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Lipman, Ditty Win USTA Southern’s US Open National Playoffs

June 28, 2014 06:40 PM
Maxx Lipman receives his trophy from Tournament Director Sanjay Jayaram.
Julie Ditty hits a forehand at Life Time Athletic at Peachtree Corners.
Natalie Pluskota and Ricky Doverspike celebrate their victory.


By Ron Cioffi/USTA Southern

Maxx Lipman and Julie Ditty won the men’s and women’s titles at the US Open National Playoffs Southern Qualifying Tournament in Norcross, Ga., today. In mixed doubles, Ricky Doverspike and Natalie Pluskota were the winning team.

Lipman, of Nashville, Tenn., ran out to a 4-1 lead against Michael Kay in the first. However, Kay, who is committed to play at Georgia Tech in the fall, steadied his game and took the first set in a long tiebreak. Lipman failed to convert six set points. From then on, Lipman started to pour on the power and pressure, enabling him to take the match 6-7(8), 6-1, 6-3. The second team All-SEC and SEC All-Freshman Team player at the University of Florida said, “I got over the frustration of the first set. I’m proud of the way I fought back.”

Lipman, who defeated NCAA doubles champion Hunter Reese in the tournament, said it was odd to play without a coach and teammates. He said he will be playing two USTA Pro Circuit tournaments in Illinois in preparation for the US Open National Playoffs in August.

Kay, of Alpharetta, Ga., complimented Lipman for his tenacity. Kay also said his recent grueling schedule took a toll on his stamina. “I played the Southern Closed (junior) tournament for seven days, trained for two days and then came here” for six rounds of play, he said.

Ditty, the women's champ, came out of retirement this month after three years away from pro tennis. Back in 2007-2008, she was ranked No. 89 in the world in singles and No. 66 in doubles. Her most notable accomplishment was winning more USTA Pro Circuit/ITF Circuit titles than anyone – nine in singles and 30 in doubles.

Ditty prevailed over Maya Jansen 6-2, 6.2. Fifteen years older than her opponent, Ditty used her variety of power, touch and consistency to dominate Jansen from the opening point. Asked if she scouted her opponent, she said she didn't. “I look at all of the matches the same," she said.

Because she has teaching commitments in her hometown of Louisville, Ky., Ditty is planning on using a fitness coach to help her prepare for the US Open National Playoffs, along with practice matches with top pros and college players in the area.

Jansen, who is from Valleyford, Wash., and plays for the University of Alabama, said, “I wasn’t able to get a rhythm. I felt like she put the ball where I didn’t want it.”

As for the mixed doubles winners, Doverspike is a former Alabama player who now serves as assistant women’s coach for his alma mater, and Pluskota won the Southern qualifying tournament two years ago. The duo dug deep to win the first-set tiebreak and match tiebreak, taking the final 7-6(1), 3-6 [11-9].

Only two years removed from collegiate play, Doverspike was out of his element. “It’s definitely different to play in this environment. But it was awesome to feel” the thrill of competition, he said.

Finalists Marcus Hurtip and Abigal Tere-Apisah, both of whom live in metro Atlanta, had one match point in the match tiebreak, but Hurtip couldn’t convert. Recapping their match point, Hurtip said, “I can hit that short forehand 10,000 times and 96 percent of the time it’s going to go in. But not this time.”

The US Open National Playoffs include men’s and women’s singles as well as mixed doubles. The USTA created the US Open National Playoffs to expand the footprint of the US Open to cities nationwide by providing the opportunity for all players 14 years of age and older to earn a berth into the US Open.

The US Open National Playoffs men’s and women’s singles champions earn a wild card into the US Open Qualifying Tournament, held the week prior to the US Open. The US Open National Playoffs mixed doubles champions receive a wild card into the main draw of the 2014 US Open.

The US Open National Playoffs begin as a series of 13 sectional qualifying tournaments, held in different USTA Sections nationwide, including Norcross. The 13 men’s, women’s and mixed doubles champions or top available finishers from each sectional qualifying tournament will advance to the US Open National Playoffs – Men’s and Women’s Singles Championship Aug. 15-18, and the Mixed Doubles Championship Aug. 20-23. All three tournaments will take place in conjunction with the Connecticut Open presented by United Technologies in New Haven, Conn., an Emirates Airline US Open Series event.




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