Meghann Shaughnessy

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.

Beginnings and Endings For Jim Courier

In the Tuesday, March 24 edition of “Tennis History Tuesday” we note a significant day in tennis history for Jim Courier. As excerpted from my book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.tennishistorybook.com), today marks the 18th anniversary of Courier winning the biggest title of his young career back in 1991 at then branded Lipton Championships (now the Sony Ericssson Open). Nine-years later in 2000, Courier wins his final match on the ATP, taking out 18-year-old David Nalbandian in the first round of the then-branded Ericsson Open (also the current day Sony Ericsson Open.) The full book excerpt is below.

1991 – No. 18-ranked Jim Courier wins the biggest title of his career to date, defeating David Wheaton 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the final of the Lipton Championships in Key Biscayne, Fla. “I feel like I can compete with anybody out there,” says Courier following the win, which vaults him into the top 10 for the first time in his career at No. 9.

2000 – Jim Courier wins what eventually becomes his final match on the ATP Tour, defeating 18-year-old David Nalbandian of Argentina 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 in the first round of the Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne, Fla. “This is the golden twilight for a certain period of American tennis, but hopefully the dawning of a new era,” says the 29-year-old Courier following the win over Nalbandian, playing his first ATP Tour level match. “What are you going to do? I’ve been on the tour and this is my 13th year. Pete [Sampras] and [Michael] Chang the same. And Andre [Agassi] has been around even longer. People can’t expect us to be around forever. Hopefully we’ll be around competitively a few more years, but it’s the enjoy-it-while-you-can time of our careers. You start to get limited physically once you get into your 30s.” The next day, Courier plays what is his final professional singles match, losing to world No. 7-ranked Thomas Enqvist of Sweden 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-4.

1927 – In a match described by The New York Times as “spectacular and bitterly contested,” George Lott, the No. 9 ranked American, upsets U.S. No. 1 Bill Tilden 6-3, 0-6, 7-5, 6-3 to win the Halifax Tennis Championships in Ormand Beach, Fla. Writes the Times, “Lott stuck stubbornly to his method of going after every return. Long rallies were frequent with Lott winning better than his share. Many of the game went to deuce. The large gallery was on the side of the 20-year-old ninth ranking player.”

1990 – Sixteen-year-old Monica Seles wins the Lipton Championships in Key Biscayne, Fla., – her second career singles title – defeating Judith Wiesner of Austria 6-1, 6-2 in the final.

1998 – Seventeen-year-old Martina Hingis saves two match points and comes back from a 3-5, 15-40 third-set deficit to defeat 16-year-old Serena Williams 6-3, 1-6, 7-6 (4) in the quarterfinals of the Lipton Championships.

2005 – In a battle of the shortest and tallest players on the ATP Tour, five-foot-four inch Olivier Rochus of Belgium defeats six-foot-ten Ivo Karlovic of Croatia 5-7, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3) in the first round of the NASDAQ-100 Open in Key Biscayne, Fla.

2006 – American Meghann Shaughnessy, who loses her first five matches of 2006, breaks out of her funk at the NASDAQ-100 in Miami, upsetting No. 3 seed Justine Henin-Hardenne 7-5, 6-4 in the second-round. “This one is very special because I’ve been struggling lately and haven’t been playing my best tennis,” says Shaughnessy, who doesn’t face a break point in the match. “So to go out and play a match like that against Justine, it means a lot to me.”