BY JIM DURHAM

Seven – including a pair of quarter-finalists- who graced UK’s Boone Tennis Center in 2018 are expected to return for the next edition of the Kentucky Bank Tennis Championships (aka Lexington Challenger), July 29-August 4.

The two returnees who made it to Friday’s Final 8 last year are former collegiate stars Collin Altamirano, who was a member of three NCAA championship squads at Virginia; and Croatia’s Borna Gojo, who played No. 1 for Wake Forrest’s 2018 NCAA team champs and was runner-up that season in the singles finals. Altamirano won two rounds here as a Wild Card and Gojo did so after going through qualifying.

Also making the main draw is returning qualifier JJ Wolf, an Ohio State star  who lost 2nd round here last year. A rising senior, this Buckeye from Cincinnati was ranked #1 collegiately on April 23, 2019. As the 2-seed, he was upset in the round-of-16 in the recent NCAA singles tourney.

All seven, with their current rankings in parentheses are: Andrew Harris of Australia (220), Kaichi Uchida of Japan (237), Altamirano (268), Wolf (270), Liam Brody of Great Britain (291), Gojo (315), and Edan Leshem Of Israel (404). Only Brody and Leshem lost 1st round here in 2018.

None of our returning “Mag Seven,” however, are likely to be seeded in the top 3 when our event begins two weeks from today. Here’s a “snapshot” of the highest ranked male players on Lexington’s Acceptance List (the only 3 ranked among the world’s top 200):

Alex Bolt – currently #141 in the World. He’s a 6-foot, 26-yr-old Aussie who lost 2nd round in this Wimbledon’s qualies. But, in the 2019 Australian Open he beat American Jack Sock and France’s Giles Simon, saving 4 match points. Tidbit: Bolt partnered Lleyton Hewitt in 2018 Wimby Doubles.

Jason Kubler – #188; this 5-10, 26-yr-old Aussie, broke the Top 100 last year – #91 in October 2018. Lost in 3rd round of this Wimby’s qualies. A former #1 Junior in the World (2010), he’s been plagued by knee injuries. Tidbit: he has been called “a right-handed version of Rafael Nadal.”

Christopher Eubanks – #193; highest ranking was #176 in November 2018. A 6-7 African-American, the 23-year-old lost in the 2nd round qualies of this Wimbledon. He was a two-time ACC Player of the Year at Georgia Tech. Tidbit: Eubanks has partnered fellow Atlantan Donald Young in Doubles.

The aforementioned Altamirano will be of especial interest to central Kentucky fans who follow UK and Division 1 tennis. Currently ranked #268, the 6-2, 23-yr-old Altamirano was a member of three consecutive NCAA title teams at Virginia this decade – 2015, 2016 and 2017. Tidbit: Prior to college, in 2013 he became the only unseeded player to win the National 18s, beating (eventual pro) Jared Donaldson 1, 2 & 4 in the finals.

Here are 5 more to keep on eye out for:

Ryan Shane – #343; the 6-4, 25-yr-old crossed paths with Altamirano at UVA…a member of Virginia’s unbeaten 2013 NCAA champions and the 2015 team champs. In ‘15, he defeated Wake Forest’s Noah Rubin for the NCAA singles crown.

Sebastian Korda – #383; the 6-4, 19-year old won the 2018 Australian Junior Open. He is coached by his father, former Czech pro Petr Korda. His sisters Jessica and Nelly are stars on the LPGA Tour.

Christian Harrison – #324; the 5-10, 25-yr-old is the younger brother of pro Ryan Harrison. He was given a WC into the 2012 US Open in which he and Ryan made it to the Doubles quarters. That same year, Christian reached our Lexington Challenger semis, losing to eventual winner Denis Kudla 4 & 5. His first major was the 2016 US Open as a qualifier.

Alejandro Gomez – #500. 2-out on the Alternates List, the Colombian played for the Kentucky Wildcats, including their 2012 SEC championship season.

Last and possibly the oldest – but NOT least – in our draw at age 34 is Teymaruz Gabashvili, now ranked #405. Surely he has the most experience and distinction of being our only entrant to win at least one round in every major. The Russian reached the 4th round in both the 2010 and 2015 French Open; the 3rd round of both the Australian Open and the U.S. Open in 2014; and the 2nd round of Wimbledon in 2010.

Gabashvili also boasts the highest career ranking in the Lexington field this – and most – years. On February 1, 2016, he was #43 in the World.