Lexington’s annual pro tennis tournament saw main draw matches begin Monday, as a host of players competed with the hope of earning wild-card spots into the US Open with wins in Central Kentucky.
The Lexington Challenger runs through Sunday at the Hilary J. Boone Varsity Tennis Center in Lexington, home to both the Kentucky men’s and women’s tennis programs.
The event is the only ATP Challenger/United States Tennis Association Pro Circuit event in Kentucky and is part of the USTA’s hard-court series events leading into the US Open. The winners will earn wild-card berths into this year’s US Open in Flushing Meadows, NY
The Lexington Challenger features men’s and women’s singles and doubles events.
UK players in the tournament
Six players with direct ties to the University of Kentucky are part of the Lexington Challenger.
Rising Kentucky junior JJ Mercer lost in three sets during a Sunday night qualifier to get into the main draw for the men’s singles event.
Former Kentucky Wildcat Millen Hurrion is part of the main draw for the men’s singles event, and his opening match will be against one of the most recognizable names in the field, Mikhail Kukushkin, a 34-year-old who has made at least the second round of all four tennis majors.
Hurrion and Mercer are also paired together in the main draw of the men’s doubles event.
Both Mercer and Hurrion were members of the 2021-22 UK tennis team that finished as the national runner-up to Virginia, marking the best season in program history.
Another Ex-Cat, Aldila Sutjiadi, is in the main draw for both the women’s singles and women’s doubles events. Born in Indonesia, Sutjiadi spent four years with the UK women’s tennis team from 2013 to 2017.
While at UK, Sutjiadi was named the 2017 SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year and was a nominee for NCAA Woman of the Year that same year.
In doubles, Sutjiadi will be playing alongside Kateryna Bondarenko, who won the 2008 Australian Open title in doubles.
Florencia Urrutia, a rising senior at UK, is in the main draw for women’s doubles and lost in straight sets in the opening round of the women’s singles qualifying tournament.
From Argentina and formerly of the University of Miami, Urrutia went 11-8 overall in doubles matches last season, her first at Kentucky.
Two players who will be making their Kentucky tennis debuts next season are also in the Lexington Challenger field.
Ellie Myers is an incoming freshman, and was a prized recruit following her high school career in Indiana. Myers, who met UK men’s basketball head coach John Calipari during her recruiting visit, went a perfect 26-0 in singles play as a senior at Reitz Memorial High School in Evansville, and won the Indiana girls’ state singles title.
Myers is in the main draw for women’s doubles at the Lexington Challenger, and will be playing with Urrutia.
Alafia Ayeni spent his undergraduate years at Cornell, but has joined the Kentucky men’s tennis program as a graduate transfer for the upcoming season.
A 2022 All-Ivy League First Team selection in both singles and doubles, Ayeni is into the main draw of the men’s singles event after winning a pair of qualifying matches.
One of those wins was against Mercer, his new teammate at the college level.
More Kentucky ties
▪ Ellie Hammond — A rising high school junior at Sacred Heart Academy in Louisville. hammond won the KHSAA girls’ singles title in early June. Hammond is in the main draw for women’s doubles.
▪ Jaycie Mair — A rising high school senior at Lexington Catholic in Lexington, Mair won the 11th Region girls’ singles title this year. Hammond defeated Mair in the state girls’ singles semifinals.
Mair is in the main draw for women’s doubles and lost in straight sets in the opening round of the women’s singles qualifying tournament.
Mair and Hammond are paired together in the main draw for women’s doubles.
Their first match will be against the Sutjiadi-Bondarenko pairing.
▪ Carrie Beckman — A rising sophomore at Notre Dame, Beckman is from Louisville and also played her high school tennis at Sacred Heart Academy. Beckman won three state championships at Sacred Heart and is in the main draw for women’s doubles.
▪ Julie Bedard — A rising high school junior at Kentucky Country Day in Louisville, Bedard will be playing with Beckman in the main draw for women’s doubles. Bedard lost in straight sets in the opening round of the women’s singles qualifying tournament.
Other notable players competing
▪ Samantha Crawford — A former Top 100-ranked player who won the girls’ singles title at the 2012 US Open, Crawford is in the main draw for women’s singles.
▪ Kateryna Bondarenko — The 2008 Australian Open women’s doubles champion and a 2009 US Open quarterfinalist in singles, Bondarenko was formerly ranked No. 29 in the world in singles and No. 9 in doubles. She’s in the main draw for both the women’s singles and women’s doubles events.
▪ Zachary Svajda — The 19-year-old made history in 2019 when he reached the main draw of the US Open at the age of 16. This made Svajda the youngest man in the main draw of the US Open since 2005.
Svajda, who reached the second round of the US Open last year, is in the main draw for men’s singles at the Lexington Challenger.
▪ Petros Tsitsipas — The younger brother of Greek tennis superstar Stefanos Tsitsipas, Petros is in the main draw for men’s doubles and lost in straight sets in the opening round of the men’s singles qualifying tournament.
▪ Ryan Harrison — Harrison is in the main draw for men’s singles after winning a pair of qualifying matches. He’s one of the most recognizable names in the field, having won a grand slam title in men’s doubles at the 2017 French Open.
When: Through Sunday
Where: Hilary J. Boone Varsity Tennis Center in Lexington
Schedule: Tuesday-Thursday (sessions begin at 10 am and 7 pm); Friday (sessions begin at 11 am and 7 pm); Saturday (singles semifinals, 2 p.m.; doubles finals, 7 p.m.); Sunday (singles finals, 1 p.m.)
Tickets: $10-$50, available for purchase online or at the gate
▪ Ladies Night- Tuesday, 5:45 pm Women’s round robin doubles. $25 entry fee. Door prizes, gift bags and snacks. Event is sold out.
▪ Men’s Night- Friday, 6:15 pm Men’s round robin Doubles. $25 entry fee. Bourbon, barrel aged beer tasting and donuts. Contact Dee Jones email@example.com for registration.
This story was originally published August 2, 2022 8:26 AM.