he told Italian Davis Cup captain Corrado Barrazzutti well in advance of the international team competition that he preferred to work on his fast-court game in Asia.

SWISS START

For the second time in nine years, the United States could face a Roger Federer-led Switzerland team when the two countries meet in a first-round Davis Cup match next year. The last time they faced each other, Federer won three points to lead Switzerland to victory in 2001. Spain and Argentina, this year’s finalists, will begin next year’s play at home, Argentina facing the Netherlands and Spain playing host to Serbia. In other World Group first-round matches, France will be at the Czech Republic, Chile at Croatia, Israel travels to Sweden and Austria goes to Germany.

SHRIVER CHARITY CLASSIC

US Open champion Serena Williams and Olympic gold medalist Elena Dementieva will face each other at the 23rd annual Pam Shriver Charity Tennis Classic in November. Williams is ranked number one in the world, while Dementieva is ranked number four. They will meet in a “Battle of Olympic Gold Medal Champions.” Williams teamed with her sister Venus to win the doubles gold medal at the Beijing Olympics. Net proceeds from the Tennis Classic are distributed to children’s charities under the guidance of the Baltimore Community Foundation.

SAYING IT ALL

Former ATP star Fernando Meligeni has turned author. His book – “Aqui Tem! Vitórias e Memórias de Fernando Meligeni com Andre Kfouri” – was released last week in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The book was written by Meligeni and Andre Kfouri, a well-known sports journalist in Brazil who currently is working for ESPN. Ranked as high as 25th in the world, Meligeni was a French Open semifinalist in 1999. He said he wrote the book to unveil some funny and stressful behind-the-scenes moments of his 14-year career on the tour.

SETS RECORD

Julie Ditty is the new record-holder for most career USTA Pro Circuit championships. The 29-year-old swept the singles and doubles titles at a recent ITF Women’s Circuit event in Albuquerque, New Mexico, earning her 31st and 32nd career USTA Pro Circuit titles, the most of any player, man or woman. On the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, the 29-year-old Ditty’s best result came last November when she reached the semifinals of an event and broke into the Top 100 for the first time. The previous record of 30 titles was held jointly by Paul Goldstein and Nana Smith.

SIXTH SENSE ACADEMY

Justine Henin and Carlos Rodrigez have opened a tennis academy in Florida. The superstar player, who was ranked number one in the world when she retired from the sport earlier this year, and her coach opened their second 6th Sense Tennis Academy, this one in Howey-in-the-Hills, Florida, located 30 miles northwest of Orlando. Their first academy was opened in Belgium almost a year ago.

SUCCESSFUL PAIR

When Stephen Huss and Ross Hutchins won the doubles at China Open, it was their first title as a team. The 32-year-old Huss had won two other doubles crowns, including Wimbledon in 2005 with Wesley Moodie. Hutchins, nine years younger than his partner, won his first title in just his second ATP final. But Hutchins has done well in Beijing, having reached the semifinals last year when he was teamed with Eric Butorac. Huss and Hutchins became partners in Valencia, Spain, in April where they lost in the first round. Prior to winning in Beijing, their best result had been reaching the third round at Roland Garros.

SHARAPOVA OUT FOR YEAR

Because of her lingering shoulder injury, Maria Sharapova has decided to stop playing tournaments until next year. She is currently in Arizona where she is rehabilitating her shoulder. The injury has kept her from practicing the past several weeks, but she hopes to return to practice soon. She has decided to skip tournaments in Asia, Europe and the season-ending Championships. Sharapova won the Australian Open in January along with two other singles titles and has been ranked number one in the world this year.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Beijing: Anabel Medina Garrigues and Caroline Wozniacki beat Han Xinyun and Xu Yi-Fan 6-1 6-3

Bangkok: Chuang Chia-Jung and Hsieh Su-Wei beat Vera Dushevina and Maria Kirilenko 6-3 6-0

Beijing: Stephen Huss and Ross Hutchins beat Ashley Fisher and Bobby Reynolds 7-5 6-4

Bangkok: Lukas Dlouhy and Leander Paes beat Scott Lipsky and David Martin 6-4 7-6 (4)

Trnava: David Zkoch and Igor Zelenay beat Daniel Koellerer and Michael Mertinak 6-3 6-1

SITES TO SURF

Tokyo: www.jta-tennis.or.jp/aigopen/e/

Stuttgart: www.porsche-tennis.de

Tashkent: www.tashkentopen.uz

Eindhoven: www.afastennisclassics.nl

Mons: http://www.ethiastrophy.be

Vienna: www.ba-ca-tennistrophy.at

Stockholm: www.stockholmopen.se

Moscow: www.kremlincup.ru

Henin: www.6senstennisacademie.com.

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$832,000 AIG Japan Open Tennis Championships, Tokyo, Japan, hard

$416,000 Open de Moselle, Metz, France, hard

$125,000 Ethias Trophy, Mons, Belgium, hard

WTA TOUR

$650,000 Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, Stuttgart, Germany, hard

$175,000 AIG Japan Open Tennis Championships, Tokyo, Japan, hard

$145,000 Tashkent Open, Tashkent, Uzbekistan, hard

SENIORS

AFAS Tennis Classics, BlackRock Tournament of Champions, Eindhoven, Netherlands, carpet

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$1,000,000 ATP Kremlin Cup, Moscow, Russia, carpet

$800,000 IF Stockholm Open, Stockholm, Sweden, hard

$755,000 Bank Austria TennisTrophy, Vienna, Austria, hard

WTA TOUR

$1,340,000 Kremlin Cup, Moscow, Russia, carpet

SENIORS

BlackRock Tour of Champions, Budapest, Hungary, carpet

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.”

