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The tennis world is mourning the tragic death of former World No.89 Julie Ditty Qualls, who died this week at the age of 42.
The American died on Tuesday after a six-year battle with cancer.
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"We have lost a legend," said former Vanderbilt head coach Geoff Macdonald, where Ditty Qualls was a collegiate star.
"Her contribution to Vanderbilt Athletics is simply remarkable. She was an ever better human being than she was a tennis player, and she was one of the Top 100 tennis players in the world."
The college's current coach Aleke Tsoubanos said: "To say her passing is devastating would be an understatement.
We love you and we will miss you, Julie. ♥️https://t.co/Z8lUFD7GuL
— Vanderbilt Women's Tennis (@VandyWTennis) September 1, 2021
"Julie was a teammate and an incredible friend. During my freshman year, Julie led us to Vanderbilt's first ever national championship match, which was a journey with a team I will never forget.
"I am so grateful for our time together. Both Vanderbilt and our tennis family have lost a genuinely amazing human being and a true legend.
"I wish her family and friends the strength they need during this very sad time."
Qualls played the majority of her career on the USTA Pro Circuit, where she won nine titles.
However she enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2007, compiling a 49-25 record on the WTA tour that saw her ranking skyrocket from No.297 to No.93.
She is the sixth-oldest player to make their top 100 debut in WTA rankings history, doing so at the age of 28.
In 2009 she qualified for the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon main draws.
Tennis worlds mourns death of Julie Ditty Qualls
She scored victories over big names such as Angelique Kerber, Monica Puig, Jelena Dokic and Madison Keys, with her greatest triumph coming over World No.22 Alona Bondarenko in Antwerp in 2008.
"I ended up doing the best at the end of my career," Ditty Qualls said earlier this year.
"I got into really good shape and ended up being Top 100 in the world, playing in World Team Tennis tournaments.
"I got to play in all of the grand slams. It was an unbelievable experience."
She was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in 2015, but continued to give coaching lessons right up until the week before her death.
The tennis world is paying tribute to Ditty Qualls on social media, with Aussie great Rennae Stubbs writing: "Sending so much love to the family of Julie Ditty. Julie was a great player who always gave it all.
"She fought so hard on court and recently in her fight against cancer. Sad day for the tennis family!!"
American star Alison Riske wrote: "There are no words for the loss of Julie Ditty. When I visited my sister at Vanderbilt she made me feel like I was a part of the team at 10 years old.
"Her cheerful personality and love for everyone she crossed will always be remembered."
Sending so much love to the family of Julie Ditty. Julie was a great player who always gave it all…. She fought so hard on court and recently in her fight against cancer. Sad day for the tennis family!! #ripjulie 💔💔💔💔💔
— Rennae Stubbs OLY (@rennaestubbs) September 1, 2021
there are no words for the loss of Julie Ditty. When I visited my sister @VanderbiltU she made me feel like I was a part of the team at 10 years old. Her cheerful personality and love for everyone she crossed will always be remembered💔
— Alison Riske-Amritraj🇺🇸🇮🇳 (@Riske4rewards) September 1, 2021
Devastating news this morning. We lost a friend, once my doubles partner and a great person. RIP Julie Ditty. Sending lots of love to your family.
— Alina Jidkova (@AlinaJidkova) September 1, 2021
Crushing news to hear about the passing of Julie Ditty. Prayers and love to her family and the many people she touched on and off the court. Grateful for all the time I shared with her on the road. She will be greatly missed ❤️
— Ashley Weinhold (@AshleyWeinhold) September 2, 2021
A courageous fighter & champion on the court will be missed by many!
The heartbreaking news of Julie Ditty leaves many remembering the idol's many accomplishments.
The former @VandyWTennis elite player and three-time ITA All-American was an incredible ambassador for tennis! pic.twitter.com/SbS6Pdt4NF
— ITA (@ITA_Tennis) September 1, 2021
The KHSAA sends its condolences to the family of Julie Ditty Qualls, who passed away on Tuesday.
Inducted into the KHSAA Hall of Fame in 2013, Julie won three state tennis titles in singles at Lexington Christian and Russell.
Our thoughts are with all in the tennis community. pic.twitter.com/cS0IeUMY4C
— KHSAA Main (@KHSAA) September 1, 2021
Very sad to hear the passing of Julie Ditty at the age of 42 to breast cancer. Out of Russell HS, she's the best Kentucky High School Tennis player ever.....period!!! #RIP
— Ryan Lemond (@ryanlemond) September 2, 2021
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