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Dickinson native, UND grad training Wimbledon quarterfinalist

DICKINSON, N.D. -- Dickinson native Jesse Elis had a front-row seat as U.S. tennis player CoCo Vandeweghe upset No. 6-ranked Lucie Safarova in the fourth round of the Wimbledon women's singles tournament on Monday.

Jesse Elis
Jesse Elis

DICKINSON, N.D. -- Dickinson native Jesse Elis had a front-row seat as U.S. tennis player CoCo Vandeweghe upset No. 6-ranked Lucie Safarova in the fourth round of the Wimbledon women's singles tournament on Monday.

Elis, a 2003 Dickinson High School graduate, has been the performance physical therapist for Vandeweghe since January.

With the 7-6 (7-1), 7-6 (7-4) win over the French Open finalist, Vandeweghe -- who is ranked 47th in the world -- advances to the quarterfinals against No. 4-ranked Maria Sharapova at 6 a.m. today. The quarterfinal match is the furthest Vandeweghe has advanced in any Grand Slam women's singles event.

"(Monday) was a huge milestone for CoCo as she beat a top 10 player and a career best at a Grand Slam," Elis said an email. "In my opinion, this wasn't a surprise as I have watched her all season and she has the ability to overpower any player. There are only a few players that can hit the ball harder than CoCo, so our goal was to improve the consistency in her groundstrokes and promote the confidence that is needed to beat a higher rank (sic) player.

"She is noticeably happy, but still very hungry and dangerous. I was very excited for her as this was a validation of the all the hard work she has put in so far."

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Vandeweghe is one of three Americans left in the Wimbledon quarterfinals. The other two are top-ranked Serena Williams and Madison Keys (21). Vandeweghe is also the lowest ranked women's player left in the tournament.

Vandeweghe's lone Women's Tennis Association singles title came in 2014 when she defeated Zheng Jie of China for the Topshelf Open. Vandeweghe played Williams during the championship match of Bank of the West Classic in 2012. Williams defeated Vandeweghe in straight sets 7-5, 6-3.

The New York native began her professional career in 2007, but didn't play in her first Grand Slam event until 2008 when she lost to Jelena Jankovic, who was ranked No. 2 in the world at the time, in the opening round of the U.S. Open.

"It's always fun working with CoCo because she brings a great positive attitude to both training and tennis," Elis said. "At the start of the season, she really placed a full commitment to the gym which makes my job easier regarding gains in strength and power. The commitment has shown because she's been flying on the court."

After graduating from Dickinson High, Elis attended Dickinson State University for one year and then transferred to the University of North Dakota where he received his doctorate in physical therapy in 2009. He then went to Phoenix and completed his three-year degree in manual therapy. Elis, who lives in Tempe, Ariz., began working for EXOS, which specializes in performance training, nutrition and physical therapy for elite and professional athletes.

Elis has traveled around the world with Vandeweghe to all three Grand Slam events this year. Vandeweghe reached the third round in the Australian Open and lost in the opening match of the French Open.

Since Elis is traveling for many weeks out of the year, he credits his "very understanding and supportive wife", Dickinson native Mickallyn (Kudrna) Ellis, with allowing him to be on the road so long.

"It has been an amazing run," he said. "I'm very grateful for the opportunity to travel the world and get to be involved in such a great sport. I've been in 10 countries for the last seven months so my passport is getting full. I've met some great people along the way and have experienced cultures very different from my North Dakota roots.

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