For Julie Ditty, A Career First At Age 29

At an age where many of her contemporaries have long since retired, Julie Ditty is producing the best results of her career.

In front of a standing room only crowd on Court 5, Ditty won a round in a Grand Slam for the first time in her career. Teaming with fellow American Carly Gullickson, the wild card pair beat the team of Tamarine Tanasugarn and Yaroslava Shvedova 7-5, 6-1.

“It feels awesome,” said Ditty. “We were one out from getting directly into the main draw, so I’m glad we were able to take advantage of being wild carded in.”

Displaying more tactical doubles skills than their opponents, who were pinned at the baseline throughout the match, Ditty and Gullickson regularly put away winning volleys as they attacked the net throughout the contest.

After breaking Shvedova’s serve to take a 2-0 lead in the second set, they broke her serve once again to consolidate their lead. A service winner by Gullickson on their first match point at 5-1 sent them into the next round, where they will take on the team of Tathiana Garbin and Tamira Paszek.

Although this is the first time that Ditty and Gullickson have paired up in doubles, Ditty said they’ve known each other for more than a decade.

“I’ve known her since she was 13,” Ditty said. “When I was on the team at Vanderbilt, she would come to hit with us because she was based out of Nashville. She’s a great girl and we have a lot of fun together out on the court.”

After years of toiling away on the challenger circuit, Ditty has produced the best results of her career in the last 12 months. She cracked the top 100 for the first time, reached the semifinals at a WTA event in Quebec City, and competed in the singles main draw at three Grand Slam events in 2008.

Despite her rapid progression, Ditty said that her first full year on the WTA Tour has shown her just how much she needs to improve.

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“It’s been a real eye opener,” Ditty said. “I’m still kind of feeling my way through it. Everybody is so much stronger physically at this level and they have the belief that they belong here, which is something I struggle with at times. I’ve really had to improve my level of play and my fitness considerably just to be able to contend.”

Part of Ditty’s late blooming status on the tour is due to the fact that she didn’t turn professional until the age of 22, opting to gain a degree in early childhood education from Vanderbilt University while remaining of the top NCAA in the country. Fellow Americans Venus Williams and Jill Craybas are the only other players in the top 100 with college degrees.

Many of the American teenagers competing at the US Open, including Melanie Oudin and Asia Muhammad, have already turned professional, therefore foregoing their opportunity to play college tennis. While both Oudin and Muhammad spoke of the need to face stronger competition and utilize their talent tennis, Ditty said she has no regrets about finishing her education.

“If I had to do it all over again, I would in a second,” Ditty said. “I loved the experience of being able to compete on a team and have your friends around. Once you get on the tour, you’re by yourself all year and don’t have anybody cheering you on.”

In addition to gaining the college experience, Ditty said her years at Vanderbilt have allowed her time on tour to be less stressful.

“It takes the pressure off me a little bit because in the worst case scenario, I have a degree to fall back on. For a lot of these girls out here, this is their one shot. They can always go back to college afterwards, but they won’t be able to college tennis and probably won’t be able to receive a scholarship.”

Having already achieved a career milestone in winning her first main draw match at a Grand Slam, Ditty will look to beat her own personal best result when she plays her second round match on Friday.

Ditty Falls In Opening Round Of US Open Qualifying

In cracking the top 100 for the first time in her career and competing exclusively on the WTA Tour, 2008 has been a year of career milestones for Julie Ditty.

Competing in the main draw of the US Open won’t be one of them.

Hampered by 69 unforced errors in her first round US Open qualifying match, Ditty squandered a 4-2 final set lead in falling 6-0, 4-6, 7-6 (3) to Rika Fujiwara, of Japan. This is the first time this year that the 29 year old Ditty failed to compete in the main draw of a Grand Slam event.

Despite being seeded third in the qualifying draw, Ditty struggled from the start of the match against the No. 160 ranked Fujiwara. Mis-timing her shots and displaying poor footwork, Ditty only won two points in the first three games of the match. She then dropped her serve once more to lose the first set, 6-0, hitting just one winner to 21 unforced errors.

The normally calm Ditty began to display signs of frustration, whacking a ball against the back screen as she held serve in the beginning of the second set to win her first game of the match. Adopting a more aggressive approach, Ditty began to pull the diminutive Fujiwara out wide during the long baseline rallies and approach the net for put away volleys. A clean forehand volley winner by Ditty gave her a set point in the second set, and a forehand error by Fujiwara sent the match into a final set.

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The third set featured grueling baseline exchanges and wild swings in momentum. Ditty had game points in all but two of the games in the third set, yet failed to capitalize on multiple game point opportunities. Leading 4-2 in the final set, Ditty piled up several unforced errors to give Fujiwara a 5-4 lead.

Overwhelmed by the occasion, Fujiwara failed to serve out the match on two consecutive occasions as Ditty raised the level of her game to send the match into a deciding tiebreak. After winning the first point with a forehand winner, Ditty lost five consecutive points as stormed out to a 5-1 lead. Moments later, Fujiwara clinched the win on her third match point when Ditty hit a backhand long.

Ditty will stay in New York until the end of the week to find out whether or not she will receive a wild card into the main draw of the women’s doubles event at the US Open. She will then travel to Asia for a series of WTA Tour events, followed by the WTA Tour event in Quebec City.