BY JIM DURHAM
The Wimbledon fortnight in London is the perfect time to reflect on the more successful alumni of our 25-year-old (this year) Lexington Challenger – especially those currently competing on the grass of the All England Club.
Three men and six women who have played our event at the University of Kentucky’s Hillary J. Boone Tennis Center since ‘06 are 2019 Wimbledon seeds. Hopefully, as you read their names, you’ll be fired up to see if you can spot our Next Rising Star at the Kentucky Bank Tennis Championships, July 29 through August 4.
#4 Kevin Anderson of South Africa and #15 Milos Raonic of Canada both won their 1st-rounders yesterday (July 1) in straight sets. #9 John Isner won his first match today in straight sets (July 2).
Anderson – who never got past 2nd round in three Lexington attempts in the previous decade (more on that in the next story) – was a loser in straight sets to Novak Djokovic in last year’s Wimbledon finals. No doubt Anderson was drained from his semifinal win over John Isner – 26-24 in the 5th set, making it the 2nd-longest in the history of majors at 6 hours, 36 minutes.
Isner – who is the only Lexington singles winner to crack the World’s Top Ten – also won the longest pro match ever, 70-68 in the 5th over Nicolas Mahut in a 2010 Wimbledon 1st-rounder that took 11 hours, 5 minutes over 3 days. A month after leading Georgia to the 2007 world NCAA team title, Isner defeated ex-Illini Brian Wilson for Lexington’s crown.
Roanic – who retired in his 2010 2nd-rounder in his only Lexington appearance – reached the 2016 Wimbledon finals where he lost in straights to Andy Murray. But, he gave Roger Federer his first Wimby semis defeat in 11 tourneys.
Yesterday in Wimbledon’s 1st Round, #2 Naomi Osaka was upset in straight sets. Almost unnoticed here, she lost 2nd round to eventual 2013 winner Shelby Rogers. #17 Madison Keys (a semifinalist here in 2012) and #27 Sofia Kenin (the 2017 Lexington runner-up) both won their 1st matches in straight sets.
Much, much more coming on the Lexington Challenger’s most successful female alums, but “our” other 3 seeds all won today in straight sets: #9 Sloane Stephens, #19 Johanna Konta of Great Britain (our 2012 runner-up) and #25 Amanda Anisimova (the 17-year-old surprise semifinalist at the recent French Open).
From Sports Illustrated’s Seed Reports comes…
Upset Special – SI picks 2016 Lexington runner-up Frances Tiafoe to beat 12-seed Fabio Fognini in Tuesday’s 1st round.
1st-Rounder to Watch: 22-seed Donna Vekic vs American Alison Riske, who both “almost qualify as grasscourt specialists.” Riske as a Lexington wild card in 2009 upset 3-seed Melanie South; and reached our quarters as the 5-seed in ‘10 and again as 2-seed in ‘11.And, lest we forget – the most successful alum at Wimbledon was Lleyton Hewitt, who won it in 2002 – just five years after after winning Lexington’s doubles at age 16 with fellow Aussie Ben Ellwood.
Now 38, Hewitt is teaming up with another Australian – 25-year-old Jordan Thompson – for a go at this Wimbledon doubles.