Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local Sports

July 3, 2014

Ditty back on court with force

35-year-old wins qualifier, advances

ASHLAND — Julie Ditty’s competitive fire is burning again after a three-year retirement from pro tennis.

Now 35, the Ashland native displayed her familiar form in winning a U.S. Open National Playoffs Southern Qualifying tournament last week in Norcross, Ga.

Ditty outplayed 2014 NCAA doubles champion Maya Jansen 6-2, 6-2 for the title to complete a run of five wins in as many days.

“I’m still recovering,” Ditty said half-jokingly Tuesday in a phone interview from Louisville, where she teaches tennis at the Louisville Tennis Club and Blairwood Racquet Club. “I was definitely sore during the tournament. I feel a lot better now.”

Even more, the experience rejuvenated her about being back on the court.

“I’m really excited,” Ditty said. “It felt so good to be competing again. I didn’t put any pressure on myself.” 

As one of 13 USTA sectional champions, Ditty advances to New Haven, Ct., in mid-August with an opportunity to win a wild card into the Qualifier for the U.S. Open. It’s the only Grand Slam main draw to elude her thus far.

The Kentucky Tennis Association Hall of Famer will likely get a fitness coach to help her train for the next round. She also plans to play practice matches against pros and college players in the Louisville area.

For now, Ditty is enjoying her re-found passion for playing tennis rather than deciding if she wants to return to the pro level. 

“I haven’t really made a commitment one way or another,” she said.

This whole development isn’t something Ditty saw coming. She said she woke up four weeks ago with a weird feeling.

“A little voice in my head was saying, “You need to play,’” Ditty recalled. “I never had that happen in three years.”

Ditty didn’t decide to enter the U.S. Open Southern qualifying event until about two hours before the deadline. Friend Chris Groer, also a former Vanderbilt University player, helped talk her into it.

Actually, the ball had begun rolling prior to that. Ditty competed on the Kentucky Senior Cup team at the Southern championships. Joanne Moore Wallen, also a WTA veteran, urged her to play and Ditty helped Kentucky win the 35-over title.

“It was a fun tournament,” Ditty said. “There were people there I knew that I hadn’t seen in a long time. It kind of got me thinking about the past and how much I loved playing then.”

Ditty showed up in Norcross not knowing what to expect, and without all of her equipment.

“I didn’t even have a bag for my rackets,” she said. “I used a rubber band to hold the four of them together.”

Ditty quickly found herself in a tough first-round match before defeating Georgia Tech player Rasheeda McAdoo 7-6, 3-6, 6-1.

“After that, I had (leg) cramps in the middle of the night,” Ditty said. “I woke up and didn’t know if I would be able to play the next day.”

She bounced back impressively, knocking off second-seeded Natalie Pluskota 6-0, 6-3. Pluskota was ranked 478th in the world last year.

Ditty never lost more than three games in a set the rest of the way.

“I feel like my experience definitely helped me,” she said. “I was not in the best shape, but my game was still there.”

Last month, Jansen and University of Alabama doubles partner Erin Routliffe turned in one of the most dominant performances in NCAA doubles finals history. They lost only 13 points in beating their Georgia opponents 6-1, 6-0.

Jansen, however, couldn’t get much going against Ditty — 15 years her senior.

“I wasn’t able to get a rhythm,” Jansen said. “I felt like she put the ball where I didn’t want it.”

That kind of ability enabled Ditty to win a record 39 USTA Pro Circuit — 30 in doubles — during a distinguished career. Her world rankings peaked at 89 in singles and 66 in doubles.

Following her retirement in 2011, Ditty made several stops teaching tennis and assisting at the college level before making Louisville her home.

“I love it here,” said Ditty, who has family in the area. “The tennis community is huge.”  

ROCKY STANLEY can be reached at rstanley@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2671.


Text Only
Local Sports
  • 0726fbPrac0079.jpg Practice rolls on as kickoff approaches in less than 5 weeks

    As high school football teams strap on helmets and prepare for Friday nights next month, the theme of the first couple of weeks of practice for most is simple.
    You gotta work. Hard.
    And if you don’t, it’ll be exposed come Aug. 22.
    “Everybody looks good in helmets,” Ashland coach Tony Love said with a grin. “We’re all undefeated. There’s a lot of work to get done.
    “Our coaches and kids, we all know it, and that’s why they’re here and we’re here, and we’re gonna push hard every day.”

    July 25, 2014 4 Photos

  • kenzie-breaststroke.jpg Pennington makes push for Nationals

    Swimmer Kenzie Pennington had one last chance to make the cut for this year’s YMCA Long Course National Championships.
    The 15-year-old from Ashland didn’t disappoint.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Salyers shoots 75 for title at Lakeside

    Baylee Salyers of Flatwoods shot a 3-over par 75 at Lakeside Golf Course on Thursday to win the Girls Open division of the Walmart Kentucky PGA Junior Tour event.

    July 24, 2014

  • 0724putnamwebshot.JPG Laying the foundation Workers are finishing the foundation for the locker room on the home side of Putnam Stadium on Tuesday. The Ashland Tomcats open the football season on Aug. 22 against Newport Catholic.

    July 23, 2014

  • Genuine throwback

    Todd Eastham is disproving the old cliche, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.”

    July 23, 2014

  • MARK MAYNARD: Looking for those who inspire

    Inspirtation, they say, comes from within. It is defined as an inspiring or animating action or influence.

    July 22, 2014

  • 0722KYPGA_152.jpg Jones tops Gillum in playoff at Eagle Trace

    Ashland senior golfer Logan Jones didn't shoot his average Monday.
    He didn't mind.
    His three-over par 75 and one-hole playoff win over Elliott County junior Ryan Gillum gave him the Boys Open division title in the Kentucky PGA Junior Tour stop at Morehead State University's Eagle Trace Golf Course.

    July 21, 2014 6 Photos

  • 102213_329a.jpg Raceland tabs Clark as new girls basketball coach

    Jason Clark has a reputation of being — to use his word — “passionate” on the Raceland volleyball sideline.
    He plans to bring that same approach as the Lady Rams’ new basketball coach.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0305region2_389.jpg Pass the Mayo: East sophomore PG, Lady Raiders preparing for winter run

    East Carter sophomore point guard Kristen Mayo has played basketball for as long as she can remember.

    July 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • 0718spinda.jpg Steelers super fan Spinda to be recognized in Florida

    Shawn Spinda doesn’t have to use speech to profess his passion for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
    All it takes is a quick glance for a person to get the picture.
    But to absorb the whole picture, you’ll need to clear your schedule.
    Spinda is one of several fanatics who will be recognized at the Sports Fans Conference in Orlando, Florida, which is set for Aug. 28-Sept. 1 at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort. He is a “What a Fan” NFL Fan of the Year nominee.

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo