Former UK tennis star among winners at Lexington Challenger


China's Juncheng “Jerry” Shang recorded his first ATP Challenger Tour victory on Sunday afternoon in Lexington.  Shang defeated the top seed of the tournament on the way to his title.

China’s Juncheng “Jerry” Shang recorded his first ATP Challenger Tour victory on Sunday afternoon in Lexington. Shang defeated the top seed of the tournament on the way to his title.

ATP Challenger Tour

A former University of Kentucky women’s tennis star was among the winners this weekend at Lexington’s annual pro tennis tournament.

Aldila Sutjiadi ⁠— who was born in Indonesia and spent four years with the UK tennis team from 2013 to 2017 — won the women’s doubles title alongside former Australian Open champion Kateryna Bondarenko as part of the Lexington Challenger, which is the only ATP Challenger/United States Tennis Association pro circuit event held in Kentucky.

The tournament began with main draw matches on Aug. 1 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 was held at both the Hilary J. Boone Varsity Tennis Center — home to both the Kentucky men’s and women’s tennis programs — and at the Lexington Tennis Club, as rain frequently caused stoppages and forced play to be moved indoors.

The tournament is part of the USTA’s hard-court series events leading into the US Open, which starts later this month in Flushing Meadows, NY

Here’s who came out on top in the men’s and women’s singles and doubles events.

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Former Kentucky women’s tennis player Aldila Sutjiadi won the women’s doubles title along with Kateryna Bondarenko at this past week’s annual pro tennis tournament in Lexington.

Women’s doubles recap

The top-ranked women’s doubles pairing of Sutjiadi and Bondarenko was dominant.

The duo didn’t drop a set in four matches on their way to the championship.

Sutjiadi and Bondarenko defeated the pairing of Jada Myii Hart and Dalayna Hewitt in the championship match Saturday, winning 7-5, 6-3.

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.

Bondarenko arrived in Lexington last week with plenty of pedigree to her name as well: She was one of the few past major champions in the field, having won the 2008 Australian Open title in women’s doubles.

Men’s doubles recap

In men’s doubles action, the No. 2-ranked pairing of Yuki Bhambri and Saketh Myneni, both of India, won the championship Saturday after a marathon third-set tiebreak against the pairing of Gijs Brouwer (Netherlands) and Aidan McHugh (Great Britain).

Bhambri and Myneni lost the first set of the title match 6-3 before winning the second set, 6-4, and the deciding set in a tiebreak, 10-8.

The 34-year-old Myneni previously played college tennis at Alabama.

Women’s singles recap

It was an all-British finals in women’s singles on Sunday afternoon with No. 2 seed Jodie Burrage facing No. 8 Katie Swan.

Swan overcame Burrage in a three-set final that took more than two hours to complete.

Swan won: 6-0, 3-6, 6-3.

The women’s singles tournament featured a scintillating run to the semifinals by Peyton Stearns, the 2022 NCAA women’s singles champion while at Texas.

Stearns, who spent two years at Texas before winning the NCAA title in late May and turning professional in early June, was eliminated in three sets in the semifinals by Burrage.

Men’s singles recap

History was made in the men’s singles tournament, even before a winner was crowned.

China’s Juncheng “Jerry” Shang won a nearly three-hour semifinal match that was played indoors to reach his first challenger finals at the young age of 17 years and 6 months.

That made Shang, ranked No. 344 in the world, the youngest player to reach a challenger finals since Spanish superstar Carlos Alcaraz in 2020.

Shang also became the youngest Asian-born Challenger finalist since Japan’s Kei Nishikori in 2007.

On the way to reaching the title match, Shang defeated top-seeded Roman Safiullin in the quarterfinals.

In the championship match, Shang faced Ecuador’s Emilio Gomez, with Shang prevailing, 6-4, 6-4, in a breakthrough straight-sets win.

The match ended in slightly awkward circumstances, with Shang’s match-winning point clipping the tape at the top of the net before bouncing onto the other side of the court.

Shang’s victory comes just a few days after he stopped playing during his first-round match to help a ball kid in need of medical attention due to the heat.

Players with Kentucky ties in the Lexington Challenger

Here’s a complete recap of how players with ties to Kentucky fared during this year’s Lexington Challenger.

Millen Hurrion (former UK player): Lost in opening round of men’s singles and men’s doubles.

Aldila Sutjiadi (former UK player): Lost in second round of women’s singles, won women’s doubles tournament.

JJ Mercer (rising UK junior): Lost in qualifier for men’s singles, lost in opening round of men’s doubles.

Florencia Urrutia (rising UK senior): Lost in qualifier for women’s singles, lost in opening round of women’s doubles.

Ellie Myers (incoming UK freshman): Lost in opening round of women’s doubles.

Alafia Ayeni (incoming UK grad transfer): Lost in opening round of men’s singles after advancing through qualifiers.

Carrie Beckman (rising college sophomore at Notre Dame): Lost in opening round of women’s doubles.

Ellie Hammond (rising high school junior at Sacred Heart Academy): Lost in opening round of women’s doubles.

Jaycie Mair (rising high school senior at Lexington Catholic): Lost in qualifier for women’s singles, lost in opening round of women’s doubles.

Julie Bedard (rising high school junior at Kentucky Country Day): Lost in qualifier for women’s singles, lost in opening round of women’s doubles.

Cameron Drummond works as a sports reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader with a focus on Kentucky men’s basketball recruiting and the UK men’s basketball team, horse racing, soccer and other sports in Central Kentucky. Drummond is a first-generation American who was born and raised in Texas, before graduating from Indiana University. He is a fluent Spanish speaker who previously worked as a community news reporter in Austin, Texas.

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