BY JIM DURHAM
July 7, 2019
July 7, 2019
Four who have played our Lexington Challenger in the past decade have survived the grueling first week of Wimbledon 2019 and all have round-of-16 matches early Monday morning (July 9).
This Wimbledon quartet is another great reminder that fans in the Blue Grass should check out the early rounds of the Kentucky Bank Tennis Championships (July 29-August 4) so you can say things like: “I was lucky enough to see Milos Raonic at the Boone Center in 2010 before he ‘retired’ in the 2nd round.” OR “Even though Johanna Konta lost the Lexington final in 2012, I KNEW she would be on the big stage one day.”
Well, the two who likely will command the biggest stages Monday (at least on ESPN) are unseeded Americans Tennys Sandgren and Alison Riske…because of who they face.
Starting things off about 5 AM, Riske has the enviable task of taking on top-seeded Ash Barty of Australia. Riske – who has already knocked off seeds #22 Donna Vekic of Croatia and #13 Belinda Bencic of Switzerland in three sets each – is currently ranked 89th in the world, but was No. 36 in May 2017.
At approximately 6:15 AM, Sandgren – who has already knocked off seeds #20 Giles Simon 8-6 in the 5th and #12 Fabio Fognini in straight sets – meets fellow unseeded American Sam Querrey, who has carried USA hopes in majors before and was ranked 11th in the World in February 2018. Querrey is currently #65; Sandgren #92, but the latter was a career-best #42 back in January.
Both Wimbledon seeds who once played Lexington also face seeds – #15 Milos Raonic of Canada has #26 Guido Pella of Argentina about 8:15 AM; and #19 Johanna Konta of Great Britain has #6 Petra Kvitova of Czech Republic about 9 AM. Both our alums have been in the World’s Top Five in the past – Roanic No. 3 in November 2016; Konta No. 4 in July 2017.
Here’s a slightly closer look at the above quartet’s Lexington experiences:
SANDGREN – the native of Gallatin, TN failed to make it through Lexington qualies several years while playing #3 for the Tennessee Vols. But, in 2013 as a qualifier, he won two rounds – his Lex-Best – before losing in the quarters to 5-seed Bradley Klahn 6-1 in the 3rd.
RISKE – a Pittsburgh teen who would turn pro sometime in the weeks between her first Lexington appearance (2009) and her planned enrollment at Vanderbilt, wild card Riske beat 3-seed Melanie South of Great Britain in a straight-set 1st rounder; she lost in 3 sets next round to unseeded Chang Kai-Chen of Taipei. Riske was a Lexington seed the next three years: 2010- as our 4-seed, defeating Julia Glushko (our champ 2 years later) 2 & 2 1st round, then losing a 3-set quarterfinal to top-seeded and eventual champ Kimuri Nara of Japan; 2011 – as our 2-seed, beating (unseeded then) Madison Keys in 3 sets, before falling in the quarters to unseeded Lauren Davis 5 & 0; 2012 – she appeared to be going backwards as our 6-seed, falling 1st round to unseeded Yi-Fan Xu 6-0 in the 3rd.
RAONIC – as an 18-year-old, Raonic beat his fellow Canadian junior double partner Vasek Popisil in our 2010 first round. Next round, he retired at 6-3, 1-0 to Alex Kuznetov…in his only Lexington appearance.
KONTA – an Aussie native, but now a citizen of the U.K., unseeded Konta reached Lexington’s 2012 finals…knocking of 2-seed Erika Sema and 4-seed Misaki Doi both in 3 sets, and Shelby Rogers (our eventual 2013 champ). Israel’s Julia Glushko, who would get no higher than No. 79 in the World, clubbed Konta 6-3, 6-0 in the finale.