But he was glad to find Tuesday the magic was still there with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-0 victory over Italy’s Erik Crepaldi.
Crepaldi moved through the qualifiers into the first round of the main draw of the Kentucky Bank Tennis Championships only to find his opponent to be a player who once lost to Novak Djokovic in the third round of the 2009 US Open in four sets.
Witten is a tennis legend around UK. In addition to his showing at the US Open, he is one of 15 players in the history of college players with four All-American singles titles, and he is one of six players to ever reach the NCAA singles finals as a freshman. Before entering his senior season at UK in 2004, he reached the finals at this tournament.
Crepaldi fought hard to try and neutralize Witten’s power by moving him back and forth, a tactic that proved to be successful in the second set. The third set, though, Witten used his powerful serve, his uncanny ability to read the court and his ability to anticipate to shutout the 24-year-old.
Witten, who was on the tour for several years, now said he plays more for the joy.
“I don’t think about game plans any more,” he said. “For me it’s about getting out there and having fun.”
In the second set, Witten said his energy began to flag but the crowd’s support got him back on his feet again and strengthened his determination to win.
“I love tennis, and I love competing, but it’s tough being on the road 40 weeks a year,” said the 31-year-old, who has moved back to Florida. “These guys who are playing every day have a big advantage.”
Wild card entry and local favorite Julie Ditty knew that getting back into professional tennis was going to be a challenge. The 35-year-old found out just how much of a challenge Tuesday night when No. 2 seed Madison Brengle beat her 6-0, 6-1 in under an hour at the Kentucky Bank Tennis Championships.
While Ditty, who grew up in Ashland, Ky., had some nice points in the first set, particularly when using her slice backhand to set up winners, Brengle's speed and power proved too much to overcome, leaving her scoreless in the first set.
Brengle, a 24-year-old who trains in Bradenton, Fla., said that she has played Ditty six times before her retirement in 2011 (going 3-3), and they were all tough matches. Giving Ditty credit for being able to open up the court, Brengle said she just tried to change up the pace and direction to keep Ditty behind the baseline.
While Ditty did manage to hold serve in game three of the second set, it was more of the same from Brengle as she continued to angle her groundstrokes deep to the baseline out of Ditty's reach. Brengle went on to take the second set, and the match, 6-0, 6-1.
Ditty was disappointed with the loss, feeling like she made too many errors and was forced too far behind the baseline. She said she is still undecided about truly coming out of retirement but is saving that decision for at least one more tournament.
James McGee pulled out a win in three sets over No. 1 seed Evgeny Donskoy, 6-7(3), 6-3, 7-5. Donskoy, 24, of Moscow, currently ranked 111, has finished in the top 100 for the past two years. McGee, Ireland’s top player, is ranked 193.
“It was a dogfight, but I stuck in there … It could’ve gone either way,” McGee said after the two-hour-and-forty-minute match.
Former US Open mixed doubles champion and singles quarterfinalist Melanie Oudin, 22, will play Louisa Chirico, one of the top juniors in the world before turning pro last year and currently at a career-high ranking of 218.
Both women are in the running for a wild card into the US Open that will be awarded to the player with the most ranking points in two out of three designated tournaments, with Lexington being the last stop. Oudin, with 48 points, is currently running second to Nicole Gibbs’s 88 points and is followed closely by Chirico with 44. (Julie Boserup has 63 points but is not playing here.)
At just 17, Oudin captured the singles title here in Lexington in 2008 and ranked as high as 31 in the world in 2010. Chirico was one of the top juniors in the world before turning pro last year. The match begins at 7 p.m.
Their match will be followed by former UK doubles partners Edmee Morin Kougoucheff of France and American CeCe Witten, who garnered five wins together, taking on Shuko Aoyama of Japan, who is currently ranked 58 in doubles, and two-time doubles All-American Keri Wong of Jackson, Miss.
Also, beginning at 7 p.m., last year’s tournament winner, James Ward, has returned to Lexington to defend his title and will play Witten. The 27-year-old from London is currently ranked 150. In May, Ward became the first Englishman since 1973 to make the main draw of the French Open (Andy Murray is from Scotland), losing in round one to No. 19 ranked Tommy Robredo in four sets.Following the singles match, one half of last year’s doubles championship team, Canadian Peter Polansky, and his fellow countryman Adil Shamasdin will play James Duckworth of Sydney, Australia, and Matt Reid, also from Sydney.
Information provided by Rena Baer
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