Although Julie Ditty lost her third round women’s doubles match at the U.S. Open on Sunday, she gained a whole new fan base with her strong play throughout the week.

Teaming up with fellow American Carly Gullickson, the pair lost to the top-seeded team of Cara Black and Liezel Huber 6-2 6-2. Playing in front of an enthusiastic crowd on the Grandstand, Ditty and Gullickson had the crowd on their side with their playful attitude and fighting spirit on the court.

“I was really excited to be able to get to play them,” said Ditty. “They’re the best team in the world and they play week in and week out, so it’s a great chance to see how you match up.”

Black and Huber only missed one serve in the beginning of the match, hitting multiple volley winners as they raced to a 4-0 lead. Despite the early advantage, Black said she wasn’t underestimating Ditty after she and Huber lost to her in doubles at a WTA event in Paris last February.

“Because we already played her in Paris, we had a better idea of what to expect this time,” said Black. “Her lefty serve can be tricky to read and I find that most left handed players have good forehands as well. She’s really strong at the net as well and that’s probably where her best attributes lie.”

Although the American team continued to play the aggressive style of doubles that got them into the third round, shots that normally would have been winners kept coming back. On one point in the fifth game, Black and Huber returned three consecutive overheads by Ditty and Gullickson before losing the point..

“They don’t do anything particularly different from the other doubles team, but they do what they’re supposed to do,” said Gullickson. “They know where to place the ball and have a super high percentage of first serves. There are no easy mistakes with them.”

An overhead winner by Ditty on Gullickson’s serve gave them the game point they needed to get on the board in the opening set. The American pair hung tough in the fast-paced net exchanges for the rest of the set before a forehand smash by Black gave them the opening set.

“I feel like we calmed down after the first few games,” said Ditty.

Although they were competitive throughout the second set, Black and Huber prevailed in the critical points in the second set and took a 5-0 lead. Despite the odds against them, the American pair continued to fight. Ditty hit three winners in the sixth game of the set to put them on the board, prompting a large ovation from the crowd. Ditty then held serve to put the Americans at 2-5 before a backhand error by Gullickson ended the match.

Ditty and Gullickson said they will team up in a series of American challenger events throughout the fall before playing the WTA event in Quebec City. With their doubles rankings just outside the top 100 after this tournament, they will be targeting the main draw of the doubles event at the Australian Open in January.

“We definitely got a lot of confidence from winning two matches at a Slam,” said Ditty. “This is only our first time playing together and I feel like we clicked right away, so it will be exciting to see what we can achieve for the rest of the season.”

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