'Devastating news': Tennis rocked by star's tragic death at 42

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Julie Ditty Qualls, pictured here before her tragic death.
Julie Ditty Qualls has died at the age of 42 after a long battle with cancer. Image: Twitter/Getty

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.

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"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.

Julie Ditty, pictured here in action at the Australian Open in 2008.
Julie Ditty in action at the Australian Open in 2008. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

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."

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